Offer sent to vulnerable customers

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has fined Bonne Terre Limited, trading as Sky Betting and Gaming, £1.17m ($1.54m) for a Sky Vegas promotional email campaign it sent to vulnerable customers.

In a news release Thursday, the UKGC said that a free casino spins promotional offer from Flutter-owned brand Sky Vegas got sent on November 2 to customers who had self-excluded (41,395 people) and/or unsubscribed from receiving marketing emails (249,159). As British gambling author Rob Davies shared on Twitter, the news lands at “a sensitive time” for the UK gambling industry.

Akin to sticking a massive “kick me” note on its own back, Sky Vegas sent the promotional offer to the vulnerable customers in the middle of the UK’s Safer Gambling Week. News of the fine simply adds more grist to the mill ahead of the UK government’s landmark review of the Gambling Act 2005, with regulatory proposals due to be published in a white paper within weeks.

In Tuesday’s release, UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes warned: “We would advise all operators to learn from Sky Betting and Gaming’s costly errors.”

Too little too late?

Flutter UK and Ireland CEO Conor Grant apologized in November for the Sky Vegas error, but it’s widely believed that his saying sorry is likely to account for very little.

on this occasion we did not do enough”

According to The Guardian on Wednesday, Grant is still spinning Sky Vegas’s image, saying it “takes its responsibility to protect customers extremely seriously but on this occasion we did not do enough.”

Hollow words, it seems, because Sky Vegas has been a repeat offender, sending marketing material to self-excluded gamblers in 2018, for which the UKGC fined it £1m ($1.54m).

Grant’s latest mea culpa, however, was that his company accepted the UKGC’s findings, and that it has “put in place measures to ensure that this cannot happen again.”

The UKGC must see some sincerity in Sky Vegas’s actions, saying the $1.54m fine “would have been a lot higher had Sky Betting & Gaming allowed any of the self-excluded customers to actually gamble, failed to cooperate, and not taken decisive action aimed at preventing a repeat.”

Industry awaits

Yet the bigger picture is the damage this error could cause the industry. Since the turn of the year, the UKGC has dished out £16.37m ($21.65m) in fines to other leading gambling brands for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

On March 1, the UKGC issued 888 UK Limited a £9.4m ($12.6m) fine for money laundering and social responsibility failings, one of the highest penalties the regulatory body has ever issued. Failings along the same lines saw the UKGC hit BetVictor with a £2m ($2.7m) fine in February, and European online casino giant Genesis Global with a £3.8m ($5.1m) fine in January.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith called out Sky Vegas’s latest fiasco as “utterly shocking.” He also took aim at the industry in general, saying it was unable to stop vulnerable people from being “sucked deeper into the vortex of debt.”

With the government’s white paper imminent, giving doom-mongers like Duncan Smith this kind of ammunition at this stage is the very last thing the industry needed.

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