Gambling group Entain is to pay £17 million for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures in the Gambling Commission’s largest ever enforcement action.
Entain Group will pay £14 million for failures at its online business LC International Limited, which runs 13 websites including ladbrokes.com, coral.co.uk and foxybingo.com.
It will also pay £3 million for failures at its Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Limited operation which runs 2,746 gambling premises across Britain.
All £17 million will directed towards socially responsible purposes as part of a regulatory settlement, the regulator said.
Additional licence conditions will also ensure a business board member oversees an improvement plan, and that a third-party audit to review its compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice takes place within 12 months.
The Entain case outstrips any other enforcement handed down by the regulator, including the previous highest £13 million paid in April 2020 by Caesars Entertainment for a catalogue of social responsibility, money laundering and customer interaction failures, including those involving “VIPs”.
Betway paid £11.6 million in March of the same year for social responsibility and money laundering failings linked to dealings with its high spending customers.
Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said: “Our investigation revealed serious failures that have resulted in the largest enforcement outcome to date.
“There were completely unacceptable anti-money laundering and safer gambling failures. Operators are reminded they must never place commercial considerations over compliance.
“This is the second time this operator has fallen foul of rules in place to make gambling safer and crime-free.
“They should be aware that we will be monitoring them very carefully and further serious breaches will make the removal of their licence to operate a very real possibility. We expect better and consumers deserve better.”
Social responsibility failures included being slow or failing to minimise certain customers’ risk of harms associated with gambling.
— Gambling Commission (@GamRegGB) August 17, 2022
The regulator said the operator conducted just one chat interaction with an online customer who spent extended periods gambling overnight during an 18-month period in which they deposited £230,845.
Anti-money laundering failures included allowing online customers to deposit large amounts without carrying out sufficient source of funds checks, with one consumer allowed to deposit £742,000 in 14 months without appropriate source-of-funds checks.
Another, who was known to live in social housing, was allowed to deposit £186,000 in six months without sufficient checks.
Entain said in a statement: “Entain has entered into the regulatory settlement with the commission in order to bring the matter to a close and avoid further costly and protracted legal proceedings.
“Entain accepts that certain legacy systems and processes supporting the operations of its British business during 2019 and 2020 were not in line with the evolving regulatory expectations of the commission in respect to aspects of social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) safeguards. However, the group also notes the commission’s statement that it found no evidence whatsoever of criminal spend within Entain’s operations.
“The issues raised by the commission relate to the period between December 2019 and October 2020, which pre-dates the many changes in the area of safer gambling and AML that Entain has introduced.”
The enforcement case comes amid delays to the release of the long-awaited gambling White Paper, thought to be postponed again until after a new prime minister takes office.
Restrictions on the industry were widely expected to be announced last month as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act amid concerns that regulations require changes to accommodate the growth of online betting.
But advisers to Boris Johnson reportedly concluded that it could not be published until a new leader of the Conservative Party was elected to replace him as prime minister.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm, said that while the fine would amount to a “drop in the ocean”, she thought the Gambling Commission’s response would still be a concern to Entain and the wider industry.
“I think what will upset them is that the potential for them losing their licence going forward and then they wouldn’t be able to operate at all.
“I would like to see ‘three strikes and you’re out’. If you misdemeanour three times, then you don’t have a licence,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.