Stakers exits UK market as Tribunal upholds UKGC suspension

UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

Online betting and casino brand Stakers has surrendered its UK gambling licence and has ceased all operations, following the dismissal of its appeal against its licence suspension.

First-Tier Tribunal Judge Aleksander issued a written decision dismissing Stakers’ appeal against the suspension of its licence this morning. 

The firm’s initial application to appeal had been refused by the Tribunal, and so by the time of the hearing its remote casino operations in the UK had been ‘effectively extinguished’.

Stakers’ licence was initially suspended by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in March 2020 due to a ‘number of compliance issues,’ under sections 116 and 118 of the 2005 Gambling Act

The UKGC subsequently informed Stakers that it should advise players not to place any bets through the website, and should also support customers in withdrawing funds in their accounts.

Throughout the appeal process, a ‘significant number of regulatory issues and alleged compliance failings’ were addressed, whilst Stakers questioned whether the Gambling Act permitted the UKGC to compel operators to participate in compliance assessments via Skype.

The judge concluded that he considered assessments conducted over Skype to be lawful for production of documents and records, but also found that UK gambling legislation does not require operators to display live operational environments to the UKGC via the platform, and firms are also not required to provide test accounts.

Additionally, although ‘evidence of compliance failings could be a criminal offence under the Act, the Judge ruled that Commission officers were not required to caution individuals under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act prior to recorded compliance assessments undertaken via Skype.

Richard Williams, the solicitor from Joelson law firm who represented Stakers, noted that a total of 12 months had passed since the company’s licence was initially revoked, including the six months between the final hearing and the Tribunal’s decision – which damaged Stakers chances of maintaining its operations. 

He remarked: “Operators whose licence has been suspended, even where they do not agree with the Commission about alleged regulatory failings, will understand that appealing a  suspension to the First-tier Tribunal may not be a viable option if they want to keep their business open.”