Mr Green Hit with UKGC Punishment

High profile betting firm Mr Green will pay £3 million to a prominent gambling harm organisation, after a ruling by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

The company, which is owned by William Hill, was found to be in breach of their responsibilities in the areas of money laundering and preventing harm. The agreement reached with the UKGC includes a £3 million payment, which will be made in lieu of the company receiving a financial penalty. Mr Green will also have to pay the costs of the regulator, which amount to £10,349.77.

The UKGC concluded that Mr Green had failed to carry out their social responsibility obligations after a customer won a total of £50,000 and then gambled it all away. The customer then went on to make deposits worth thousands of pounds, and Mr Green accepted inadequate evidence of the customers Source Of Funds (SOF) eventually accepting deposits of £1 million.

Richard Watson, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said that it was important that gambling customers know that there are sufficient checks in place to ensure that the UK gambling sector was crime free, and that Mr Green had fallen short of its duties:

“Our investigation uncovered systemic failings in respect of both Mr Green’s social responsibility and AML controls which affected a significant number of customers across its online casinos.

In their response, Mr Green did not dispute that it lacked effective procedures for customers who may be showing problem gambling signs, between 2014 and 2018. They also admitted to failures in identifying and following up interactions that suggested a customer had problems.

In addition, the UKGC found that there was a systematic failure to carry out SOF and Enhanced Due Diligence checks on customers that had deposited significant sums of money, with 113 of the company’s 120 highest depositing accounts having to be closed as a result.

Mr Green is now the ninth operator to be hit with serious penalties since the UKGC increased efforts to enforce the rules, a push that has resulted in over £20 million in penalty payments since 2018.

GPA Calls for Betting Ad Ban

Concerns about the relationship between the betting industry and sport have reached the world of Gaelic sport this week, where a prominent players’ association has called for a ban.

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) represents current and former players in the sports of Gaelic football and hurling, and their concerns about betting advertisements reflect a growing awareness of the risks of gambling addiction among sports players. The GPA has called on the governing body of Gaelic sport, the GAA, to ban all betting adverts during live sports broadcasts, by writing such a ban into the GAA rules.

In the UK, bookmakers have instituted a voluntary ban on advertising during live broadcasts of sports events before 21:00. But if the GAA agree to the GPA request, that would make them the first sports organisation to institute a ban on gambling advertisements. According to reports, the issue is set to be discussed by the GAA Central Council, and the GPA hope that a new rule could be in place by 2021.

The GPA’s argument is that gambling adverts represent an ongoing risk to players. In December last year, the Economic and Social Research Institute conducted a survey of inter-county Gaelic sports players. The survey found that 80% of players believed that their teammates took part in gambling, either every day or every week. Speaking about these findings, Paul Flynn, the CEO at the GPA, said that they showed that the issue was a serious one for inter-county players:

“Both the GAA and the GPA have long been leaders in this area and we’ll now work with Central Council to take another big step towards removing the link between gambling and our games.”

He said that many GPA members had suffered through gambling addiction and that by removing the link between games and betting advertising, they would be able to reduce the risk of vulnerable players developing a gambling problem.

Addison Global Suffers Licence Suspension

Fans of casino games operated by a brand owned by Addison Global will be unable to make any bets or play online games following action taken by the Gambling Licensing Authority of Gibraltar.

Online betting brand MoPlay has been forced to turn away business after its parent company Addison had their license suspended. The decision to suspend was made after consultations with the Gambling Commissioner, and means that the short term future is uncertain for MoPlay, Addison Global and the 130 people that the company employs in Gibraltar.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said that the Gambling Commissioner had worked with executives at the company on coming up with restructuring proposals. It added that although the shareholder of Addison had assured the Commissioner of their intention to offer full support for the further development of the business, this had not been forthcoming:

 “These proposals, which included honouring all outstanding liabilities, have not materialised and the Gambling Commissioner is no longer able to accept that the firm is able to meet its licensing conditions.”

The statement went on to say that it was disappointing that the shareholder’s promised financial support had not materialised, and that the firm had not been given the financial backing that had been promised when it first earned its licence.

The Directors at Addison have been given the task of resolving the solvency issues, but in the short term, the gambling regulator has clearly run out of patience. The suspension is designed to ensure that customers of MoPlay are not put at risk.

The MoPlay site is now displaying a message saying that they cannot take any further bets but that customers are still able to withdraw funds. But there is no mention of the license suspension on the Addison Global site, and the future of the company appears to be in doubt.

Betting Firms Should do More on Player Protection

A leading gambling protection company has said that more could be done by gambling firms in offering protection to those who need help.

