Gala Interactive handed heavy fine after social responsibility shortcomings

Gala Interactive handed heavy fine after social responsibility shortcomings

Monday, November 6, 2017 Posted by Joseph Streeter
The Gambling Commission has ordered Gala Interactive to pay £2.3m

The Gambling Commission has ordered Gala Interactive to pay £2.3m for breaching regulations that protect consumers, after “significant flaws” were identified in the way the group handled two high spending customers.

Over a 14 month period, one customer lost £837,545 and the other lost £432,765 over 11 months on Gala's online offering games.

A Gambling Commission investigation underlined that Gala not only failed to outline written policies and procedures that could have helped deal with the problem gambling behavior, but also Gala never effectively interacted with the customers after their gambling patterns had indicated that problem gambling was occuring.

The customers in question in this case gambled away a combined £1.3 million of stolen money, which led to one of the customers being sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for acquiring, using or possessing criminal property, whilst the other was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing from an employer.

As part of the punishment, Gala also agreed to pay £1m to fund research relating to the causes of problem gambling and a payment of £1.3 million to the victims of both customers. Acknowledging its wrongdoing, Gala also agreed to pay a voluntary fee of £200,000 to fund research relating to the causes of problem gambling.

Commenting on the punishment, Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Commission, said: “We will continue to take robust action where we see operator failures that harm consumers and the wider public.

“It is the responsibility of all operators – particularly key decision makers in those companies - to ensure they are protecting their customers and step in when there is behavior that might indicate problem gambling. This did not happen in this case and the £2.3m penalty package should serve as a warning to other operators.”

A key factor in the fine was that it followed on from similar, recent failings from Gala between January 2014 and January 2015, which saw the operator forfeit more than £846,000 and take initial steps to improve its anti-money laundering and social responsibility processes.

Furthermore, the sanctioning comes after, the CEO of the Gambling Commission Marc Etches called for a ‘new industry-wide approach to public education’ on responsible gambling. Etches was speaking after the Revealing Reality was published, which despite being more focused on retail betting than online betting, was described by Etches as ‘a clear wake up call’ to the whole industry.

Etches told TotallyGaming.com at the time, that: "We hope the industry will build on this exercise and continue to raise awareness all year round of the risks of gambling and the advice and treatment available through BeGambleAware.org.

“There is certainly additional benefit from a concentrated effort within a single week. Our recent research in partnership with the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling has highlighted opportunities to improve messaging to players. As we move forward to pilot the recommendations of the Revealing Reality report, we would aim to integrate future such weeks with a new industry-wide approach to public education."

Totally Gaming says: This sanctioning for Gala couldn’t come at a worse time for the industry, however it does highlight that improvements in safeguarding are just as necessary for online operators, as they are for retail bookmakers. Nonetheless, the tough punsishment that followed a prudent investigation from the Gambling Commission should and needs to deter operators from neglecting social responsibility procedures in the future. 

 

Latest

Share price slip for Jackpotjoy despite increased gaming revenues

iSoftBet launches new partnership with Red Rake

Gala Interactive handed heavy fine after social responsibility shortcomings

Prize bingo impacted in DCMS triennial review

Gaming Products & Services Directory

The essential directory for the gaming industry