British gambling company William Hill has been hit with a massive £19.2m fine in the largest-ever penalty issued by the UK Gambling Commission. The fine was imposed on three gambling companies owned by William Hill betting group; Mr Green Casino, William Hill Online Casino, and William Hill Organisation Limited, which operates 1344 gambling premises across Britain.
Safer Online Casino UK Gambling Practices
The settlement was the largest in the UK Gambling Commission‘s history. The UKGC confirmed that they considered suspending William Hill’s licence before settling for a financial penalty. Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission chief executive, explained that because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked closely with the UKGC, instead of removing their license, they opted for the largest-ever enforcement payment in the history of UK online casino gambling.
The record penalty comes about as the industry braces for a long-awaited government review into gambling regulations. A statutory levy on operators to fund tighter responsible gambling practices is expected as part of several reforms to update safer gambling and anti-money laundering rules.
Over £70 Million in Fines at UK Casinos
Since 2020, the UKGC has already issued penalties of over £70 million. In March 2020, Betway was fined £11.6 million when it failed to effectively interact with a player that deposited and lost £187,000 in two days. The following month, in April 2020, Caesars Entertainment UK Limited was fined £13 million due in part to a VIP scheme with “systemic failings”. In March 2022, gambling giant Entain, the company behind Ladbrokes and Coral, was ordered to pay £17m after failing to check responsible gaming practices properly. The same month, online casino 888 was hit with a £9.4 million fine after the UKGC revealed social responsibility and money laundering failings. The latest £19.2 William Hill penalty marks the five most extensive Gambling Commission enforcement actions.
In the latest UKGC penalties imposed on the 89-year-old bookmaking brand William Hill, their license was not withdrawn as they admitted a string of transgressions, including allowing customers to lose large amounts within minutes of opening an account. In the case of the three gambling companies owned by the William Hill Group, Mr Green Limited, who runs MrGreen online casino, will pay £3.7 million, WHG Limited, who runs WilliamHill online casino, will pay £12.5 million, and William Hill Organization Limited will pay £3 million.
Responsible Gambling Failures at William Hill
The responsible gambling failures at William Hill businesses include not having enough controls to protect online players and failing to identify the risk of gambling-related harm to their clients by carrying out detailed checks. Three players were identified; a new online casino player that spent £23,000 in 20 minutes without any checks, a second that bet £18,000 in 24 hours without any checks, and a third player that wagered £32,500 over two days without any checks. In another instance, a new player lost £54,252 in four weeks without the operator seeking evidence of income or using any other effective method to identify the risk of harm. Ineffective controls allowed 331 online gambling clients to gamble, although they self-excluded at Mr Green Online Casino. Insufficient verification controls to protect new customers expose them to the risk of substantial losses in a short period. Following the Covid pandemic lockdown, one customer lost £10,600 in two days after its retail premise re-opened, without a safer gambling interaction. Another client staked £42,253 in 130 bets over three days without any checks.
UKGC’s commitment to improve compliance standards
The first significant legislation to regulate gambling of betting shops and off-track gambling in 1961 was the Gambling Act of 2005. The UK Gambling Commission was established to regulate all forms of gambling under one roof as an independent regulator of the UK government department of Culture, Media and Sport. The main objective of the 2005 legislation was to create a landscape promoting fair and safe gambling by protecting underage and vulnerable gamblers. This is to ensure responsible advertising and practices to prevent the online gambling industry from being used for criminal means. Most agree that establishing the UKGC has driven the industry to be more responsible.
Since 2005, the online gambling landscape has dramatically changed, particularly with the growth of online and remote gambling. In the past five years, calls for tighter regulations and restrictions have escalated. This has resulted in new rules and limits to make an even safer industry. One of the recent changes was in 2019, where new rules enforced a £2 stake limit on fixed odds betting terminals. The UKGC has been heavily criticised by charities, public forums and MP advisory groups for not doing enough to help vulnerable players. In response, the commission dramatically increased the number of fines. Despite the many changes imposed by the UKGC, many have suggested the UK Gambling Commission is no longer fit or funded sufficiently to regulate an industry worth close to £15 billion.
When the UKGC came into being, betting was heavily weighted to the high street, and no one could predict how big online gambling would become. External factors have also contributed to calls for a new gambling act, such as the general election in 2019, which had gambling high on the list after Brexit. The unexpected coronavirus pandemic also heightened the debate around problem gambling, advertising and general practices.
The Future of UK Online Casinos
During its history, the gambling industry in the UK has grown with new trends and opportunities, despite the many difficulties. Like China and India, the UK does not prohibit internet gambling, leading to an industry worth billions of pounds. As a result of this domination, the industry has begun to adopt new technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), live dealer casinos, a dramatic rise in mobile casinos and the implementation of blockchain technology. Because of its reputation for transparency, and security, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin provide an excellent choice for systems that support online gambling and sports betting.
The UK online gambling industry is expected to see expansion in 2023, driven by the ever-increasing popularity of online slots, casino games, and sports betting. To ensure sustainable growth, the industry must address the difficulties problem gambling presents in online gaming. However, even with the difficulties, the combination of online gambling coupled with blockchain technology, virtual reality and on-the-go mobile gaming is only set to grow.
At UK Minimum Deposit Casinos, we are determined to feature a wide variety of top-rated secure online casinos and sportsbooks with responsible gambling in mind. Licensed by official regulators such as the UK Gambling Commission, and using top-of-the-line online encryption, our featured brands offer the best UK slots, table games, bingo jackpots, exciting and immersive Live Dealer Casinos, and sports betting online with optimised mobile casinos. New players can collect welcome bonuses to boost their playing money, and bonus spins for top slots make the adventure even more thrilling. Please feel free to browse through our featured brands and add colour and sunshine to your days with top slots like Book of Dead, Starburst and MegaMoolah. Besides providing hours of fun-filled gaming, there’s always the chance to walk away with real cash wins. Good luck and happy, responsible gambling!