With £2.87m Fine, UKGC Brings Down Money Laundering Boom on Big Beast Betfred

In growing indication that Britain’s betting industry is perhaps capable of policing itself, the regulatory UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has brought the boom down on big beast Betfred with a swingeing £2.87 million fine (US$3.05m/€3.18m) for “alarming” social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.

And the British high street bookies have been warned by the UKGC that their operating licence is now under the spotlight after it was found to have breached responsible gaming codes.

The flagged offences took place between October 2019 and December 2020.

One Betfred punter, for example, lost £70,000 (US$74,478/€77,737) in only 10-hours of gambling — immediately after opening their account.

Another player deposited £323,715 (US$344,424/€359,497) and lost £69,371 (US$73,809/€77,039).

In some cases it took Betfred “months” to contact customers and attempt, belatedly, to properly investigate the risky transactions.

This £2.87 million fine follows hot on the heels of the UKGC levelling a £400,000 sanction (US$425,590/€444,214) on Betway for breaching online advertising rules by posting child-centric publicity on West Ham United FC’s website.

Said Leanne Oxley, Director of Enforcement and Intelligence at the UKGC:

“The [Betfred fine] is a further example of us taking action to investigate and sanction alarming failures.

“We expect this gambling business–and all other licensees–to review this case and look closely to see if they need to make further improvements to demonstrate active compliance.”

Betfred, owned by billionaire brothers Fred and Peter Done, did not have the right policies, procedures and controls in place to combat risks, the commission stressed in a special report.

Critics and cynics may argue that a £2.87 million penalty–the equivalent of two days handle for the company–is small change, given the brothers were paid a £50 million dividend last year (US$53.19m/€55.52m).

But–amid growing uncertainty over the status and timing of gambling industry regulatory reform in post-pandemic, crisis-hit Britain–pro-UKGC boosters can rightly point out that the commission has tightened its policing powers and, increasingly, is bringing the boom down on rule busters.

Entain, Smarkets and SpreadEx, among other gaming houses, for instance, have all been brought to heel in recent months. Entain, alone, was hit by a massive £17 million fine in August for safe gambling failures (US$18.08m/€18.87m).

“Safer gambling interaction triggers [have been] set too high,” warned the commission.

“Where standards do not improve, tougher enforcement will follow.”

Responded a Betfred spokesperson: “We will work with the UK Gambling Commission, and continually review all our anti-money laundering and social responsibility policies.

“During our assessment, the commission found no evidence of criminal activity. We remain committed to providing a safer gambling environment for our customers.”

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