Significant increase in fines
According to the Gambling Industry Fines tracker, non-US gambling regulators issued over £44.7m ($60.25m) worth of fines to operators around the world in 2020. The total is a 175% rise compared to the 2019 total of a little more than £16m ($21.6m).
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA), and the New South Wales Liquor and Gaming Authority in Australia were the global operators whose fines were part of this tracker.
the largest fine that the UKGC has ever issued
The largest of these penalties went to Caesars Entertainment UK. The UKGC fined the global casino operator £13m in April because of systemic failings in its dealings with VIP customers. This was the largest fine that the UKGC has ever issued.
The failings related to a period between January 2016 and December 2018, when the company operated 11 casinos across the United Kingdom. High rollers who displayed clear signs of gambling addiction were able to keep playing, while Caesars did not adequately check the sources of funds on major customers. The money that the UKGC received from this record fine went toward the national strategy to reduce gambling harm.
A variety of offenses
As well the record fine for Caesars, there were some other notable penalties for operators around the world recorded by the fine tracker. The second-biggest fine during the course of the year went to Betway, receiving an £11.6m ($15.6m) penalty from the UKGC.
The gambling authority had discovered both systemic and historic failings related to Betway’s VIP customers, specifically violating anti-money laundering and social responsibility rules. The UKGC also found that £5.8m ($7.8m) in crime money went through Betway’s online gambling platforms.
The SGA issued the third-largest fine in 2020 to the Kindred Group. This £8.3m ($11.2m) penalty related to failings within the company for offering illegal bonuses to players in Sweden. Some of the other operators to receive fines included BoyleSports Enterprise, GAN, NetBet, Mr Green, and GVC Australia.
Cracking down on errant operators
In recent years, there has been a strong push to clamp down on VIP player practices. Failures relating to these high rollers have been a major reason for the significant fines handed out during the course of 2020.
The UKGC introduced new strict rules for the management of VIP programs in October 2020. These new rules mean that there are more comprehensive affordability checks that players have to undergo before receiving VIP classification.
the UKGC has threatened to ban VIP programs entirely
There were also more extensive risk indicators put in place and licensees must conduct ongoing verification and gambling harm checks on their VIP players. If operators do not clean up their acts, the UKGC has threatened to ban VIP programs entirely.
The SGA has also been very strict when it comes to protecting players, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authorities introduced very strict limits on weekly deposits, playing time, and bonuses at online casinos. These rules will remain in place for the time being.