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Ladbrokes Coral hit by £5.9m penalty over vulnerable gamblers 31/07/19
Rob Davies
• Systemic failings resulted in consumers being harmed, says Gambling Commission

Ladbrokes Coral will pay a £5.9m penalty, one of the largest imposed by the Gambling Commission, over “systemic failings” to protect problem gamblers who lost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The regulator detailed a litany of transgressions by Ladbrokes Coral between 2014 and 2017, finding that it failed to fulfil its obligations to “protect customers from gambling harm” and prevent money laundering.

When the company became aware of the problem, it simply reduced the number of its customers it deemed “high risk”, rather than investing to protect them the commission’s investigation found.

“These were systemic failings at a large operator, which resulted in consumers being harmed and stolen money flowing though the business and this is unacceptable,” the commission’s executive director, Richard Watson, said.

The failures include neglecting to ask one customer who lost £1.5m over three years about their source of funds, despite clear signs of problem gambling such as logging into their account 10 times a day and losing £64,000 in a month.

Ladbrokes did not ask any questions of another customer who lost £98,000 over two and a half years, had 460 attempted deposits declined and even asked the operator to stop sending them marketing promotions.

The bookmaker, owned by Isle of Man-based firm GVC, also failed to intervene when customer who deposited more than £140,000 in the first four months of their account being open.

The commission said that in one case Ladbrokes identified “significant concerns” about a customer but continued to allow them to place large wagers.

The failings continued even after the company and its management should have known about them, the Commission said, adding that it was still investigating individuals who could lose their licence to operate in the industry.

As part of the settlement GVC will pay £4.8m towards responsible gambling causes and will forfeit £1.1m to “affected parties”.

It will also review the top 50 customers for the years 2015-17 to consider whether any further failings can be identified.

Its chief executive, Kenny Alexander, said GVC discovered “historic compliance failures” after buying Ladbrokes Coral for £3.2bn in 2018.

“These historical failings were unacceptable and since the acquisition I have overseen a systematic review of the enlarged group’s player protection procedures and the individuals responsible for these problems have exited the business.”

The Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who leads a cross-party group on problem gambling, said she didn’t think the failures were isolated cases.

“I believe that the industry does not act in a reasonable manner in how they deal with problem gambling or excessive gambling.

“Every day I hear from individuals and families whose lives have been blighted by the industry’s quest for profit and its disregard for customers. Although this is a substantial fine, to Ladbrokes Coral it’s loose change and I doubt they will learn any lessons.”

GVC said it had made significant investments to ramp up the checks to ensure customers can afford to bet, including a fivefold increase in staff dedicated to compliance and responsible gambling.