888 fined £9.4m for social responsibility and money laundering breaches – Legal and Compliance

The UK Gambling Commission has fined 888 £9.4m (€11.3m/$12.6m) for a series of social responsibility and money laundering breaches. money, including setting its deposit threshold for financial checks at £40,000.

In issuing the fine, the Commission’s chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, warned that if similar failings occur again, the regulator may have to “seriously consider the operator’s ability” to carry out its responsibilities as as licensee.

Following a review of 888’s operating license, the Commission said it identified a number of violations.

Specific violations included license condition 12.1.1, which covers the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, and license condition 12.1.2, relating to measures for operators based in foreign jurisdictions.

888 also failed to comply with the Social Responsibility Code (SRCP) provision 3.4.1 relating to customer interaction, as well as SRCP 3.9.1 for remote identification of individual customers.

Citing some of these failings, the Commission said social accountability issues included failing to identify those at risk of harm, as its policies determined that affordability checks should be carried out after deposits reached £40,000.

888 was also found to have failed to complete a customer interaction with a player who lost £37,000 in six weeks during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. In a separate case, the operator also allowed an NHS worker who earned £1,400 a month to set a monthly deposit cap of £1,300.

The Commission also noted that most customer interactions consisted of an email indicating the responsible gambling tools available and did not require a response from the player, while the regulator said it found no evidence. that the 888 operator was proactively imposing restrictions on accounts where social responsibility concerns were raised.

Another social accountability failure included 888’s failure to ensure that if a player had multiple accounts, those accounts were managed for customer interaction holistically, with financial limits implemented across all accounts if necessary. An example of this was that a customer had one of his 11 accounts restricted due to funds source issues, but was still allowed to not only continue playing, but open three more.

In terms of money laundering failures, the Commission again mentioned the £40,000 threshold of 888.

888 also accepted verbal assurances from customers to confirm their income and relied on open source information to validate sources of funds, while the operator did not specify what documents should be requested as part of its controls.

Noting one specific failure, the regulator said a customer was allowed to spend £65,835 in just five months without source of funds checks being carried out.

The Commission also noted that 888 failed to effectively implement its own policies, which stated that customers were given 10 days to submit documentation of the source of funds before restrictions were placed on their account. In one case, these documents were only requested three weeks after the 10-day deadline. The player lost £15,000 over those three weeks.

Ruling on the case, the Commission imposed a warning under the Gambling Act 2005 and attached additional conditions to 888’s operating license.

These terms require 888 to conduct a third-party audit within 12 months of the review to examine whether it is effectively implementing its anti-money laundering and social responsibility policies, procedures and controls.

The Commission also imposed a financial penalty of £9.4 million.

Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes noted that this was the second time 888 had faced enforcement action. In 2017, 888 was ordered to pay a fine of £7.8 million for defaulting vulnerable customers.

“The circumstances of the last enforcement action may be different, but both cases involve defaulting consumers – and that’s something that’s not acceptable,” Rhodes said.

“Today’s fine is one of our largest to date, and it should be clear that if there is a repeat failure at 888, we need to seriously consider the ability of the operator to meet licensing objectives and ensure game safety and crime free.

“UK consumers deserve to know that when they gamble they are participating in a leisure activity where operators play their part to keep them safe and carry out checks to ensure the money is crime free.”

In response to the ruling, 888 accepted the decision and said that since the compliance assessment concluded in October 2020, it had taken “immediate and appropriate” steps to improve its internal policies and procedures.

Actions included implementing additional checks on client sources of funds and loss limits, reducing thresholds in its client behavior monitoring technology that trigger alerts and client interactions, investing in a safer gaming and compliance team, as well as strengthening and developing its anti-money laundering risk assessment facing the business.

“We recognize our responsibility to make gaming safer and regret that the previous implementation of our processes did not meet the standards required in the UK,” said 888 chief executive Itai Pazner. “We accept the findings of the investigation into some of 888’s past policies and procedures and have taken appropriate immediate action to improve and remedy the deficiencies.”

Additionally, 888 said it has launched a number of other safer gaming initiatives, including the launch of Control Center, a customer-focused interface that allows customers to monitor their gaming activity through real-time data. and the creation of a new ESG committee. advice.

“Over the past few years, we have made significant investments in safer gambling, including doubling the size of our compliance team since 2019,” Pazner added. “We will continue to work closely with the Commission, our peers and other stakeholders to drive continuous improvement in the industry.

“We continue to prioritize safer gambling by investing in technology as a force for good, providing customers with transparency into their activity, and using sophisticated AI to detect and block harmful games. We know our work in this area must be ongoing and we remain committed to continuing our investments to achieve our safer gaming goals.

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