William Hill Fined £6.2 million For Anti-Money Laundering, Social Responsibility Violations

Posted on: February 20, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: February 20, 2018, 12:43h.

William Hill has been fined £6.2 million ($8.7 million) by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for compliance failures that allowed ten customers to gamble with funds that were the proceeds of crime.

William Hill Fined
William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock said that his company had improved its policies since the incidents that led to the fine. The UKGC handed the bookmaker the second biggest penalty it has ever imposed on an operator. (Image: William Hill)

The regulator cited numerous instances of customer protection and anti-money laundering breaches and accused the betting giant of deploying insufficient resources and staffing to ensure checks were performed efficiently.

The penalty is the second biggest ever imposed by the UKGC, after the £7.8 million ($11 million) handed down to 888 last year for allowing thousands of self-excluded gamblers to continue to play due to a technical glitch.

The UKGC said that between 2014 and 2016 William Hill staff and senior management failed to spot “clear warning signs” of problem gambling, adding that the “escalating amount of money that was being spent should have set off alarm bells.”

Hill’s $1.2 Million Profit 

It found that the bookmaker permitted one customer to deposit £541,000 ($757,000) over 14 months, after staff accepted his claim that he earned £365,000 ($511,000) per year without requesting evidence. The customer in question in fact earned £30,000 ($42,000) per year and had been embezzling from his employer.

Another deposited £653,000 ($914,000) over an 18-month period which activated an “amber risk” alert on the bookmaker’s system that triggered a review under the company’s AML protocols.

Staff passed his file to a manager but no review was undertaken due to a systems failure. The customer continued to gamble heavily for a further six months.

In all, William Hill profited by around £1.2 million ($1.7 million) from the ten players’ betting activity. This sum has been factored into the fine and will go to compensate the victims of the customers’ crimes.

This was a systemic failing at William Hill which went on for nearly two years and today’s penalty package – which could exceed £6.2 million – reflects the seriousness of the breaches,” said UKGC executive director Neil McArthur.

“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.”

Industry’s Image Problem

The fine comes at a time when the betting industry in the UK is under intense government and media scrutiny and public trust in its practises are at an all-time low. Unless the industry can clean up its image problem and restore trust, the government is likely to implement stricter controls on the sector, which could stymie growth and innovation.

“William Hill has fully co-operated with the commission throughout this process, introducing new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing,” said William Hill’s chief executive, Philip Bowcock, in an official statement on Tuesday.

“We have also committed to an independent process review and will work to implement any recommendations that emerge from that review.”