Betting groups face a ‘relentless escalation’ in penalties for inaction Murad Ahmed, Leisure Correspondent

Betting groups face a ‘relentless escalation’ in penalties for inaction Murad Ahmed, Leisure Correspondent

June 27, 2018 Print this page

Betting companies face a “relentless escalation” in financial penalties if they do not step up controls in areas such as money laundering and problem gamblers, in a stark warning from the industry’s watchdog.

The Gambling Commission said it has massively increased the value of fines it has issued over the past year, in an attempt to push UK betting companies to do more to protect consumers and prevent criminal activity through their betting shops, casinos and online sites.

On Thursday, the regulator revealed it issued £18m worth of penalties to gambling companies in the 12 months to April 1, up from just £1.6m a year earlier.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said the fines were likely to increase further, while the body could take more stringent regulatory action, such as withdrawing a company’s licence to operate, if the industry does not do more to address serious failures.

The watchdog has released an “enforcement report” detailing a litany of cases where betting groups have failed to adhere to gambling regulations.

This includes 10 occasions in which stolen money was used to gamble, including when the source of funds was taken from employers or through defrauding elderly victims. In other cases, inadequate checks were made on “VIP customers” who were losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, despite exhibiting signs of being problem gamblers.

“We recognised that our approach to enforcement has been effective to an extent, but wasn’t driving the pace of change and a culture of continuous improvement,” said Mr McArthur.

“That’s why we communicated we would make this step change in terms of penalty packages. We’ve made it clear that we will continue to be firm but fair. agen piala dunia The phrase I’ve tended to use is there will be relentless escalation if they don’t get compliance levels right, until we get the standards we expect.”

Last September, 888 Holdings was fined record £7.8m for the way it handled thousands of customers who had sought “self exclusion” measures to restrict their own access to betting.

In February, William Hill was handed £6.2m in penalties by the regulator because of “systemic senior management failure” that allowed customers who may have used the proceeds of crime to place hundreds of thousands of pounds in bets.

UK gambling companies have faced a tougher regulatory environment in recent years. Last month, the UK government cut the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2, in a move expected to dent severely the profits of bookmakers, while planning to increase tax on online gambling groups to recover lost receipts from the terminals.

Some campaigners have argued the Gambling Commission has not done enough to tackle the excesses of the UK’s gambling industry, which makes billions of pounds in profit each year. According to the watchdog, gross gambling yield — the total amount wagered minus the amount paid out in winnings — hit £13.9bn in 2017.

Mr McArthur rejected the criticism, saying the body attempts to use its powers to encourage better practice from betting companies over time. But he admitted that the “speed of improvement was great enough”.

“If they companies really know their customers,” said Mr McArthur, “and care about the customers, not only will it create the outcomes we want, it should still be possible for them to still be successful commercially.”

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