The gambling regulator is continuing to investigate online casino firms that don’t meet new standards brought in last year, in its ongoing drive to clean up the sector and make online gambling a safer and more enjoyable experience for customers.
The Gambling Commission, a statutory body established after the Gambling Act 2005 came into force, and which also regulates the National Lottery, has handed out £14m in fines to three online casino firms that fell foul of its rules. They are Daub Alderney, a UK operator that was fined £7.1 million; Malta-based Casumo, which will have to pay £5.85 million for online gambling transgressions; and Swedish concern Videoslots, hit with a £1 million fine.
A fourth online casino company, Maltese firm CZ Trading, withdrew from the British market last year after the Commission opened a probe into its activities, and surrendered its licence. An additional nine firms have been officially warned about their operations and that they must comply with the Commission’s strict new rules; another six online gambling companies remain under investigation.
Getting Tough with Online Gambling
Speaking about the latest round of financial sanctions, Commission chief Neil McArthur said his probes found that many online gambling firms were shunning their responsibilities and that the regulator would not stand by while they continued to thumb their noses at the authorities.
McArthur said he hoped the ongoing action would “make all online casino operators sit up and pay attention, as our investigations found that a large number of operators and their senior management were not meeting their obligations.” And he said it was “not enough” for individual online casino firms — many of which rely on sites that people use to compare casinos to get new customers — to just draw up and implement their own policies and procedures, because there were UK-wide rules they now had to follow.
“We expect operators to know their customers and to ask the right questions to make sure they meet their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations,” he said, adding that the Commission would “not only act against businesses when we take regulatory action — we will also hold individuals to account where they are responsible for an operator’s failings.”
‘UK First in Fair and Safe Online Gambling’
The Commission introduced new rules for online casino firms that came into force at the end of October last year. They make it easier to go after online gambling firms that break advertising standards, such as running ads that appeal to young children or that glamorise advertising, and to impose fines on them. Online casino firms can also be penalised under the new rules for breaches of advertising standards by third-party affiliates.
If online casino firms place “unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals” from customers’ winnings, and employ unfair and misleading practices, they can also be hit with substantial fines. Complaints processes have to be improved and firms are now given eight weeks to resolve all complaints; the Commission can also take action against operators that send out spam emails or texts looking for new customers.
At the time, the Commission said that “Protecting the interests of consumers is a priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators,” as well as that the regulations would “protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions [and] ensure that they can withdraw their money more easily, [meaning] that firms have to deal with complaints more swiftly”.
It’s all part of the regulator’s drive to bring about fairer play and a more level playing field for operators and their many customers as the online gambling sector across the UK takes off, due to a growing number of websites and apps where people can sign up and play. In November, McArthur called on industry players to work together and make sure that they knew their customers, as he pledged to make the UK the place where consumers can enjoy the “fairest and safest gambling in the world.”