The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is investigating Swedish gambling brand, LeoVegas, after a report highlighted failure to take a sufficient approach to responsible gambling.
The Guardian report found that LeoVegas had continued to send marketing emails to a player that had been suspended from gambling, as well as allowing him to gamble stolen money.
Following what support staff described as ‘concerning’ communication on a LeoVegas live chat, the player’s account was locked in 2018. However, even after this suspension, Pink Casino and Castle Jackpot, also part of the LeoVegas Gaming group, continued to send an abundance of marketing emails to the player, offering him free spins and other bonuses.
In January 2019, the player created an account at 21.co.uk, another site in the LeoVegas Gaming group, using the same name and email address that he’d used for his previous account. However, this time, he used his mother’s bank card as the payment method. He gambled £20,000 of his mother’s money before the account was blocked as the payment method could not be verified.
However, even after his account was blocked, operators still sent marketing emails to the player. This repeated marketing does not seem to adhere to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling guidelines, which state that “marketers must take all reasonable steps to prevent [gambling advertising] posing a risk to vulnerable groups.”
As well as having gambled with stolen funds, the player had taken out loans from payday loan companies, accumulating thousands of pounds of debt. He is receiving treatment for his gambling addiction, but could still face prosecution for gambling with his mother’s debit card without her permission.
While LeoVegas has not commented on the case, the UKGC has made its views clear: “We are absolutely clear with operators about the rules that they must follow to prevent and protect their customers from experiencing harm from gambling. Where we see evidence that those rules are not being followed, we will investigate.”
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, commented that “It makes no sense for gambling companies to be doing ID and affordability checks after gamblers have lost huge sums rather than before they’ve placed the bets.” New regulation on age verification at online gambling sites, set to come into play from 7th May 2019, means gamblers will have to verify their identity before they can play casino games or bet on sports. These stricter verification processes should help prevent similar cases in the future.
However, this isn’t the first time that LeoVegas has faced disciplinary action by the UK’s gambling regulator. In May 2018, the operator was fined £600,000 for 41 misleading advertisements and failing to respond appropriately to self-excluded players. It’s unclear whether the player in the 2019 investigation was part of last year’s findings.
The UKGC are believed to have started collecting evidence for the investigation, though no conclusions have yet been made regarding a breach of LeoVegas’ UKGC licence.