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UK Gambling Commission Fines Ladbrokes Coral Group £5.9 Million

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Every so often, it seems as though the U.K. Gambling Commission becomes bored and, as a result, looks for companies it can harass for not strictly adhering to what are the world’s strictest online gambling operator rules and regulations. The most recent fine of £5.9 million (about $7.1 million) was handed down to Ladbrokes Coral Group on July 31, 2019 for what the Commission cites as “systemic failings” regarding Ladbrokes and Coral’s supposed inability to “prevent consumers suffering gambling harm.” Ladbrokes Carol is now owned by GVC, which also boasts PartyPoker among its portfolio of online gambling websites.

In essence, the UKGC is fining Ladbrokes Coral Group because of the actions of problem gamblers. They are putting at least some of the blame for massive gambling losses on the operators rather than the players who made the deposits, lost the funds, and continued to make further deposits despite not being of adequate financial standing to do so. To many, this is ridiculously unfair, but this is simply a normal day of business for the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission.

The UKGC Fined Ladbrokes Coral

What Did They Do (or Fail to Do)?

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The nearly £6 million fine comes in the wake of an investigation on the part of the UKGC that covered about three years, from November of 2014 through October of 2017. The investigation cited four major instances where Ladbrokes and Coral failed to conduct “social responsibility interactions” with customers who had been depositing large sums of money over and over for extended periods of time.

In the most extreme case, a single player account deposited more than £1.5 million into their account over the course of two years and 10 months. The report stated that this account showed signs of problem gambling especially during months where losses exceeded £60,000. There were other cited incidents, but they mostly boiled down to players depositing, and ultimately losing, large sums of money over the course of a year or so.

Another facet of the investigation claims that there were deposits made and winnings paid out to people who were reasonably suspected of being part of illicit activities.

At the end of the day, Ladbrokes Coral Group will have to pay a lump sum fine of £4.8 million ($5.8 million) and will be forced to divest a further £1.1 million ($1.3 million), which, according to the UKGC, was gained as a result of criminal activity on the part of customers.

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Coral Offers a Similar Gaming Lineup

Not the First Time, Surely Not the Last

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Anyone familiar with the United Kingdom Gambling Commission can tell you that this is neither the first nor the last time fines have been handed down to operators that, by almost all accounts, are doing business with integrity and transparency. Not too long ago, three other gambling operators were fined a total of £14 million for other offenses that were both difficult to understand and difficult to interpret.

The real gripe with the UKGC’s actions in this case is that they do nothing to combat problem gambling whatsoever. The punitive actions levied against Ladbrokes Coral Group will not see the players who lost money receive any sort of refund, and the fines against Ladbrokes do little to discourage other patrons from punting away large sums of money themselves.

At the same time, firms that attempt to remain in compliance with these burdensome regulatory requirements risk endangering customers' privacy. After all, conducting the necessary checks into proof of income makes players reveal where they work, how much they get paid, the amount of money they have in the bank, et cetera. And endeavoring to identify any deposited money that may have been the proceeds of crime puts gaming sites in the unenviable position of trying to act as a sort of law enforcement agency – without the (often overbroad) investigative powers possessed by these agencies.

Neil McArthurUnited Kingdom Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur

If the idea of a Gambling Commission is to provide protections for players, the UKGC is very blatantly letting down the players they claim to be protecting. There is story after story of the UKGC fining and otherwise punishing operators, but there has been no evidence of a tangible reduction in the number of problem gamblers overall. Really, all these fines do is pad the pockets of the UKGC will simultaneously creating bad blood between the Commission and operators.

We could go on and on about the shortcomings of the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission, but there is enough documentation already out there with respect to that.

Businesses Feeling the Squeeze

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If the UK Gambling Commission continues to fine people for anything and everything, we feel as though something will have to change before long. Thanks to the lack of unnecessary regulations in other parts of the world, we would not be at all surprised to see some of the larger UK brands surrender their U.K. gaming licenses. Instead, they may move operations to the Caribbean or Central America where a freer marketplace means more options for operators and players alike.

It is understandable that the UKGC wants to protect players, but the way in which they go about it is completely and utterly backwards.

Offshore Gaming Widely Available in the UK

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Knowing that the regulatory bodies that exist in the United Kingdom (and elsewhere around the world) do little to help the industry and often end up hurting it, we suggest the use of offshore online casinos and poker sites that do not have to deal with jumping through the hurdles presented by governmental organizations. Many offshore brands are just as reputable and transparent as their regulated counterparts, but they do not have to deal with all of the unnecessary rules and regulations that other sites do.

Though there are some such organizations that have elected to avoid transacting in the U.K. market, there are others that are willing to take the risk. After all, their offices and personnel are located far away from the meddlesome bureaucrats in Whitehall, and so there's no realistic penalty they could face despite what the Gambling Commission might wish.

One of these trustworthy brands is Sportsbetting.ag, which is happy to accept British users to its platform. The site consists of a sportsbook, casino, and poker room. You can get a first deposit bonus of 100% up to $1,000 to use in the cardroom. Read our fact-filled SB.ag poker review for all the details.

If you reside elsewhere, then you likely have offshore gaming destinations open to you too. Consult our country guides depending on the jurisdiction where you live:

Sites for USA-Friendly Poker

Online Poker Rooms in Canada

Internet Poker in Australia