Friday, October 30, 2020

Online gaming firm Mr Green fined £3m lax money laundering control

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William Hill-owned online gaming brand Mr Green has been told to pay £3m to the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms by the Gambling Commission after it found failures in the operator’s procedures for preventing harm and money laundering.

The settlement agreement consists of a £3m payment in lieu of a financial penalty and Commission costs of £10,349.77.

The Gambling Commission found that Mr Green:

  • did not carry out social responsibility interaction with a customer who won £50,000, gambled it away and deposited thousands more pounds
  • took 10-year-old evidence of a £176,000 claims payout as satisfactory evidence of source of funds (SOF) for a customer who deposited over £1m
  • accepted a photograph of a laptop screen showing currency in dollars on an alleged crypto trading account as adequate SOF

Gambling Commission Executive Director Richard Watson said: “Our investigation uncovered systemic failings in respect of both Mr Green’s social responsibility and AML controls which affected a significant number of customers across its online casinos.

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“Consumers in Britain have the right to know that there are checks and balances in place which will help keep them safe and ensure gambling is crime-free – and we will continue to crack down on operators who fail in this area.”

Mr Green accepted that between 1 November 2014 and 7 November 2018 it did not have effective policies and procedures in place for customers who may be displaying signs of problem gambling.

This led to Mr Green not always identifying and interacting with customers who were displaying signs of problem gambling and, even when the customer interaction process was triggered, there was a failure to follow up with an interaction. Where interactions did take place these were not always recorded.

The Gambling Commission also identified customers who were able to gamble significant sums of money without adequate Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) and Source of Funds (SOF) checks being conducted. A review of the top 120 existing customers of Mr Green revealed that 113 had to be closed as they failed to pass Mr Green’s AML checks.

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The Licensee has agreed to complete a compliance assessment of the next 130 top customers. Once this is complete it will have assessed all of its top 250 customers (measured by lifetime Gross Gambling Yield).

Mr Green, which was acquired by William Hill after these incidents, recognises there have been considerable learnings from these cases and has invested in improving its AML and responsible gambling processes. Mr Green states it is also committed to working with the industry to raise standards, particularly in relation to safer gambling.

Mr Green is the ninth gambling business to face action as part of a regulator probe that has led to more than £20m in penalty packages since 2018. The online casino enforcement work is in addition to the Commission’s ongoing strategy to make gambling online safer. This has included strengthened online age and identity verification, enhanced rules and guidance on identifying and interacting with customers who may be at risk of harm and the banning of credit cards.

The regulator is also pushing the industry to raise standards in the areas of VIP practices, advertising technology and game design, and is currently looking at online stake limits.

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