Online casino operator Mr Green Ltd has been hit with a £3m penalty by UK gambling regulators for some truly boneheaded failures to verify the sources of customer funds.
On Thursday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced that Mr Green (aka MRG) had agreed to pay £3m to the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms after the regulator uncovered “systemic failings in respect of both Mr Green’s social responsibility and AML [anti-money laundering] controls which affected a significant number of customers across its online casinos.”
The news didn’t come as any real surprise, having been flagged the day before by MRG’s parent company, UK bookmaker William Hill. The aforementioned failings were identified as part of a UKGC compliance assessment in July 2018, long before Hills officially took control of MRG last year.
The UKGC’s assessment started with an examination of three MRG customer accounts, which identified failures from both responsible gambling and AML perspectives. These failures weren’t isolated incidents, occurring over a four-year period ending November 16, 2018.
On the social responsibility front, MRG had a customer who only gambled once a month but did so using “large amounts.” The UKGC felt MRG should have investigated whether this was an individual who was paid monthly and was gambling until it was all gone.
The same customer was dubbed a VIP after he won £50k, then lost the lot and deposited thousands more pounds until his cumulative losses hit £210k. At no point was any customer interaction initiated.
On the AML front, UKGC ‘source of wealth’ policies require customers to present current documentation or other evidence, but MRG approved one customer depositing £1m into his account based on a 10-year-old insurance claims payout of £176k.
In a truly WTF moment, a different customer provided MRG with what he claimed was a photo of a laptop screen showing a cryptocurrency trading account that MRG took as sufficient proof of his wealth.
MRG subsequently undertook a voluntary review of its top-120 customers that led to the closure of 113 of those accounts because those players were unable to clear the proper AML hurdles. MRG is currently conducting an assessment of its next 130 top customers.
The UKGC has now collected over £20m in penalties from nine of its licensees in the past two years. Among the operators taken to the woodshed was William Hill, which was fined £6.2m in February 2018 for failing to properly vet the source of wealth of 10 big-spending customers.