The operating company behind Paddy Power and Betfair has been fined nearly £500,000 after being found guilty of a number of breaches of their licensing terms.
PPB Counterparty Services will be forced to cough up £490,000 after they sent promotional messages to customers that had self-excluded from their betting accounts.
Back in November 2021, the firm invited customers with Apple devices to take advantage of an enhanced odds offer for a Premier League game – including those who had activated GAMSTOP measures and those that had asked to be self-excluded.
Although the UK Gambling Commission has accepted that the breach was unintentional, they upheld a judgement that PPB should have taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure that their services are marketed appropriately and to engaged customers only.
It goes without saying that marketing to players who don’t want to bet anymore, be it temporarily or permanently, is against the terms of a betting operator’s licence.
So you might think that PPB have got away lightly with a fine that is of little consequence in the context of the annual profit of Paddy Power and Betfair.
The breach was accidental – there was a mistake when updating the firms’ customer databases that was described as ‘human error’ – but even so measures should be in place that prevent such a mix up from happening.
The Commission’s director of operations, Kay Roberts, commented: “Although there is no evidence the marketing was intentional, nor that all the people with apps saw the notification or that self-excluded customers were allowed to gamble, we take such breaches seriously.
“We would advise all operators to learn from the operator’s failures and ensure their systems are robust enough to always prevent self-excluded customers from being sent promotional material.”
Some interesting smallprint in the Commission’s judgement suggests that they had initially fined PPB more than the amount quoted above, but after the operator appealed against the sanction ‘….the Commission and the Licensee agreed to dispose of the appeal by consent and the acceptance by the Licensee of a substitute financial penalty of £490,000.’
No customers complained of the breach to the Commission or the operator, while PPB were recognised for taking ‘immediate’ remedial action once the mistake had been discovered.
Despite the near-the-knuckle nature of some of their marketing material in the past, Paddy Power have largely avoided sanctions in the UK.
Or perhaps they have learned their lesson after one such breach in 2018, which involved significant anti-money laundering failures, from which they were fined a whopping £2.2 million.
Ian Brown, Flutter Entertainment’s CEO rather than the former lead singer of the Stone Roses, put his name to a statement that could well have been written by an AI bot. “Flutter’s ambition is to lead the industry in safer gambling and we apologise for this mistake. The push notification in question was sent in error and, once discovered by our team, we took immediate steps to rectify the issue and proactively notified the Gambling Commission.
“We know that neither Paddy Power nor the regulator received any complaints about the message. We continue to work closely with the Gambling Commission in all areas and we are committed to operating at the highest possible levels of responsibility.”
Although their name might not be familiar to all, Skill On Net are one of the most prominent gambling operators in the UK.
They run more than 50 websites, including Genting Casino, Slot Stars and PlayOjo, across the UK and Europe, with many of those backed by a UK operating licence.
That, of course, means they are subject to the rules of the Commission, and after being found guilty of a series of social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures the outfit has been fined more than £305,000.
Between May 2021 and December 2022, Skill On Net’s sites and apps were found to have not done enough to challenge payments made by third parties of a customer, or to have considered the possibility that organised crime groups or ‘mule’ accounts were involved.
The firm was also found to have failed to identified instances of ‘disproportionate spend’ based on a customer’s salary or personal circumstances, and used ‘unevidenced verbal comments’ to determine whether or not such spending was appropriate or not.
Even in instances of unverified payments, customers were allowed to deposit and wager more than double the standard £2,000 threshold put in place for such eventualities.
The punitive action, dated until December 2022, suggests that Skill On Net have got their house in order as of 2023.