A regulator has highlighted ’serious and unacceptable’ failings by an island-based gaming firm following the death of a gambling addict.
Chris Bruney, 25, lost a total of £119,000 with online casino and betting firm PT Entertainment Services in the five days before he took his own life in April 2017.
Parent company, island-based global gaming software supplier Playtech, has apologised for the regulatory breaches identified by the UK Gambling Commission.
The Gambling Commission published the findings of its investigation last week which it launched in March last year after being contacted by Mr Bruney’s family.
It identified serious systemic failings in the way PTES managed its social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes.
The regulator found Mr Bruney was given ’VIP status’ which provided free bonuses and promotions, without checks being carried out into whether he could afford to spend the amounts of money he was playing with.
PTES itself has ceased trading, having surrendered its licence during the regulator’s investigation.
The Commission would have imposed a financial penalty of £3.5m but could not do so as the gaming firm was no longer operating.
Following a review, the Playtech group has increased to £3.5m a donation to charities dedicated to tackling gambling-related harm.
Playtech is based at St George’s Court in Douglas as was its former PTES subsidiary, which traded under a UK licence as www.winner.co.uk and titanbet.co.uk.
Playtech interim chairman Claire Milne, interim chairman of Playtech, said: ’Mr Bruney’s death was a tragic event and our deepest sympathies go out to his family for their loss.
’We sincerely apologise and take full responsibility for the regulatory breaches identified by the Gambling Commission. PTES’s actions fell significantly short of the high standards we set ourselves as a group.
’The failings occurred in a business that is now closed. We have since invested significantly in making sure these types of breaches do not happen again.’
Sheffield-based electrical engineer Mr Bruney, who earned £60,000 a year, opened his Winner account on Boxing Day, 2016.
Two deposits from his debit card were declined by his bank but he did however succeed in depositing £18,700 into his account.
A further deposit of £4,000 into the Winner account was declined but despite this he was invited to take part in promotions such as Jackpot Giant, with a chance to win more than £3.5m from the prize pot.
The email stated: ’Grab this opportunity to earn millions!’
Mr Bruney won a substantial amount of money within days of opening his Winner account. Between December 2016 and April 2017, he bet a total of £4,458,782, with a total game win of £4,465,007, on roulette and blackjack live.
But between April 1 and 5, 2017, he deposited and lost £119,395, with no information obtained by PTES to verify whether he could afford that level of play.
A coroner ruled that he died by suicide caused in part by the ’shame of gambling’.
Neil McArthur, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, said: ’This is a tragic case which came to light after I was contacted by the family of the young man who very sadly took his own life.
’I want to thank them for their bravery in bringing his case to our attention and we are grateful for the way they have worked with us in such terrible circumstances so that we could understand what happened.
’Although PTES has ceased trading we decided to complete our investigation and publish our findings, as the lessons from this tragic case must be learned by all operators.’
Steve Brennan, chief executive of the island’s Gambling Supervision Commission, said: ’Companies in the Isle of Man are permitted to obtain UK gambling licences to operate in the UK market and provided they do not undertake regulated gambling activity in the Isle of Man then Isle of Man law does not require them to be licensed by the GSC.
’As PTES operated exclusively under a UK licence and undertook regulated gambling activity in the UK, the GSC has no jurisdiction over the matter and we are unable to comment on the particulars of this tragic case.’
Playtech said it had decided to close PTES before the Gambling Commission launched its investigation as part of a strategic decision to focus on the group’s ’business to business’ activities in the UK.
Before it ceased trading, PTES donated just under £620,000 to charity, the amount it had proposed to give as a regulatory settlement.
Playtech said it is committed to raising industry standards on safer gambling and is investing £5 million in promoting better understanding of ’healthy online living’ and the relationship between mental health and online gambling.