The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been steadily penalizing operators who run afoul of its rules and regulations. On Jan. 25th, 2023, the UKGC announced that an online gambling operator known as In Touch Games had been fined £6.1m ($7.56 million) following a thorough investigation.
The UKGC has done an investigation that revealed multiple anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures. In Touch Games operates 11 websites that serve UK customers, and the company already failed a previous compliance test last March.
What is In Touch Games?
In Touch Games is a self-described technology company with a specific emphasis on developing mobile casinos and gaming solutions. In Touch was founded in 2001 by Caroline Wilson, Emil Nestor, and Simon Wilson. The brand launched its flagship mobile casino called mFortune Casino in 2007 and has grown to operate at least 11 online gaming brands.
In Touch Games has continued to open different online casinos, including bonusboss.co.uk, cashmo.co.uk, and jammymonkey.com, since debuting mFortune back in 2007. The brand operates at least 11 online casino brands that boast a wide variety of gaming, including slots, bingo, and table games. All 11 of the brands included in the complaint are licenced and regulated by the UKGC.
What Did In Touch Games Do Wrong?
In Touch Games operates multiple U.K.-serving online gambling websites, so it is important that all of its brands follow the rules and regulations set forth by the UKGC. The UKGC has conducted a thorough investigation that revealed the following social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures:
- Not interacting with a customer after the customer account had been flagged for extended periods of play and erratic playing patterns
- Relied on a customer’s word that they earned £6,000 a month without proper verification; the account had been flagged due to gambling during so-called “unsociable hours”
- Not taking account of the level of risk associated with potential high-risk jurisdictions, politically exposed persons, and the potential for related money laundering and terrorist financing
- Failure to consider the Commission’s terrorist financing risk assessment or the Commission’s direct guidance, including previous penalties
- Failure to ensure policies and procedures were implemented, including a failure to follow its own policy to request source of funds information from any customers who deposited and lost at least £10,000 in a one-year period
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the UKGC has punished In Touch Games for similar violations. Back in 2019 In Touch paid a £2.2 million ($2.73 million) fine for regulatory failures. In 2021, In Touch received another £3.4 million ($4.2 million) fine and warning for its failures.
Kay Roberts is the Executive Director of Operations for the UKGC, and she had the following to say regarding the recent fine:
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.
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.
The Details of the Financial Penalty
This time around, the UKGC increased the penalty to a whopping £6.1 million ($7.56 million). The size of this fine is likely due to the fact that In Touch has already been punished twice by the UKGC for very similar infractions. The Commission found that In Touch Games has breached the following licence conditions:
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1, paragraph 1
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1, paragraph 2
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing under condition 12.1.1, paragraph 3
- Customer interactions under social responsibility code provision 3.4.1, paragraphs 1b, 1c, and 2
The exact amount of the fine is £6,133,310 ($7,598,723), which the Commission has imposed under section 121(1) of the Gambling Act. The Commission did note that In Touch Games cooperated with the Commission during the investigation, acknowledged the failures, and took remedial action immediately. It is a bit unclear what the funds will be used for in this case. The UKGC often clarifies what the funds will be spent on, but there isn’t any information included on this topic this time.
While the UKGC always claims to have consumers’ best interests at heart, we can’t help but wonder whether this kind of enforcement is necessary or helpful at all. The Commission mentioned a customer gambling during “unsociable hours,” which is extremely vague and seemingly nonsensical as it relates to online gambling.
Clearly, most people cannot engage in online gaming during working hours, which leaves evenings, late nights, and early mornings as the preferred hours for most gambling activity. However, individuals without employment or those who work night shifts would, on the contrary, naturally gamble during the daytime.
So what hours then are considered “unsociable”? Is it really the place of the UKGC to make sure that gambling operators only offer services to customers during certain “sociable” hours? Whatever the authorities’ views on sociable or unsociable hours happen to be, we can clearly hear the clocks striking thirteen.
This kind of regulatory micromanaging seems unlikely to actually address problem gambling or help consumers. None of the funds will be returned to losing players, and as this is the operator’s third time being fined more than £1 million, it seems like the enforcement has had little to no impact, besides lining the Commission’s pockets of course.
Prior UKGC Enforcement
The UKGC has been cracking down on operators with increased vigour of late. Earlier this month, the UKCG fined TonyBet and Vivaro Limited for similar AML and social responsibility violations. Last August, the UKGC targeted the Entain Group when it levied a massive £17 million ($21 million) fine.
The examples of these types of fines are seemingly endless, as the UKGC has been penalizing operators on a consistent basis since at least 2016 when it fined Paddy Power £300,000+ ($371,678+) for violations very similar to this case with In Touch Games. In 2018, the Commission penalized Paddy Power Betfair £2.2 million ($2.73 million) following Betfair’s acquisition of PaddyPower.
One of the largest penalties took place back in 2020 when the UKGC fined Caesars Entertainment £13 million ($16 million) due to multiple systematic failures. This was the largest fine of all time until the recent fine against the Entain Group was levied. It doesn’t appear as though the UKGC is going to stop levying these types of fines until operators start following its restrictive rules and procedures.
The UKGC has also worked to make sure all UK operators comply with GAMSTOP, a self-exclusion tool for potential problem gamblers. In addition, the UKGC made a few regulatory changes back in 2020 to effectively ban all credit card use associated with online gambling. The effectiveness of these efforts to actually assist or reduce problem gambling is somewhat questionable.
You Can Play Poker and Gamble Online Safely Today
Despite the UKGC’s efforts to enforce its rules and punish gaming providers, plenty of trustworthy gambling options still exist for U.K. players and players around the globe. For U.K. players, we highly recommend checking out TigerGaming.com. TigerGaming boasts a wide range of casino gaming, sports betting, and online poker. To find out more regarding this trusted operator, feel free to explore this detailed TigerGaming review.
Players who may reside elsewhere also have plenty of solid choices when it comes to online gambling sites. Feel free to peruse the guides included below to learn all about the best gambling options available in your area.