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A betting firm has been fined over £9 million for its breach of rules, including the failure to check whether gamblers could afford to deposit tens of thousands of pounds.
888 UK Limited, which runs 888.com and 77 other websites, was fined £9.4 million by the Gambling Commission. This is its second fine since 2017, when it was fined nearly £8 million for failing to block users who wanted to stop gambling.
The Commission said the firm allowed users to deposit up to £40,000 during the coronavirus pandemic without checking the source of their funds or whether they could afford to bet.
One gambler lost £37,000 in six weeks before the firm contacted him. But when 888 UK Limited did contact users about such problems, it was usually in the form of an email which did not require a response.
Another gambler was given a monthly deposit cap of £1,300, when the firm was aware it was the equivalent of more than 90 per cent of his monthly salary.
Andrew Rhodes, the Commission’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, said the situation was “not acceptable”.
888 UK Limited has reportedly cooperated with the industry regulator to address the problems.
Recovering gambling addict Kelly Field has shared how she used to gamble eight hours per day, saying it “consumed every part of my life”. She started with online bingo, before proceeding to online slot games.
She said that when she lost £1,600 in an hour she felt “defeated, disgusted and ashamed and just knew there was no chance of getting the money back”. After attempting suicide, she sought help and now aims to raise awareness of gambling addiction.
Matthew Gaskell, from The NHS Northern Gambling Service, said that bingo is advertised as “very appealing” and often causes women to become involved in other forms of gambling.
Earlier this year, campaigners warned that an epidemic of gambling-related suicides is not being taken seriously by betting companies and the Gambling Commission.
Public Health England estimates that 409 people commit suicide for reasons associated with gambling every year, yet only eight such deaths have been investigated by the regulator since 2018.
During an inquest into the death of Jack Ritchie, Senior Coroner David Urpeth linked his suicide to gambling addiction and submitted a ‘Report to prevent future deaths’ to the Government, urging action.
The Government is currently considering a reform of gambling legislation which could see the largest changes to the running of the industry since 2005.
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