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Updated by Dale Shelabarger
It’s been quite a busy couple of weeks for the Gambling Commission, as it continues its crusade to protect the drooling British populace from, um, casino operators. ‘Vulnerability’, ‘anti-money laundering’, and ‘social responsibility’ remain the key watchwords here. So how has the UK’s incorruptible quango been maintaining its unflinching commitment to these noble ideals?
On Wednesday the commission fined Boyle Sports £2.8 million for various AML transgressions following a detailed investigation. Ireland’s biggest bookmaker was deemed to have an inappropriate ‘money laundering risk assessment(s) in place’
As well as the financial slap-down, the UKGC imposed more proscriptive licensing conditions, among them the requirement to appoint an ‘appropriately qualified’ money laundering reporting officer (MLRO). ‘Appropriately qualified’? A standard the commission might want to observe in the recruitment of some of its pompous mandarins.
Once Boyle Sports’ MLRO is in place, he or she will have to undergo ‘refresher training’ on a yearly basis and provide evidence of such to the Commission. Senior staff will also be subjected to similar re-education programs. Richard Watson, Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission, wasn’t terribly forthcoming about precisely what prompted the Boyle Sports investigation.
Happily though, he was quick to provide some reassurance to an indifferent general public. In speaking to the unassembled media he stressed the importance of proper AML processes and pledged that the commission would ‘continue to take tough actions against operators’, albeit without divulging the reasons for an investigation in the first place.
Despite the harsh sanctions, Boyle Sports got off quite lightly all things considered. That is if you consider the horrors which befell Silverbond Enterprises Ltd a week previously.
On November 6, the UKGC thought it best to revoke the operating licence of Silverbond Enterprises Ltd – the company behind Park Lane Casino. Following an inquisition before a regulatory panel, it was decided that a revocation be imposed under diktat 102(4)(b) of the Gambling Act 2005.
The judgment was made because of concerns about the appointment of a new controller who had something of a chequered history. Apparently, said controller had been reluctant to furnish the glorious commission with source of funds (SOF) information. This time the grave pronouncements were left to another executive director (there seem to be lots of them) by the name of Helen Venn.
Like Mr. Watson, Ms. Venn was also at pains to underline the UKGC’s unwavering loyalty to the general public (whether it wants it or not). She proclaimed:
‘We regulate gambling in the public interest and to maintain public confidence in the industry. In doing this we must be provided with information about those who run or have a significant interest in gambling businesses’.
She went on (and on):
‘We revoked this licence because we are not satisfied as to the source of funds (SOF) used to acquire and support the Licensee at the time of the change of corporate control or to whom future profits of the Licensee would be paid. We also identified concerns with the suitability of the new controller because of its unsatisfactory history in providing the information requested as part of our enquiries.’
In happier news, Betixon announced that it’s received a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. The casino software developer with a soppy name will now be able to target British punters once arrangements have been made with various movers and shakers within the UK sector.
Sadly, it seems that Betixon’s triumph is an exception to the rule. In recent weeks the UKGC has been dispensing penalties left, right, and centre. As well as Boyle Sports and Silverbond, operators such as BGO Entertainment, GAN, and Net Bet Enterprises have been punished for various contraventions.
The hammer fell on BGO because of systemic failings, including insufficient ‘social responsibility’ – an ominous term rooted in the cesspit of early 20th-century politics. As well as a rather unpleasant association with political dogma of the worse kind, this nebulous little phrase allows the Commission plenty of scope to dole out punishments.
Also on the chopping block was GAN because it used cartoon imagery to promote a casino product. The operator also failed to display warnings about the illegality of underage gambling.
Net Bet fell-foul of the UKGC’s robust rules relating to enhanced due diligence. It also didn’t take adequate steps to determine how customers were funding their gambling activities. The company was required to pay £9000 to the Gambling Commission to cover the costs of the review.
According to reports, the total sum of the Gambling Commission’s penalties is up 50% from last year. But these are, after all, challenging times both for operators and the Government.