Gambling giant Betway has been fined more than £400,000 for advertising on a children’s colouring page on West Ham United’s website.
A logo linking to the bookmaker’s website appeared on two pages designed for young fans of the Premier League club, breaking the Gambling Commission’s rules on social responsibility, between 2020 and 2021.
One breach lasted for three weeks but a logo on another page – where children could print and colour in a picture of a teddy bear – remained for more than 18 months.
Although the commission said it took the issue “extremely seriously”, campaigners claimed the “small” penalty would be viewed by Betway as a “cost of doing business”.
Leanne Oxley, the commission’s enforcement director, said: “Protecting children from gambling is at the heart of what we do.
“Although there is no suggestion that the operator was deliberately targeting children, or that children had been allowed to gamble, we take the breach of any rules aimed at protecting children extremely seriously.”
She advised other gambling companies to “learn from this case” and ensure they have “the correct processes in place” to avoid similar mistakes.
It comes two years after the commission fined Betway a UK record £11.6 million for “systemic historical failings” in tackling money laundering and problem gambling.
The business did not properly investigate the funding behind a “VIP” client who deposited more than £8 million and lost over £4 million in four years.
It also failed to carry out effective social responsibility checks with a customer who deposited and lost £187,000 over two days.
James Grimes, from anti-gambling campaign group The Big Step, described the advert on West Ham’s website as “appalling”, claiming it had put the “health and lives” of young football fans at risk.
He continued: “Such a small fine when compared to the gambling industry’s giant profits will not deter them.
“Until gambling firms genuinely risk losing their licences they will just see fines as a cost of doing business and carry on.”
Betway said in a statement: “As a responsible licensed operator, Betway has zero tolerance with marketing to under-18s.
“As one of the first betting operators to remove our branding from under-18s kit and supporter merchandise, we feel very strongly about our responsibility in this area.
“On this occasion, the Betway logo – owing to a technical error – appeared on a restricted section of the West Ham United website. As soon as we were made aware of this error, we took immediate action to get it removed.
“Nonetheless, we accept the fine and will continue to work closely with the club to ensure this does not happen again.”