Rank Group to pay £500k penalty for player protection failings

Rank Group to pay £500k penalty for player protection failings

Thursday, October 11, 2018 Posted by News Team
Operator censured after failing to flag problems in VIP player's gambling

Rank Group is to contribute £500,000 towards research being conducted by GambleAware as part of a penalty package agreed with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). 

The operator has been ordered to pay the penalty after it was found to have failed to offer adequate protection for a VIP customer of its Grosvenor Casinos brand. This individual had been a regular land-based player, who saw their gambling spiral out of control when they opened an iGaming account.

The operator was found to be in breach of three sections of the Social Responsibility Code of the Gambling Act 2005. 

The first related to a decision to provide the customer with a line of credit for their online play. This was granted following a request from the player’s VIP manager to Rank’s senior management team. The request was made - and granted - to avoid interrupting the customer’s play as a results of delays in transferring funds from overseas. 

However, the credit facility agreement was not formalised six weeks, during which time the individual drew down and repaid credit. On one occasion the player lost £1m that had been credited to their account. The player’s spending online and in land-based venues was so high that Rank ultimately enforced a block on both, though by this time the individual was in debt to the operator. 

The second breach related to the player being contacted at a time when they had self-excluded. In 2016 the player had voluntarily self-excluded for six months, though during this time they were visited by a Grosvenor Casinos manager at their overseas home. Following the visit the player attempted to end their self-exclusion, though this request was refused by Rank, which only allowed the player to gamble once the original six month term had ended. 

Finally, Rank was found to have failed in its duty of care to the customer by focusing on the fact that he could afford to spend large amounts, rather than assessing his behaviour for signs of problem gambling. Prior to 2015 Rank’s interactions with the customer were limited, the UKGC said, even though they had previously self-excluded over concerns their gambling spend was excessive. 

Ultimately Rank failed to identify clear signs of problem gambling. Signs included an escalation in the player’s spend once their online account was opened; high speed of play; repeated requests for credit increases and bonuses; signs of frustration, as well as the two previous self-exclusions. 

“We expect all operators to protect any consumer who maybe experiencing problems with their gambling, and operators shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that VIP customers don’t experience difficulties,” UKGC executive director Richard Watson said. 

“No matter how wealthy customers are, operators still need to monitor them effectively to ensure they aren’t showing signs of problem gambling. It is certainly not appropriate to visit customers during a period when they are self-excluded.”

The UKGC’s subsequent investigation found a number of weaknesses in the operator’s system for managing the customer. However, it acknowledged that Rank had been proactive in reporting the issues to the regulator, then open and transparent throughout the investigation. 

It was ordered to pay £500,000 to GambleAware, which will be used for analysis of data sets of high-spending customers to identify risk indicators, as well as funding research into play patterns to better identify harmful gambling traits. Some of this data will be supplied by Rank, which will provide anonymised data of high-value on- and offline casino customers. 

The operator has also considered how much it has benefitted financially from its relationship with the customer, and terminated the relationship, making an agreed divestment as a result. 

Rank will also pay £5,000 towards the Gambling Commission’s investigative costs. 

“This penalty package would have been a lot higher were it not for the positive action Rank took in terms of self-reporting their failures and being open and transparent during our investigation,” Watson added.

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