As we approach 2022, we are beginning to see even more gambling regulators double-down on safer gambling and anti-money laundering (AML) initiatives rather than relaxing them. In its ongoing pursuit of a controlled and player-friendly market, the Gambling Commission in Great Britain has just hit the Buzz Group with an enormous £780,000 (€930,000) fine.
Helen Venn, Commission Executive Director, said:
“As a regulator we expect all operators to effectively implement policies and procedures which make gambling safe and crime-free. Every single gambling business should be aware that we do check that these are in place and are being adhered to. If they are not, we will take action.”
The reason for the high penalty is due to the group, who operate the BuzzBingo brand, were found to have been deliberately lacks in how they handled their social responsibility and AML programs from October 2019 to December 2020.
Rife with Social Ineptitude
At the core of the social responsibility requirements for being licensed in the United Kingdom is the desire to keep customers safe from compulsive spending. By avoiding overspending, it is hoped to keep Britons out of unnecessary debt which can result in lower crime statistics and other harmful activities.
Buzz was found to be woefully inadequate in this regard, with the case against them raising 4 major social responsibility concerns:
- Financial triggers set too low to be of value in identifying at-risk players
- Risk settings not optimal for identifying at-risk players
- Ineffective customer interactions and documentation
- No adherence to customer interaction guidelines regarding responsible gambling
In one example they allowed a player to deposit £22,400 (€26,700) in less than a week without engaging with them to see if this was financially viable or an example of compulsive behaviour.
A second example raised by the Gambling Commission was the lacklustre notes kept on key customer interactions. In the case of a player who had deposited and lost £12,400 (€14,700) in only six days the only note was “coping well in COVID-19”.
Multiple AML Failures
When a company fails to meet its social responsibility compliance guidelines there is a good chance that it will fall short of its AML duties. In the case of the Buzz Group this was proven to be true with the Gambling Commission raising the following concerns:
- Source of funds (SOF) checks relying on verbal customer assurances rather than documentation
- The use of “previous wins” as an accepted SOF without confirming that it was not derived from criminal actions
- AML interactions requiring multiple alerts before being acted on (as many as 9 in some cases)
- Lack of clear documentation and reports on AML interactions on the part of the operator
It comes as no surprise that the Gambling Commission took such a firm stance with the Buzz Group. While their failings in the social responsibility sector were clear there is an uneasy feeling of intentional obfuscation when it comes to their AML processes.
The Commission used this as an example to put other operators on notice. They will not let operators use inadequate data and reporting as a smokescreen for illicit and anti-player activities.