William Hill Braces Itself for Heavy Mr Green Gambling Commission Fine
William Hill has allocated £3m in anticipation of a heavy fine likely to be handed out by the UK regulator. The company announced the provision in the releasing of its full-year financial results which were announced last week.
The operator has said it expects to finalise a regulatory settlement with the Gambling Commission soon which relates to systemic compliance failings at subsidiary brand Mr Green. The company declared the set-aside funds in the outlook section of their annual results, stating: “At the time of the Mr Green acquisition, the UK facing gaming business was subject to an investigation arising from systemic compliance failings following a corporate evaluation undertaken by the Gambling Commission in summer 2018.”
The company insist that they have made changes since gaining ownership of the Mr Green brand, adding: “Since we completed our acquisition, we have implemented enhanced policies and processes designed to ensure that the business meets all requisite compliance standards.”
The anticipated £3m fine from the regulator is the latest setback to hit the Mr Green brand which William Hill acquired in 2019 for £245m. At the beginning of February this year, Mr Green contacted its UK-facing affiliate partners and instructed them to halt all casino marketing activity. The company instructed partners in an email to remove “banners, text links, pop-ups, social posts and any other marketing materials for the UK”.
Mr Green’s sportsbook product is still available to UK customers and is unaffected by the casino marketing announcement.
The situation is different for the German market as the bookmaker closed their German facing online sportsbook. Due to the federal gambling treaty being passed, operators can apply for a licence to operate in Germany. A prerequisite of a licence application requires applicants not to be involved in an online operation that actively recruits German players.
In a foreword in William Hill’s full-year financial results, Chairman of William Hill, Roger Devlin described 2019 as a “promising year of transition”. Stating the company had made good progress in their ‘five-year plan to build a digitally-led and internationally diverse business of scale’. When referring to the acquisition of Mr Green, Devlin said William Hill purchased the operator to expand their global footprint and enhance digital capability. Despite the pending regulatory punishment for the operator, The chairman said the company was a “natural cultural fit” due to their emphasis on customer protection.
The chairman also discussed the challenges the William Hill companies had faced with the £2 stake limit on B2 gaming product that came into effect on April 2019. Devlin also highlighted the remodelling of the group’s retail operations which saw the closure of 713 retail shops in Q3.
The company have experienced a sharp drop in its share price, especially after the group announced their full-year financial results. The share price hit a six-month high of 196.05 in February this year but dropped last week to 143.15, a fall of 26.98%. The company’s stock was worth 340 in January 2018, highlighting the challenging trading conditions facing operators.