UKGC Hits Platinum Gaming and Gamesys With Hefty Social-Responsibility Failure Fines
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is back in the news this week with the latest in a long-running series of fines and penalty assessments against gambling operators who have, in large part, failed to conduct proper due diligence in determining the true source of funds gambled with by certain customers. This time around, it’s actually a two-fer: On Wednesday, the UKGC announced a £1.2 million settlement with Gamesys (Gibraltar) Limited, and on Thursday, the Commission slapped an even higher £1.6 million penalty against Platinum Gaming Ltd.
Gamesys (Gibraltar) Limited operates and trades as jackpotjoy.com in the United Kingdom, while Platinum Gaming Ltd. is the parent company of the UK-facing Unibet and Skill On Net brands. In both cases, the operators were cited for the ubiquitous “failing to prevent gambling harm and breaching money laundering regulations.” Both cases involved serious situations involving the sources of money for specific problem gamblers and their related wagering behavior that should have raised plenty of red flags, but were not acted upon by the companies.
According to a public statement from the UKGC:
“The Gambling Commission (the Commission) undertook an investigation which identified historical weaknesses in Gamesys (Gibraltar) Limited’s anti-money laundering and social responsibility procedures and controls.
“The investigation focused on three customers between 2014 to 2016. All three customers had been the subject of police investigations and following these investigations it was established that stolen money had been spent on online gaming with Gamesys.”
As a result of the Gambling Commission’s investigation, a fine of £460,472 was assessed to the identified victims of the three customers’ crimes, which represents a direct reimbursement. An additional £690,000 payment was agreed to by Gamesys in lieu of a financial penalty.
Over at Unibet UK parent Platinum Gaming, it was much the same sort of tale:
“The Gambling Commission launched an investigation following reports that a convicted fraudster had spent £629,420 of stolen money with Platinum Gaming.
“During Commission enquiries it was revealed 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.”
The betting patterns exhibited by this customer were so odd and egregious, in the UKGC’s view, that Platinum Gaming should have realized that something was seriously amiss, and that’s likely why the company was hit with a somewhat larger fine. The company was ordered to reimburse £629,420 to the fraudster’s victims and to also pay £990,200 in lieu of a financial penalty.
In both settlements, most of the extra penalty money will be donated to one of the UK’s latest problem-gambling projects, the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
Richard Watson, Gambling Commission Executive Director, said this about the Gamesys settlement: “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.
“These key steps and processes ensure they meet both their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations for all customers.
“Gamesys’ approach resulted in a variety of failings and saw stolen money flowing through the business – with customers being put at risk of gambling related harm.”
And then Harris said this about the settlement with Platinum Gaming: “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.
“This is yet another example of us taking firm action against online operators who fail to protect consumers or implement effective safeguards against money laundering. We must see the industry stepping up and providing consumers in Great Britain with the safest and fairest gambling market in the world. Where we continue to see failings, we will continue to take action.”
And so it goes, with these not-so-variations on a theme. The UKGC’s insistence that its gambling operators up its social-responsibility game continues to result in high-profile fines and settlements. While many firms are up to snuff, some others continue trying to get by with a little bit less dedication to the UK’s stricter mandates, and that practice continues to be an unwise financial decision.