William Hill hit with record fine after customer bets £23k in 20 minutes

·2 min read
William Hill - PHIL NOBLE
William Hill - PHIL NOBLE

William Hill has been hit with a record £19.2m fine after allowing gamblers to fritter away tens of thousands of pounds on bets within minutes of opening an account.

An investigation by the Gambling Commission found William Hill, owned by London-listed 888 Holdings, was guilty of a series of social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) failures.

The lapses were so serious that the regulator considered stripping William Hill of its operating licence.

888 said that the problems pre-dated its ownership of the business.

It acquired William Hill’s non-US operations from Las Vegas casino operator Caesars Entertainment in a deal worth £2bn last year.

Failures included allowing one customer to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes, another to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24 hours, and a third to spend £32,500 over two days – all without any checks.

AML failures included letting customers deposit large amounts without carrying out appropriate checks: one was able to spend and lose £70,134 in a month, another lost £38,000 in five weeks, and another spent £36,000 in four days.

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

"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."

A spokesman for 888 said: "The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management. After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.

"The entire group shares the Gambling Commission's commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this."

The previous largest fine handed out by the Gambling Commission was a £17m action taken against Entain in August last year.