Gambling Commission Finds Lottery Betting Company Targeted Elderly

December 23, 2021
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A lottery betting company has surrendered its suspended licence after the UK Gambling Commission found that the company targeted the elderly, including a 100-year-old man who bet nearly £24,000 in five months.

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A lottery betting company has surrendered its suspended licence after the UK Gambling Commission found that the company targeted the elderly, including a 100-year-old man who bet nearly £24,000 in five months.

International Multi-Media Entertainments (IMME), which operated the lotteries.com website, had its UK licence suspended in March 2020 over anti-money laundering (AML) and responsible gambling concerns, and would have lost its licence permanently had it not surrendered it, the commission said.

Customers complained that they were being called repeatedly by IMME agents, including a 90-year-old who was being called several times a week, the regulator said.

Another said they were being called every 30 to 40 minutes, five or six times, until they answered the phone.

IMME’s AML failures included a 100-year-old man who was allowed to more than double his deposits in a month, without triggering a source-of-funds investigation, the Gambling Commission said.

The company knew two of its top customers were retired postmen, one of whom spent over £20,000 in five months and the other who spent £16,000 in six months, with the company never obtaining information on level of spending, the regulator wrote.

IMME was unable to produce proof of safer-gambling interactions with players, with one 74-year-old customer depositing £9,400 over eight days without adequate interactions, the regulator said.

There were no records of communication with a 78-year-old player who spent nearly £64,000 in just three months, the commission said.

The commission was told that player had money taken from his bank account while he was in hospital and later a care home. The player’s brother filed a fraud complaint, after he noticed some funds had been removed after the player’s death, the regulator said.

About 75 percent of players were over the age of 60 and 20 percent were over 80 years old, the commission said. IMME’s customer base seemed “disproportionately” focused on older people and it should have considered potential vulnerabilities, the commission said.

Multiple complaints were lodged with police and Action Fraud and call centre staff used aliases, which raises questions about why that step was necessary, the commission said.

Marketing sometimes improperly suggested that customers were buying a lottery ticket rather than placing a bet on the outcome of a lottery, the regulator said.

The commission said it found problems including the company’s financial circumstances, resourcing and structure and a questionable overlap between licensed and non-licensed products.

Money was not segregated between the licensed lottery betting unit and the company’s unlicensed operations, which purchased foreign lottery tickets under a syndicate buying programme.

It found no evidence that sales representatives were properly trained to be able to make customer-care approaches under licensees’ social-responsibility obligations.

Betting on state lotteries is controversial in several countries, but IMME also called consumers in the UK, using its thelotterycentre.com website for digital marketing.

UK-based lottery betting companies are forbidden to offer bets on either the National Lottery or the EuroMillions lottery.

IMME surrendered its licence on September 22, before an appeal of its licence suspension would have taken place, the regulator said.

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