Falling Down That William Hill: Blue Chip Hit With Biggest £19.2m AML Fine In History

In a sad mark for UK gambling, Blue Chip William Hill, arguably the most famous name in British betting, has been hit with a mega £19.2 million fine–the largest in history–by the UK’s regulatory Gambling Commission (GC) for serious anti-money laundering failures, it was reported today.

In one case the company–now owned by Omnichannel 888 Holdings–allowed a punter to wager over £23,000 in only 20-minutes, without any form of oversight or checks.

Another customer was allowed to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24-hours without any checks.

And a third customer was allowed to open a new account and spend £32,500 over two days without any checks at William Hill (WH) online vertical Mr Green.

“When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming [that] serious consideration was given to licence suspension,” said GC Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes.

“However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history.”

The massive £19.2 million GC fine (US$23.58m/€21.81m) has been imposed on three gambling businesses owned by the William Hill Group – WH International, which runs WilliamHill.com, will pay £12.5 million, Mr Green will pay £3.7 million and the WH vertical which runs the company’s 1,344 high street bookies in the UK will pay £3 million.

Today’s sanction follows the commission’s £7.2 million fine (US$8.84m/€8.17m) for similar social responsibility and anti-money laundering failings against the Swedish-origin Kindred Group and its 32Red and Unibet iGaming verticals.

Last year the Entain Group was hit with a then-record £17 million fine (US$20.88m/€19.31m), also for RG and AML breaches.

Ineffective controls allowed 331 customers to gamble with one WH vertical (WH International) despite having self-excluded from another (Mr Green), the GC investigation revealed.

There was a damning and lengthy list of safe and responsible gambling failures, noted the commission.

When WH re-opened its high street bookies after the end of Covid19 lockdown, they permitted one customer to lose £10,600 in two days without any form of safer gambling oversight.

Another customer was allowed to immediately place a £100,000 bet when his credit limit had been set at £70,000.
The sorry list of safe gambling and anti-money laundering breaches, many involving tens of thousands of pounds, runs on and on.

Typically, customers were allowed to deposit large amounts without the appropriate checks. One punter at Mr Green, for example, deposited £73,535 and lost £14,068 in four-months.

On top of the swingeing fine, William Hill will now undergo a further forensic third-party audit to assess that it is effectively implementing its AML and safer gambling policies, procedures and controls.

A member of the WH Board will also be nominated to oversee an improvement plan.

Since the start of 2022 the UK Gambling Commission has concluded 26 enforcement cases, with operators paying over £76 million (US$93.35m/€86.32m) because of regulatory failures.

Concluded Rhodes: “In the last 15-months we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators.

“But we are now starting to see signs of improvement.

“There are indications that the industry is doing more to make gambling safer and reducing the possibility of criminal funds entering their businesses.

“Operators are using algorithms to spot gambling harms or criminal risk more quickly, interacting with consumers sooner, and generally having more effective policies and procedures in place.”

William Hill, meanwhile, has declined to respond to iGamingFuture’s request for a comment.

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