In the latest of what appears to be a number of stringent crackdowns, the UK’s Gambling Commission has fined three well-known online gambling firms £14m, after an investigation uncovered that the companies all had significant failings in their business, when it came to detecting money-laundering and protecting problem gamblers.
A fourth company – CZ Holdings (the operator behind popular UK brand Dr Vegas) also surrendered its right to offer players within the UK gambling services, after the Commission started a thorough review of its license. According to the Commission, a further 6 firms are currently under investigation, so it remains to be seen as to whether or not this is the end of the financial penalties being dished out by the Commission.
Along with the operators mentioned above, The UKGC has alo stripped three individuals of their license to serve as directors of gambling companies – and a further 7 individuals have come under scrutiny too, with 4 issued with warnings, and 3 currently under investigation.
The recent fines are significant news in the UK, as – collectively – the fines vastly outstrip the fine handed down to 888 – a £7.8m fine which the Commission handed out after it conspired that 888 allowed over 7,000 self-excluded players to continue gambling on the platform after they had excluded.
Speaking on the recent fines, Jeremy Wright – the secretary of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, said: “Any online operator that thinks it can ignore its duty to protect players should take note today – there will be consequences. Protecting vulnerable consumers is our prime concern, and it must be the priority for gambling operators too.
“There are robust requirements to safeguard players and prevent money-laundering which all businesses must adhere to if they wish to operate in the British market. I am pleased to see the Gambling Commission taking the strongest possible action when companies fail to meet their obligations.”
Those knowledgeable with the Commission’s work understand that the Commission is unafraid to hand out fines to operators found to be breaking terms of their licenses, and the past few years have seen million-pound financial penalties handed out to some of the world’s biggest online gambling operators including William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, and SkyBet. All fines have been issued related to failures surrounding money-laundering and problem gambling – something the Commission is very strict with.
The commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur, said online casino operators should “sit up and pay attention”. “It is not enough to have policies and procedures in place. Everyone in a gambling business must understand its policies and procedures and take responsibility for properly applying them.”
“We expect operators to know their customers and to ask the right questions to make sure they meet their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations.. Anyone in a position of authority needs to be aware that we will not only act against businesses when we take regulatory action – we will also hold individuals to account where they are responsible for an operator’s failings.”
What Is Self-Exclusion?
Many of the fines issued have surrounded self-exclusion issues – and the Gambling Commission provides very detailed information on what self-exclusion means. They state:
Self-exclusion is a facility for those that have decided that they wish to stop gambling for at least six months and wish to be supported in their decision to stop. If you think you are spending too much time or money gambling – whether online or in gambling premises – you can ask to be ‘self-excluded’.
It is up to you to stick to your self-exclusion agreement, but if you try to gamble during that time the gambling business should take reasonable steps to prevent you from doing so.
Once you have made a self-exclusion agreement, the gambling company must close your account and return any money in your account to you. It must also remove your name and details from any marketing databases it uses.
All companies that offer gambling in licensed premises (arcades, bookmakers, bingo and casinos) must be part of a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. This allows you to make a single request to self-exclude from all premises offering the same type of gambling (for example, betting shops) in your area, rather than the customer needing to exclude from each operator individually.
It’s clear that the Commission is only going to continue clamping down on operators – so it will be interesting to see how this changes the online gambling scene in the UK; many operators may choose to voluntarily pull out of the region.