The U.K. Gambling Commission announced Tuesday three units of British bookmaking service William Hill Group will pay a record fine of 19.2 million pounds (U.S. $23.7 million) for failures regarding social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML).
WHG (International) Limited will pay £12.5 million (U.S. $15.4 million), Mr. Green Limited will pay £3.7 million (U.S. $4.6 million), and William Hill Organization Limited will pay £3 million (U.S. $3.7 million). William Hill Group, which was acquired by 888 Holdings in July, operates more than 1,000 gambling premises across the United Kingdom.
Andrew Rhodes, U.K. Gambling Commission chief executive, said the company’s failings “were so widespread and alarming, serious consideration was given to license suspension.” However, since the company recognized its shortcomings and worked with the commission to implement improvements, it was not suspended and instead subjected to the largest enforcement action in the regulator’s history, said Rhodes.
The details: William Hill’s social responsibility failures included a lack of controls to protect customers, allowing them to stake large amounts of money without oversight, according to the commission. Its alleged AML failures included customers being permitted to deposit large amounts without conducting appropriate checks and balances and procedures and controls lacking hard stops to prevent further spending and mitigate against money laundering risks.
In one example, the company failed to “identify changes in the customer behavior which should have provoked consideration of whether the customer was experiencing harm.” The company only conducted a safer gambling interaction with the customer after they had placed and accepted an £18,000 (U.S. $22,000) bet, according to the commission.
William Hill had insufficient controls in place for new customers, including the ability to monitor “high velocity spend and duration of play,” the commission said. In some cases, new or returning customers were onboarded without confirming income.
One customer was allowed to immediately place a £100,000 (U.S. $123,000) bet when his credit limit had been set at £70,000 (U.S. $86,000). This occurred due to the company “[f]ailing to apply a 24-hour delay between receiving a request for an increase in a credit limit and granting it,” the commission said.
The regulator also noted 331 customers gambled with WHG (International) Limited despite having self-excluded with Mr. Green.
William Hill failed to request source of funds evidence, which helped lead to its AML deficiencies, the commission said. Further, AML policies, procedures, and controls lacked guidance on customer risk profiling and sufficient staff training on how to manage risks.
Company response: “The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management. After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan,” 888 said in a statement. “The entire group shares the [Gambling Commission’s] commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry, and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this.”
Compliance ramifications: Since the start of 2022, the U.K. Gambling Commission said it has concluded 26 enforcement cases levying more than £76 million (U.S. $93.6 million) in penalties because of regulatory failures that enabled criminal risk.