Thursday, 18 March 2021

UKGC Fines Operator In Touch Games £3.4M Over Multiple Failings

UK Gambling Commission In Touch Games

The UK Gambling Commission has fined operator In Touch Games £3.4 million after identifying multiple failings.

The gambling operator owns websites such as Dr Slot, Casino2020, PocketWin, SlotFactory, Cashmo, mFortune, and more, and received the whopping fine along with an official warning. The sanctions come after the Commission conducted an assessment and found failures relating to marketing, social responsibility, and money laundering.

According to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) website, the social responsibility failings by In Touch Games included stating in its Responsible Gambling Team interaction guidance that a bonus can be offered to users if they provide identification and for failing to follow its policies and procedures regarding customer interaction for seven customers who showed signs of problem gambling.

The UKGC, which issued warnings to staff members at Caesars UK, also states that In Touch Games failed to use all relevant sources of information to ensure effective decision making and to guide and deliver effective customer interactions for the aforementioned seven customers.

The Commission’s assessment also found multiple anti-money laundering failings, which included having a risk assessment that failed to take into account the risk of allowing customers to use a payment provider which also acts as a cryptocurrency exchange. The operator reportedly also neglected to conduct appropriate levels of Enhanced Customer Due Diligence and failed to review source of funds information.

According to the Commission, a new license condition has been imposed in In Touch Games, requiring it at its own expense to instruct a firm of independent auditors to carry out an audit to ensure full compliance to the Commission’s License Conditions and Codes of Practice.

Speaking about the sanction on In Touch Games, the UK Gambling Commission Executive Director Richard Watson said: “Through our challenging compliance and enforcement activity we will continue our work to raise standards in the industry and continue to hold failing operators to account.”

The UKGC and Football Index Controversy

News of the UK Gambling Commission’s sanction comes after Neil McArthur announced his immediate departure as Chief Executive at the regulatory body, and as the organisation has come under fire for its handling of Football Index and its collapse.

According to SBC News, Football Index went into administration earlier this month after both players and investors pulled out of the operator following its decision to reduce dividends on footballers from 14p to 3p. The decision caused customers to lose thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds in share investments. BetIndex, the website’s owner, subsequently suspended all trading, the UK Gambling Commission suspended the website’s operating license, and the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) revoked its BGC membership.

However, campaigners, Football Index customers, and other voices have criticised the UK Gambling Commission for taking too long to intervene and for failing to protect consumers. MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling-Related Harm (GRH APPG) have even written a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, claiming that the Commission’s failure highlights the need for gambling reform.

As obtained by SBC News, Carolyn Haris, the Chair of the GRH APPG, wrote in the letter: “This can only be termed a scandal. It underlines the need for wholesale reform of the gambling industry and raises significant questions of the Gambling Commission, given they saw fit to license this platform and failed to enact adequate oversight.”

Meanwhile, a group of bettors affected by Football Index’s closure have reportedly begun legal action against the operator with law firm Leigh Day, and Conservative John Whittingdale, who has now overtaken the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, has held “frank discussions” with the Commission over its handling of Football Index.

888 Reports Increased Revenue And Profit In Last Year

As the controversy surrounding the UK Gambling Commission heightens, leading gambling operator 888 Holdings has revealed that its group revenue increased by 52% to $849.7 million in the 12 months to December 31, 2020. What’s more, 888 reported 63% growth in UK revenues and adjusted profit before tax rose by a whopping 118% to $116 million, boosted by a 58% growth in regulated markets as gamers took to gambling online.

According to City AM, the news comes after 888 launched its Poker8 mobile poker platform, which the operator says “received a strong reaction from players”. What’s more, 888 has reported strong performance in the United States and expects further growth as it has plans on launching in a further three new states in the country.

Itai Pazner, the CEO of 888, said in a statement: “2020 was a landmark year for 888, with our team navigating the many challenges presented by a global pandemic to deliver record financial results and significant progress against our strategic priorities. Our product leadership strategy delivered outstanding results in 2020, with the launch of our ground-breaking Control Centre, our first-ever in-house sportsbook and a totally new poker platform.

“Our focus on delivering safe, intuitive, content-rich and entertaining products is helping us to deliver a differentiated customer experience and supporting our market share gains in key regulated markets. We welcomed a record number of new members to our brands, nearly one and a half million, with our differentiated products and our big data supporting highly effective marketing. We are pleased with our continued progress in the US and, with three new states set to launch in 2021, we are poised to see the scale benefits of our investments here.”

Pazner added: “We enter 2021 with strong momentum, with a record level of customers and with a positive reaction to our suite of new products and innovations. As a result, as well as the group’s strengths as a product-centric, responsible and diversified operator, the board believes that 888 has an outstanding platform to deliver continued strategic progress during 2021 and beyond.”