Jack Symons, the founder of Gamban, a company that develops gambling blocking software, said that player protection should be given a higher priority. His comments come in the same week that Gamban announced they were forming a partnership with the Lloyds Banking Group, which would give customers of Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Halifax, the power to use the Gamban blocking system. But he said that although banks had worked hard on this area in recent times, the gambling industry itself must take more of the responsibility:

 “The regulators talk about innovation, but existing tools aren’t being used. To me, in terms of things that will actively help people, the wheel doesn’t always have to be completely reinvented. There are tools that are working and helping, they are just not being given the support they need.”

Symons said that although there were multiple technological tools that were available to tackle problem gambling, many UK firms were not taking the basic step of supporting a customer when they say that they have a gambling problem.

The partnership with Lloyds is a major step for Gamban, but other banks, including Santander and Barclays, are also working to offer gambling blocking tools to their customer base. Symons praised banks for the work they were doing on player protection, but he also said that others such as Internet Service Providers should also step up and play their part.

He added that he’d like to see these companies stepping in, particularly to prevent customers accessing illegal offshore gambling sites. He also said that Internet Service Providers could help to make it easier for customers to block all gambling sites.

Curacao Online Gambling Legislation Proposed

A well-known gambling jurisdiction could be heading for a shake-up after a leading politician announced his intention to bring forward online gambling legislation.

Kenneth Gijsbertha, who serves as Finance Minister for the Curacao government, was speaking at ICE London 2020. He was discussing the online gambling situation in the country and said that the gambling industry has the potential to become a significant driver of economic progress.

The online gambling sector in Curacao is one of the best known in the world. Curacao licences are widely held throughout the global online gambling industry, and it has become one of the most popular licensing centres in the industry. But despite having operated for over 25 years, there is no supervision or legal requirements associated with holding a licence. The licences themselves are effectively illegal and are not overseen or controlled by the Curacao government.

Speaking in London, Gijsbertha said that it was important for Curacao to bring forward new legislation for the sake of the local gambling industry, which he said could be a significant contributor to the local economy and a major source of revenue for the Curacao government.

But he also highlighted some of the problems associated with the current gambling sector, emphasising that at present, it was controlled by a relatively small number of individuals. This meant that there had to be some doubt about how much the country could benefit from full legalisation.

But there have been reports that some significant players in the political and economic sectors in Curacao are keen to explore the potential for gambling legalisation in the territory. In particular, full legalisation could lead to greater competition as other countries enter the market. It is also likely to have a knock-on effect for global operators who currently hold Curacao licences, so this is one area of potential political change that will be keenly watched throughout the gambling sector.

Reshuffle Likely to Delay Lottery Bidding Process

This week’s Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson could have implications for the future of the UK’s National Lottery as the bidding process for the next operator faces delays.

Overseas and domestic operators who had been hoping to take part in the tender process that has been organised by the UK Gambling Commission have already had to deal with a variety of delays. Earlier in the week, a report in the Financial Times revealed that the Commission had still not sent out the necessary procurement questionnaire, a key part of the bidding process, which was due to be released at the beginning of the month.

The report added that tender schedule is likely to face delays of up to three months, which will be the cause of frustration for firms hoping to challenge Camelot’s status as lottery operators.

And now it seems that politics could add to the delays. Reports in the UK media suggest that Johnson is reconsidering the various ministerial responsibilities within the government, which could see a change in which ministry supervises the tender process. It has been reported that he is considering moving responsibility for overseeing the tender from the Department of Culture, Digital, Media and Sport (DCMS) to a new expanded business ministry or even the Cabinet Office.

An additional delay is expected this week due to the restructuring of the senior cabinet, while all ministers are waiting to see what will be in the Spring Budget.

There is speculation that Johnson wants to reduce the demands placed on DCMS this year, with the Department set to conduct reviews into the BBC licensing fee and digital standards in the UK. Meanwhile, the UKGC has stated that the dates in its original timetable were intended to be indicative and that all bidding firms will be on an equal footing at the start of the tender process.

Lords Investigate UKGC

The UK gambling regulator will come under the spotlight on Tuesday when the UK Gambling Commission leadership gives evidence at a high-profile House of Lords hearing.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) chairman Dr Bill Moyes and chief executive Neil McArthur are set to appear before a House of Lords Select Committee that is looking at the potential social and economic impacts of the UK betting sector. The session will last around two hours and will involve UKGC leaders answering questions from Committee members.

The session will be part of the ongoing investigation by the committee, which is led by Lord Michael Grade, into the sector, which ultimately could lead to an overhaul of the regulatory approach to the gambling industry. The two senior figures from the UKGC will be asked to explain its approach to regulation of the sector and will also be questioned on the UKGC’s relationship with betting companies, an issue on which the regulator has been criticised before.

Committee members have already criticised the UKGC for its decision to allow a leading industry firm, GVC Holdings, to lead its project on developing a Code of Conduct for player reward programmes, categorising this as a conflict of interest. The UKGC figures are likely to be questioned on this issue, as well as their approach to using penalties and monitoring the behaviour of betting firms.

