Wednesday, October 28, 2020

More anti-money laundering fines for Malta-based gaming firms

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Three Malta-based gaming companies were on Wednesday fined by the UK’s Gambling Commission after they were found to be in breach of various rules including the prevention of money laundering and consumer safety from gambling harm.

The fines are part of an ongoing investigation into the online casino industry.

Of the four companies fined this time round, three are Maltese, while another is based in England’s West Midlands.

Betit Operations, based in Sliema, will have to pay €1.6 million as, among other failures, it inappropriately offered bonuses and raised the deposit limits of a customer who deposited more than €126,000 over a 24-hour period.

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The VIP offers from the gambling company kept coming even though the player twice had transactions declined by his bank, the UK gambling regulator said.

Malta-based MT Secure Trade, which operated from St Julian’s, was found to have no interactions with a player who deposited €44,000 over four of its brands, with no source of wealth queries made.

The player was subsequently found to have been playing using stolen funds, according to the regulator.

The gambling company was ordered to pay a penalty package of €802,000.

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In another case, BestBet, also based in Malta, breached its licence conditions by having insufficiently trained staff in key positions and by having inadequate anti-money laundering policies in place.

The company was fined €264,000.

Over the last 18 months, the UK regulator has conducted assessments of, or engaged with, 123 online operators, and of the 45 told to submit an action plan to raise standards, 38 have already showed signs of improvement.

A further 34 were compliant with standards expected by the Gambling Commission or had minor issues which have been, or are in the process of being, remedied.

Since the investigation began, five operators have surrendered their licence and can no longer transact with consumers in Britain.

In November 2018, the regulator imposed nearly €16 million in penalties on three companies. Two of them, Casumo and Videoslots, are also based in Malta.

Another company, CZ Holdings of Birkirkara, decided to voluntarily surrender its licence in the UK soon after it got wind that its operations there were under surveillance.

While the Malta Gaming Authority is the regulatory gaming agency for the Maltese Islands, the upholding of anti-money laundering rules are in the remit of the FIAU – the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

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