William Hill, one of the UK’s largest gambling companies, has been hit with a fine of £19.2 million, the biggest ever in the Gambling Commission’s history. The regulator found significant inconsistencies in their AML compliance procedures, amongst other issues.
The fine, spread across three companies, williamhill.com, mrgreen.com and William Hill Organisation Limited, will be used for "socially responsible" good causes. But what exactly caused the issue, and the subsequent record fine, in the first place?
A dangerous game
The Gambling Commission accused William Hill of failing to carry out necessary checks at the early stage of the customer journey. A mixture of social responsibility issues, AML failures and ineffective controls were recorded in the gambling business.
All betting operators have a social responsibility to protect potentially vulnerable or addicted customers and encourage responsible gambling. As reported by the Gambling Commission, William Hill failed these checks by allowing one customer to open a new account and spend £32,500 over two days, and another to spend £23,000 in 20 minutes.
Further from this, they failed to complete the legally required AML checks and allowed large amounts of money to be deposited without the appropriate “source of finds” evidence. One customer was able to lose £70,132, and another bet £276,94 over two months, across the website and betting shops.
Finally, ineffective controls allowed 331 customers to gamble with subsidiaries of WHG (International) Limited, despite being banned or self-excluded from one of their sister companies. The Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, admitted that a license suspension had been considered due to “widespread” and “alarming” failings.
"We found serious non-compliance issues around safer gambling measures ... and also anti-money laundering control failings across the company," Rhodes told BBC Radio. However, he did add that William Hill had “recognised their failings” and would “swiftly implement improvements”.
The betting operators were bought last year by gambling company 888, in a deal worth nearly £2 billion. When reached for comment, 888 stated that the record fine was related to previous operations under the old management. They said:
"The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management. After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.
The entire Group shares the GC's commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this."
Preparation for new UK gambling regulations
Is the huge fine for William Hill a sign of things to come? With a government review of regulations on the horizon for the gambling sector, the first proper overhaul since 2005, the industry is braced for incoming changes. These include new affordability checks, updated and stricter anti-money laundering rules, and a new 1% tax to fund research into safer gambling practices.
The 2005 Gambling Act requires all businesses operating within the gambling industry to be regulated, compliant and follow the correct legislation. Utilising software like Red Flag Alert does the hard work for you, and offers users the ability to fight financial crime by performing the necessary anti-money laundering (AML), ID Verification (IDV) and know-your-customer (KYC) checks. With over 15 million businesses on our records, 120,000+ updates per day, and 25 years' experience, our users have peace of mind knowing that they can stay on the right side of compliance
Identity verification is absolutely critical within the betting sector. The Gambling Commision states that; “Licensees must obtain and verify information in order to establish the identity of a customer before that customer is permitted to gamble. Information must include, but is not restricted to, the customer’s name, address and date of birth.
Robust KYC and AML are regulatory obligations, but they also protect gambling companies from various financial crime and money laundering efforts. Following the guidelines means improved safeguarding, and perhaps most importantly, avoiding a huge fine like William Hill.
How Red Flag Alert can help
Red Flag Alert’s digital identity verification services enable companies to identify their client’ remotely, through a process that is efficient, frictionless, and compliant. Our extensive database means you can rely on our digital ID checks within your AML and KYC processes. Through our self-service portal, your customers can scan their own documentation (such as a passport, driver’s license, European ID, or NI number) and using a personal device, verify their own identity. You can then provide them with a simple Pass/Refer decision in mere seconds, instead of days.
Our AML and KYC checks are screened against all the recommended guidelines, ensuring due diligence is undertaken. This includes
- Conducting accurate digital customer identity verification checks on customers in minutes using biometric facial recognition.
- Checking and monitoring clients against international blacklists for sanctions, politically exposed persons (PEPs) and more.
- Obtaining information on company directors, including their other business interests.
- Obtaining company data, including ultimate beneficial owners and what other businesses it is connected to.
- Generating customer due diligence reports so that you have a verifiable audit trail that meets regulatory requirements.
- Setting up monitoring alerts so you know as soon as your client’s risk profile changes.