A £1m fine from the Gambling Commission may have knocked the wind out of Sky Bet’s latest set of financials, but will hardly reroute its ‘world beating’ trajectory.
A seven figure fine from the UK’s gambling regulator called time on a shower of otherwise affectionate headlines for Sky Bet, after the group posted another enviable set of growth spurts for the first half of its financial year.
Group revenues were up 47 percent in the six months to 28 December, and earnings before deductions up 92 percent. But Sky Bet’s successes went beyond the merely numerical.
A standard-setting and notably conscientious mix of technological nouse, talent acquisition and attention to responsible gambling initiatives saw new customers flooding in their droves to the online-only brand.
Customers and wagers grew by 19 and 29 percent respectively over the period, both product and producer of a boom in recruitment that saw 230 new jobs created in Yorkshire. CEO Richard Flint was also able to boast of a media- abating estimate from WPI Economics that Sky Bet contributed over £300m gross value added to the Yorkshire economy in 2016/1
“Our focus on the customer, and delivering quality experiences, offers and promotions continues to differentiate our brand, and we extended our lead as the UK’s most popular online betting brand,” said CEO Richard Flint. Investments in data science had delivered “greater personalisation” he went on, “with the home page tailored towards the individual, and recommended games and bet options delivering relevant and appealing content.”
Accolades from industry and financial analysts came thick and fast, including UK gaming consultant Steve Donoughue: “By focusing on recreational punters, having social responsibility at the very foremost of what it does, its foundation of a great brand and a ass-kicking mobile app make it a world beater.
“If more operators could learn from Richard Flint,” said Donoughue, “then the industry would not be in the rather dire place it is.”
Yet no sooner had the bookmaker been basking than the Gambling Commission stung it with a £1m fine, for failing to stop self-excluded gamblers from continuing to place bets through duplicate accounts.
Flint was quick to point out that it was Sky Bet itself that “spotted the issue” and “proactively notified” the regulator.
An internal investigation had found that over a three year period, between 2014 and 2017, 50,000 self-excluded customers had continued to receive marketing material from the firm, and over 700 were allowed to continue betting with duplicate accounts.
It also found that 36,750 self-excluded customers did not have their balance returned to them after closing their accounts.
“We could and should have made it harder for self-excluded customers to open duplicate accounts with us and for that we are sorry,” Flint said in a statement.
“We want to reassure people that we have not made any profit out of this episode. In relation to account balances, wherever possible and practical we have returned the money to the people involved.”
The £1m fine won’t hurt Sky Bet as much financially as it might optically, overshadowing (in the short term) a remunerative reputation as one of the most socially responsible outfits in the sector.