UK gambling operator Rank Group has been fined £500k for failing to prevent a problem gambler from blowing £1m in 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced that it had imposed a financial penalty of £500k on Rank for (a) failing to interact with a customer displaying obvious problem gambling behavior, (b) contacting the customer despite him signing up for self-exclusion and (c) not following rules regarding the provision of credit.
The gambler in question was a longtime “very high net value” customer of Rank’s Grosvenor Casinos brand who lived overseas. His gambling “escalated rapidly” in 2017 after he opened an online account with GrosvenorCasinos.com.
The credit issue arose when the customer was having difficulty transferring money to his Rank Digital account. To ensure the customer kept playing, Rank effectively offered him the same credit facility available to their land-based casino customers.
Trouble is, the credit arrangement wasn’t formalized for six weeks, during which the customer drew down and repaid the credit multiple times, including one 24-hour period in which the customer lost £1m. The customer’s gambling activity eventually reached the point where Rank recognized the need to impose an enforced break on his land-based and online accounts.
Prior to this recognition, a Grosvenor Casinos general manager paid a ‘keep in contact’ visit to the customer’s overseas address in 2016, despite the customer having self-excluded from the casino for a minimum period of six months. Upon his return, the manager requested the lifting of the customer’s exclusion, but Rank refused this request until the conclusion of the self-exclusion period.
Finally, Rank was spanked for seeming to “place a greater reliance on their knowledge of the customer’s high level of wealth and his assurance that he was comfortable with his level of spend, to the detriment of reviewing signs of potential problem gambling.” These signs included his high speed of play, repeated requests for increased credit and bonuses, two self-exclusion requests and the escalation in online spending.
In addition to the £500k penalty, Rank has agreed to terminate its relationship with the customer, making “an agreed divestment” after considering “the extent to which it had benefited” from its dealings with the customer. Rank has also agreed to provide an anonymized dataset of high-end online and land-based customer activity to the GambleAware charity for research purposes.
Rank’s financial penalty pales in comparison with some of the seven-figure sums the UKGC has demanded from its licensees over the past year, but the UKGC credited Rank for self-reporting its failures and cooperating fully with the UKGC’s subsequent investigation.
In June, the UKGC’s new boss Neil McArthur warned licensees of a “relentless escalation” in fines for operators who fell short of their compliance obligations.