AML failures land Gamesys with £6m UK Gambling Commission fine

UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has made its first enforcement action of 2024, hitting out at online casino and bingo operator Gamesys.

AML and social responsibility failures occurring between November 2021 and July 2022 have led to the online casino and bingo operator being hit with a £6m fine by the UKGC.

Gamesys will also have additional conditions attached to its operating licence. However, the Commission didi note that the firm had been cooperative throughout the investigation, and that there was no indication of criminal funds being used on its platform.

Kay Roberts, Executive Director of Operations, said: “Our focus as a regulator is to ensure that operators are employing policies and procedures which 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.”

A specific breakdown of failures saw Gamesys players able to ‘evade’ the firm’s AML triggers and thresholds and subsequently spend significant sums without being checked.

This included cases of three different customers depositing £14,585 within 28 days, £18,884 in just over six months and £34,280 in five and a half months, all without any AML checks being conducted. 

Additionally, the firm did not carry out adequate customer due diligence and was found to be ‘over-reliant’ on third party information such as internet research and on customer’s verbal assurances regarding source of funds.

Again, the UKGC cited examples of customers being able to deposit large numbers of money without effective due diligence occurring, including £25,000 in three months, £58,000 in six months and £65,000 in six months.

The final AML shortcoming relating to Gamesys’ ‘reinvestment of winnings policy’, which did not fully address the risk of deposited funds being from illegitimate sources and not from customers’ previous winnings.

Outside of AML, the firm was also found to have breached licensing conditions in a number of areas concerning social responsibility. Notably, Gamesys’ policy towards identifying gambling harm was deemed insufficient.

There was an ‘inappropriate reliance’ on checks indicating whether customers had been bankrupt or solvent as a sign of gambling harm, limiting the scope of the company’s social responsibility checks, and its deposit limit system ‘did not identify risks of harm quick enough’.

Lastly, the UKGC assessed that Gamesys had been lacking in how much it interacted with customers who may be experiencing gambling harm, such as in one case where an interaction occurred only when a customer had lost almost £10,000.

“Records of interactions, considerations, and rationale for decisions were not always recorded in sufficient detail, despite this being specified in the licensee’s responsible gambling procedures,” the UKGC statement read.

The £6m fine against Gamesys – a Bally’s Corporation entity, and the US conglomerate’s primary holding in the UK since acquisition in 2021 – shows that the UKGC remains committed to enforcing licensing requirements with financial penalties if necessary.

In the context of the Gambling Act review, the UKGC has issued a series of penalties over the past two years, notably breaking records twice with a £17m charge against Entain (operator of Ladbrokes and Coral) in 2022 and a £19.2m charge against William Hill in 2023.