Australia’s Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) has fined Ladbrokes almost A$80,000 (€49,750) for failing to identify and prevent a consumer’s problem gambling behaviour while plying him with bonuses.
However, the Entain-owned brand has been allowed to keep the A$758,510 lost by the gambler, who Guardian Australia has identified as disgraced financial planner Gavin Fineff.
Fineff has pleaded guilty to defrauding his own clients in an Australian court and is awaiting sentencing.
According to the NTRC ruling, Ladbrokes contacted Fineff in 2018 and urged him to open an account after a Ladbrokes staff member became aware of Fineff’s gambling history at a rival bookmaker.
The NTRC, which oversees almost all online betting companies in Australia, discovered that Ladbrokes neglected to investigate whether Fineff could afford his substantial bets or the origin of his funds.
The verdict, from 27 February 2023, stated that “right from the earliest moments of its first interaction with the gambler, Ladbrokes appears to have not given due attention to whether the gambler could afford to gamble to the levels that he was.”
The NTRC found that Fineff turned over A$17.5m over a 21-month period. He deposited just over A$2.2m and withdrew just under A$1.5m, making an overall loss of A$758,510 in that time.
Throughout this period, Ladbrokes provided him with A$528,890 in bonuses, consisting of A$416,390 in bonus bets and A$112,500 in bonus cash.
When questioned by the NTRC, Fineff admitted that his betting activity was intense, frequent, uncommon, uncontrolled, and desperate.
He had no sophisticated betting strategy and frequently abandoned his betting plans, losing any winnings in the process.
No police investigation
Moreover, Fineff urged the NTRC to refer the case to the police for investigation, alleging that Ladbrokes may have committed offences under Proceeds of Crime legislation.
The NTRC found that while Ladbrokes failed to initiate sufficient levels of inquiry into Fineff’s source of wealth when his betting account was opened and when he made significant deposits and incurred large losses, it did not believe that Ladbrokes had reasonable suspicion that some of the funds used by Fineff to bet may have been proceeds from a criminal offence.
As a result, the NTRC did not refer the case to the police for investigation, nor did it deem the bets to be unlawful. In the latter case, the company may have been required to refund the losses.
According to Guardian Australia, Entain has accepted the ruling, while stressing that it has invested significantly to strengthen its approach to consumer protection since 2019.
Flaw in self-exclusion register
In unrelated news, the NTRC has been forced to acknowledge a significant shortcoming of its own following a scoop by Guardian Australia.
The Commission notified several companies of a flaw in the territory’s self-exclusion register, which allows individuals to ban themselves from receiving gambling advertisements.
The NTRC wrote a letter on 28 February, which indicated that individuals who signed the voluntary self-exclusion form before 2018 did not give the regulator the authority to share their information with newly established wagering companies.
The letter, as seen by Guardian Australia, stated: “There are approximately 48 persons that requested exclusion prior to this date, or have used the old self-exclusion notice, and whose details may not have been shared with operators since then.”
Since 2018, several new online bookmakers, including Betr, backed by News Corp, have launched.
Betr was recently fined by the NTRC for contacting people on the self-exclusion register and encouraging them to open new accounts.