Four online casinos have been ordered to pay fines totaling £4.5m following a recent probe. The fines are a punishment for their alleged failure to protect their users from suffering gambling harm. The platforms also failed to properly prevent money laundering.
The four casinos are InTouch Games (fined £2.2m), Betit Operations (£1.4m), MT Secure (£700,000) and BestBet (£230,972).
A raft of offenses
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the country’s regulator, first launched an investigation in 2017. It is ongoing.
In this time the UKGC has carried out wide-ranging assessments into 123 different operators in the online gambling space. Of these, 45 were ordered to raise their standards higher. Five platforms had to surrender their gambling licenses.
This is just the latest wave of sanctions. In November 2018, the UKGC handed out almost £14m worth of fines to three different firms. These fines also related to money laundering and gambling harm prevention offenses.
Speaking about these fines, Richard Watson, the executive director for the UKGC, said: “We have been working hard to raise standards in the online industry to ensure that gambling is crime-free and that the one in five people in Britain who gamble online every month can do so safely. But our work will not stop here.
“As a regulator, we will continue to set and enforce standards that the industry must comply with to protect consumers. We expect operators to know their customers and to ask the right questions to make sure they meet their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations.”
Breaching consumer protections
The UKGC has also been working alongside the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to tackle shoddy business practices in the online gambling sector. This saw six major gambling companies receive regulatory punishments. This investigation began following suspicions of a potential breach of consumer protection law.
The main focus of the joint investigation relates to transparency, fairness and potentially confusing customers in relation to bonus promotions. It also concerns firms delaying the withdrawal of users’ funds.
As a result of this investigation, Progress Play, Jumpman Gaming, BGO, PT Entertainment, William Hill and Ladbrokes have been told to make considerable changes to their policies.
The policies that the investigation highlights are:
- It will not be compulsory for players to play multiple times before they can withdraw their own money
- Firms must ensure that any restrictions on gameplay are made clear to players. They cannot rely on vague terms to take players’ money
- Gambling companies cannot make players take part in publicity to collect winnings
Commitment to progress
A letter on the issue was signed by the UKGC’s executive director Paul Hope and CMA senior director George Lusty.
It says: “Our joint work provided a sharp focus on aspects of online gambling and exposed significant shortcomings within the sector that had undermined consumer trust and confidence. The Commission mandated that all gambling firms would need to comply with the requirements set out in the published undertakings, not just those firms that agreed to them.
“The findings from this work, and our expectations of you, have been well publicized, and all gambling firms should, by now, have amended their terms and practices to meet the requirements set out in the undertakings.”
The letter also noted that positive changes were happening in the wider sector concerning promotions. However, Hope and Lusty warned that those operators not complying with consumer law will face the wrath of the UKGC.
(The UK Gambling Commission is continuing to investigate poor practices by online casinos, and has issued nearly £20m in fines in the last six months. )