New regulations for the gaming industry in Northern Ireland have been introduced this week in the country’s Assembly, significantly amending the current laws.
The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill creates new offences in permitting children to play gaming machines and provides powers to impose a statutory levy on gambling operators.
It establishes a mandatory code of practice for licence holders, broadens the definition of cheating to include attempted cheating, makes gambling contracts enforceable in law and permits bookmakers and bingo clubs to open on Sundays and on Good Friday.
The minimum age for minors to play a gambling machine is now 18 and it will become an offence to invite a person below that age to play. Previously, it was not an offence to permit an under-age person to gamble.
The statutory levy on gambling operators will be employed in a manner similar to the practice in England, where the money raised is used for community projects and treatment of problem gamblers.
An overhaul of online gambling legislation will form a second phase of the changes to Northern Ireland’s gambling scene and will follow after discussions.
UKGC Imposes £6.1M Fine on Online Operator In Touch Games
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has imposed a fine of £6.1 million on In Touch Games (ITG) for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.
Social responsibility failures included:
- Not interacting with a customer until seven weeks after they had been flagged for interaction for erratic play patterns and extended periods of play.
- Accepting a customer’s word that they earned £6000 a month without verifying this information after the customer account was flagged due to customer spend and gambling during unsociable hours.
Anti-money laundering failures included:
- Not adequately taking account of the risk of a customer being a beneficiary of a life insurance policy; having links to high-risk jurisdictions; or being a politically exposed person (PEP), family member of a PEP or known close associates of a PEP, within its money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment.
- Not having policies, procedures and controls in place to address the risk factors mentioned above.
- Not sufficiently considering the Commission’s money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment or the Commission’s guidance.
- Not ensuring its policies, procedures and controls were implemented effectively, for example not following its own policy to request source of funds information from customers who had deposited and lost £10,000 in a 12-month period.
This is the third time ITG have faced regulatory action – in 2019 it paid a £2.2m settlement for regulatory failures and in 2021 it received a £3.4m fine and warning for further failures.
Kay Roberts, Executive Director of Operations at UKGC, said: “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.”
MGA Exploring the Development of a Voluntary ESG Code of Good Practice for Remote Gaming Sector
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is exploring the development of a voluntary Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Code of Good Practice for the remote gaming sector.
As noted by the MGA, the idea comes amid investors, consumers and employees becoming “increasingly aware of the impact that companies have on society and the environment,” which has resulted in a growing awareness of ESG matters.
Concerning this matter, the Maltese Government in recent years has launched a voluntary ESG reporting platform in a bid to encourage companies to publicly report on their ESG performance. This will then hopefully drive investment towards sustainable business.
Starting from 2024, all large or listed groups will be required to report under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), with the MGA now embarking on a journey to develop a voluntary code for the remote gaming sector. It aims to help guide and prepare local licensees for upcoming ESG legislation and to gain the benefits associated with running a “sustainably conscious operation.”
The code aims to establish the common priorities for ESG in gaming, with the needs of key stakeholders taken into consideration. Reducing environmental, social and governance impacts whilst continually enhancing Malta’s reputation as a leading Gaming jurisdiction is also being taken into consideration.
The MGA added: “Looking ahead, we expect to see more and more companies taking concrete actions towards becoming more sustainable, and we believe that reporting such efforts contributes positively to implementing change within the sector and improving its overall perception, while also addressing the increasing demand for transparency and accountability in the industry.
“As part of this initiative, the MGA has launched a survey with its licensees who are the key partners in the process of transforming the gaming sector into a more sustainable and transparent one.”
Boldplay Awarded Gibraltar Licence
Boldplay has been awarded a licence from the Gibraltar Licensing Authority to offer its services to all regulated online casino platforms there.
The supplier will now be available to offer its catalogue of over 80 slot, table game, bingo, keno and virtual scratch card titles to new audiences on a wide variety of regulated platforms.
While Boldplay has already received game certification for the UK, Portugal, Malta and the Isle of Man, the company has now acquired its first fully-fledged market licence.
Boldplay founder and Chief Executive Officer, Valli Fragoso, said: “As a Gibraltar-based business, we’re incredibly proud of gaining a licence that will enable us to operate in what is effectively our home territory.
“Some of the world’s biggest and most ambitious operators are located in Gibraltar and having our games available in their lobbies will help us further raise the profile of the Boldplay brand, pursue new partnerships and push on with our goal of becoming one of the industry’s leading software providers.”
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