The UK Gambling Commission has finally pronounced its verdict on William Hill, slapping the operator with a gargantuan fine of £19.2 million ($23.67 million). This is notably the largest fine ever handed by the commission, exceeding the previous record of £17 million.
The commission explained that the William Hill Group will have to pay £12.5 million for its failings, while the William Hill Organization will have to pay £3 million. Mr Green, a brand in the William Hill family, will be handed a fine of £3.7 million, resulting in the aforementioned total fine of £19.2 million.
These fines come in the wake of a lengthy investigation that probed into William Hill’s business. As a result, multiple failings were uncovered and the UKGC even considered suspending the operator’s license. In the end, the regulator decided against that idea.
Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, acknowledged that William Hill recognized its failings and worked with the commission to make improvements. It is thanks to this that the operator was able to hold to its license, Rhodes noted.
The money from the fine will be directed toward socially responsible purposes, the UKGC said. In the meantime, William Hill’s license will be subject to additional conditions that will ensure a business board member oversees an improvement plan. The operator will also be required to hire a third-party auditor to see if its safer gambling and AML procedures are up to standards.
The fine signifies trouble for 888, which acquired William Hill a few months ago. The parent company has been struggling with a lot of trouble already and is likely to be further impacted by the measure.
William Hill Violated Many Rules
The UKGC listed William Hill’s multiple failings, which saw the company breach various social responsibility and player safety rules. The company lacked sufficient controls to protect new customers, who could, as a result, spend thousands of pounds in minutes without any checks. This happened on several occasions with customers losing tens of thousands of pounds in hours or even minutes.
In addition to that, the operator was unable to identify high-risk customers and prevent gambling harm. The company failed to intervene on time and protect its customers from addiction. The lack of checks and controls made it harder for the company to spot harm.
Speaking of failing to stop harm, William Hill had allowed hundreds of self-excluded Mr Green customers to play with WHG.
William Hill also did not apply the required 24-hour delay between receiving a request for an increase in a credit limit and granting it.
In addition to its social responsibility failings, William Hill also violated AML protocols, allowing customers to deposit suspiciously-high amounts of money without conducting appropriate checks and asking players to cite their source of income.
Records show that some customers fueled their accounts with ludicrous amounts of money and placed high wagers without being monitored or scrutinized by William Hill. The operator’s policies, procedures and controls “lacked guidance on what was the appropriate action to take following the results of customer profiling and how its findings should be used to establish the appropriate outcome.”
Anti-money laundering controls were insufficient are could not put hard stops to mitigate and prevent money laundering before customer risk profiling was complete. In addition, the company’s AML staff did not have sufficient training to be familiar with risks and risk management.
The UKGC Will Continue Enforcing Its Standards
The UKGC is working hard to prevent regulatory breaches in the United Kingdom. Since the beginning of 2022, the authority has concluded 26 enforcement cases, forcing incompliant operators to pay more than £76 million ($93.57 million).
In the last 15 months, we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators, but we are now starting to see signs of improvement. There are indications that the industry is doing more to make gambling safer and reducing the possibility of criminal funds entering their businesses.
Andrew Rhodes, CEO, UKGC
Rhodes praised his team’s active approach and said that he can already see signs of improvement. He noted that more and more operators are leveraging high-tech solutions to mitigate AML risks and identify harm.