Ladbrokes Coral hit with £5.9m fine over "systemic failings"

Gambling firm Ladbrokes Coral has been hit with a £5.9 million fine for failing to protect vulnerable customers and ensuring protections are in place against money laundering.

In November 2016, Ladbrokes acquired its rival, Gala Coral Group, and changed its name to Ladbrokes Coral.

The Gambling Commission said the chain had "systemic failings" and warned that investigations are continuing into the actions of personal management licence holders at the firm. It found Ladbrokes Coral did not carry out any social responsibility interactions with a customer who lost £98,000 over two-and-a-half years, had 460 attempted deposits into their account declined, and even asked the operator to stop sending promotions. Meanwhile, it failed to ask another customer who spent £1.5m over a two year, 10 month period, to evidence their source of funds. It could also not provide evidence of any social responsibility interactions being carried out.

An investigation by the Gambling Commission found that between November 2014 and October 2017, Ladbrokes and Coral failed to put in place effective safeguards to prevent consumers suffering gambling harm and against money laundering, with this failing continuing after their merger as the Ladbrokes Coral Group.

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Ladbrokes this week announced it is to launch a Scottish Premiership version of fantasy football with the SPFL.

Richard Watson, Commission executive director, said: “Decision makers at gambling businesses need to invest in the welfare of their customers and the integrity of money being gambled with.

“These were systemic failings at a large operator which resulted in consumers being harmed and stolen money flowing though the business and this is unacceptable.”

The commission said that as part of the settlement the Ladbrokes Coral Group's new owners, GVC, will pay £4.8 million in lieu of a financial penalty and will divest £1.1 million gained from customers as a result of its failings.

GVC will also review the top 50 customers for the years 2015-2017 to consider whether any further failings can be identified "and if so they will divest themselves of profit accordingly".

The commission said GVC had committed to making a number of improvements to the business including overhauling its responsible gaming and customer interaction processes, retraining staff and hiring new staff.

GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander said: "Soon after the acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral following meetings and ongoing enquiries by the Gambling Commission, it became clear to GVC that there had been historic compliance failures within certain areas of the operations.

"These historical failings were unacceptable and since the acquisition, I have overseen a systematic review of the enlarged Group's player protection procedures and the individuals responsible for these problems have exited the business."

He added: "I am confident that, we now have in place a robust and industry leading approach to player protection. More broadly, GVC is determined to take the lead in the critical area of responsible gambling, and is taking decisive, tangible action across a range of initiatives. This includes our recent voluntary commitment to increase funding for research, education and treatment projects ten-fold, as well as our decision to end all sponsorship deals that promote our brands on UK football shirts or on pitch-side advertising hoardings.

"However, there is more to be done and social responsibility and we will continue to work with other gambling companies and the Gambling Commission to raise operating standards."