Action Replay: 888online – Gambling’s Bête Noire

Recently the online gambling company 888 was fined £7.8 million by the Gambling Commission after it was discovered that thousands of its customers who had voluntarily banned themselves from gambling online were still able to make wagers due to a technical glitch in the system. The company reported the problem to the commission in February this year which prompted a review of its license.

Roughly £3.5m has been wagered over a year by ‘self-excluded’ customers. One gambler bet £1 million, £55k of it stolen from their employer. Sarah Harrison, CEO of the Gambling Commission said ‘safeguarding customers is not optional. The penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings’ (i newspaper 1/9/2017).

The 888 site currently provides online casinogames in download and web-based instant play for PCs, tablets and mobiles,including classic table games such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat. A Random Number Generator is used to ensure that performance is truly random.

Statements from 888 proclaim their commitment to ‘a proactive policy of corporate and social responsibility reflecting the high ethical standards it sets for itself’ and emphasise that ‘self exclusion’ is a tool used by the gambling industry to enable customers to cease playing for at least six months. Should a customer cease gambling with a particular account after a ‘self exclusion’ period, 888 and other gambling firms are duty bound to close the account and return any residual money to the customer. However, despite all the procedures, in the case of 888 it didn’t work.

We need to ask why advice offered by (a) the alcohol industry to ‘drink responsibly’ and (b) the gambling industries advice to bet responsibly i.e. to ‘stop (betting) when the fun stops’ is dubious. Gambling, like smoking and drinking alcohol is highly addictive and creates dependency and social problems. Online betting is the new ‘cash cow’ of gambling. The puerile advice offered by both industries is ineffective because it puts all the responsibility on the consumer and none on itself. Both gambling and alcohol are lucrative businesses and under capitalism wherever there is money is to be made profit will always be more important than people.


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