● Gambling Commission cracking down on operators who are breaching money launder and social responsibility regulations.
● 17 operators have been written to and five are at risk of a license review.
● There are now an estimated 430k gambling addicts in the UK.
The licenses of five gambling operators are under threat due to alleged breaches of money laundering and social responsibility rules. The Gambling Commission has written to a total of 17 operators, five of which are under consideration to see if they require a licence review.
This is the latest story to emerge as the Gambling Commission takes steps to assuage ethical and legal concerns about conduct within the gambling industry…
Growth signals need for greater regulation
There are now an estimated 430,000 gambling addicts in the UK, so it is clear that a burgeoning issue of social responsibility must be addressed.
Indeed, the online sector now constitutes 33% of the UK gambling market and as it grows, further regulation may be required to adequately protect the needs and interests of consumers and the economy as a whole. This goes for old operators as well as new casinos.
Be responsible or face heavy fines
Back in August 2017, the Gambling Commission fined 888 Holdings a record £7.8 million after the company took bets from 7000 customers with signs of gambling addictions. It also fined Ladbrokes Coral £2.3 million for similar reasons.
Last year, the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, launched a party review of gambling policy. Commenting on the Gambling Commission’s warnings that betting firms’ licenses could be revoked, he said:
“This serious warning shows many online gambling companies acting as if money laundering and gambling addiction being facilitated on their platforms aren’t their problem.
“The Gambling Commission is right to demand immediate improvement. No firm that fails to take its responsibilities seriously should be allowed to hold a licence.”
Although Tom Watson’s concerns are with just cause, the signs suggest the authorities are about to make sure this changes for the better…
License reviews highlight new hard line
While the UK enjoys some of the most relaxed gambling laws in the world, the findings of a recent thematic review are clearly causes for concern. By threatening five operators with closure and writing to 12 others, the Gambling Commission shows it means business when it comes to the wellbeing of its customers.
In an official statement, Gambling Commission CEO, Sarah Harrison, stressed that the strategy would help to implement their vision for a fair and safe gambling market. She said:
“It is vital that the gambling industry takes its duty to protect consumers and keep crime out of gambling seriously...
“The action we are taking to examine online casino operators’ compliance with money laundering and customer interaction requirements is just one example of how we will be relentless in turning that vision into reality.”
Reasons for license reviews
The Gambling Commission has the power to review any licence if it suspects an operator of breaching its terms. It can also review any operator suspected of being unsuited to hold a license, or if the holder is convicted of a crime in the UK or abroad.
It is believed that insufficient reporting is a reason for the reviews of the five online gambling operators mentioned earlier in this article. Yet the Commission can also spark a review if the operator is unable to explain what constitutes money laundering for example if they do not appear to understand how the practice takes place, or how criminals profit from the proceeds.
As in the cases of 888 and Ladbrokes Coral, a lack of intervention is also a major red flag to authorities.
Among the critics of the Gambling Commission’s hard line is Henry Birch, the CEO of Rank.
Mr Birch explained that the industry-wide crackdown had caused Rank’s Grosvenor Casinos to lose visits and profits. Visits to its casinos dropped by 6% in the six months to the 31st December while revenues fell by 2% and operating profits plummeted 16% to £26.1m.
Commenting on the increased pressure, he said: “The Gambling Commission generally has put increased pressure on all gambling companies to know exactly who their customers are and where their money is coming from. It is quite invasive if you’ve got customers coming into a casino and you’re asking to find out their financial details.”