Following a review of brand priorities for its United Kingdom operation, William Hill has made the decision to close the sportsbook associated with Mr Green in the country. The gaming arm will continue, as will both the gaming and the sportsbook part of the site in Ireland. Launched as the ‘gentleman of online casino operators’, Mr Green was bought by William Hill in January of 2019 in a deal that was believed to be worth £242 million. William Hill’s announcement confirmed that the operation would not be affected in any other countries.
Though the plan was always to close to Mr Green in 2022, William Hill said in a statement that the decision to shutdown the sportsbook operation earlier than planned was due to the introduction of new rules around Remote Customer Interaction, which are going to come into play on the 12th of September. Players will be able to access their accounts between the sixth and eighth of September, but only to check their bets and their bet history, with no new wagers able to placed during this time. Bets that haven’t been resolved will be settled even after the sportsbook has closed.
Who Are Mr Green?
Mr Green is a gambling company that launched in in 2008, having been formed towards the end of the year before. Regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority, the company soon gained licences to operate in the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden and Denmark, as well as having a sportsbook licence for Ireland. Founded by Fredrik Sidfalk, Henrik Bergquist and Mikael Pawlo, some Swedish entrepreneurs, it was one of the first operators that offered games from different suppliers, as well as a seamlessly integrated wallet solution that didn’t require the need to exchange chips to play casino games.
Mr Green & Co AB was the parent company, based in Stockholm, changing its name to become MRG in May of 2018. Less than a year later and William Hill had paid £242 million in cash to acquire the company, which included a series of different brands. From Redbet to MamaMiaBingo via Mybet Italia, the company’s sportsbook was launched in April of 2016. Mr Green has sponsored the likes of Celtic Football Club and the Professional Darts Corporation Players Championship Finals, as well as Wigan Athletic and Bohemian, doing what it could to get its name out there.
The Decision To Close The Sportsbook
William Hill was acquired by Caesars Entertainment in April of 2021. In the months that followed the £2.9 billion purchase, announcements were made that William Hill would be closing a number of different operations that came under its auspices. The likes of 21Nova, Casino Club and EuroGrand were all due to be closed as part of a ‘continuous evaluation’ of the brand’s ‘business footprint’. The initial suggestion was that these closures were being carried out in order to allow the company to concentrate on Mr Green and William Hill as brands.
The main reason why William Hill looked to buy Mr Green in the first place was that it is such a big company in Europe, so it is perhaps no surprise that the company is unlikely to do anything whatsoever with the brand on the continent. Instead, it is just the UK sportsbook that is being shutdown, so punters that like to play casino games and the like will be able to keep doing so on the Mr Green site. It is just bets and wagers on sporting events and other such markets that will no longer be able to be placed on the site.
William Hill’s non-US business was acquired by 888 in a deal worth £1.95 billion, this was completed on the 1st July. Just days before the announcement to close Mr Green’s UK sportsbook, group CEO Itai Pazner announced that changes would be implemented in order to secure the future of the business.
It Isn’t The First Such Closure
Those that have been following news of Mr Green closely will know that this isn’t the first time that the brand has seen its sportsbook shut down in a country. Back in 2020, Mr Green’s sportsbook in Germany was closed, coming off the back of regulatory changes in the country. All 16 German states had agreed in March of 2019 that the toleration of sports betting operations would continue until 2021, but companies wishing to operate in Germany at that point needed to apply for a new licence, so Mr Green just ceased operations instead.
It appears as though a similar thought process has been in place here, given the new rules around Remote Customer Interaction that are coming into play in the UK next month. Rather than make the necessary changes, William Hill have instead decided to cease Mr Green’s UK-facing sportsbook, mirroring the decision that the company had made in Germany two years before. Having suffered ‘compliance issues’ in the United Kingdom in the past, it is likely that William Hill didn’t want to fall foul of any similar things this time around.
What The New Remote Customer Interaction Rules Will Be
The fact that William Hill have seemingly decided to react so decisively to the new Remote Customer Interaction rules that the United Kingdom Gambling Commission are introducing suggests that operators are going to have to work hard to meet them. The question, then, becomes about what these new rules actually are. Set out in a new LCCP Social Responsibility code provision 3.4.3, the new rules are primed to come into effect on the 12th of September 2022, applying to most companies that have been granted a remote operating licence by the UKGC.
The new rules have been brought in with the aim of doing more to take action in order to offer protection to customers that are most at risk of harm from gambling. The new guidance specialises on several factors, with the following being high on the list:
- Better identifying vulnerable customers
- Clearer indicators of ‘harm’ that needs to be monitored for, including an identification of what a ‘strong indicator’ of harm actually is
- When automated processes and systems can be used
- Knowing how to evaluate the impact a customer’s interactions will have
Speaking about the matter, the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, said that the early warning about the new guidance was given so as to allow the industry time to prepare. He said, “Every gambling business has a role to play to prevent gambling harm and this guidance makes clear what we expect to see.” It is part of an ongoing drive from the UKGC to make Britain a safer place for all gamblers.