A NEAR record fine for one of the UK's largest betting firms should be one hundred times higher, a reformed gambling addict claims.

William Hill was hit with a £6.2m penalty from the Gambling Commission this week after it was found to have failed to properly protect customers and prevent money laundering.

But the sum is too small to act as a deterrent for the gambling industry and its multi-billion pound turnover, David Ward, who last year launched Cumbria's first Gamblers' Anonymous meeting, said.

Mr Ward, 67, from Millom, added betting firms which breach regulations should instead have their licences revoked.

"The fine will really be chicken feed compared to what William Hill turns over," Mr Ward went on.

"They operate in billions in terms of their annual profits.

"It's certainly a step in the right direction to regulate the industry in a stricter way.

"But fining them hundreds of millions is the only way to hit them in their pockets, or to restrict their licences, even locally."

Details of the fine imposed upon William Hill broke on Tuesday and followed an investigation covering the period between November 2014 and August 2016.

Regulations breached by the company include allowing a customer to deposit £541,000 in just 14 months despite having an income of £30,000.

The money had been stolen from his employer. Appropriate checks on his income were not made.

In another instance, a customer exceeded deposits of £147,000 over 18 months with losses of £112,000.

William Hill's systems identified the issue and sent two automated social responsibility emails - an action considered insufficient by the regulator.

A further 10 customers were able to deposit large sums linked to criminal offences which resulted in gains for William Hill of £1.2 million.

Mr Ward, who lost a six figure sum during his own 45-year gambling addiction, said it was his view that betting firms did not fulfill their social responsibility requirement properly.

"We know that even if you formally ban yourself from a betting shop, the staff will just let you back in the next day," he added.

"The shops often have a high staff turnover and they don't receive enough training.

"Any shop found to have committed breaches of the regulations should have their licences revoked - that would make a real difference."

Mr Ward managed to recover from his own gambling problem seven years ago.

He has now renewed his call for anyone worried they may also have a gambling addiction in Cumbria to attend his weekly Gamblers Anonymous meeting for help and support.

The group meets at St Mark's Church, in Carlisle Street, Barrow, every Monday evening between 7.30pm and 9.30pm.

Decision on fixed odds betting terminals consultation still awaited

A decision on whether fixed odds betting terminals should become subject to heavy restrictions is still to be announced.

A 12 week consultation was launched by the government in November in respect of the machines, which include electronic games of roulette, bingo and dog racing, which allow people to place bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds.

It it claimed they can spark or worsen gambling addictions and can lead individuals towards large losses in a short period of time.

Critics say the maximum individual bet should be reduced to £2.

The outcome of the consultation, which closed last month, will be announced once officials consider all evidence available on the matter.

The gambling industry in figures

£13.7bn - the total Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) of the Great Britain gambling industry during 2016/17.

106,236 - the number of employees in the Great Britain gambling industry.

8,502 - the number of betting shops in Great Britain

583 - the number of bingo premises in Great Britain.

146 - the number of casinos in Great Britain.

182,916 - the number of gaming machines in Great Britain.