William Hill LogoYesterday, the UK Gambling Commission announced that they would be handing popular UK bookmaker and casino operator William Hill fines worth £6.3 million. The verdict comes after an investigation into the casino’s dealings between November 2014 and August 2016, which found that they had breached anti-money laundering and social responsibility regulations. In laments terms this means that the casino were allowing players to deposit, and spend, large sums of money without checking where the cash was coming from, or if the player’s behavouir was indicative of problem gambling.

For players, depositing limits and identification checks can sometimes seem inconvenient and unnecessary, yet the regulations are in place to protect players and make sure that the casino’s you love can keep their doors open. Failure to comply with these rules puts everyone in danger, and that’s thankfully why William Hill have agreed to pay the full fine and promised to introduce improved policies.


 

The Offence

Although the UKGC have only just issued their verdict, the investigation looked into offences which took place between 2014 and 2016, and involved the casino failing to ensure that their anti-money laundering and social responsibility processes were effective. This meant that ten separate William Hill customers were able to deposit large amounts of money, some of which were tied to criminal activity, without being questioned thoroughly.

The UKGC’s statement says that William Hill ‘did not adequately seek information about the source of their funds or establish whether they were problem gamblers’ and that ‘senior management failed to mitigate risks and have sufficient numbers of staff’ to ensure customer safety.

Speaking to Radio 4 the executive director of the UKGC, Tim Miller, said that the casino hadn’t been ‘properly resourced or staffed, so a lot of the checks weren’t happening’. This meant that ‘People were potentially able to gamble money that was the proceeds of crime; in one case, money stolen from a local council’. He also scoulded the casino operator for not recognising the problem earlier, saying ‘there were clear warning signs, the escalating amount of money that was being spent should have set off alarm bells.’Senior management failed to mitigate risks and have sufficient numbers of staff to ensure their anti-money laundering and social responsibility processes were effective.

In the document published by the UKGC yesterday, there are five examples of William Hill’s failures mentioned, which includes inadequate funds checks being carried out and other levels of laxity when it came to contacting players who were depositing, spending, and loosing, significant amounts of money.

One example revealed that one customer was allowed to deposit  £541,000 over a 14 months period, after the casino had made the assumption that the customer could afford this level of activity after a verbal conversation. The reality was that the customer was stealing money from his employer to fund the habit. In another case, a customer had been able to deposit over £147,000 at an escalating rate, and had suffered losses of £112,000. William Hill had identified that there may have been an issue, but their only response was to send out two automated emails to the player.

 

The Fines

uk gambling commission logoFollowing the investigation, William Hill will now be liable to pay two separate fines to the UKGC. One worth £5 million, for breaching regulations, and another worth £1.2m, for the money William Hill earned from the transactions with the 10 customers. Making a grand total of £6.3 million, it’s the second largest penalty the UKGC have ever issued, after fining the 888 Casino group £7.8 million for similar offences.

Neil McArthur, from the UKGC, stated that the fine ‘reflects the seriousness of the breaches’ and added that they would be using ‘the full range of our enforcement powers to make gambling fairer and safer’.

Thankfully, William Hill have held their hands up and admitted to making mistakes. The CEO of the casino, Philip Bowcock told the press that they would be ‘introducing new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing’ as well as appointing external auditors to review the site’s money-laundering and social responsibility policies, and working to solve any problems which emerge from that review.

What Should The Casino Have Been Doing?

Casino Social ResponsibilityWe all know that most casinos impose daily, weekly and monthly depositing limits and these are in place so that no player can spend large amounts of money without it triggering an alert to the casino operator. If a player is thought to be spending a lot or depositing more and more each time, it’s the casino’s responsibility to reach out to the player and check they’re not developing a problem gambling habit.

If you’re a high roller, however, you may know that you can usually get your depositing limits lifted by contacting the casino and explaining your financial situation. In these circumstances, it’s up to the casino to ask you for identification and even probe you about your annual income or savings. It is however, completely up to you to decide whether you’d like to share this information, but without it the casino has the right to block your deposits.

In general, William Hill is being fined for neglecting to see that some players could be vulnerable to problem gambling, and that others could be using criminally-obtained money to play. In yesterday’s statement by the UKGC they said that ‘gambling businesses have a responsibility to ensure that they keep crime out of gambling and tackle problem gambling – and as part of that they must be constantly curious about where the money they are taking is coming from’

For some, such as the Tom Watson, the Shadow Culture Secretary, the investigation results seem indicative of a much larger problem within the gambling industry. On Twitter, Watson accused the industry of ‘turning a blind eye to dirty money’. Whilst this cannot be proved on this investigation alone, the findings mean that the industry and it’s social responsibility regulations are sure to be thrown into the spotlight once again.