£156.59 Million in Fines Imposed on UK Betting Companies by the Gambling Commission since 2016
The gambling industry in the United Kingdom is facing increasingly high financial penalties from the regulator at a time when many companies report lower revenues as a result of the restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, the United Gambling Commission fined Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes Coral, a record £17 million in penalties for “absolutely unacceptable” anti-money laundering failures. The fine, which is the biggest ever to be issued by the Gambling Commission, includes £14 million for failures at the company’s online business LC International Limited, which operates 13 different websites. The remainder of £3 million will be paid by Entain’s Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Limited, which runs 2,700 betting shops across Britain.
But this is not the first business to be hit by such a severe penalty. In August 2022 alone, the regulator fined four gambling operators. Along with the staggering £17-million hit on Entain’s finances, LeoVegas, Smarkets, and Spreadex also received penalties at a total amount of over £3 million. The previous record-breaking fine was issued in April 2020 when Caesars Entertainment was ordered to pay £13 million.
Increase in Penalties by the UKGC
Over the past few years, the Gambling Commission has seemingly raised the fines and sanctions it issues. Multiple operators have been slapped with severe penalties for failures to comply with the regulator’s License Conditions and Codes of Practice. Others have even had their licences revoked. All this came as a result of the new enforcement strategy unveiled by the Commission in July 2017.
In it, the regulator introduced higher penalties for breaches, especially for repeated failings. It also made clear that systemic failures to comply with the Codes of Practice would result in in-depth investigation and licence review. In 2018, gambling firms paid more than £28 million in penalties for failing to properly monitor for money laundering practices and provide fair, responsible gambling to their customers. This was an increase from £10.65 million in 2017 and a significant surge from £4.1 million in the previous year.
The toughest year in terms of financial sanctions, however, is the current 2022. So far, companies received over £43 million in penalties, according to official data published by the industry regulator. In addition, the Gambling Commission suspended multiple licences, including those of Addison Global Limited, Triplebet, Stakers Limited, Multi-Media Entertainments Limited, Dynamic, and Sportito.
Gambling Revenues Drop for Most Sectors
The lockdown and the many restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the gambling industry, with many sectors still being affected by the closures. While land-based businesses were hit the hardest in 2020, the restrictions also affected live sporting events and the remote sector, as a result. The total Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) stood at £14.1 billion in 2020, down 1.4% from 2019 and 2.1% from 2018.
Statistics from April 2020 to March 2021, however, are incomplete since some operators did not submit data for the period and they cover Remote Casino, Betting and Bingo (RCBB), and the National Lottery. According to the numbers, the total GGY of the Great Britain gambling industry was £12.7 billion, an 11% decrease from April 2019 to March 2020. There was a huge decrease, 62.5% from the previous period, in the total GGY reported by the land-based sector. Physical casinos, betting shops, arcades, and bingo made only £1.7 billion. Remote businesses, on the other hand, reported an 18.4% increase to £6.9 billion.
Figures for 2022 also show a drop in revenues. The total GGY in June decreased 13.2% from May to £370.2 million, with most sectors seeing declines. In the remote gambling operations, esports betting was the only exception, reporting revenue growth of 38.3% to £924,300. The Gambling Commission has not yet published stats for the entire period.
The Toughest Sanctions for Gambling Operators
The list below ranks the gambling operators that have been given the toughest sanctions by the Gambling Commission. Note that only penalties of £1 million are included. Another thing to bear in mind is that some of the firms were sold to another operator or merged with other companies. William Hill, for instance, was acquired by Caesars Entertainment in 2021, and in July 2022, Caesars sold William Hill’s European assets to 888 Holdings. We ranked the operator independently because it was fined by the UKGC before the acquisition.