The Gambling Commission has today (8 April 2020) published on its website the reasons for its suspension (for AML and social responsibility failings) of the operating licence of Triplebet Limited trading as “Matchbook”. We previously reported on that suspension here.
In its website posting, the Commission explains the current position as follows:
Triplebet operated a betting exchange and a remote casino under the trading name ‘Matchbook’. Its operating licence was suspended, with immediate effect, on February 17 as part of a package of sanctions for social responsibility and money laundering failings.
The investigation found serious failings in Triplebet’s approach to anti-money laundering, the monitoring of business relationships and due diligence checks into members of gambling syndicates. Serious failings were also found in the operator’s approach to social responsibility. In one case a player was able to gamble a large sum of money over the course of two days without any interaction whatsoever. Another player who registered, played and then self-excluded on the same day was subsequently able to reopen his account six months later. He then played for 10 hours a day on consecutive days and lost a large sum before self-excluding again, without any monitoring or interaction taking place.
In addition to the suspension, which will remain in place until Triplebet can prove it has implemented the remedial measures required by the Commission, the operator will pay a £740,000 fine.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “We have repeatedly made it clear that operators must put player protection at the forefront of their activities and ensure that they have effective anti-money laundering processes in place. We will not hesitate to use our regulatory powers, including the suspension and revocation of licences, if we need to do that to protect consumers and the public from gambling related harm.
“Any operator that doubted that we were ready and willing to use the full range of our regulatory powers should think again. All operators need to learn the lessons from this case and our other enforcement cases.’’
Since January the Commission has suspended the operating licences of Stakers Limited, Addison Global Limited and International Multi-Media Entertainments Limited.
You can download below the Commission’s decision notice following the review of Triplebet’s operating licence, a process that commenced as long ago as 13 August 2018, prompting the question why – with such damning evidence as is referred to within the decision notice – the Commission waited more than 18 months (i.e. until the determination of that review by its Regulatory Panel) before suspending the licence.
It is also worth noting that, in imposing a financial penalty of £739,099 (which included Commission costs of £98,351) for the failure by Triplebet to ensure compliance with LCCP Social Responsibility Code 3.4.1, a “deterrence uplift” was applied, which the Panel considered to be justified on account of the following aggravating factors (and the absence of any mitigating factors):
- the breaches spanned a period of three years
- they arose in circumstances similar to previous cases resulting in publication of lessons to be learned
- the breaches continued even during the review proceedings until Triplebet suspended syndicate betting on 9th August 2019
- Triplebet’s responsible gambling policy did not cover what is required by Social Responsibility Code 3.4.1 until June 2018.
In relation to item 3 above, it is particularly to be noted that, in its decision notice, the Commission has stated as follows in relation to betting syndicates:
One of Triplebet’s main customers was a syndicate, whose lead contributor was a professional gambler, who also held a beneficial interest in Triplebet itself.
Over an 18-month period from November 2016, the syndicate matched bets on the Exchange totalling in excess of $55 million, without any documented risk assessment.
Triplebet submitted that its actual customer was the lead contributor of the syndicate and that therefore there was no obligation upon it to ascertain the identities of the other contributors or consider their source of funds or source of wealth. The Panel found that the consequence was that gamblers had been permitted to gamble very large sums without due diligence.
By the date of the hearing, Triplebet had suspended activity for all syndicates pending the carrying out of due diligence on their contributors in line with a policy which remained to be developed.
Also worthy of specific note is the unsurprising rejection of “general arguments advanced by Triplebet“, including the following:
- Triplebet argued that as the review had uncovered no evidence of money laundering, the Panel should conclude that its business model presented no substantial risk of money laundering. The Panel held that the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations and licence conditions were focussed on taking steps properly to identify risks and then mitigate them.
- The Panel also rejected Triplebet’s case that its general knowledge of its VIP customers sufficed, given Triplebet’s failure in breach of the Money Laundering Regulations and licence conditions to maintain appropriate records of its alleged monitoring.
- As stated above, the Panel rejected Triplebet’s case that professional gamblers can always be regarded as low risk for money laundering.
- The Panel also rejected Triplebet’s argument that the Commission ought to have provided a greater level of guidance as to the standards it required, including relating to syndicates, since the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations are clear and in any event Triplebet had failed to seek appropriate professional advice as to its obligations prior to June 2019.
Given the circumstances described in the Commission’s decision notice, we believe that Triplebet can count itself lucky that its operating licence was merely suspended, rather than revoked, by the Commission.
UPDATE: It was reported by SBC News on 12 August 2020 that the Gambling Commission has lifted the suspension of Matchbook’s operating licence following implementation of “significant improvements to its compliance practices”. A Matchbook spokesperson was quoted as saying:
This announcement marks the culmination of many months of hard work and investment across our entire business.
We are extremely proud of the dedication and commitment of our staff during a very challenging economic period that has enabled Matchbook to once again offer a much improved exchange platform to UK residents as we continue to grow our market share and deliver an industry leading platform and liquidity pool for our customers.
We’re pleased to announce that our license suspension has been lifted and we are working hard to get the site back up and running as soon as possible. We can’t wait to welcome you all back to Matchbook in the coming days.