Other areas of discussion are likely to include the ability of the UKGC to adapt to the fast-changing nature of the gambling sector, as new technology and products are unveiled.

Last week, the Committee heard from a number of top gambling companies, who emphasised the collaborative approach adopted by the industry and the regulator was the most effective. But UKGC leaders can expect significant criticism on the issue and will be pressed to reassure politicians and the public that the collaborative approach is capable of protecting consumers.

Paysafe releases 5G gambling report

Global banking operator Paysafe has provided evidence on the potential future for the gambling industry with the release of a new report on the impact of 5G technology. The report came out earlier this week and focused mainly on the major betting markets of the UK, Germany and the US.

According to the data gathered by Paysafe, 18% of people surveyed in those three gambling markets said that 5G technology could lead to them gambling on live events more frequently, while 42% of those who say that they are already regular gamblers, predict that they will be involved in live betting more frequently once 5G technology becomes widespread.

The report also suggests that players will bet on a wider range of sports using 5G, with as many as 21% of those surveyed saying they would diversify their betting.

One significant cloud on the horizon for 5G betting and in-play wagering is the potential reform of the gambling advertisement framework governing in-play gambling in Germany. Currently, in-play betting makes up more than 60% of the country’s betting market, but if there was a ban on whistle-to-whistle advertising, this could lead to betting brands downgrading their in-play markets.

As well as the projected increase in the live betting market, the report also predicts that there will be a significant increase in mobile betting. Across all three markets, existing gamblers said that they were more likely to bet using their mobiles using 5G.

Speaking about the findings, Paysafe’s Chief Business Development Officer, Daniel Kornitzer, said that 5G had the potential to prove extremely popular with online gamblers and that there was a considerable appetite for the technology, but he warned operators that they had to prepare:

“For players, it’s all about being able to place bets safely, anytime and anywhere. We would urge sports betting operators to be ready for the increased traffic on their platforms – it’s a huge opportunity for them.”

New Premier League Boss Defiant on Shirt Sponsorship

The new CEO of the Premier League, Richard Masters has issued a defiant message on the future of betting companies sponsoring football shirts.

In an interview with the UK newspaper the Guardian, Masters said that the Premier League would fight against any regulatory or legal changes that would make it harder for betting companies to get involved with this type of sponsorship.

This season, 10 of the 20 clubs in the Premier League carry gambling company shirt sponsors, including Norwich, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United.

The current state of the relationship between football clubs and the gambling sector has been a significant focus for many in the political and media spheres, as the number of clubs signing sponsorship deals with betting companies has increased. But in his interview, Masters said that the Premier League was not judgmental about clubs that struck relationships with gambling firms:

“The Premier League doesn’t have partnerships with gambling companies, we don’t sell watching bet rights, but it’s up to our clubs whether they want to have their own gambling relationships. All of them do, and a number of them are on the shirt front.”

As indicated in the Conservative Party manifesto for the recent General Election, the government is planning to review the 2005 Gambling Act. This review is set to focus on adjusting the legislation to adapt to the changes in society wrought by technology. But it has also been suggestions that they may seek to tighten up the legislation around betting and football regulations.

Masters said that the Premier League would be full participants in any such conversation, and that more action was needed to protect people at risk of gambling harm. But he added that removing gambling company shirt sponsorship from Premier League clubs was not the answer.

Playtech in Greek Deal

Game developer Playtech has struck a new digital deal, this time focused on sports betting, with the well-known Greek gaming and betting operator OPAP. Under the terms of the deal, the Playtech BGT Sports (PBS) division are to provide OPAP with the full use of the Quantum sports betting platform.

OPAP is set to be the first operator in a regulated market to take advantage of the PBS digital sports betting solution. PBS have said that the new platform should give OPAP the ability to take advantage of new revenue opportunities and will also enable it to more easily manage its sports betting product.

PBS is already a key provider of software and other gambling services in the entirety of the OPAP’s retail gambling network, and also provides support through retail betting infrastructure, thanks to a deal that was struck back in 2017. Speaking about the new arrangement, the Chief Executive at OPAP, Damian Cope, said that the existing relationship and enabled the firm to grow its sports betting product and that he was looking forward to deepening the arrangement:

“We are therefore pleased to be expanding our partnership with the adoption of the Quantum digital platform, which will provide OPAP with a number of exciting new opportunities.”

The Chief Executive at PBS, Armin Sageder also commented on the deal, saying that they were confidence that Quantum Digital would help to drive growth for OPAP.

The strengthened partnership with OPAP comes at the same time as Playtech have also extended their agreement with Mansion, another leading online operator. The five-year extension will take the partnership to 2025 and will see Playtech enhancing the Mansion product, both in the UK and Italy, including a new bespoke live casino facility, which will offer live blackjack and roulette.