Must Comply: UK’s Gambling Commission Issues Record Fines in 2019/20
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is rarely out of the news cycle for long, and it isn’t shy about imposing big penalties on companies under its jurisdiction.
Its point was proven on Friday by the release of its Compliance and Enforcement Report for 19/20. It revealed that over the last year, the regulator had fined UK license holders a collective £30 million, split over 12 fines.
That’s 50% higher than in the previous year. Also over that time, five operators had their licenses suspended pending investigation, and a further 11 licenses were completely revoked.
Just at the beginning of this month, we reported on the UKGC’s latest fines, totaling £2.85 million ($3.753) across three operators.
Since then, the UKGC has added another £2.8 million to the tally, with one single fine for Irish operator Boylesports.
The operator was deemed to have “failed to have an appropriate money laundering risk assessment in place.” In addition to the fine, it will need to permanently employ an “appropriately qualified” Money Laundering Reporting Officer or risk losing their license.
All this news comes as the (smaller than predicted) upsurge in online casino gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic is showing signs of stalling out.
Online slots saw their lowest revenue figure of any month since April, hitting £157 million – down 4% from the previous month.
Non-slot-based online casino revenue in the UK also fell by 5% in September, with 4% fewer gamblers playing compared to October.
The UK is now seen as a more challenging market, with several major players leaving British gamers adrift this year, including all but one of Betsson AB Group’s nine UK brands.
The UK regulatory framework has undergone significant changes in the past few years, requiring extensive investments both in technology, regulatory compliance as well as marketing, which is not sustainable with the Group’s current UK setupBetsson said at the time in a statement.
Upping the Ante
Both the regulator and parliament have been upping the ante against gambling companies this year. They introduced a credit card ban back in April, which most in the industry agreed with.
However, they followed that up with a raft of proposals that may end up asking online casinos to renegotiate their contracts with game developers, amongst other restrictions.
The UKGC’s CEO Neil McArthur wasn’t in a forgiving mood in the opening statement of his report.
“We are not afraid to take tough action,” he said. “We will continue to hold people to account for failings they knew, or ought to have known, about.”
This month has also seen the regulator release its 2020 National Strategic Assessment. The organization has been facing a tough time from MPs and the media recently.
The UKGC’s tough stance of the past few years, especially during the pandemic, could be seen as an attempt to preemptively improve its position before the long-awaited government review of the Gambling Act 2005 – which should still take place next year.