Now betting giant WILL pay £3.5m fine after U-turn over death of addict who was given a £400 ‘bonus’ just hours before taking his own life
- EXCLUSIVE: Chris Bruney took his life after being plied with £400 of bonuses
- The 25-year-old from Sheffield had been using the online casino Winner.co.uk
- He lost £119,000 in the five days before he died but was still allowed to gamble
- Playtech is accused of using a ‘blatant’ legal loophole to dodge £3.5million fine
- But this morning it bowed to pressure and said that it would pay the fine in full
The gambling giant accused of using a ‘blatant’ legal loophole to dodge a £3.5million fine for their role in a young man’s suicide performed a dramatic U-turn this morning.
Chris Bruney, from Sheffield, took his own life hours after being plied with £400 of bonuses by staff at online casino Winner.co.uk, which is owned by Playtech.
The 25-year-old lost £119,000 in the five days before his death but was still allowed to gamble.
This morning, in a victory for the Mail, Playtech bowed to pressure and said it would pay the fine in full and offer a personal apology to the family of Mr Bruney.
Chris Bruney, 25, from Sheffield, took his own life hours after being plied with £400 of bonuses by staff at online casino Winner.co.uk, owned by Playtech
The 25-year-old lost £119,000 betting in the five days before his death but was still allowed to gamble (pictured, an advert for Playtech)
This morning, in a victory for the Mail, Playtech bowed to pressure and said it would pay the fine in full and offer a personal apology to the family of Mr Bruney (pictured, a grab from Winner.co.uk)
It followed howls of outrage from Mail readers, MPs, charities and even a Church of England Bishop after the details were published in this newspaper.
On heating the news Mr Bruney’s mother, who asked not to be named, said: ‘We remain utterly heartbroken at Chris’s death at the hands of this and other gambling companies and we miss him every moment of every day.
‘But we are pleased Playtech have finally paid what they should. Thank you to the Daily Mail for its tenacious campaigning – this would not have happened without your reporting.’
The horrifying final hours before Chris’s death
Wednesday April 5, 2017:
- 6.58am: Chris loses £4,000 on two football ‘accumulator’ bets
- 9.04am: He’s handed a £500 bonus by Winner.co.uk
- 7pm-9pm: He’s handed 4 x £100 bonuses.
- 9pm-11pm: He makes five deposits totalling £23,398.
Thursday April 6, 2017:
- c. 1am : He drives to a favourite rural spot and takes his own life.
- 6.13am: £500 bonus
‘We would like a say in where this money goes, a proper apology from Playtech for their abusive behaviour of our son and for people to be held to account.’
Yesterday the Gambling Commission had said it was unable to fine Playtech because bosses had shut down the company which ran Winner last year.
After an 18-month investigation the regulator found there were ‘serious systemic failings’ in the way the firm, called PT Entertainment Services (PTES), managed social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes.
Winner failed to ask whether Mr Bruney was happy with his gambling or could afford his losses, as required by industry rules, it was ruled.
The Commission said: ‘If the licence had not been surrendered the Commission would have imposed a financial penalty of £3.5million,’ adding that the breaches constituted a ‘criminal offence’.
It was the first time a gambling firm had ever used the legal loophole to avoid punishment in the UK.
This morning, after representations made by this newspaper, Playtech said it would pay the full £3.5million to the Gambling Commission.
Playtech’s chairman Claire Milne will also make a personal apology to Mr Bruney’s family and partner for the trauma they have suffered.
Playtech’s chairman Claire Milne will also make a personal apology to Mr Bruney’s (pictured) family and partner for the trauma they have suffered
She told the Mail: ‘The findings of this investigation do not reflect where Playtech stands today.
‘But while the company has made many positive and important changes we feel it is only right for us to recognise these historic failings by offering this increased amount.
‘Through this action, we want to send a message to them and the wider industry of who we are today and aspire to be.’
The company added in a statement: ‘The Board extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Chris Bruney following the tragic event of his death.
‘Claire Milne will be contacting the family to apologise personally for the regulatory breaches and to offer her condolences on behalf of the Board and everyone at Playtech.’
MPs and campaigners said they were delighted the firm, a FTSE250 company which turned over £1.3billion last year, had finally seen sense.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling, said: ‘Well done to the Daily Mail. This is a huge victory.
‘The Bruney’s tragedy will always remain just as acute, but at least Playetch have acknowledged the hurt they have caused. The path to justice should not have to be so hard-fought.’
Winner failed to ask whether Mr Bruney was happy with his gambling or could afford his losses, as required by industry rules, it was ruled (file photo)
Conservative MP Richard Holden, a member of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling, said: ‘It was outrageous that Playtech got away with such a small fine so I am delighted they have seen sense.
‘It was unacceptable that they were able to exploit this blatant loophole in our gambling laws, and I hope the Government will look to ensure this can not happen again.’
Noone at Playtech has lost their job over Mr Bruney’s death, and until yesterday the firm had avoided a formal Gambling Commission.
Five executives who ran Playtech’s subsidiary PT Entertainment Services (PTES) no longer work for Playtech.
However, the Bruneys have never seen a penny of the £119,000 their son lost in the final days of his life.
Yesterday the Daily Mail asked Playtech to promise publicly to refund the money to Mr Bruney’s stricken parents.
A Playtech insider said it is ‘open to meeting the family to discuss further steps’, but declined to make a firm commitment.
The scandal has raised serious concerns that any gambling company which breaks the rules can simply close itself down to avoid paying a punitive fine.
Yesterday the Mail asked Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to commit to closing the loophole. He declined to comment.
Noone at Playtech has lost their job over Mr Bruney’s death, and until yesterday the firm had avoided a formal Gambling Commission (file photo)
The charity Gambling with Lives, which has been supporting the Bruney family, said: ‘There can now be no doubt that Britain’s gambling laws are utterly broken.
‘We hope changes will now be made so no one else has to go through what the Bruneys have been through in the last three years.
Matt Zarb-Cousin from Clean Up Gambling said: ‘Nothing will bring Chris back but this is a much better outcome to an investigation that was poorly handled by the Gambling Commission.
‘No cases, least of all the most tragic, should need intervention from a national newspaper to deliver a sense of justice. It’s why we badly need an ombudsman.’
Gambling Commission boss Neil McArthur 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.’
‘Our investigations into the role played by key individuals at PTES are continuing.’
- To contact the Samaritans ring freephone 116 123, or to contact the National Gambling Helpline ring freephone 0808 8020 133.
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