The UK Gambling Commission has continued to enforce its rules and regulations recently. On January 17 UKGC announced that Vivaro Limited will pay £337,631 ($420,000) after a series of setbacks. The next day, January 18, The UKGC imposed a fine of £442,750 ($550,000) against TonyBetwho also runs tonybet.co.uk.
Both penalized companies operate popular online sports betting and casino sites that serve consumers in the United Kingdom. The UKGC alleges that Tonybet maintains a number of unfair rules for its customers, and Vivaro Limited is paying a penalty due to failings in anti-money laundering (AML) procedures and safer gambling procedures.
Basic information about TonyBet and Vivaro Limited
Vivaro Limited is somewhat of an unknown name in the gambling space, but operates a number of notable UK-focused gambling websites, including Playland Casino, Vbet Casino and Pixiebet UK. Vivaro Limited is also known trading as Vbet.
TonyBet is an online gambling company that offers a wide range of services including sports betting and casino games. TonyBet was first established in and mainly operates in the UK and Estonia markets as it is licensed to do so.
TonyBet was originally founded by cheeky Lithuanian poker player Antanas Guoga, also known as Tony G. Although the company still bears the same name these days, Tony G no longer has anything to do with TonyBet after selling the company to Sweden’s Betsson AB in late 2016. Today, Tony is heavily involved in Lithuanian politics and is associated with a fast-growing crypto poker site CoinPoker.
One of TonyBet’s more notable offerings was its online multiplayer poker room, which was heavily focused on Open Face Chinese Poker, making it one of the few destinations to play this format with real funds. The card room software debuted in late 2013 and offers multi-table tournaments, sit-and-go games, and cash games. However, TonyBet’s poker room closed in July 2020, although the casino and sports betting divisions continue to this day.
What did TonyBet and Vivaro Limited do wrong?
As is the case with the vast majority of these types of fines imposed by the UKGC and various other government organizations around the world, the issues with both companies relate to safe gambling procedures and AML policies. As for TonyBet, the UKGC claims that TonyBet maintains a number of unfair rules for its players. Other issues mentioned include improper AML controls.
TonyBet was fined £442,750 ($550,000) for failing to follow fair and transparent rules in running its online gambling business. The UKGC alleged that TonyBet included the following terms which were deemed unfair:
- TonyBet can request documentation to receive “all withdrawals” as long as the company has not insisted on such verification earlier in the relationship, potentially delaying or stopping withdrawals but allowing infinite deposits
- Customers’ winnings can be forfeited in full if they fail to provide anti-money laundering documentation within just 30 days
- Customer accounts would only be considered dormant after six months of inactivity, but there is a 12 month requirement to be considered dormant accounts
TonyBet will also need to pass a third-party assessment to determine whether it effectively implements social responsibility and anti-money laundering requirements. The complaint alleges that TonyBet did not do a good enough job of implementing AML and safer gambling procedures. The fine imposed explains this fact and the third-party audit may lead to further action if necessary.
Vivaro Limited will pay £337,631 ($420,000) as part of a regulatory settlement with the UKGC. The review found that Vivaro had numerous failures in terms of money laundering procedures and safer gambling. Between October 2020 and June 2021, Vivaro did not comply with the License Terms and Codes of Practice. Error details are included below:
- Vivaro did not sufficiently consider the risks associated with using cryptocurrency for betting
- Vivaro performed ineffective AML checks and had a high threshold for these checks. In addition, Vivaro allowed customers to continue depositing without proper inquiries about the source of funds
- The levels at which an AML check will be triggered are simply too high
- Vivaro failed to provide proper guidance on how staff should verify the source of funds and what specific documents should be requested
- Vivaro allowed customers to deposit significant amounts of money before customer checks or KYC were done
Details of settlements
In relation to TonyBet, the UKGC found that the licensee breached license condition 7.1.1 in relation to fair and transparent terms and practices, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of license condition 12.1.1, which relates to AML procedures and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing and paragraph 1 of license condition 12.1.2 on anti-money laundering procedures. In addition, TonyBet breached license condition 15.2.16, which is failure to report any significant event, as well as breaching social responsibility code of practice 3.4.1, which relates to customer interaction.
As a result, UKGC to fine £442,750 ($550,000) under section 121(1) of the Gambling Act in addition to issuing a formal warning and adding an additional condition to TonyBet’s licence.
Vivaro Limited, which also trades as Vbet, will pay more than £337,631 ($420,000) following a regulatory settlement over the company’s failings. The Regulatory Agreement Package consists of the items listed below:
- A payment of £302,500 (US$375,700) will go to the National Responsible Gambling Strategy project to research, treat and tackle the risk of harmful gambling
- Sale for £35,131 ($43,500)
- Vivaro must undergo a third-party audit within 12 months and the audit must be provided to the Commission within five working days of its completion
- Payment of £15,606.50 ($19,375) towards UKGC investigation costs
The UKGC constantly enforces and fines operators
Over the last few years, the UKGC has been enforcing its rules and regulations with increasing regularity. In August 2022, the UKGC fined Entain Group £17 million (US$21.1 million) for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.
Back in October 2022, the UKGC fined GGPoker and its parent company, NSUS limited, £672,829 ($835,660). Just one month earlier, in September 2022, the UKGC fined Betfred and Oddsking a whopping £2.87m ($3.5m) for similar AML and safer gambling controls.
To be clear, this type of enforcement is nothing new. Back in October 2018, the UKGC fined Paddy Power Betfair £2.2m ($2.7m) and in July 2019 LadBrokes Coral was fined £5.9m ($7.33m).
Safe poker and online gambling galore in the UK and beyond
Although the UKGC’s enforcement actions may create some anxiety and worry in the online gambling community, there are still plenty of reliable options for UK players to bet on, including at offshore sites not under UKGC control. We highly recommend checking out TigerGaming.com if you are at all interested in online poker, casino games or UK sports betting.
For players located in other parts of the world, there are certainly many other excellent online poker options out there. For US players, we would highly recommend checking out this comprehensive guide to playing online poker in the US Australian players are encouraged to check out this detailed guide to playing online poker in Australia.