UK gaming giant William Hill was fined £6.2 million by the Gambling Commission for lax security protocols and failing to prevent its patrons from laundering illegal money through its casino.
William Hill Fails To Curb Money Laundering
According to the regulator, the multi-million dollar fine dates back to William Hill’s failure over the two years leading to August 2016, where 10 customers were able to deposit and play with illegally acquired money that led to financial gains of up to £1.2 million. According to Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission, there were already clear signs of problem gambling and illegal activity in the customers’ spending patterns but William Hill’s senior management and staff still failed to spot and act on the matter.
The investigations by the Gambling Commission found that one customer was playing with money stolen from a local council. They also found that another customer was able to deposit as much as £541,000 over 14 months despite the prior checks and verbal confirmation made by William Hill staff that concluded he was only earning £365,000 a year. It turned out that the customer was earning just £30,000 per year and the money he was using to fuel his gambling was actually stolen from his employer.
In a statement, Philip Bowcock, chief executive of William Hill, said “William Hill has fully co-operated with the commission throughout this process, introducing new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing. 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.”
Gambling Commission Sends Strong Message
According to Neil McArthur, executive director of the Gambling Commission, the penalty package levied on William Hill reflects the seriousness of the breaches that went on for nearly two years. McArthur also emphasized the part that gambling operators have to play in keeping out crime from their businesses and also stressed the Commission’s role in making sure gambling operators are doing their part.
The Gambling Commission was formed back in 2005 under the Gambling Act to regulate commercial gambling businesses and the National Lottery. As a watchdog of the industry, the Commission sets out rules and regulations for businesses to follow to prevent thieves from laundering crime proceeds through gambling, and protect children and vulnerable people from the dangers that are often associated with gambling.
The total penalty package of £6.2 million is composed of two separate fines: £5 million for serious breaching of anti-money laundering regulations and £1.2 million for the profits earned by the bookkeeper from the transactions made by the 10 identified customers. This penalty package is the second largest fine levied by the regulator in its history, only next to the £7.8 million fine paid by 888 Holdings in 2017.
888 Holdings was hit with a £7.8 million fine after the operator failed to block 7,000 customers who voluntarily requested to be blocked from the website. The technical failure resulted in customers who signed up for the site’s self-exclusion scheme getting access to the site and being able to deposit £3.5 million into their accounts. The self-exclusion scheme was put in place to help problem gamblers quit and prevent them from going overboard.
Due to 888’s failure to implement the scheme correctly, nearly £51 million was gambled in deposits and recycled winnings. One customer was able to spend nearly £1.3 million in wagers in a span of 12 months, using money stolen from his employer.
UK Legislators Call For More Accountability
William Hill’s failure to strengthen their security checks and anti-money laundering processes came despite last year’s high-profile penalty on 888 Holdings. This second consecutive mishap has prompted Labour Party’s Tom Watson to call out both the gambling companies and the British government to answer for these lapses.
Watson called all gambling companies to publish details of their security checks and efforts to prevent money laundering in a bid to assure the public that there are indeed safeguards in place. Watson also called upon the government to answer why bookmakers such as William Hill are still exempt from the European money laundering regulations.
The Treasury announced in March 2017, that high street and on-course bookmakers are still exempt from the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive. This gave bookmakers the responsibility to conduct due diligence for single transactions amounting to €2,000 or more.

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