As part of Safer Gambling Week 2022, VIXIO has been taking a look at industry fines related to safer gambling failings. Our findings highlight how increased enforcement has contributed to a record total of fines.
The value of fines levied on gambling companies in the United Kingdom has soared to a record £43m across 15 separate penalties through the first nine months of 2022, showing a year-on-year increase of 118 percent and smashing the market’s previous full-year peak of £34m from eight fines in 2020.
Having adopted a steadily more active role in terms of operator scrutiny and enforcement since the onset of a new online licensing regime at the end of 2014, the UK Gaming Commission (UKGC) has imposed more than 50 penalties, collectively amounting to more than £140m since the start of 2016.
The £17m fine issued to Entain in August this year represented the largest sanction levied by the regulator to date, after an investigation uncovered social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures within the group’s sprawling online and land-based businesses between 2019 and 2020.
According to VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s Enforcement Tracker, Entain’s £17m penalty broke the previous record £13m fine enforced against Caesars Entertainment in 2020 for a catalogue of social responsibility, money laundering and customer interaction failures, including those involving “VIPs”, across its land-based casino estate in the UK.
In its latest annual report on compliance and enforcement, the UKGC stated that the record £32.1m paid in fines by 15 companies in 2020/21 was reflective of weaknesses in the two specific areas of social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML), with sanctioned operators “either not making suitable resources available or… simply putting commercial objectives ahead of regulatory ones”.
In comparison, the Swedish Gambling Authority, Europe’s second most active regulator from an enforcement perspective, has imposed fines amounting to £28.4m since the beginning of 2019, totalling around one-fifth of the UKGC’s total over the same period.
The 15 UK fines issued in the year-to-date have already surpassed last year’s record tally of 12 and amount to twice the volume of financial sanctions levied in 2019.
More Rigorous Approach
This ramp up in fines, mostly corresponding to historical failings recorded prior to the start of 2021, has run in parallel with the introduction of more rigorous approaches to safer gambling and affordability checks, codified in the industry’s licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP), and ahead of the pending overhaul of the country’s gambling laws.
Entain chief executive Jette Nygaard-Anderson told analysts during a Q2 trading update in July: “Affordability has really been a journey for us since the GC came out with guidelines back in late 2020 … all operators have worked through the last 18 months in implementing tighter measures here, like thresholds and different affordability checks.”
Revenue headwinds arising from more stringent approaches to safer gambling in the UK have been an overarching theme during this year’s summer reporting period.
Interim earnings statements from Entain, Flutter and 888 each cited enhanced safer gambling initiatives as the key driver of double-digit declines in UK online revenue in the first half of this year.
Although these measures have already had a clear top-line impact, the lag between regulatory failings and the fines being imposed for those failings means the effect of this widely reported culture shift on enforcement trends is unlikely to become clear until 2024.
Coming towards the end of an already record-breaking 2022, the volume and value of fines levied by the UK regulator show no sign of slowing down. With greater regulatory scrutiny and more rigorous enforcement, organisations are under greater pressure to remain compliant and protect their customers. VIXIO GamblingCompliance provides a monitoring and tracking solution that keeps you ahead of safer gambling regulations and ensures that you are aware of all relevant requirements in your chosen jurisdictions.