The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is warning gambling operators that they face “relentless escalation” in financial penalties unless they up their compliance game.
On Thursday, the Financial Times published an interview with new UKGC CEO Neil McArthur (pictured), who related grim statistics indicating the regulator’s newfound intolerance of its licensees falling short of their social responsibility and anti-money laundering obligations.
The UKGC issued penalties totaling £18m in the 12 months ending April 1, 2018, a more than tenfold increase on the £1.6m in penalties doled out in the previous 12-month period. The numbers were juiced by the £6.2m penalty imposed on William Hill in February, a £2.5m bill handed to Gala Interactive last November and the record £7.8m penalty against 888 Holdings last August.
The carnage has continued in the three months since April 1, during which the UKGC hit 32Red with a £2m penalty for encouraging a problem gambler to keep at it while LeoVegas was dinged £600k for failing to protect self-excluded gamblers.
McArthur said the UKGC was forced to ramp up the consequences for operators’ shortcomings due to the regulator’s dissatisfaction with “the pace of change” in its licensees’ behavior. “That’s why we communicated we would make this step change in terms of penalty packages.” McArthur warned operators that the trips to the regulatory woodshed would only get more painful from this point forward “until we get the standards we expect.”
The UKGC’s latest enforcement report details, amongst other failures, 10 instances of operators allowing customers to gamble with stolen money. In January, the UKGC revealed that it was investigating 17 online casino licensees, five of whom could face a license review.