Following a series of failings in social responsibility and anti-money laundering practices, as well as unfair terms and conditions, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission has fined TonyBet £442,750 (€503,768/$545,555). TonyBet is a veteran online gaming company that offers sports betting, live betting, and live gaming services to an international audience. Its failure to meet the UKGC's licensing requirements is surprising but also highlights the importance of a regulatory authority regularly reviewing casino operator activity.
In addition to the fine, TonyBet was instructed to undergo a third-party audit to assess its anti-money laundering (AML) and social responsibility requirements.
What did the UKGC find?
In its review of TonyBet, the UKGC found that the operator could request identification documents several times upon a player’s requests for withdrawals but not before a player’s deposits. This makes it much easier to deposit but not easy to withdraw.
Additionally, the Commission found that TonyBet allowed itself to confiscate player winnings if it didn’t provide AML documents within 30 days. The operator also marked accounts dormant after six months of player inactivity, whereas the standard is 12 months.
TonyBet also failed to identify customers who displayed signs of problematic gambling behaviors. When customers were identified, the operator failed to interact with them in an effective way.
In terms of AML failures, the UKGC found that TonyBet neglected to implement sufficient risk assessment and prevention policies for money laundering and terrorist financing, which were quite severe failures.
Cracking down despite criticism
The UKGC has been cracking down on online gambling operators in an effort to create a more controlled and consumer-centric industry. In addition to cracking down on TonyBet, it recently fined Vivaro Limited, the parent company of BetConstruct, sports betting and iGaming platform, £337,631 as a regulatory settlement for failures to meet AML and player protection requirements.
The Commission's activity has led to some backlash, notably, member of Parliament Philip Davies, who has criticized the Commission as “out of control.” While his comments were made following a specific case in which the UKGC demanded financial documents from bookmaker and poker player Joe Beevers, he stated that the UKGC has been overstepping its bounds and is no longer necessary.
Despite the criticism, the UKGC will continue to regulate and oversee gambling operations in the UK. While operators or MPs may not like it, the Commission’s standards are set in place for the main purposes of consumer protection and fraud prevention. These are standards worth upholding.