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Melanie Porter June 16, 2023 4 min read
Betfair Says Protection Systems Failed a Gambling Addict Who Took His Life
Betfair, named an "interested person" in the inquest regarding Luke Ashton’s suicide, has admitted its flagging systems had failed the player
40-year-old Luke Ashton, a father of two, took his own life in April 2021 while fighting his severe gambling addiction which had caused him to lose £5,000 ($6,400) during just one month. One of the gaming operators that Asthon had frequently used since 2012, Betfair, has now admitted that its protection systems have failed to identify the player as an “at-risk gambler.”
In a historic decision, Betfair has been called an “interested person” in the inquest, which is a first in the industry. The company admitted it “should have done more” to protect the vulnerable player who died on April 22, 2021, after he was “consumed” by his addiction.
Up to 100 Bets a Day
Before losing the large amount during a single month, Ashton had made a habit out of gambling up to 100 times a day. The player preferred the operator’s Exchange platform to bet on horse and greyhound racing events that took place in the UK as well as abroad.
Betfair describes Exchange as an option that is “generally more low risk” and also one that is used by “sophisticated and highly-skilled” players. In January 2019, Ashton was averaging 55 daily bets.
During the remainder of the same year, according to the hearing held at the coroner’s office for Leicester and South Leicestershire, Ashton took out £18,000 ($23,000) in total loans in an attempt to clear his debts.
His addiction peaked in March 2021, when he reached 1,229 bets. March was also the month when he made a £2,500 ($3,200) deposit in a single day.
While the family had to sell their home, Ashton didn’t manage to set himself free of his addiction and continued to frequent a number of gambling websites in the month prior to his demise.
Failing Machine-Learning Algorithm
During the second day of the hearing held earlier in the week, the Flutter-owned operator used the voice of managing director Richard Clarke to admit that their algorithm which is based on machine learning did not identify Ashton as a high-risk gambler.
The algorithm that is used to closely track customer data is supposed to identify the behavior of players who had used the self-exclusion option from the operator’s platform for six months.
Ashton used the same exclusion option in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Nonetheless, the algorithm was not able to deem him at high-risk and issue a permanent ban on him.
While Clarke expressed confidence in the company’s compliance with the current regulations, he added that by looking at the player’s activity in March 2021, “it does look like we should’ve done more.”
“Things Have Changed a Lot”
Betfair’s managing director also told the hearing that approximately 10,000 of their customers had placed more bets than Ashton in March 2021, which coincided with the grand opening of the horse racing season.
Since then, added Clarke, a series of changes had been put into practice. Among them, the implementation of a strict £500 ($640) monthly deposit limit for players under the age of 25, a £10 ($12.80) maximum stake limit on all slots, and a monthly net deposit limit for all returning customers at the end of a self-exclusion period, after a detailed assessment via phone.
Clarke also mentioned financial vulnerability checks via third-party reference agencies as an additional prevention measure.
Mr Nicholls, who represented Ashton’s family during the hearing, said Betfair should have excluded the victim from their website. The inquest will be resumed on June 16.
In April, Betfair was fined for offering markets for 148 matches between 2021 and 2022 for the U21 Allsvenskan, a youth soccer league on which operators are forbidden to offer wagering.
In May, the National Health Service in the UK revealed that, based on its Problem Gambling Severity Index scores, around 0.3% of gambling adults were labeled as problem gamblers and 2.8% of adults were found at risk to engage in problem gambling.