UKGC Sanctions Three Operators, ASA Bans Gambling Ad Targeting Children

  • NetBet Enterprises, GAN, and BGO Entertainment each underwent UKGC investigations
  • The problems mainly related to anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures
  • ASA banned a Gala Spins Facebook ad that violated the rules for targeting underage people
  • UKGC has ordered specific changes and fined the three operators a total of £2.9m ($3.8m)
Employees in a computer control center
The UKGC has sanctioned three online gambling operators for numerous regulatory offenses and the ASA has banned a gambling ad that targets children. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Errant operators

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has investigated three online gambling operators for money laundering and social responsibility failures, while the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banned a gambling ad that targets children. 

The three operators investigated by the UKGC were NetBet Enterprises, GAN PLC, and BGO Entertainment. Each operator was subject to license reviews for numerous failures, such as not stopping criminal spending and money laundering, as well as not having sufficient measures to protect consumers.

must also make monetary contributions to the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms

GAN and BGO now have new conditions on their licenses, with the three operators having to improve their procedures per the UKGC’s October 28 statement. They must also make monetary contributions to the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms (NSRGH). The individual Personal Management License holders for each operator are also facing review by the UKGC.

In the gambling ad ban case, the ASA ordered Gala Spins to remove a Facebook advertisement that featured fluffy toy animals. The ASA tweeted out the details on Wednesday:

The ad was in breach of rules regarding gambling ads targeting underage people. The operator also had an issue two years ago with the ASA over an advert that linked skill and gambling.

UKGC’s investigations

The UKGC deemed BGO to have ineffective procedures and policies from September 2019 until March 2020 for users who showed potential signs of problem gambling. There were also inadequate anti-money laundering (AML) controls from September 2018 until July 2020. The operator now has to conduct additional AML and social responsibility (SR) checks on all of its leading customers. It also has to contribute £2m ($2.6m) to aid in implementing the NSRGH.

GAN was in violation of four license conditions from August 2018 until September 2019. They included poor AML controls, no warning about underage gambling on its website, and inadequate guidance for customer interaction. GAN is now facing continual reviews of its SR and AML policies, plus mandatory additional training for senior staff and Personal Management License holders. It must also contribute £146,000 ($189,570) toward the implementation of the NSRGH.

Finally, NetBet violated two license conditions from November 2018 to May 2019 relating to AML and SR. These issues included not adequately analyzing source of funds documents and not properly implementing responsible gambling policy. NetBet has to introduce tighter controls, focus on the login time of users, place automatic limits on those who display potential signs of gambling addiction, and add an affordability calculator to its platform. The fine it has to pay toward the NSRGH totals £748,000 ($971,220).

Operators’ response to the findings

Each of the offenders released public statements addressing the investigations. They went through each violation point by point and outlined the changes they are making to their policies and procedures.

We will continue to crack down on failing operators”

UKGC executive director Richard Watson spoke outlined the necessity for licensees to protect all of their users from harm and treat them fairly. He highlighted the failings of these three operators and said: “We will continue to crack down on failing operators through our tough and proactive compliance and enforcement work.” 

ASA ad ban

The ASA acknowledged that the Gala Spins Facebook ad that violated underage advertising guidelines was on a page that only adult users were able to view. However, as the page users could submit their own age, the ASA saw this as insufficient protection for underage people. 

The ASA noted that the fluffy toy animals and the video caption of “it’s a roller coaster of cuteness” were both “likely to appeal to under-18s.” A statement from the agency outlined the necessity for gambling ads to not specifically appeal to children or young people. The ASA determined that the Gala Spins ad did appeal to people under the age of 18 years old. 

LC International Ltd, trading as Gala Spins, noted that the eight-second video was not supposed to go live. Its intended target audience comprised females with an interest in gambling of between 18 and 65 years old. Gala Spins has removed the ad from every channel.

The ASA has been cracking down on ads that target children. Following a recent three-month sweep, it found that 70 of 159 flagged ads that violated age-restriction rules were from gambling operators.