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Sky Bet has been fined £1m for failing to protect vulnerable customers, the Gambling Commission has said. It did not prevent problem gamblers who had self-excluded from its websites from betting, the watchdog said.

Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint said the firm accepted that it “needed to do more” to stop self-excluded gamblers from opening duplicate accounts.

He added that Sky Bet had tried to return the money that was gambled.

People who feel they are having trouble controlling their gambling can ask betting firms to refuse their service.

But 736 self-excluded Sky Bet customers were able to open and use duplicate accounts. In addition, about 50,000 people who had excluded themselves received marketing emails, texts or push notifications through a mobile app, the Gambling Commission said.

And 36,748 customers did not get the balance on their account returned after self-excluding.

Richard Watson, Gambling Commission programme director, said: “This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers and the £1m penalty package should serve as a warning to all gambling businesses.

“Sky Bet reported the issues to us quickly, co-operated with us and has taken this investigation seriously.”

Betting temptation

Matt, a trainee accountant from London, started gambling as soon as he turned 18. He says he lost as much as £30,000.

“It’s a ‘lad culture’ thing,” the 22-year-old recently told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“You can’t go to the pub on a Saturday afternoon without having the football on the TV, and then obviously there’s adverts that come on and you get the urge to bet.

“I couldn’t watch a game of football without having a bet on it.

“It was embarrassing to open up [to friends] and say, ‘I’m really struggling with this gambling problem.’ They were involved in gambling as well,” he said.

Mr Flint said Sky Bet had notified the Gambling Commission when the firm had noticed the issue.

“We could and should have made it harder for self-excluded customers to open duplicate accounts with us and for that we are sorry.

“We fully agree with the Gambling Commission’s findings and will donate the agreed sum to charities for socially responsible purposes.

“We want to reassure people that we have not made any profit out of this episode,” Mr Flint said.

He added that Sky Bet had increased resources “and focus on helping our customers to gamble safely”, including a TV and online advertising campaign.

Sky Bet also had “a team of 60 people monitoring accounts for unusual behaviour,” he said. The Leeds-based operation, which is majority-owned by CVC Capital Partners, runs sites including Sky Vegas and Sky Bingo.

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