The UK Gambling Commission has once again been out in force, this time fining two gambling brands. The online operators 32Red and Platinum Gaming were on the receiving end of those fines. Together, the penalties totalled up to £7.1 million for failures in two, by now, familiar areas. Social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) issues cropped up for both. 32Red Limited operates the 32red.com platform, while Platinum Gaming operates unibet.co.uk.
The Commission issued the penalties on Thursday, March 23. The 32Red brand is set to pay £4,195,655 of the £7.1 million total. Platinum Gaming must thus pick up the remaining £2,937,599 sum. Both of the gambling operators have also received official warnings from the UKGC.
The £7.1 million fine stands out as another in a long line of penalties for gambling brands. It was only in the middle of February that Blue Star Planet received a £620,000 fine to pay. The operator, which runs 10bet, came to a settlement with the regulatory body. Its failures also surrounded the AML and social responsibility sectors.
The Failures of 32Red and Platinum Gaming Explained
The story behind the penalties issued to 32Red and Platinum Gaming is not an unfamiliar one. The Commission has targeted various companies for their failures in the same areas. Specifics relating to these two brands are as follows:
- 32Red failed to identify customers who may have been experiencing gambling related harm. The gambling session times of various players should have prompted action.
- Ineffective controls at 32Red for identifying and protecting potential problem gamblers. One customer was able to deposit £43,000 and lose £36,000 in a period of seven days.
- 32Red carried out and logged customer interactions. Yet the investigation found that they lacked in depth and probing. The operator only settled for player assurance that they were comfortable with their gambling.
- Platinum Gaming did not have effective procedures in place for identifying separate accounts. Self-excluded or blocked clients were able to register with Platinum Gaming despite this.
- Platinum Gaming also failed to identify and interact with clients suffering potential problem gambling.
Of course, it wasn’t only social responsibility that these two companies failed at. Their lack of abilities in preventing money laundering were also highlighted.
- 32Red did not install measures from the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds guide.
- Financial triggers for AML reviews at 32Red were too high. These were also inappropriate to manage money laundering in an effective way.
- 32Red customers subject to a Source of Funds (SoF) check were not restricted from gambling. They could still deposit and play games within the two-week period they could respond.
- One 32Red account was not deposit blocked following the expiry of an information request deadline. Thus, the customer was able to deposit and gamble £16,820 altogether. They also lost £8,321 for an extra two weeks after that deadline.
- Platinum Gaming also had inappropriate policies and procedures relating to AML.
- The Platinum Gaming brand failed to ensure its procedures remained under review. It also did not revise these to keep them effective.
These problems are not new to the gambling industry in the UK. The Commission has investigated and highlighted similar issues with many brands. At the start of 2023, InTouch Games also received a £6.1 million penalty for the same problems.
Speaking on the fine handed out, Kay Roberts of the Commission noted the failures highlighted the issues. The executive director of the UKGC said that the investigations revealed a lot. Policies and procedures were not effective at both companies.
“Ultimately, it is an example which all gambling operators should take notice of to ensure they protect their customers at all times”, she commented.
The Gambling Companies Respond to the Penalties
It is common for operators to put their own statements out when fined by a regulatory body. This is the case with the recent fines for 32Red and Platinum Gaming. The chief executive of the latter brand, Henrik Tjarnstrom, said:
“While we accept the outcome, and the acknowledgement that we have already taken significant steps to strengthen our processes, we also recognise that we need to work even harder to ensure a safe and compliant business”.
Tjarnstorm also noted that the Commission had recognised the operations are improving. This, he said, showed that the company is still fit to hold a UK gambling licence. He finished off by saying that the efforts of the brand are being doubled down. This will help them reach zero problem gamblers accessing their sites in the future.
The comments from the co-founder of charity Gambling with Lives were less positive, though. Charles Ritchie said that the companies fined are both “well-known high street” brands. He spoke of the celebrity endorsements that they have had. Yet they have continued to act with “complete disregard” for the health and lives of people. “We see the families whose lives have been shattered as a result”, he noted.
Since the start of 2023, the Commission has handed out a selection of penalties. Vivaro Limited was the first of these to receive such on January 17. Again, this was due to AML and social responsibility failures. Vivaro had to pay a fine of £337,631. Several other penalties have come to light since then, continuing the pattern from 2022.
In total, the UKGC has issued fines amounting to £33.8 million in 2023 so far. That figure runs up to the end of March, so there are still nine months of the year to go. The likelihood is that various other penalties will come to light throughout. Last year, the total reached more than £76 million for failures by operators.
The total in 2023 so far is as high as it is due to the recent penalty imposition on William Hill. The company received a record £19.2 million fine on Tuesday, March 28. Three of the firms under the William Hill name had masses of failures discovered. They include the williamhill.com and mrgreen.com platforms.