The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has continued to enforce its rules and regulations of late. On January 17th, the UKGC announced that Vivaro Limited would pay £337,631 ($420,000) following a number of failures. The next day on January 18th, the UKGC levied a £442,750 ($550,000) fine against TonyBetwhich also operates tonybet.co.uk.
The two penalized companies both operate popular online sports betting and casino sites that serve U.K. consumers. The UKGC claims that Tonybet maintained a number of unfair rules for its customers, and Vivaro Limited is paying a penalty due to failures related to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and safer gambling procedures.
Background Information About TonyBet and Vivaro Limited
Vivaro Limited is a somewhat unknown name in the gambling space, but it does operate a number of notable U.K.-facing gambling websites including Playland Casino, Vbet Casino, and Pixiebet UK. Vivaro Limited has also been known to trade as Vbet.
TonyBet is an online gambling company that offers a wide range of services, including sports betting and casino gaming. TonyBet was first established in and primarily operates in the U.K. and Estonian markets as it is licensed to do.
TonyBet was originally founded by brash Lithuanian poker player Antanas Guoga, also known as Tony G. Although the company still goes by the same name these days, Tony G no longer has anything to do with TonyBet after he sold the company to Sweden’s Betsson AB in late 2016. Nowadays, Tony has been heavily involved in Lithuanian politics and is associated with the quickly growing crypto poker site CoinPoker.
One of the more notable offerings at TonyBet was its multi-player online poker room, which heavily focused on Open Face Chinese poker, making it one of the few destinations for playing this format with real funds. The cardroom software debuted in late 2013 and offered multi-table tournaments, sit-and-goes, and cash games. However, the TonyBet poker room closed down in July 2020 although the casino and sportsbook divisions continue to the present day.
What Did TonyBet and Vivaro Limited Do Wrong?
As is the case with the vast majority of these types of fines levied by the UKGC and various other government organizations around the world, the issues with both companies relate to safe gambling procedures and AML policies. When it comes to TonyBet, the UKGC asserts that TonyBet maintained a number of unfair rules for its players. Other issues mentioned include improper AML controls.
TonyBet has been fined £442,750 ($550,000) for failing to maintain fair and transparent rules in operating its online gambling business. The UKGC asserts that TonyBet included the following terms that have been deemed to be unfair:
- TonyBet may request documentation to receive “all withdrawals” while the company didn’t insist on similar verification earlier in the relationship, potentially slowing or stopping withdrawals but allowing endless deposits
- Customers’ winnings could be confiscated in full if they failed to provide Anti-Money Laundering documentation within only 30 days
- Customer accounts would be considered dormant after only six months of inactivity, but there is a 12-month requirement for accounts to be considered dormant
TonyBet will also have to undergo a third-party assessment to determine if it is effectively implementing social responsibility and anti-money laundering requirements. The complaint asserts that TonyBet did not do a good enough job of enforcing AML and safer gambling procedures. The levied fine accounts for this fact, and the third-party audit may result in further action as needed.
Vivaro Limited will pay £337,631 ($420,000) as a part of a regulatory settlement with the UKGC. The review conducted found that Vivaro had multiple failures in regard to Money Laundering and safer gambling procedures. Between October 2020 and June 2021, Vivaro failed to comply with Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice. The details of the failures are included below:
- Vivaro did not sufficiently consider risks associated with cryptocurrency being utilised to gamble
- Vivaro conducted ineffective AML checks and had a high threshold for these checks. In addition, Vivaro allowed customers to continue depositing without proper source of funds queries
- The levels at which an AML check would be triggered were simply too high
- Vivaro failed to properly provide guidance regarding how staff should verify source of funds and what specific documents were to be requested
- Vivaro allowed customers to deposit significant sums of money before know your customer, or KYC, checks were done
Details of the Settlements
When it comes to TonyBet, the UKGC found that the licensee breached licence condition 7.1.1 in relation to fair and transparent terms and practices, paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of licence condition 12.1.1 which relates to AML procedures and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, and paragraph 1 of licence condition 12.1.2 relating to AML procedures. In addition, TonyBet breached licence condition 15.2.16 which is a failure to report any important event, as well as breaching the social responsibility code of practice 3.4.1 which relates to customer interactions.
As a result, the UKGC will levy a penalty of £442,750 ($550,000) under section 121(1) of the Gambling Act in addition to issuing an official warning and attaching an additional condition to TonyBet’s license.
Vivaro Limited, which also trades as Vbet, will fork over £337,631 ($420,000) following a regulatory settlement for the company’s failures. The regulatory settlement package consists of the elements listed below:
- A payment of £302,500 ($375,700) will go to National Responsible Gambling Strategy project to research, treat, and address the risk of harmful gambling
- A divestment of £35,131 ($43,500)
- Vivaro must undergo a third-party audit within 12 months, and the audit must be provided to the Commission within five working days of its completion
- A payment of £15,606.50 ($19,375) towards the UKGC’s investigative costs
The UKGC is Steadily Enforcing and Penalizing Operators
The UKGC has been enforcing its rules and regulations with increasing regularity over the past few years. In August of 2022, the UKGC fined the Entain Group £17 million ($21.1 million) for social responsibility and AML failures.
Back in October of 2022, the UKGC fined GGPoker and its parent company, NSUS limited, £672,829 ($835,660). Only one month prior, in September 2022, the UKGC fined Betfred and Oddsking a massive £2.87 million ($3.5 million) for similar AML and safer gambling control failures.
To be clear, this kind of enforcement is nothing new. Back in October 2018, the UKGC levied a £2.2 million ($2.7 million) fine against Paddy Power Betfairand in July 2019, LadBrokes Coral was fined £5.9 million ($7.33 million).
Safe Poker and Online Gambling Aplenty in UK and Beyond
Although the UKGC’s enforcement actions may create a bit of uneasiness and worry in the online gambling community, there are still plenty of trusted options for U.K. players to gambleincluding at offshore sites that aren’t under the control of the UKGC. We would highly recommend checking out TigerGaming.com if you’re at all interested in online poker, casino gaming, or sports betting from the United Kingdom.
For players located in other areas of the world, there are certainly plenty of other excellent options for online poker. For U.S. players, we would highly suggest checking out this exhaustive guide to playing online poker in the U.S. Australian players are encouraged to peruse this detailed guide to playing online poker in Australia.