The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued its third financial enforcement action of 2023 against Touch Games, charging the firm £6.1m.
An igamng operator, In Touch Games, like most firms that find themselves in the UKGC’s regulatory spotlight, was penalised for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failings.
This marks the third time the firm has been the subject of regulatory action by the UKGC, having been charged £2.2m in 2019 and £3.4m, along with a warning, in 2021.
Kay Roberts, UKGC Executive Director of Operations, said: “Considering this operator’s history of failings we expected to see significant improvement when we carried out our planned compliance assessment. Disappointingly, although many improvements had been made, there was still more to do.
Specific social responsibility shortcomings saw In Touch Games fail to interact with a customer flagged for ‘erratic’ patterns and extended periods of play for seven weeks, whilst another user flagged for gambling ‘during unsociable hours’ was taken on their word that they earned £6,000 a month without any verification.
AML failings were broader, including failing to take into account a customer being a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or having lists to ‘high risk jurisdictions’ in AML and terrorist financing risk assessments.
The UKGC also noted that the company’s assessments had failed to address customers being politically exposed persons’ (PEPs) and/or being family members or known close associates of PEPs.
In addition to the failure to address the above concerns in its assessment procedures, In Touch Gaming was also penalised for its lack of policies, procedures and controls on these issues and for not ‘sufficiently considering’ the UKGC’s own assessment or guidance.
Lastly, the Commission maintains that the firm had not ensured that policies were effectively implemented, such as not following its own procedure to request source of funds information from customers deposing and losing £10,000 or more within 12 months.
“This £6.1m fine shows that we will take escalating enforcement action where failures are repeated and all licensees should be acutely aware of this,” Roberts asserted.
The Commission continues its tougher monitoring approach on online licensees under the leadership of Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes – which has seen the regulator launch 32 enforcement settlements/suspensions since Rhodes took office in July 2021.
On taking charge of the UKGC, Rhodes had warned UK operators that his leadership tenure would not tolerate ‘repeat offenders’ – “We are seeing the same companies committing the same offences for second or even third times.”
“It’s a recidivist behaviour, and I have a concern that those operators are starting to see fines as a compliance measure, that is something that we are not prepared to tolerate.”