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William Hill to pay record £19.2m penalty in Great Britain

28th March 2023 7:34 am GMT
Pragmatic Solutions

William Hill will pay a record £19.2 million penalty in relation to “widespread and alarming” failures at the gambling operator.

The penalty payment to Britain’s Gambling Commission is the largest to date and follows an investigation which uncovered widespread social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.

“When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming, serious consideration was given to licence suspension,” said Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission.

“However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history.”

Anti-money laundering (AML) and social responsibility failures were identified at three businesses owned by William Hill Group, WHG (International), Mr Green and William Hill Organization.

These included one customer being allowed to open an account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes without any checks, and another who was allowed to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24 hours without any checks.

Social responsibility failures included failing to identify potentially at-risk players, such as one who lost £14,902 in 70 minutes at Mr Green, or one customer who lost £54,252 in four weeks without the operator (WHG) seeking income evidence, carrying out adequate checks, or using any other effective method to identify risk of harm.

In another instance, one customer was allowed to immediately place a £100,000 bet when his credit limit had been set at £70,000, while WHG allowed 331 customers to gamble, despite their self-exclusion from Mr Green.

The Gambling Commission investigation also found failures in retail, where the operator allowed one customer to lose £10,600 in two days without a safer gambling interaction following the covid reopening. In another case, staff did not identify one customer as being at risk of experiencing harms associated with gambling, despite his staking £42,253 over a three-day period.

The William Hill companies, now owned by 888 Holdings, were also found to have failed to monitor and scrutinise customers in sufficient detail; failed to request Source of Funds (SoF) evidence; employed policies, procedures and controls that lacked guidance on appropriate action to take; and failed to provide sufficient AML training to staff.

“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,” Rhodes added.

“Operators are using algorithms to spot gambling harms or criminal risk more quickly, interacting with consumers sooner, and generally having more effective policies and procedures in place.”

The record William Hill penalty follows the recent £7.2 million penalty imposed on Kindred Group, £620,000 settlement with Blue Star Planet, £6.1 million penalty for InTouch Games and £337,631 settlement with Vivaro.

All £19.2 million of the William Hill Group penalties will be directed towards socially responsible purposes. WHG (International) Limited, which runs williamhill.com, will pay £12.5 million, Mr Green Limited, which runs mrgreen.com, will pay £3.7 million and William Hill Organization Limited, which operates 1,344 gambling premises across Britain, will pay £3 million.

Additional licence conditions will also be added to ensure a business board member oversees an improvement plan, and that it undergoes a third-party audit to assess that it is effectively implementing its AML and safer gambling policies, procedures and controls.

888 Holdings, William Hill's new owner, said that the entire group shares the Gambling Commission’s commitment to improving compliance standards across the industry.

“The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.”

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