William Hill Fined £6.2 million for Major Money Laundering Failures

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) handed out the massive fine for failing to protect customers and prevent money laundering between November 2014 and August 2016.

An investigation into the William Hill Group found that the high street bookmaker and online casino and gambling company fell short of social responsibility regulations and anti-money laundering measures. The UKGC discovered that a lack of proper checks allowed ten customers to deposit large sums of ‘dirty’ money linked to criminal offences. As a result, William Hill gained £1.2 million from the transactions.

The company will now have to pay a £5 million penalty, as well as return the £1.2 million profit it made from allowing the money to be laundered through its site. The financial punishment is the second largest in UKGC history after 888casino was fined £7.8 million last year for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

A tweet by Tom Watson criticising William Hill and the UK Gambling industry.

A tweet by Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, criticising William Hill and the UK Gambling industry. ©Twitter.

A Gambling Commission statement said: “Where victims of the ten customers are identified, they will be reimbursed. If further incidents of failures relating to this case emerge, WHG will divest any money made from these transactions.”

Tim Miller, executive director at the UKGC, revealed eye-opening details of the investigation to the BBC. One customer managed to deposit more than £541,000 over a 14-month period despite earning £30,000 a year. William Hill had assumed his potential income was £365,000 but had based this on a verbal conversation with the customer without further investigation.

William Hill was also found guilty of failing to protect its customers showing signs of problem gambling. A customer who deposited £147,000 during an 18-month period, of which £112,000 was lost, received just two automatically generated emails about social responsibility.

Neil McArthur, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said that the punishment fits the crime.

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. Neil McArthur, Executive Director, UK Gambling Commission

Philip Bowcock, CEO of William Hill Group, said: “William Hill has fully co-operated with the Commission throughout this process, introducing new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing. We have also committed to an independent process review and will work to implement any recommendations that emerge from that review.”

He added that the company was fully committed to operating a sustainable business that properly identifies risk and better protects customers.

Last month, the UKGC announced it was currently investigating 17 online casino companies for similar concerns about anti-money laundering policies. It is not inconceivable that more fines will follow.

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