Kindred Group faces further choppy regulatory waters to navigate in Scandinavia this week, receiving a sanction fee and warning from Spelinspektionen, the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA).
The SEK 10.9m (€998,000) penalty was handed out to the Stockholm-listed group’s Spooniker subsidiary – which operates the bingo.se, mariabingo.se, mariacasino.se, storspelare.se and unibet.se sites.
Spooniker’s operations between January 2019 and February 2022 were criticised by the Spelinspektionen for a lack of adherence to Enhanced Due Diligence requirements on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
“In the fall of 2021, the Swedish Gambling Authority began supervision to look at Spooniker Ltd’s work around money laundering and how they ensure sufficient knowledge of their customers,” Spelinspektionen’s statement reads.
“The review also covered internal procedures and guidelines as well as how Spooniker Ltd manages the customer’s risk profile and takes in-depth customer awareness measures.”
The firm was deemed to have ‘not taken sufficient measures’ on risk assessments relating ot money laundering and terrorist financing prevention.
However, Kindred has defended its post-2021 AML record against the charges, arguing that since then it has made ‘several improvements’ to its processes that have been recognised by the SGA, and is considering an appeal against the warning and fee.
“Kindred fully shares the SGA’s ambition to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. anti-money laundering (AML) is a priority in Kindred’s compliance and sustainability framework,” the group stated.
“Kindred would welcome increased clarity from the SGA and the legislation on what objective and effective AML risk parameters should be to consider when assessing a customer’s risk profile.
“Kindred also takes note of the SGA’s view that improved processes have been put in place since the investigation took place and that these are now compliant.”
The company explained that changes made to its AML procedures since 2021 have included enhanced due diligence – such as requiring high risk customers to send bank statements and closing accounts if this is not done.
Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) are now submitted to financial authorities if necessary, Kindred added, and the number of such reports – as well as the number of risk-assessed customers – has been increasing.
Additionally, the group has introduced financial indicators and backstops according to recurring income on customer’s ‘reaching high risk’, and has extended its risk assessments to cover detailed transaction and gameplay reviews.
Reviews of product risk, affordability risk and payment method risks have also been implemented, whilst lastly the AML team has been expanded to manage higher demand for identification and management of risk.
The Swedish fine comes off the back of similar difficulties faced by Kindred in neighbouring Norway, where the national regulator has taken aim at its Trannel Subsidiary.
Trannel was informed by Lottstift, the Norwegian Gambling Authority (NGA), that it would face daily ‘coercive fines’ of NOK 1.2 million (€120,000) if it did not cease targeting customers in Norway.
Kindred insists that it has made a number of changes to Trannel’s operations so that Norwegian customers are no longer targeted, but asserts that these customers are free to wager using overseas firms – Trannel is a Maltese business – and so the coercive fines are set to continue.