UKGC hits Sky Bet with £1m fine for self-exclusion failures

Online gambling operator Sky Bet has been punished with a £1m fine for failing to protect vulnerable customers from their potentially dangerous gambling habits.

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Sky Bet is the latest gambling company to be handed a hefty fine by the UKGC. © Onestopbrokers.

Regulator UK Gambling Commission said 736 punters who had opted-in to the firm’s self-exclusion system were still able to open new accounts, some of whom used the same account details as their existing account to register.

Fifty thousand customers who had already self-excluded were sent promotional material via email, text or a mobile app notification. Another 36,748 didn’t get the balance of their remaining Sky Bet account returned to them after closing their accounts.

The operator itself reported the issue to the UK Gambling Commission, which prompted the regulator to issue a lower fine than the precedent suggested – last year another operator, 888, was fined £7.8m for similar regulation infringements.

Programme director of the UK Gambling Commission, Richard Watson, hopes the fine will deter other operators from making the same mistakes.

This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers and the £1m penalty package should serve as a warning to all gambling businesses. Richard Watson, Programme Director, UKGC

Self-exclusion tools are designed to help people who are afraid their gambling habits constitute a problem. They allow punters to lock themselves out of online casinos and sports betting sites, and such tools are a mandatory requirement of any UK-licensed online gambling operator.

An industry-wide self-exclusion system called GamStop is currently in development, with the aim of allowing problem gamblers to bar themselves from accessing all UK gambling sites in just one step. The system, whose launch has been delayed until later this year, will be implemented after a string of high-profile cases highlighting individual companies’ problems with their own self-exclusion schemes.

The founder of Gamban, an app which enables customers to block betting sites from their phone or computer, insisted operators have a poor track record. Matt Zarb-Cousin also thinks self-exclusion should be irreversible. He said: “Operators should give customers who self-exclude the opportunity to block all gambling sites and apps on their devices by offering software that can’t be user-uninstalled.”

Sky Betting & Gaming chief executive, Richard Flint, said the firm has not made any profit from the episode and will be donating the fine to charities for socially responsible purposes. He claimed: “When we spotted the issue we pro-actively notified the Gambling Commission and have worked to improve our processes to avoid this happening again.”

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