(Update May 1: The UK plans to support vulnerable gamblers during COVID-19 pandemic)
The UK’s gambling industry regulator is setting aside £9m to help charities that deal with vulnerable players.
The Financial Times reported fears are rising rise about a spike in betting-related harm during the coronavirus lockdown. The money comes from fines issued by the Gambling Commission to operators that have flouted rules around anti-money laundering and monitoring of problem gamblers. The money will be used by the charity GambleAware for treatment centres and support services around the UK.
Meanwhile,since the beginning of 2020, the industry has paid £27m in settlements over regulatory action. Toward the end of 2019, the UK crackdown on online casinos netted another £8.7m in fines for three companies.
Two of the offences occurred just a month after other four other companies were fined more than £4.5m for similar money laundering infractions. That brings the total fines in 2019 to more than £13.2m.
The Commission said the customer’s deposits were so high and losses so significant Platinum Gaming should have considered refusing or barring service to the customer. Instead the operator continued to allow the customer to gamble.
Investigations also revealed the operator breached anti-money laundering regulations, including a failure to make adequate enquiries about the source of the funds the customer used to gamble.
Richard Watson, Gambling Commission Executive Director, said: “There were weaknesses in Platinum Gaming’s systems and as a consequence, more than half a million pounds of stolen money flowed through the business. This is not acceptable and I would urge all operators to carefully read this case and learn lessons so they don’t make the same mistakes.”
Breached money laundering regulations
Meanwhile, online gambling operator Gamesys (Gibraltar) Limited will pay £1.2m for its failure to prevent gambling harm and breaching money laundering regulations.
The Gambling Commission says police investigations showed three individuals spent stolen money with the gambling business.
It was discovered that despite customers displaying behaviour that could indicate problem gambling the operator failed to take action. The investigation also revealed the operator failed to comply with money laundering regulations, including not establishing customers’ source of funds.
“It is vital that operators understand their customers – track their online gambling and step in quickly when they suspect someone is suffering from gambling harm,” said Watson. “These key steps and processes ensure they meet both their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations for all customers.”
Bookmaker hit with major fine
The latest infraction came in July from bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral, which was fined £5.9m for failing to prevent money laundering.
The Gambling Commission laid out a host of failings at Ladbrokes Coral over a three-year period up to November 2017, including allowing one customer to spend £1.5m without ever being asked to prove the source of their funds, reported the Independent.
Ladbrokes Coral’s new owners GVC will pay £4.8m in lieu of a financial penalty and will divest £1.1m gained from customers as a result of its failings.
GVC will also review the top 50 customers for the years 2015-2017 to consider whether any further failings can be identified “and if so they will divest themselves of profit accordingly”.
In May, four companies paid a total of £4.5m for failing to prevent money laundering. InTouch Games Limited will pay £2.2m, Betit Operations Limited will pay £1.4m, MT Secure Trade will pay £700,000 in lieu of financial penalties, and BestBet will pay a financial penalty of £230,972.
The UK gambling commission has been cracking down this year after warning more than 120 operators that it would be watching them. Since the investigation began, five operators have surrendered their licenses and no longer operate in the UK.
The Commission also issued a 98-page guidance to help ensure the industry would comply with the country’s rules for casinos. The full Guidance from the UK Gambling Commission is located here.