Casino is fined £13million over 'VIP' addicts
Thursday 2nd April 2020
Listed series of cases showing casino allowed vulnerable players to lose millions
The group which owns the casino where Wayne Rooney is said to have lost £500,000 in a two-hour spree has been handed the biggest fine in British gambling history.
Caesar's Entertainment, which runs eight UK casinos including at the Playboy Club in Mayfair, will pay £13m for failing to protect customers it designated as VIPs and prevent money laundering.
The industry's regulator, the Gambling Commission, said three senior staff had lost their jobs over the 'serious and systemic failings'.
It listed a string of individual cases between 2016 and 2018 showing Caesar's casinos allowed vulnerable players to lose millions of pounds between them without adequate affordability or money laundering checks.
The group which owns the casino where Wayne Rooney is said to have lost £500,000 in a two-hour spree (pictured) has been handed the biggest fine in British gambling history
In one shocking case, Caesar's allowed a customer to deposit £3.5million and lose £1.6million in three months, without checking where the money was coming from.
A retired postman lost £15,000 in the space of a few weeks and a waitress was allowed to buy £87,000 of chips and lose £15,000.
The Commission said staff had failed to carry out adequate customer checks to see if they could afford their losses.
A self-employed nanny lost £18,000 despite telling staff she had no savings, while another customer was not questioned as they lost over £320,000 in dozens of five-hour gambling binges.
Another person was allowed to lose £240,000 despite taking official steps to exclude themselves from the casino, known as 'self exclusion'.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney allegedly lost £500,000 in a two-hour spree after midnight at the firm's Manchester 235 casino in 2017
Caesar's Entertainment will pay £13m for failing to protect customers it designated as VIPs and prevent money laundering
Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said: 'The failings in this case are extremely serious. A culture of putting customer safety at the heart of business decisions should be set from the very top of every company and Caesars failed to do this.'
Both land-based and online casinos have to check high-rolling customers can afford their losses, and the source of their funds to protect vulnerable players and prevent gambling being used to launder money.
Empire Casino, in Leicester Square, London, and the Playboy club are jewels in the crown of a firm widely considered to be the UK's top high-end casino company.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney allegedly lost £500,000 in a two-hour spree after midnight at the firm's Manchester 235 casino in 2017.
The £13m settlement will be put towards the Commission's harm gambling addiction research and treatment programmes.
The £13m settlement will be put towards the Commission's harm gambling addiction research and treatment programmes (Pictured: Wayne Rooney)
The record sanction is the latest in a string of big money fines as the Commission, which has been criticised for being 'outgunned' by gambling giants, attempts to crack down on bad behaviour at Britain's biggest firms.
Since January, the Commission has suspended three operating licences, and handed out fines worth £27million including £3million for Mr Green, which is owned by William Hill.
It is the second time in three weeks the regulator has handed out a record penalty.
Online bookmaker Betway was forced to pay out £11.6million in March after a Daily Mail investigation revealed how it 'groomed' its most lucrative customers into spending more by classing them as 'VIPs'.
There has been growing pressure from MPs and campaigners to ditch controversial VIP schemes, which reward casino's biggest losers with large cash bonuses, a personal VIP host and free tickets to exclusive sporting events.
'It's vitally important that the lessons are factored into the work the industry is currently doing to address poor practices of VIP management,' the Commission added yesterday.
Earlier this week bookmakers published proposals to ban under-25s from VIP schemes and applying stricter checks on players' profiles before offering their VIP status.
Critics said the measures, which will now be reviewed by the Commission, failed to go far enough and that only an all-out ban could protect players. It is expected the first new measures around VIP customers will be implemented as early as this month.
The industry also said it planned to put technology in place online to prevent anyone under the age of 25 being targeted with adverts.
Recent research by Ipsos Mori and a consortium of five universities found that advertising had made gambling 'part of everyday life' for under-18s, who can not legally gamble.
Adam Bradford, director of the Safer Online Gambling Group, said: 'This section of the industry has repeatedly expressed its pride at its safety measures and well-trained staff.
'This is a clear case of exploitation. A small fine like this against the group's multibillion-pound turnover really is a drop in the ocean and utterly ineffective from the commission.'
Caesars Entertainment UK acknowledged it had fallen short and said: 'Since discovering, immediately addressing, and reporting deficiencies in 2018, we have enhanced our compliance policies and procedures, and are complying with the license conditions and commission's guidance for best practice.'
The Mail has long campaigned for the gambling industry to face tighter regulation. The Government is currently reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act to 'make it fit for the digital age'.