UKGC fines Unibet and 32Red £7.1m: Social responsibility and AML FAILURES
United Kingdom Gambling Commission aka UKGC, is responsible for regulating UK gambling operators. On March 23, 2023 UKGC slaps huge £7.1m ($8.68m) fine on 32Red and Platinum Gaming Limited.
32Red Limited, who is responsible for the operation of 32red.com, has been ordered to pay over £4,195,655 ($5,130,027) to the UKGC. Platinum Gaming, the company that runs unibet.co.uk, will have to pay £2,937,599 ($3,591,802) to the UKGC. Both brands are part of Kindred Group plc and the sanctions imposed reflect anti-money laundering failures and social responsibility concerns.
32Red and Unibet are popular UK gambling operators
Unibet, originally founded in 1997, now focuses on providing a variety of online gambling games, including sports betting, casino games and online poker. The Unibet brand mostly serves customers in the United Kingdom, although the brand has launched projects in other parts of the world, such as when Unibet debuted on the regulated online gaming market in Pennsylvania in 2019.
32 Red was founded in 2002 and the brand mainly focuses on providing casino games such as blackjack, roulette and slots. The site offers more than 500 casino games to customers across the UK.
It is important to note that both of these brands are now under the umbrella of the Kindred Group of brands. The Kindred Group plc operates nine gambling brands serving millions of customers worldwide. Besides 32Red and Unibet, Kindred also operates Maria Casino, CasinoHuone, Otto Casino, Bingo.com, kolikkopelit, Vlad Casino and Storspiller (Highroller Casino).
£7.1 million is a hefty fine
32Red Limited and Platinum Gaming Limited (Unibet) are part of Kindred Group plc. The two brands have been fined a total of £7.1 million for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures. The investigation revealed the following specific violations of social responsibility:
- 32Red allowed an individual to deposit £43,000 ($52,576) and lose £36,000 ($44,017) within seven days.
- 32Red failed to conduct sufficient customer interactions. Interactions took place and were recorded, but they were often superficial and relied on assurances from clients that they were truly comfortable with their exposure and level of risk.
- The timing of gambling sessions at 32Red should have led to earlier identification of clients at risk of gambling-related harm.
- Platinum Gaming does not identify or interact with customers who may have suffered gambling-related harm.
In addition, the UKGC identified the following anti-money laundering failures through its investigation:
- 32Red supports financial triggers for AML reviews that are too high. Customers were allowed to bet significant sums for short periods of time without proper verification
- The measures described in Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds have not been properly implemented by 32Red.
- 32Red customers subject to source of funds or source of wealth requests were in most cases unrestricted from gambling and depositing during the two-week time period allowed by the operator to reasonably respond to the request. This led to additional deposits and losses.
- 32 Red relied too heavily on the assurance that funds coming through Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated firms removed the risk of proceeds of criminal activity.
- One particular 32Red account was not blocked deposit after the deadline for requesting information has already passed. The customer was allowed to continue to deposit, betting a total of £16,280 ($19,905) and losing £8,321 ($10,064) for another two weeks, until his account was permanently blocked.
- Platinum Gaming’s AML policies, procedures and controls were not adequate.
- Platinum Gaming failed to ensure that policies, procedures and controls were properly reviewed and revised to ensure they remained effective.
Kay Roberts is the Gambling Commission’s Chief Operating Officer and she had this to say about this recent enforcement action:
These errors clearly highlight that both operators failed to interact with customers in a way that minimized the risk of them suffering gambling-related harm. Our investigations also revealed that policies and procedures were being disregarded, both with respect to customer accounts and anti-money laundering practices.
Ultimately, this is an example that all gambling operators should take note of to ensure they protect their customers at all times.
Specific details of the violations
As part of the Commission’s investigation, the Commission found that 32Red breached paragraphs 2 and 3 of license condition 12.1.1., which relates to the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing. 32Red was also found to have breached paragraph 1 of license condition 12.1.2., which deals with measures for operators in foreign jurisdictions. The commission also found that 32Red did not comply with paragraphs 1 and 2 of the social responsibility code (SRCP) 3.4.1, which outlines the rules for interacting with customers.
As a result of these specific failures, 32Red ordered to hand over £4,195,655 ($5,130,027). The brand will also receive a formal warning under section 117 (a) of the Gambling Act.
The Commission also found that Unibet had breached many of the same provisions as 32Red. Unibet has breached paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of license condition 12.1.1. and license condition 12.1.2. In addition, the brand also failed to comply with paragraphs 1 and 2 of SRCP 3.4.1 and 3.9.1, which relate to the identification of individual customers.
As a result of these findings, Platinum Gaming (Unibet) will have to share over £2,937,599 ($3,591,802). Platinum Gaming has also been issued with a formal warning under section 117 (a) of the Gambling Act. The commission noted that both 32Red and Platinum Gaming cooperated with the investigation and took steps to address the deficiencies identified.
The UKGC takes serious action against infringements
For at least the last few years, the UKGC has been increasing the amount of fines issued as it aims to tackle such offences. Back in August 2022, the agency fined Entain Group £17 million ($21 million) for violations that are eerily similar to those in the current complaint against 32Red and Unibet. Just two months later, the UKGC fined GG Poker and its parent company.
The amount of fines imposed by the UKGC appears to vary on a case-by-case basis. Another example of serious enforcement action took place in 2020, when Caesars was fined £13 million ($16 million). Larger fines, such as the £7.1 million ($8.68 million) penalty against 32Red and Unibet, certainly send a stronger message to operators.
Gambling opportunities are still present in the UK
Fortunately, despite the UKGC and its enforcement methods, safe gambling and online poker still exist for UK players. For any UK residents who might be looking for a reliable offshore operator who doesn’t have to deal with the UKGC then you might want to check out TigerGaming.com. Tiger Gaming offers multiple types of gambling including poker, casino games and sports betting. To learn more about this reputable operator and the various bonuses on offer, be sure to check out this detailed Tiger Gaming review.
For anyone else who may live elsewhere outside the UK, we’ve prepared detailed guides covering the best gambling opportunities in different parts of the world. To learn more, feel free to check out our gambling guides included below: