UKGC Starts 2024 Strong with £6m Gamesys Sanction

UKGC Starts 2024 Strong with £6m Gamesys Sanction

The company has been fined £6m for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures. The sanction results from a compliance assessment that took place in May 2022. The assessment found that the company failed its licensing commitments on two fronts. Let’s start with the social responsibility element.

Social responsibility is vital to UK licensing commitments and is essentially safer gambling regulations. It boils down to three main principles for operators: ensuring gambling is crime-free, operated fairly and openly, and that vulnerable persons are protected from harm and exploitation.

In the case of Gamesys, the Commission found several social responsibility failures.

  • The operator was “not always identifying customers at risk of experiencing harms associated with gambling”, such as “placing inappropriate reliance on checks which indicate whether a customer had a historical individual voluntary arrangement or been bankrupt or insolvent as a sign of gambling harm”.
  • Gamesys also did not deposit limits in place for some players, allowing one to deposit £8,255 in the first three days as a site member and another to lose £17,482 within the first month. The assessment also stated that Gamesys was not consistently interacting with customers who may be at risk. Most shockingly, in one case where they did conduct a responsible gambling interaction, it “involved the recommendation of new games and promotions”.
  • The Commission found that Gamesys failed to keep the appropriate records regarding interactions, considerations, and rationale for decisions despite this being listed as a responsibility for all operators.

The second part of the sanction focused on anti-money laundering (AML) failures. All UK gambling operators are license-bound to follow AML procedures, which include checking the source of player funds and undertaking risk assessments to evaluate player accounts.

The investigation found that some customers were “able to evade some of the licensee’s AML triggers/thresholds and spend significant sums without AML checks being conducted.” This led to one player depositing £14,585 in 28 weeks, another £18,884 in just over six months, and a third, £34,280 in five and a half months – all unchecked.

The Commission also found that Gamesys relied too much on inadequate customer checks, such as third-party information from the internet. In some cases, rather than undertaking proper checks, they relied on the customers’ verbal assurances, including one who deposited over £25,000 in three months, another who deposited over £58,000 in six months, and another who deposited over £65,000 in six months. ”

Kay Roberts, the Executive Director of Operations at UKGC, commented, “Our focus as a regulator is to ensure that operators employ policies and procedures that make gambling fair, safe, and crime-free. We take this responsibility extremely seriously and whenever we find failures in policies and procedures then the business can expect significant regulatory action.”

What happens next?

After paying the fine, Gamesys must undergo further compliance checks to prove they have corrected the issues. A third-party audit will be required to confirm this. If the operator does not adequately improve, they could lose or have their operator license suspended, as happened to InTouch Games in September 2023.

The UKGC is one of the most active regulators worldwide, especially regarding compliance, and they regularly audit the companies they license. Given the long list of failures, we’re surprised by the smaller size of this fine, as many UK gambling companies have received more significant fines or equal punishment for wrongdoing. In 2023, 14 fines were issued by the Commission, totaling over £41m.

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