July 2023 should have been a month to savour for the Done brothers and their bookmaking outfit Betfred.
They were the title sponsors of the prestigious British Masters golf tournament, won at The Belfry by Daniel Hillier, which also saw the firm donate £84,000 to prostate cancer charities.
And they also had their name on the ledger of the World Matchplay darts event in Blackpool – the sport’s second major behind the World Championship.
Done would also have been clicking his heels together in glee after Royal Ascot at the end of June when a catalogue of favourites were defeated by underdogs – including a handful of largely unbacked 100/1 and 150/1 victors. That’s always a happy outcome for the bookies.
But the good times have quickly been replaced by the bad after it was revealed earlier this week that Betfred are to be fined £3.25 million for a series of catastrophic regulatory failings – enough to wipe the smile off the face of even the most ebullient of bookmakers….
The rap sheet against Betfred, which includes failings investigated between January 2021 and December 2022, is lengthy to say the least.
You’ll need your scrolling finger at the ready to read the whole of the public statement on the UK Gambling Commission’s website, which details the significant extent of the firm’s failings over a near two-year period.
One Betfred punter was able to wager £250,000 with the firm in a single calendar year. This triggered an anti-money laundering warning, but it took Betfred some ten days to action the check – in breach of their licensing requirements.
Another punter wagered more than £400,000 without any direct intervention from Betfred – instead, they simply relied on basic open-source information as a guide to the individual’s financial feasibility.
Other punters lost £61,000 and £72,000 respectively, with Betfred again failing to ascertain their proof of earnings information – instead, they again relied upon uncorroborated open-source data as evidence.
And then there’s the tawdry tale of the professional poker player who was able to wager close to their entire net worth – some £517,000 – with Betfred in the space of just two months.
These are just some of the catalogue of social responsibility and anti-money laundering failings that the investigation uncovered, with the Commission finding Betfred to have acted insufficiently when dealing with a number of cases of ‘high velocity spend’.
The £3.25 million fine that they will now fork out will go to socially responsible causes.
As if it was any consolation, Betfred’s fine is only the third largest that the Commission has dished out in 2023 so far.
Two of Kindred’s labels, 32Red and Platinum Gaming, were fined a combined £7.1 million in March for a series of failings of their own – those included a failure to interact with players who were showcasing problem gambling behaviours. An investigation also found that players that had self-excluded from 32Red were able to access their Platinum Gaming account, and vice versa.
But top of the pops in 2023 is William Hill, who just a week after Kindred’s penalty were fined a mammoth £19.2 million – the record sanction ever handed out by the Commission.
At the time, the chief of the Gambling Commision – Andrew Rhodes – revealed that the company’s failings were so bad they almost had their UK licence revoked; that would have been a truly shocking moment for the industry.
“When we launched this investigation, the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to licence suspension,” Rhodes commented at the time.
Betfred shareholders have every right to feel cheesed off as this is the second time in less than a year that the operator has suffered a significant regulatory blow – eating into their dividend payouts.
In September 2022, they were fined £2.9 million over yet more failures to protect their customers – with one punter able to lose £70,000 in less than ten hours without a member of the Betfred team intervening.
The Done brothers received an ‘official warning’ from the Commission at the time – something that appears not to have been escalated during their recent investigative woes.
At a time when bookmakers are playing the metaphorical violin as they face challenging economic conditions and a changing regulatory landscape, any sympathy they may have been given by the public is quickly eroded when they learn how incapable some of the UK’s biggest firms are in protecting the welfare of their customers.