The UK’s Gambling Commission has taken regulatory action against B2B gaming solutions provider Aspire Global. A £237,600 penalty was issued to AG Communications, which trades as Aspire Global, after the gambling watchdog uncovered serious anti-money laundering failures. The fine is the latest in a spate issued to operators this year, as the regulator strives to crack down on the sector.
Aspire Global is the latest operator to be met with a fine from the UK’s gambling watchdog. ©Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels
Fine, Warning and License Conditions
Aspire Global is the latest gambling operator to find itself in the wrong side of the law in the UK. The Gambling Commission, which is in charge of regulating the industry, has issued it with a £237,600 fine after it uncovered a number of failures. The Malta-based operator describes itself as a leading provider of iGaming solutions, offering businesses everything they need to operate a successful iGaming brand.
Amongst its B2B offerings are a robust technical platform, proprietary casino games, a proprietary sportsbook and a game aggregator. It is responsible for 66 websites and operates in 31 regulated markets across Europe, America and Africa. In August, Aspire Global was acquired by leading iLottery provider NeoGames.
Following a review of Aspire Global’s operating license, the regulator found that it had breached conditions related to preventing money laundering and terrorist financing. The operator was unable to adequately demonstrate that it had conducted appropriate due diligence checks on six third party businesses it had entered into white-label partnerships with.
The regulator stated that Aspire Global will also receive an official warning as well as conditions added to its license. Those license conditions set out specific action that Aspire Global must take to ensure that due diligence checks are carried out with third parties that it transacts with. In its statement, the Commission noted that throughout the investigation Aspire Global co-operated and took the necessary corrective steps to address the identified failings.
The Gambling Commission took the opportunity to remind all operators entering white-label partnerships to be mindful of their obligations. White-label partnerships allow licensed operators to use the branding of other businesses. Operators have been told that they should consider the money laundering risks posed by their business to business relationships, including any third parties they contract with.
White Label Partnerships
The regulator’s guidance urges operators to consider the jurisdictional location of third parties and legislation connected with this. Companies are also obliged to take into consideration transactions and arrangements that their third-party partners may be involved in. This includes agreements with payment providers and processers, including source of funds concerns.
The Commission’s updated guidance on AML and terrorist financing legislation was issued after it noted an increase in instances where gambling operators had failed to carry out sufficient due diligence measures in their third-party relationships. In some cases, license holders received third party investments and entered into white-label partnerships which were later deemed high-risk specifically for anti-money laundering failures.
Operators must be able to evidence why their confidence in a third party agreement is justified. In February, the regulator outlined one case study in which an operator failed to conduct adequate source of funds checks on an investment that had originated from crypto assets, which were later converted to sterling.
Shortcomings highlighted in the case included failure to establish the source of funds for the crypto assets, transactional risks of asset exchange and jurisdictional risks due to funds originating from a high risk jurisdiction.
Aspire Global’s fine is the latest in a string of penalties issued against UK operators. In recent months, the regulator has expressed growing frustration at encountering the same failures time and time again. In some cases, operators have repeated the same offences on multiple occasions, despite having already been met with fines.
In September, sportsbook Betfred was fined £2.87 million over social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures. In August the regulator handed out its largest penalty to date, a £17 million fine to international operator Entain. In November, LEBOM had its license suspended with immediate effect, after the regulator found that it had failed to integrate safer gambling self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP.
Operators Told to Stay Vigilant
At the end of November, the Gambling Commission published new data detailing how gambling behavior in the UK is reacting to current environmental factors. Operator data from March 2020 to September 2022 covers online gambling as well in-person gambling at high street betting operators.
The latest operator data shows that during Q2, from July to September of this year, Gross Gambling Yield stood at £1.2 billion. This marks a 4% decrease on the first quarter. Total bets and spins fell by 1% between quarters, while average monthly active accounts decreased by 9%.
GGY for slots fell 3% on last quarter, to £548 million, as spins decreased 2% to 18.5 billion. The average number of monthly active accounts fell by 4% to 3.4 million per month. Meanwhile, the number of slots sessions lasting longer than an hour remained stable at 8.4 million between quarters. On average, sessions lasted 17 minutes. Around 7% of all sessions went on longer than an hour.
GGY for Licensed Betting Operators on the high street decreased by 8% on the previous quarter to £540 million. Meanwhile, the total number of bets and spins also fell by 5% to 3.2 billion. Publishing the data, the Commission cautioned against making year-on-year comparisons, as lockdown restrictions had a significant impact on operating environments.
Nevertheless, it is clear that consumers in the UK are feeling the pinch, as the rising cost of living continues to affect many. The gambling watchdog has urged operators to pay extra vigilance as customers are impacted in different ways by the current economic environment. Many will feel vulnerable as they face uncertainty over their personal or financial circumstances, particularly in the run up to Christmas.
Source: Read Full Article