International edition
September 21, 2019

After four operators had to pay over USD 5.7 M in penalties

UK: Labour party politician calls for online casino licenses' review

UK: Labour party politician calls for online casino licenses' review
"This review would be an opportunity for existing remote license-holders to reapply for the privilege of operating and marketing in the UK," he said in a letter to the UK gambling regulator.
United Kingdom | 05/20/2019

Tom Watson believes online casino operators should have to reapply for their operating licenses as over a third were found by the industry regulator to be failing customers.

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ast week, four gambling businesses were fined a total of £4.5 million (USD 5.7 M) as part of the UK Gambling Commission’s ongoing investigation into the online casino sector.

InTouch Games Limited was fined £2.2 million (USD 2.8 M); Betit Operations Limited, £1.4 million (USD 1.8 M); MT Secure Trade, £700,000 (USD 900,000) in lieu of financial penalties; and BestBet was fined a financial penalty of £230,972 (USD 297,000).

In light of this, Labour party deputy Tom Watson has written to the chief executive of the Gambling Commission and Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, to question the integrity of many operators, most of which operate from overseas.

He said that operators must not view licenses as an opportunity to push the limits of their conditions, the Times reports.

In one case, when a customer deposited more than £100,000 during a 24-hour period, the operator gave him VIP status instead of conducting an affordability check, and offered him cash bonuses and raised his deposit limits despite his bank having declined transactions from two of his cards.

The regulator said the businesses, three of which were based overseas, had failed to put in place effective safeguards to prevent money laundering and keep consumers safe from gambling harm. Over the past 18 months the commission has conducted assessments of 123 online operators and demanded that 45 submit action plans on how they intend to raise standards.

In his letter, seen by The Times, Mr. Watson demands all casino websites that have obtained a UK license since 2014 should have them reviewed. He writes: "A UK gambling license should be a hallmark of credibility and trust. It should not be seen as an opportunity for operators to push the limits of their conditions and responsibilities.

"The regulator cannot be in a position where it is continually playing catch-up to an opaque and agile global industry. We need a structured response to the situation. This will require a total overhaul of our register of current remote sector licenses."

He added: "This review would be an opportunity for existing remote license-holders to reapply for the privilege of operating and marketing in the UK. It is essential that the government, working with the regulator, can reassess the financial probity of operators, the identity and character of their owners, the contributions they make to the research, education and treatment of problem gambling, the partnerships they have with our sports clubs, and any recent breaches of licence conditions."

The Gambling Commission recommends that bookmakers and casinos donate 0.1 percent of revenue each year to GambleAware, which funds research, education and treatment programs. However, TGP Europe Limited, the UK license holder for SportPesa, the Kenyan betting brand that sponsors Everton in a £48 million deal, donated only £100 last year.

Mr. Watson highlighted this research in his letter. He writes: "A UK license should not be used as a platform for offshore operators to use the reputation of British sport as a marketing tool for their own domestic audience, whereby the benefits of the UK market are enjoyed but nothing is given back to address the harm that is caused."

Last year W88, an almost unheard of Philippines-based internet casino, announced a £10 million deal to sponsor Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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