William Hill May Have Supplied Dodgy Data to UK for COVID-19 Gambling Research

Posted on: January 4, 2022, 08:09h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2022, 09:30h.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has said all statistics it has published on gambling during COVID-19 should be treated with caution. That’s after William Hill recently informed the regulator it had supplied incorrect data points since the start of the pandemic.

William Hill
William Hill admitted supplying bad data from March 2020 to September 2021. (Image: The Telegraph)

The UKGC has published regular updates on the nation’s gambling habits amid concerns that the pressures of the pandemic would lead to a wave of online problem gambling.

In a statement on its website, the regulator urged those who use these statistics as a key resource, from academics to public health officials, to disregard them all. It said it was working on reanalyzing the correct data, which it expects to publish next month.

‘Reviewing Consequences’

The UKGC draws on submissions from the major operators, which collectively represent 80 percent of the UK online gambling market. William Hill is currently the fourth-biggest digital operator, behind Flutter, Entain, and Bet365.

The heritage betting brand admitted its mistake following a query raised by the UKGC during the data quality assurance process. The regulator said it was now “reviewing any regulatory consequences of William Hill’s failure to submit accurate data” between March 2020 and September 2021.

While the UKGC has the power to suspend or revoke licenses, a fine is a far more likely punishment. There is no suggestion that William Hill deliberately intended to mislead.

The regulator offered no details of the precise nature of the errors or how they might have skewed the bigger picture.

Lockdown Anxieties

Fears about the impact that heightened isolation, boredom, anxiety, and financial worries might have on UK gambling habits emerged as the country went into a strict lockdown in March 2020.

But in March 2021, the UKGC found that people actually gambled less during lockdown. However, many of those who were already engaged online gamblers were expanding into new verticals and spending more time and money betting, it concluded.

Operators reported they had been hit by the closure of land-based venues and the widespread cancellation of sports. But they confirmed this had been largely offset by an uptick in online gambling. Those who only offered digital services were the greatest benefactors of the early pandemic.

One of those was 888, which is in the process of acquiring William Hill’s UK assets for US$3 billion from Caesars Entertainment. That deal includes its retail betting shops.

The US casino giant purchased William Hill in its entirety last April for US$3.7 billion. But it was only interested in the US assets in its bid to corner the burgeoning US sports betting markets.