How tech failings at online gambling firm 888 let vulnerable customers down

1 Sep 2017

Roulette table. Image: Nejron photo/Shutterstock

Online gambling is a mammoth industry, and one that clearly needs tighter regulation.

888 is one of the UK’s largest gambling websites, a massive online casino and poker room that has thousands of frequent visitors.

Despite its claims of being the “largest and most trusted online casino on the web”, the company was found by the UK Gambling Commission to have neglected customer welfare.

A technical failure meant that customers who no longer wanted access to their accounts were still in fact able to use said accounts to gamble.

‘While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough, and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers’

According to a statement from the Gambling Commission: “Over 7,000 customers who had chosen to self-exclude from their casino/poker/sport platform were still able to access their accounts on their bingo platform.”

Self-exclusion is a facility that enables an individual who wants to stop gambling for six months or more to make a single request to self-exclude from multiple operators and premises, such as casinos and betting shops, rather than making the request to each individual business.

The online self-exclusion scheme is still in development but 888 had the facility set up, albeit with a massive technical glitch.

“The issue went undetected for a prolonged period of time, meaning customers were able to deposit £3.5m into their accounts and then continue to gamble, for more than 13 months.

“While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough, and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers.”

‘Safeguarding customers is not optional’

888 also failed to pick up on problem gambling behaviour displayed by a customer that led to criminal activity. The person in question allegedly stole £55,000 from their employer and gambled for three to four hours on average per day.

The statement explained that, given the prolonged nature of the betting and the large amounts involved, there were some obvious concerns around how 888 safeguards its customers.

Chief executive at the Gambling Commission, Sarah Harrison, said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers.

“The penalty package will see 888 pay £7.8m, which includes repayment of the £3.5m of deposits made by the self-excluded customers, and compensation of £62,000 to the employer from whom money was stolen.”

As a result, £4.35m will be donated to a cause that tackles the problems that arise from gambling addiction.

Incidents such as this only further point to the need for all businesses to be mindful of customer data and technical bugs that can have very real consequences offline.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects