UK betting faces crossfire of educational data breach

2020 begins with no respite for UK betting leadership, as the industry suffers another weekend of frontpage headlines as a Sunday Times investigation reveals that UK betting firms engaged with the ‘breached data’ of the ‘Learning Records Service’ educational index, however the Betting and Gaming Council has dismissed the coverage as ‘untrue’.

The database contained the names, ages and addresses of a reported 28 million children aged 14 and above, designed for the purposes of verifying academic records and monitoring pupils’ educational needs.

The Learning Records Service index is maintained by the Department of Education (DoE), which this weekend confirmed that it had shut down access to records, as an angered DoE Secretary Gavin Williamson sanctioned an immediate investigation of the data breaches.

Betting and Gaming Council said: “Media reports that betting companies have access to the Learning Records Service database are untrue. GB Group provides age-verification services to a range of organisations from banks to government agencies and betting companies. All betting companies are legally required to verify the age of people who wish to join to ensure that they are over the age of 18, the only information GB Group provides is confirmation or rejection that the applicant is over the age of 18.”

The Sunday Times reports that the data breaches relate to third party access of the Learning Records Service by Chester-based intelligence firm GB Group Plc, who had been able to reference the educational data as part of a business agreement with employment screening firm Trust Systems Software, commonly known as ‘Trustopia’.

GB Group is reported to have utilised the data as a cross-referencing service for online gambling operators seeking to verify and age check customers. Betfair and 32Red have been disclosed as customers of GB Group data.

Branded as one of the UK’s biggest ever breaches of government data, the DoE underlines that access to its Learning Records Service could only be sanctioned for educational purposes.

“This was completely unacceptable, and we have immediately stopped the firm’s access and ended our agreement with them. We will be taking the strongest possible action,” detailed a DoE statement.

Both GB Group and Trustopia have issued responses to the Sunday Times, denying that they had illegally accessed the DoE’s data.

Leading the DoE Gavin Williamson underlined that the government would undertake the toughest actions against the firms that have accessed its educational data. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether betting operators would have known of any GB Group and Trustopia data arrangement.

A turbulent start to 2020 has seen UK betting’s value chain come under media scrutiny, as the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) investigates the live streaming contracts of bookmakers which allowed Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power to live stream FA Cup matches – an arrangement criticised by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Last week, NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch wrote a letter to industry leadership demanding that gambling firms end free promotions, incentives and VIP rewards as a means to end ‘a vicious gambling cycle’ on vulnerable consumers.

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