The Gambling Commission has demanded a total of £1.3m in payments from Rank Group and Annexio due to social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) failures.
Rank Digital Gaming, a Rank Group subsidiary trading as bellacasino.com, grosvenorcasino.com, meccabingo.com and meccagames.com, will pay a £700,557 settlement for social responsibility breaches.
Annexio, trading as lottery betting brand lottogo.com, will pay a £612,000 regulatory settlement for both social responsibility and money laundering failures.
A regulatory review into Annexio began on 14 April, 2021, and found failings in the operator’s processes aimed at preventing money laundering and protecting vulnerable people.
The review found that between October 2019 and November 2021, Annexio failed to comply with licence conditions requiring it to conduct money laundering risk assessments and maintain appropriate AML procedures, identify and interact with customers who may be at risk of experiencing gambling harm, and report key events to the Gambling Commission.
It also demonstrated significant responsible gambling failures, including failing to trigger appropriate enquiries into gambling behaviour sufficiently early in its relationship with some customers, failing to adequately assess source of funds documents, and on one occasion, refusing a request from a customer to reduce their deposit limit.
Following the review, Annexio has implemented new procedures including the introduction of a £500 monthly gross deposit limit for all new customers, with AML and responsible gambling checks in place for any customers who wish to increase the limit.
All customers that reach a lifetime deposit of £10,000 with the operator but have not provided evidence to enable affordability, source of wealth and responsible gambling checks, will no longer be permitted to make further deposits.
No customers may override limits imposed by Annexio, and the operator has allocated additional resources to increase the number of customer due diligence and responsible gambling reviews it can undertake.
The business has also conducted a review of all active customers where enhanced due diligence (EDD) had been completed and implemented appropriate deposit locks, while updated EDD requests were made where required.
The Gambling Commission said in light of the business’ actions following the review, and in line with the regulator’s statement of principles for licensing regulation, Annexio will pay a total of £612,000 in lieu of a financial penalty.
The settlement consists of £112,000 in divestment and £500,000 in penal element, and will be directed towards the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. A further payment will be made towards the regulator’s costs relating to the investigation of the case.
With regards to Rank Digital Gaming, meanwhile, the regulator identified several failures relating to its social responsibility code between October 2019 and February 2021.
Rank accepted that its financial and non-financial safer gambling triggers used to identify when customers may be experiencing harm were not always effective, particularly as the operator allowed new customers to deposit “at high velocity”.
The Commission said it was also overly reliant on a £1,000 30-day net loss threshold used to identify potential signs of problematic gambling, and its processes for identifying other markers of potential harm were largely reactive.
Customer interaction processes were considered to be overly reliant on setting proactive deposit limits, rather than carrying out affordability assessments, and the average income data used to set deposit limits was occasionally set too high.
Following a platform migration in November 2020, the Commission found that Rank’s manual processes used on bellacasino.com and meccagames.com were not sufficient to mitigate the risk of self-excluded customers opening accounts across two platforms.
Indeed, Rank accepted that 1,416 customer accounts created on one of the two websites had been matched to a prior Rank self-exclusion.
The Gambling Commission said Rank had since implemented enhanced controls for identifying duplicate accounts and has enhanced its process for dealing with self-exclusion breaches.
Rank will make a payment of £700,557 to the Commission in lieu of a financial penalty, which will be directed towards delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
The operator has also agreed to pay further costs relating to the Commission’s investigation of the case, and to the publication of a statement of facts in relation to the case.
Helen Venn, executive director of the Gambling Commission, commented: “We expect high standards from operators to ensure gambling in Britain is safe and crime free. Those businesses that fail to meet these standards will find themselves facing costly regulatory action.”