Sometimes, problem-gambling can get you into trouble. Or, sometimes, it… doesn't? According to a recent investigation by the UKGC, bingo giant Mecca Bingo treated one of its ‘loyal' customers, Caroline Dumont, like a VIP who gambled away nearly £20,000 a week under their roof. This happened in spite of the company's own practices on what alarm-bells to look out for when a customer has become a problem-gambler. How on earth did this happen? They simply didn't ask; now they've had to cough up £1m to make up for the blunder. Wah-wuhh.
Here at Droid Slots, we do not treat problem gambling lightly. It can become a serious addiction if you do not spot the early signs. This is why it's a casino's responsibility, land-based or online, to have proper measures in place ensuring its customer base gambles responsibly regardless of their income.
57-year-old gran Ms Dumont, who hails from Kent, isn't exactly a high-earner — at only £36,000 p/a, it's hard to believe she managed to gamble away nearly £50,000 a month. So how did she do it? According to the UKGC investigation, she stole her wager from the three companies she worked for. She stole so much that one of those companies went into liquidation, another nearly went bankrupt and the other had to rely on the company owner's personal funds to stay afloat.
“Soon I was taking as much as £3,000 every few days. At its height, I was taking up to £20,000 a week, betting £250 a time,” said Dumont. “I could’ve been stopped. In 2012 Mecca had enough evidence to trigger a warning system.”
She pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud at Maidstone Crown Court and was sentenced to three years jail time as a result.
The Problem With Problem Gambling
It's easy to condemn Ms Dumont for her actions (we certainly do not think her money-laundering was a good idea) but they shine light on the lengths some people are willing to go to when they develop an addiction. The correct way to deal with this is by restricting the means the addicted can access the thing they're addicted to. Rewarding them for it is certainly not the way to do things.
This is why companies like Mecca Bingo have regulations in place to inform them if a customer is showing signs of problem gambling. Spending nearly £20,000 every week is one of those signs. So why did Mecca treat her as a VIP? The simple truth: they just didn't ask.
“[Dumont’s] spending with Rank Digital was of a level which should have led to questions being asked about how she could afford to lose such significant amounts,” said the UKGC. “There is no evidence that the online customer gave an inaccurate account of how she could afford to sustain such significant losses; she simply was not asked.”
A Flight Over the Grand Canyon
According to Dumont, she started playing virtual slot machines on Meccabingo.com around 2011. So this problem she has has been going on for a while. For Mecca to then reward her with a trip to Las Vegas, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, and a cruise smacks of irresponsibility.
The fact they didn't even bother to check where she was getting such large amounts of money from makes this story even more bizarre. Instead, they saw her as being a ‘good customer' and decided not to question it. Because of this oversight, Rank Ltd., owner of Mecca, were forced to cough up £950,000 and all profits made from Dumont's gambling. They also owned up for the blunder in this statement:
“Since this case was brought to our attention some months ago, we have conducted a full review of our operational approach as well as undergoing an independent critical review,” said Rank Ltd in a statement. “We have voluntarily surrendered any profits that resulted from Miss Dumont’s transactions with our company, as agreed with the Gambling Commission.”
They should also issue an apology. Problem gambling is no joke. Not only were they profiting off stolen funds and rewarding a habit which had got out of control, but they helped a woman land herself in prison which is probably the saddest part of this sorry business.
If any of our readers out there feel they have a gambling problem, then we advise to seek help as early as possible. Not sure how? Read our guide here.