The owners of Ladbrokes and Coral have been fined £5.9m for “systemic failings” including letting down a gambler who splurged £1.5m and logged into his account 10 times a day.
A UK watchdog said the group, owned by GVC (GVC.L), failed to protect suspected problem gamblers and failed to carry out money laundering checks between 2014 and 2017.
Richard Watson, executive director of the Gambling Commission, said the betting giant let “stolen money flow through the business” and its management were likely to have known or should have realised after failings in prevention were discovered.
The watchdog highlighted how one customer, whose identity has been protected, racked up huge losses after spending £1.5m over just under three years.
The punter also “displayed signs of problem gambling” including losses of £64,000 in a single month and conspicuously frequent use of their account.
But Coral were unable to prove they had done anything to offer or check if the customer needed support, and did not ask where the money came from.
Meanwhile Ladbrokes failed to do enough to to help another customer who lost £98,000 and asked the bookmaker to stop sending promotions, even though it declined 460 of their attempts to deposit money in their account.
“Decision makers at gambling businesses need to invest in the welfare of their customers and the integrity of money being gambled with,” Watson said.
“These were systemic failings at a large operator which resulted in consumers being harmed and stolen money flowing through the business and this is unacceptable.”
The commission added in a statement that GVC did have controls, but they were ineffective “due to a lack of adequate resourcing.”
But GVC pledged to overhaul its responsible gambling checks and support, fund problem gambling treatment and hold several reviews to check how effectively it helps vulnerable customers.
The company co-operated fully with the investigation and will pay £4.8m “in lieu of a financial penalty” under a settlement and a £1.1m divestment to victims from suspected proceeds of crime.
The penalty and reputational damage add to the woes of Ladbrokes and Coral’s owner GVC, which has seen its high street betting shop earnings plummet because of a government crackdown on fixed-odds machines.
GVC saw sales from games in its UK retail arm drop by 19% in the three months to 30 June, after the government slashed the maximum stake allowed on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals or ‘FOBTs’ from £100 to £2 a spin.
The machines have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling, with campaigners calling them highly addictive and allowing players to rack up enormous losses.
Rival William Hill also blamed the clampdown as it announced thousands of jobs and hundreds of stores were at risk earlier this month, with plans to close about a third of shops.