Sky Vegas, a Flutter Entertainment-owned online gaming brand, landed in hot regulatory waters after several UK customers who had self-excluded themselves from gambling reported to have been targeted with free spin offers by the brand, an article in The Guardian reveals.
Raising Concerns for Relapse
Sky Vegas sent promotional messages offering 100 free spins as a bonus against £5 spend, but the issue is these messages were also sent to people who have opted out of direct marketing, including individuals who are recovering gambling addicts and self-excluded from online gaming and betting websites, raising serious concerns these people may relapse.
The timing of the incident could not be worse, coinciding with November 1-7 Safer Gambling Week in the UK and Flutter claims to have significantly enhanced its safer gambling measures. The news also hit the wire right after Flutter released its third-quarter trading update, lowering down EBITDA guidance.
Sky Betting and Gaming, the operator behind the Sky Vegas brand which has also breached its obligations to keep self-excluded from gambling people out of its promotional marketing communications in 2018, when it was fined £1 million ($1.365 million) by the Gambling Commission, released an apology to all who have mistakenly been targeted.
“We sincerely apologise to those who have mistakenly received Sky Vegas promotional communications and for the distress this may have caused some recipients. We are treating this matter extremely seriously and are thoroughly investigating how this happened as a matter of urgency.”Sky Betting and Gaming
Gambling Commission to Investigate the Incident
Sky Betting and Gaming is not the only one “treating this matter extremely seriously,” as the UK Gambling Commission announced it would be looking into the circumstances surrounding the operator’s breach of licensing conditions.
“We’ve been made aware by members of the public that Sky Bet have sent promotional emails to self-excluded customers yesterday. We do not expect this of our operators and we will be looking into how this has happened.”Spokesperson, Gambling Commission
The serious incident did not go unnoticed by the proponents of stricter gambling regulation, including a crackdown on gambling advertising and marketing to reduce exposure for vulnerable groups and people at risk of developing problem gambling.
Calling the incident “utterly shocking,” former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith questioned the ability of the gambling industry to self-regulate, outlining the severity of the issue at hand for people at risk of being “sucked deeper into the vortex of debt” and the inability of the industry to guarantee this will not happen again in the future.
The number of people who have signed up with the industry-wide self-exclusion scheme Gamstop has soared 25% during the period of coronavirus-related restrictions and lockdowns to reach nearly 218,000 and it is part of each operator’s obligations to remove these people from any marketing communications.