UKGC Investigates Flutter-Owned Sky Vegas for Offering Free Spins to Gambling Addicts

  • UK-based casino brand Sky Vegas promoted its services to self-excluded gamblers
  • Sky Betting and Gaming has publicly apologized, but the UKGC investigation is ongoing
  • The operator faced a fine of £1m ($1.36m) in 2018 for similar marketing transgressions
  • News of the UKGC investigation comes during the annual UK Safer Gambling Week
Gambler playing online slots
Sky Vegas is under investigation by the UKGC for sending marketing communications to self-excluded gamblers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Getting to the bottom of it

Sky Vegas, an online casino brand owned by Flutter Entertainment, is now under investigation by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) over allegations that it offered free spins to gambling addicts.

The operator allegedly sent promotional messages to gamblers who had self-excluded and people who had opted out of receiving marketing communications. Sky Vegas, part of the Sky Betting and Gaming brand, took to Twitter on Tuesday to apologize for the error:

One of the emails Sky Vegas sent last week had a subject line asking the recipient to take a look inside to see the mystery bonus. The body of the email stated: “Here at Sky Vegas, we love the unexpected. That’s right. Simply opt in, spend £5 and claim your 100 free spins. The best part? Whatever you win is yours to keep – that’s the fun in fair!”

A serious issue

Creating a safer gambling environment is one of the main priorities of the UKGC. As part of the licensing conditions for the UK gambling market, no operator can send marketing communications to people that have self-excluded.

Problem gambling is a major issue in the UK, with around 218,000 people now part of the GamStop mass self-exclusion scheme. GamStop allows people to easily self-exclude in one go from every single UKGC-licensed site. During the first half of 2021, there was a 25% year-on-year increase in the number of people using GamStop to self-exclude.

This is also not the first time that Sky Betting and Gaming has faced an investigation by the UK gambling authorities for advertising to self-excluded people. In 2018, it received a £1m ($1.36m) fine after its Sky Bet sports wagering offering sent promotional material to over 50,000 customers, including self-excluded gamblers.

Promoting a safer gambling environment

News of this investigation into Sky Vegas comes in the middle of Safer Gambling Week in the UK. Proponents of stricter regulation in the sector have cited this latest incident as a reason why operators should not have the option to self-regulate. Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith labeled the incident “utterly shocking.”

the company hopes to prevent any drastic legislative changes

Speaking to investors earlier this week regarding the UK government’s ongoing review of gambling law, Flutter Entertainment CEO Peter Jackson said the company hopes to prevent any drastic legislative changes by introducing its own measures. To this effect, the company has already added a monthly net deposit cap of £500 ($682) for all UK and Ireland customers younger than 25 years old.

Despite his hope to prevent strict new measures, Jackson said that it is hard to envision any real growth in the UK’s online market “in the face of all those interventions and changes which we expect to happen.”