Is £1 Million Enough Punishment for SkyBet for Failing Self-Excluded Gamblers?

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Is £1 Million Enough Punishment for SkyBet for Failing Self-Excluded Gamblers?

News exploded earlier today that Sky Betting and Gaming (SkyBet) has become the latest UK-facing operator to have been reprimanded by the Gambling Commission for social responsibility failures. One of UK’s largest gambling companies, formerly owned by broadcasting giant Sky, SkyBet was fined £1 million by the regulator for failing to prevent self-excluded customers from registering with its websites and other regulatory breaches.

SkyBet is being imposed a penalty from the UKGC at a time when the regulator is reviewing its existing license conditions and is gradually rolling out tougher ones for iGaming operators to follow and comply with.

Last summer, 888 Holdings was fined £7.8 million for similar responsible gambling breaches. And last month, William Hill received £6.2-million bill for what the Commission deemed poor anti-money laundering policies and player protection failures. While the scope of violations was different in each of the three cases, the fines imposed certainly raise the question whether the UKGC has gone too soft on SkyBet.

The Nature of SkyBet’s Failures

The UKGC found, after probing into the matter, that SkyBet breached the Commission’s codes and rules for the provision of gambling services in three different ways. In the first place, it became clear that 736 customers of SkyBet, who had self-excluded themselves, were able to open duplicate accounts with the operator and gamble via those in the period between November 2014 and November 2017.

In the second place, around 50,000 customers kept on receiving promotional materials by the operator even after self-exclusion. Self-excluded players and bettors were thus encouraged to gamble. And while they were presumably not able to reopen their accounts with SkyBet, people, some of whom may have been trying to fight problem gambling behavior, could have felt the urge to gamble somewhere else.

Last but not least, the UK Gambling Commission found that a total of 36,748 self-excluded customers did not have their account funds returned upon account closure.

SkyBet will thus have to pay £1,008,600, including £750,000 to responsible gambling charities. The remaining portion of its penalty would be split in the following way – £450,000 for allowing self-excluded customers to open duplicate accounts, £250,000 for sending self-excluded customers gambling-related promotional material, and £50,000 which the operator will have to return to players who had opted for self-exclusion.

Does the Penalty Match SkyBet’s Failures?

SkyBet’s breaches of its license terms eventually affected tens of thousands of self-excluded customers in one way or another and could have affected many more.

The reason why a person decides to self-exclude themselves from one gambling website or another is that they either feel to be close to developing some form of gambling addiction or have already become a gambling addict. What may seem to be a minor violation by an operator toward a self-excluded player could actually become a serious trigger for that same player to relapse into their risky gambling behavior. Operators need to be aware of that and to make sure that their customers are well-protected.

SkyBet was found to have generated gross gambling yield of £217,306 from the self-excluded players who were able to open new accounts with the operator. In comparison, 888 was fined £7.8 million partly for allowing players, who had self-excluded from its betting/casino/poker platform, to play on its bingo platform. Players were thus able to deposit over £3.5 million with the operator.

While £3.5 million is an enormous amount when compared to just over £200,000, it is important to note that in 888’s case self-excluded players were able to gamble within the period between October 2015 and September 2016. However, with SkyBet self-excluded customers opened and used accounts between November 2014 and November 2017 or for three years.

In 888’s case more than 7,000 customers were affected, while in SkyBet’s case there were just over 700 customers. Both operators failed self-excluded players in a very serious manner and fines were a must. However, the fact that it took SkyBet three years to solve an apparent issue with its self-exclusion system raises questions and doubts about the operator’s ability to prevent customers with problem gambling behavior from being able to gamble.

As already pointed out, SkyBet is one of largest UK-facing operators. And if an operator with extensive record in the online gambling field and with a large player base is unable to protect its customers, it certainly deserves more than a slap on the wrist, particularly when it takes so long to solve an issue that could put at risk thousands of people.

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