The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) regularly penalizes operators who breach its rules and regulations. On January 25, 2023 The UKGC has announced that an online gambling operator known as In Touch Games has been fined £6.1 million ($7.56 million) after thorough investigation.
The UKGC carried out an investigation which revealed numerous anti-money laundering and social responsibility gaps. In Touch Games operates 11 websites that serve UK customers and the company has already failed a previous compliance test last March.
What is In Touch Games?
In Touch Games is a self-defined technology company with a specific focus on developing mobile casino and gaming solutions. In Touch was founded in 2001 by Caroline Wilson, Emil Nestor and Simon Wilson. The brand launched its flagship mobile casino called mFortune Casino in 2007 and has grown to operate at least 11 online gaming brands.
In Touch Games went on to open various online casinos, including bonusboss.co.uk, cashmo.co.uk and jammymonkey.com, after mFortune debuted in 2007. The brand operates at least 11 online casino brands that boast a large variety of games including slots, bingo and table games. All 11 brands involved in the complaint are licensed and regulated by the UKGC.
What did In Touch Games do wrong?
In Touch Games operates a number of online gambling websites serving the UK, so it is important that all their brands follow the rules and regulations set by the UKGC. The UKGC carried out a thorough investigation which revealed the following failings in social responsibility and anti-money laundering:
- Lack of customer interaction after customer account has been flagged for extended play periods and erratic play patterns
- Relying on a client’s word that they are making £6,000 a month without due diligence; the account has been flagged for gambling during so-called “off hours”
- It does not take into account the level of risk associated with potential high-risk jurisdictions, politically exposed persons and the potential for related money laundering and terrorist financing
- Failure to comply with the Commission’s Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment or direct Commission guidance, including previous sanctions
- Failure to ensure policies and procedures are implemented, including failure to comply with own policy of requiring source of funds information from all customers who have deposited and lost at least £10,000 in a one-year period
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the UKGC has penalized In Touch Games for such violations. Back in 2019, In Touch paid a fine of £2.2 million ($2.73 million) for regulatory failings. In 2021, In Touch received a further £3.4 million ($4.2 million) fine and warning for its failings.
Kay Roberts is UKGC’s Chief Operating Officer and she had this to say about the recent fine:
Given this operator’s history of failures, we expected to see significant improvement when we performed our planned compliance assessment.
Disappointingly, although many improvements were made, there was more to do.
This £6.1 million fine shows that we will take escalating enforcement measures where mistakes are repeated and all licensees should be aware of this.
Details of the financial penalty
This time, the UKGC increased the penalty to a whopping £6.1 million ($7.56 million). The size of this fine is likely due to the fact that In Touch has already been fined twice by the UKGC for very similar offences. The commission found that In Touch Games violated the following license terms:
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1, paragraph 1
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1, paragraph 2
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1(3)
- Interactions with customers under regulation 3.4.1 of the social responsibility code, paragraphs 1b, 1c and 2
The exact amount of the fine is £6,133,310 ($7,598,723), which the Commission imposed under section 121(1) of the Gambling Act. The Commission noted that In Touch Games cooperated with the Commission during the investigation, acknowledged the deficiencies and took immediate corrective action. It is somewhat unclear what the funds will be used for in this case. The UKGC often makes it clear what the funds will be spent on, but no information on this topic was included this time.
While the UKGC always claims to have the best interests of consumers at heart, we can’t help but question whether this kind of enforcement is necessary or useful at all. The commission referred to a customer betting during an “unsociable hour”, which is extremely vague and seemingly meaningless as it relates to online gambling.
It is clear that most people cannot participate in online gaming during working hours, which leaves evenings, late evenings and early mornings as the preferred times for most gambling activities. However, unemployed people or those working night shifts, on the contrary, would naturally gamble during the day.
So what hours are considered “non-sociable”? Is it really the UKGC’s place to ensure that gambling operators only offer services to customers during certain ‘social’ hours? Whatever the views of the authorities on communal or non-communal hours, we can clearly hear the clocks striking thirteen.
This kind of regulatory micromanagement seems unlikely to tackle problem gambling or help consumers. None of the funds will be returned to the losing players, and as this is the third time the operator has been fined more than £1m, the enforcement seems to have had little or no impact, apart from lining the pockets of course of the Commission.
Previous UKGC performance
The UKGC has recently cracked down on overzealous operators. Earlier this month, the UKCG fined TonyBet and Vivaro Limited for similar AML and social responsibility breaches. Last August, the UKGC targeted the Entain Group when it imposed a whopping £17 million ($21 million) fine.
The examples of these types of fines seem endless, as the UKGC has been punishing operators consistently since at least 2016 when it fined Paddy Power £300,000+ ($371,678+) for offenses very similar to this case with In Touch Games. In 2018, the Commission fined Paddy Power Betfair £2.2 million ($2.73 million) following Betfair’s acquisition of PaddyPower.
One of the largest penalties was imposed in 2020 when the UKGC fined Caesars Entertainment £13 million ($16 million) due to numerous system failings. This was the largest fine ever until the recent fine against Entain Group. It doesn’t look like the UKGC will stop issuing these types of fines until operators start following its restrictive rules and procedures.
The UKGC is also working to ensure that all UK operators comply with GAMSTOP, a self-exclusion tool for potential problem gamblers. In addition, the UKGC made several regulatory changes in 2020 to effectively ban the use of credit cards associated with online gambling. The effectiveness of these efforts in actually helping or reducing problem gambling is somewhat questionable.
You can play poker and bet online safely today
Despite the UKGC’s efforts to enforce its rules and penalize game providers, there are still plenty of reliable gambling options for UK players and players around the world. For UK players we highly recommend checking out TigerGaming.com. TigerGaming has a wide range of casino games, sports betting and online poker. To learn more about this trusted operator, feel free to check out this detailed TigerGaming review.
Players who may live elsewhere also have very solid choices when it comes to online gambling sites. Feel free to check out the guides included below to learn all about the best gambling options available in your area.