skybet

Skybet Fined £1M By UK Gambling Commission For Failing Vulnerable Customers

Skybet has become the latest online gambling site to be fined by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The commission found the company “[failed] to protect vulnerable customers.”

A £1 million fine has now been issued to Skybet,  following on from a £6.2 million fine given to William Hill in February. The commission handed a £7.8 million fine to 888 back in August 2017 for the same reason.

The UKGC and Skybet have come to an arrangement that will see Sky Betting & Gaming pay a total penalty package of £1,008,600, which sets aside £750,000 for charities that help combat gambling addiction.

Why is Skybet being fined?

The UKGC began an investigation into Skybet’s operations and discovered three separate breaches of regulations.

First off, it was found that 736 self-excluded customers were able to open duplicate accounts between November 2014 and November 2017. This allowed them to continue gambling despite them having notified the site of their potential gambling problems.

The second breach was as a result of continued marketing to self-excluded customers. Approximately 50,000 self-exluded users were found to still receive marketing material via email, texts, or smartphone app notifications.

Finally, the third breach of UKGC policies was due to customer refunds. Around 36,748 self-excluded customers did not have their funds transferred back to them after closing their accounts.

Richard Watson, UKGC Programme Director, announced the fine saying:

“This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers and the £1m penalty package should serve as a warning to all gambling businesses.

“Protecting consumers from gambling-related harm is a priority for us and where we see operators failing in their responsibility to keep their customers safe we will take tough action. Skybet reported the issues to us quickly, cooperated with us and has taken this investigation seriously.” 

How has Skybet responded?

In a statement on Skybet’s website responding to the UKGC announcement, Richard Flint, Chief Executive of Sky Betting & Gaming, said:

“We have always taken responsible gambling and player protection very seriously but this incident showed that we needed to do more. When we spotted the issue we pro-actively notified the Gambling Commission and have worked to improve our processes to avoid this happening again.

“We could and should have made it harder for self-excluded customers to open duplicate accounts with us and for that we are sorry. We fully agree with the Gambling Commission’s findings and will donate the agreed sum to charities for socially responsible purposes.”

The Skybet fine comes after the company said it would promote responsible gambling when it signed a multi-million pound deal to extend its sponsorship of the English Football Leagues until 2023-24 back in November 2017.

Skybet are only the latest in a string of companies to be fined by the UKGC since the commission unveiled its new strategy back in November over the next three years to ensure “fairer and safer gambling” in the UK.

It aims to do this by delivering five strategic priorities:

  • Protect the interests of consumers
  • Prevent harm to consumers and the public
  • Raise standards in the gambling market
  • Optimise returns to good causes from lotteries
  • Improve the way we regulate

The UKGC took prominent action throughout 2017. The group imposed large fines upon the likes of Gala Interactive, Stan James Online, BGO Entertainment, and lottery betting operator Lottoland. 888 Holdings received the largest financial punishment of all back in August — a record —breaking £7.8 million.

So far in 2018, we have seen William Hill pay a £6.2m penalty package for “systemic social responsibility and money laundering failures.”

Jack Stanton
- Jack Stanton is a freelance journalist and marketing copywriter, specialising in the world of poker and online gaming. Jack's work has appeared on VICE, The Guardian, The Drum, PokerStars Blog, PocketFives, BLUFF Europe and more. As a live poker reporter, Jack has covered events in locations as far afield as the Bahamas, Chile, South Korea, Brazil, and all across Europe.