William Hill Fined £6.2 Million for Shoddy Anti-Money Laundering and Responsible Gambling Practices
Citing “systemic senior management failure to protect consumers and prevent money laundering,” the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced Tuesday that it has fined the William Hill Group at least £6.2 million.
The UKGC conducted an investigation into William Hill’s operations and found that between November 2014 and August 2016, finding that the company shirked its social responsibility duties and to prevent money laundering. Ten customers were able to deposit “large sums” of money which were connected to criminal activity. From those deposits, William Hill made £1.2 million.
The Gambling Commission said that there was no excuse for William Hill to not be able to check on the source of the funds or identify customers as problem gamblers, particularly because the company has plenty of staff in place to handle such things.
The £1.2 million portion of the fine would be William Hill handing over the money that it made from the ten customers, while the £5 million is a straight-up punishment. Players who lost money to the ten customers in question will be reimbursed if possible. As for the “at least” part of the equation, if more shenanigans are uncovered, William Hill may be on the hook for more money.
William Hill will be bringing in external auditors to review its anti-money laundering and social responsibility procedures.
Some examples of the customers who were not properly vetted:
• Customer making £30,000 per year deposited £654,000 over course of nine months without William Hill verifying the source of the funds.
• Another customer making £30,000 convinced an employee via phone that he made up to twelve times more than that and was allowed to deposit £541,000 in 14 months. Fun fact: he was stealing money from his employer.
• A customer whose account was actually flagged with a financial alert was still allowed to deposit hundreds of thousands of pounds because of a “system failure.” The deposits continued for half a year even though the alerts continued.
• William Hill suspected one customer may have been a problem gambler and simply took their word for it that everything was cool without investigating further.
• A customer deposited £147,000 in 18 months, losing nearly that much money. William Hill’s systems identified that this person may have had a problem, but just sent a couple “social responsibility” e-mails. The UKGC decided that this was not enough.
Neil MacArthur, executive director of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission said of the situation:
We will use the full range of our enforcement powers to make gambling fairer and safer.
This was a systemic failing at William Hill which went on for nearly two years and today’s penalty package – which could exceed £6.2m – reflects the seriousness of the breaches.
Gambling businesses have a responsibility to ensure that they keep crime out of gambling and tackle problem gambling – and as part of that they must be constantly curious about where the money they are taking is coming from.
In a press release, William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock acknowledged the Gambling Commission’s findings:
William Hill has fully co-operated with the Commission throughout this process, introducing new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing. We have also committed to an independent process review and will work to implement any recommendations that emerge from that review. We are fully committed to operating a sustainable business that properly identifies risk and better protects customers. We will continue to assist the Commission and work with other operators to improve practices in the areas identified.
William Hill should probably think about shaping up quickly. Just three weeks ago, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced an agreement with the company and two other operators following an investigation into its marketing practices in regards to deposit bonus promotions. William Hill, along with Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment, were found to be sneaky and even downright predatory in how they hid the terms of bonuses and how they often made it difficult to withdraw money.
“Gambling always carries a risk, but players should never face unfair restrictions that prevent them from getting at their money,” said CMA project director George Lusty. “Firms mustn’t stack the odds against players, by putting unfair obstacles in their way, or making it difficult for them to stop gambling when they want to.”