Gambling Commission to slap William Hill with £15 million fine
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British gambling company William Hill is reportedly gearing up to receive one of the biggest fines ever imposed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
According to sources, the UKGC could fine William Hill £15 million (US$17.81 million) depending on the results of an investigation into the company’s “social responsibility and anti-money laundering obligations.” The amount could go even higher, possibly north of £20 million (US$23.75 million).
If it does, William Hill’s fines will reach a new record, topping the £17 million the UK Gambling Commission fined Entain last year.
The penalty could be a considerable blow to 888, the parent company of William Hill, which seemed on the verge of getting off the FTS250 index before the end of the month. This is a stock market index consisting of approximately 250 mid-market cap firms in the UK mentioned on the London Stock Exchange. The company’s share price has plummeted by 85 per cent since September 2021.
888 purchased William Hill’s non-US assets from Caesars Entertainment in a £2 billion deal. Part of William Hill’s portfolio includes over 1,000 retail sports betting points in addition to real money online casinos and sports and poker betting sites.
The firm did not pay the entire amount as £250 million was taken off to compensate for “the change in the macro-economic and regulatory environment.”
888 also acknowledged that the funds will be used to cater to the “compliance factors impacting the William Hill business.” The company is already reportedly reserving funds to cover the forthcoming UKGC penalty.
The UKGC has yet to release any official statement concerning the potential fine; however, the announcement is reportedly close.
“It doesn’t look great that companies aren’t learning from mistakes, even if alleged failings are historic and relate to failings that took place when the operator did not own the entity,” Keystone Gambling and Regulatory Partner Richard Williams said.
This is one of many regulatory issues 888 has been involved with recently. An investigation was launched in January into the gaming accounts of several of the company’s VIP Middle Eastern patrons with suspected ties to money laundering.
The company allowed several VIP customers to deposit and withdraw significant amounts of money without restrictions. After an internal investigation discovered that 888 failed to follow best practices in areas like anti-money laundering processes, the gambling firm announced that it suspended the problematic VIP accounts.
The controversy led to 888’s former CEO, Itami Pazner, stepping down from a position he held for over two decades. The company chairman, Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, was assigned to the seat until a permanent CEO was appointed by the board.
888 is also facing some issues in Austria after the country’s Supreme Court declared that it and every other gambling entity besides Casino Austria were holding illegal operations within its borders. Rather than pay the €34 million (US$35.95 million) fine with Flutter, 888 opted to contest the court’s ruling.
888 has paid at least £17.2 million (US$20.5 million) to the UK regulator on two occasions since 2017, and from the looks of things, the company will have to pay more in the future.