Paddy Power Betfair Fined $600K Over Illegal Sportsbook Marketing

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The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is in the process of collecting another large fine from a gaming operator. Paddy Power Betfair, the Flutter-owned company operating under the PPB Counterparty Services Limited brand, has received a fine of £490,000 (US$603,000) from the regulator for sending notifications to excluded consumers.

A Paddy Power sign outside a betting shop. The Flutter-owned company is going to have to pay a $600K fine in the UK. (Image: Alamy)

Following a recent inquiry, the commission came across evidence that in November 2021, the Paddy Power mobile app extended an array of promotional prospects for English Premier League matches. It sent these notifications to users who had previously chosen to withdraw from gambling via GAMSTOP or the owner’s self-exclusion program.

It isn’t clear how many users received the messages, but it was likely a significant number for the UKGC to issue such a large fine. Flutter has already responded to the complaint and accepted responsibility.

No Harm, Big Foul

The company’s failure to honor its social responsibility requirements has been identified as a violation by the UKGC, making it a breach of its legal status. The Gambling Act mandates gambling companies to undertake appropriate measures to avoid contacting any customer who has opted out of communication. Flutter is also one of the first gaming companies to implement its own social responsibility guidelines.

In accordance with UKGC guidelines, upon receiving a completed opt-out list, all customer databases are supposed to erase any trace of the customer’s name and contact information. Operators are required to comply within two days of receiving the list.

The regulator admitted that the notifications were most likely not sent intentionally and that there was no evidence that any self-excluded users subsequently placed any bets. In addition, the regulator acknowledged that it’s likely many users didn’t even see the messages.

There’s also no indication that anyone lodged a complaint with the UKGC about the notifications. Even so, the regulator still believed a fine of more than $600K was warranted.

So far in 2023, the UKGC has collected £50,721,772 (US$62.65 million) in fines and settlements. At this rate, it’s going to miss reaching last year’s haul of £218.21 million (US$$269.53 million). It has, however, collected more than the $48.6 million it collected a year earlier.

Could Have Been Worse

GAMSTOP is a voluntary program that allows consumers to control their gambling activity. They can register via a website or app to exclude themselves from UK gaming platforms, and all operators are required to monitor the list. Similar programs include MOSES, SENSE, and BACTA.

Flutter is no stranger to the UKGC’s wrath and has had to pay multiple fines. Last year, its Sky Bet arm received a bill for £1.17 million (US$1.44 million) when it advertently sent notifications to users who had self-excluded via GAMSTOP and the other apps.

That wasn’t even the first for Sky Bet. It received a £1 million (US$1.23 million) in 2018 for allowing self-excluded consumers to open accounts. That same year, Paddy Power Betfair received a £2.2-million (US$2.71 million) fine.

There are indications that what the UKGC attempted to collect from Flutter in this latest case may have been greater than what it ultimately received. In its statement about the regulatory action, the commission explains that Flutter had previously announced an intention to appeal the decision.

Following discussions between the two, the company agreed to a “substitute financial penalty.” This substitute figure would presumably be lower than the original amount.

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