Expert says online casino money laundering and player protection probe could just be ‘tip of the iceberg’

  • Legal expert expects there to be many more casinos embroiled in UK Gambling Commission investigation
  • Warns that companies ‘at the top’ of the industry may have been targeted first, with more to follow
  • Urges operators to sharpen up their practices before it’s too late
  • Last week’s news revealed 17 online casinos investigated and five facing ‘license review’

A probe of 17 UK-facing online casinos over anti-money laundering and player protection measures is just the start of a bigger investigation, an expert has warned.

Tim Miller Gambling Commission
Tim Miller is executive director of the UK Gambling Commission, with the regulator announcing a big investigation of online casinos last week

The UK Gambling Commission announced on Friday that of the 17 online casinos, five faced the possibility of a license review, meaning their very right to operate in the UK was potentially under threat.

Those online casinos have not yet been named.

Richard Williams, online gambling solicitor at legal firm Joelson, believed that Friday’s announcement was simply the beginning of a broader probe and that many more online casinos serving the UK may be face some tough scrutiny from the UKGC over anti-money laundering and player safety practices.

In a post on the firm’s website, he said: “I expect that this is likely to be the tip of an iceberg, because I envisage that the Commission started its investigation at the top (in terms of operator size) and will be working its way downwards.

“For those operators who have not yet been investigated, they should sit up, take note and obtain some urgent advice to rectify any compliance failings.”

Sharpen up

Mr Williams said that he believed many online casinos simply were not taking the requirements of a UKGC license seriously enough, echoing the sentiments of a letter that the regulator has sent to all UK-facing operators stating that they need to take the issue of compliance seriously or face consequences.

He said: “In relation to customer interaction, operators are going to have to be far more proactive to interact, ask questions and intervene, where they suspect problem gambling behaviour.

“Intervening to stop good profit generators (e.g. VIP customers) gambling is going to be difficult, but it’s a legal requirement and cannot be ignored. There is no doubt that operators will have to toe the line or they will face revocation of their licences.

“Doing the job properly will hit profits for sure, but in these days of tightening regulation and a media witch hunt against gambling operators, having a business is far better than having no business at all.”

Hard times for operators?

The media witch hunt, to which Mr Williams refers, perhaps stems from the huge furore surrounding fixed odds betting terminals found in high street UK betting shops which have been blamed for high rates of problem gambling, and the ability of players to stake and lose £100 ($135) every 20 seconds.

A resolution to that hot potato could happen at the end of this month.

But there have also been some high profile cases of penalties handed down to online gambling operators too, as well as negative media attention surrounding the exposure of gambling advertising on young people, and the fairness, or otherwise, of the free bets and other bonuses handed to players.

That has also been coupled with the UKGC’s more serious overtures about making gambling in the UK much safer and more transparent than ever before.

In its investigation, the UKGC reported that it found some seriously concerning practices, including staff who, for example, had not been trained in anti-money laundering best practice, as well as examples of operators not acting appropriately when players are exhibiting potentially problematic gambling behaviours.

Mr Williams added: “Those 17 operators under investigation really need to get a grip on this as a matter of urgency. For the five who are facing review, it may already be too late.”

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