This is rather big news in the world of gambling. Not because a bookmaker did something wrong but because the Gambling Commission actually did something about it. Often bookmakers will be allowed to get away, relatively unpunished from a misdemeanour involving customers (withholding winnings etc). However, on this occasion, they’ve come down on 888 with such force, that you almost end up feeling sorry for the bookmaker.
Now, in light of the offence 888 committed it is very hard to label them the victim, but the extent of the punishment is clearly designed to set an example. So, what has happened? Well, a regulator recently highlighted a technical failure within 888 which meant 7,000 customers who had chosen to bar themselves from their 888 accounts were still able to gamble.
What made this all the more shocking was the sheer amount, these 7000 addicts were able to spend on the source of the breach, which was 888’s bingo platform. In one individual case, a customer (who requested he be barred) staked more than £1.3m, including £55,000 stolen from their employer. The customer in question gambled for 3-4 hours a day, over 13 months, placing a large number of bets.
The regulator’s report went on to state; “the lack of interaction with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in the gambling, raised serious concerns about 888's safeguarding of customers at-risk of gambling harm". 888 either have to admit gross negligence for missing this huge red flag, or admit to taking advantage of the hole in their system and letting this happen. One suspects they will opt for the ignorance defence – overall, the far less damaging of two clear sins.
So, what was the punishment? In the past, we’ve seen sentences as weak as simply demanding an independent audit. But not this time. So, what about a fine? £1m? £4m? £6m? No, 888 were ordered to pay a whopping £7.8m!
It would appear that 888 saw this coming some time ago. Reload offer value has dropped significantly in the last 3 months and it’s reasonable to assume this was part of an effort to tighten their belts before the coming fine.
So, is this good for us matched bettors? Well, overall yes. We may lose out on some value from 888 in the near future. However, the consolidation of all their offerings to come under one customer account spelled the end of mutually exclusive welcome offers for all their different products (sports, casino, bingo, games etc) anyway. The positives are, simply, that the Gambling Commission is sending a message to the that bookmakers that they will get away with a lot less in the future.
Are the GC singling out the very worst offender in 888? Obviously not. There are far worse bookmakers out there, but few have the net profit of 888 and few would be able to pay this fine. The GC gets a big win and hopefully brings the smaller fish to heel all at once – or, so we assume, this is what they are hoping. With a bit of luck this will mean bookmakers are less incline, should they choose, to abuse customer protection laws by refusing to pay out, manipulating horse racing rules and restricting stakes without justified reasoning. All things which can impact our matched betting profits.
So, for now, as long as the GC does not go on a complete rampage through all the major bookmakers (and reducing our reload value in the process), at Heads&Heads, this is a positive step forward and one that should be applauded.