Business

Entain hit with record £17mn fine for ‘unacceptable’ failures

Entain has been hit with a £17mn fine, the biggest penalty ever meted out by the UK’s gambling regulator, for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures under rules governing gaming businesses.

The fine for the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral was targeted at Entain’s online and retail operations. A £14mn penalty was imposed for a failure to meet licensing standards at LC International, which runs Entain’s 13 gaming websites, while Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming, which operates about 2,700 gambling shops across the UK, received a £3mn fine.

Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission chief executive, said the investigation revealed “serious failures” resulting in the largest fine to date. The previous record penalty was a £13mn fine given to Caesars Entertainment in April 2020.

“There were completely unacceptable anti-money laundering and safer gambling failures,” said Rhodes. “Operators are reminded they must never place commercial considerations over compliance.”

He noted that this was the second time the Ladbrokes and Coral operation had been fined. Before the businesses were taken over by GVC Holdings and renamed Entain in 2020, the operators were hit with a £5.9mn fine.

Rhodes said the regulator would monitor the operators “very carefully” and that if further breaches occurred, the removal of their licences was “a very real possibility”.

The failings, for which Entain has agreed to pay the fine as part of a regulatory settlement, include not intervening enough with customers at risk of gambling-related harms and allowing customers subject to account restrictions to open accounts with other licensees.

One customer, who would spend extended periods gambling overnight and managed to deposit about £230,000 over an 18-month period, was only contacted once by the operator, according to evidence outlined by the Gambling Commission.

Another customer was not escalated for a safer gambling review despite staking nearly £30,000 in a betting store and losing £11,345 in a single month.

All UK gambling operators must comply with safer gambling and anti-money laundering responsibilities under the 2005 Gambling Act. A long-awaited government review is expected to tighten controls further.

The investigation into Entain focused on the period between December 2019 and October 2020.

Entain was also accused of failing to conduct proper risk assessments of the possibility of its businesses being used for money laundering or terrorist financing, and allowing customers to deposit up to £742,000 over a 14-month period without carrying out appropriate source of funds checks.

Following the fine, the company will be subject to extra licence conditions, including the appointment of a board member to oversee improvements and a third-party audit to review compliance within 12 months.

Entain stressed that the regulator “found no evidence” of criminal spending within the company’s operations and that the investigation “predates the many changes in the area of safer gambling and [anti-money laundering] that Entain has introduced”. Last year, it rolled out artificial intelligence technology to enforce safer gambling rules, it said.

The £17mn settlement was already accounted for in the group’s latest financial statements. Last month, the company said online gaming revenues were down 7 per cent in the six months to June, compared with the same period last year.


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