November’s gambling sector woes look set to continue in December

Speaking about November 2018 in the final paragraph of his most recent monthly Licensing Expert article for SBC News, David Clifton said: “…. all in all, it has been month full of events to report. I have a feeling that this next month may be no less eventful”. So it has proven to be, at least if the following reports in The Guardian are factually correct:

The Gambling Commission does not usually comment publicly on matters it is investigating until such time as either (a) a regulatory settlement is concluded or (b) the outcome of its enforcement action is determined by a Panel of Gambling Commissioners. However, in the case of the above-mentioned allegation against Ladbrokes, a spokesperson for the Commission is reported as saying:

We are enquiring into this matter to ascertain the full circumstances. We have clear expectations of all operating and individual personal management licence holders; we expect them to work with us in an open and cooperative way including the need to disclose to us anything which we would reasonably expect to know. 

We will defer further comment until such time as matters are clarified but it will not be forgotten that:

  • William Hill incurred a penalty package of £6.2million in February 2018 for “systemic” AML and social responsibility failings,
  • Paddy Power Betfair incurred a penalty package of £2.3million in October 2018 for AML and social responsibility failings and
  • Ladbrokes subsidiary Gala Interactive incurred a penalty package of £2.3million in November 2017 for customer interaction failings.

William Hill is currently facing further regulatory issues, having been fined €300,000 by De Kansspelautoriteit (“KSA”), the Netherlands Gambling Authority, on 14 December 2018 for offering online games of chance to Dutch consumers via its WilliamHill.com website and two mobile applications.

Presently in the Netherlands, no framework for online gambling is in place and consequently, as stated on the Dutch regulator’s website: “online gambling is forbidden. It has been reported in iGaming Business that a spokesperson for William Hill has said that it will “definitely be appealing against the fine”, but in the meantime the company may have to address the following Gambling Commission concerns in relation to jurisdictions into which gambling businesses may not provide services:

We would expect a responsible operator to assess the consequences of their continuing to receive a noticeable stream of income from any jurisdiction where there are real doubts about the legality of their providing gambling services to its population.

We would not expect you to continue to supply those services without considering the applicability and enforceability of such laws to both your business and the player. Where no justifiable arguments exist to continue with such activities, we would expect you to make reasonable attempts to stop such access.

Clearly in such circumstances if you do not take reasonable steps to stop such access it may reflect on your integrity and therefore continuing suitability.

UPDATE: As reported on 27 December 2018 in iGaming Times, Ladbrokes’ parent company GVC has dismissed accusations of misconduct made by the Guardian newspaper in its above-mentioned report of 17 December 2018. GVC has said that ensuring confidentiality in dispute settlements is a standard code of practice and “is quite separate from our own reporting obligations to the Gambling Commission. We notified the commission of this case at the relevant time and will continue to cooperate with our regulator in accordance with our licensing requirements.”