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Regulator investigated the firm for asking gambling addict and his theft victims to sign NDAs. Ladbrokes will escape a fine for telling victims of a £1m theft by a customer with a gambling problem that it would only compensate them if they did not report the case to the regulator. The Gambling Commission began investigating Ladbrokes last year after the Guardian revealed the company encouraged gambling addict Tony Parente – and people he admitted stealing from – to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). But while the regulator has issued “guidance” to companies about their use of NDAs, it has written to Parente to say it will not be imposing sanctions against Ladbrokes over its use of one. The commission told Parente it was “satisfied that the NDA you were signatory of did not breach any of our licence conditions or regulatory requirements”. “As part of a wider piece of work, the commission has reviewed the use of NDAs within the gambling industry and as a result released guidance reiterating our expectations in this regard.” The Guardian revealed last year that Ladbrokes, now owned by Isle of Man-based GVC, showered Parente with gifts as he lost up to £60,000 a day gambling with money he later admitted he had stolen. The incentives worth thousands of pounds included tickets to football matches and business-class flights. After five of his victims made a complaint against Ladbrokes for allegedly accepting stolen funds, the bookmaker agreed to pay them a combined sum of £975,000, as long as they agreed “not to bring any complaint or make any report to any regulator in relation to the claim”. They also agreed not to assist anyone else in making claims against Ladbrokes for accepting stolen money from gamblers. Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, said the commission’s decision that Ladbrokes can’t be fined over the NDA showed it was “not fit for purpose”. “Until we reshape the gambling regulations in this country, the industry will continue to exploit and hold vulnerable gamblers to ransom,” she said, adding that the commission was “complicit in what is actually abuse – of power and of individuals”. The Gambling Commission said: “In this particular instance the full details were reported by the operator and we have since issued them with advice over their conduct regarding NDAs. “We have also ensured that all future NDAs make clear that parties to the agreement can inform the relevant regulator.” Ladbrokes could still be fined for encouraging Parente to keep betting with free gifts, cashback on losses and bonuses. “We are still to conclude all matters relating to this individual and are unable to comment further at this stage,” the commission said.
The bookmaker was fined for 'systemic' failings including letting stolen money flow through the business and failing to help problem gamblers.
Ladbrokes owner GVC revealed soaring sales last year but warned again that it will be forced to shut around 1,000 betting shops because of a gambling crackdown. GVC said the £2 limit will hit earnings by £135m in 2019, adding that it is trying to transition to a “smaller, right-sized and more sustainable estate” as smoothly as possible. Chief executive Kenneth Alexander said that GVC is “well-placed” to absorb the impact of the new regulations.
Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings Plc said on Tuesday it had made plans to relocate servers hosting online gambling platforms to Ireland for Brexit uncertainties. GVC, which owns games brands such as partypoker, PartyCasino, Casino Club, Gioco Digitale and Foxy Bingo, also said that the cut to the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will result in the closure of up to a thousand shops and expects the EBITDA impact to be 135 million pounds in 2019. The cut to the maximum stake FOBTs would be implemented from April this year after several lawmakers have called for curbs on FOBTs, which have been widely blamed for allowing gamblers to rack up large losses in a short space of time.