UK Gambling Commission fines four online casino ops £4.5m
The UK’s gambling regulator has fined four of its online casino licensees a total of £4.5m for slack attention to anti-money laundering (AML), customer due diligence and social responsibility obligations.
On Wednesday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced the latest results of its probe into the online casino sector. Four operators have either been financially penalized or agreed to make a payment in lieu of being fined, including InTouch Games Ltd (£2.2m), Betit Operations Ltd (£1.4m), MT Secure Trade (£700k) and BestBet (£231k.).
The UKGC began its probe of InTouch in April 2018, ultimately concluding that the operator’s AML risk assessment was far from robust, in part due to “a degree of complacency that it was a low-risk business.” InTouch’s own compliance officers expressed little faith in the company’s suspicious activity reports (SAR), and customer due diligence was largely limited to confirming a customer’s identity.
InTouch, which operates the mFortune, PocketWin and Mr Spin casino brands, took little interest in determining its customers’ source of funds. In one case, InTouch took no action after a customer’s spending increased from £200/month to £10k/month. Overall, InTouch was found to have set its financial triggers so high that it excluded most of its customers from reporting requirements.
The UKGC’s probe of Betit, which operates Kaboo.com and Highroller.com, began in September 2017. Betit was found to have no money laundering and terrorist financing (MLTF) risk assessments in place, and the risk assessments it did conduct were insufficient to meet its license requirements.
One Betit customer deposited over £67k in a 23-day period, but this triggered no internal flags. Another customer deposited £110,500 in 24 hours, to which Betit’s only response was to raise his deposit limit despite the bank declining transactions on two of the customer’s cards.
MT Secure Trade (MTST), which operates Guts.com and Rizk.com, came under UKGC scrutiny in August 2017. In addition to the lack of MLTF protocols, one customer deposited £38k in stolen money across four MTST brands thanks to MTST conducting zero source of funds checks.
Another MTST customer deposited over £134k in a six-month period while failing to trigger any responsible gambling flags, despite cancelling withdrawals, requesting increases on daily deposit limits, and depositing with five different credit cards.
Bestbet, which trades as Bestcasino, appeared on the UKGC’s radar in February 2018. The company was found to have no required risk-sensitive policies and procedures in place, and its employees lacked training regarding AML and due diligence practices.
The UKGC has repeatedly indicated that it is losing patience with its licensees and that failure to abide by the rules, including new customer identity checks, will result in significant damage to offenders’ bottom lines. The UKGC doled out over £27m in penalties last year and, given that the findings of other probes have yet to be released, appears well on pace to break that record in 2019.
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