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Compliance Updates

Our UKGC consultation response: Failing to protect the vulnerable should not be the White Paper’s legacy

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Our UKGC consultation response: Failing to protect the vulnerable should not be the White Paper's legacy
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The dust has settled and the process is complete. The consultation on the proposed changes outlined in the UK Gambling White Paper is closed so now we just have to wait and see. Whilst we do so, we thought that in the spirit of transparency, we would share our own thoughts, more or less as they were communicated in our consultation response to the UK Gambling Commision.

Offering a real-time customer risk profiling tool, ClearStake’s focus was obviously on affordability checks. But then, much of the industry’s attention has been on this topic over the last few months. This is, to our mind, the single most important challenge facing the sector. Addressing it in the right way, a way that protects both punters and operators, will be the key to a sustainable, profitable future.

And with that goal uppermost in our mind, here is what we said:

1. Affordability checks must use real financial data

Certainly at the levels of spend proposed as meriting more thorough checks (£1,000 in a day or £2,000 over the space of three months), we don’t believe there is any real substitute for real financial data, by which we mean bank data. There is simply no other way of establishing whether a player can afford to lose this amount of money or not. Everything else – including data from credit reference agencies – is guesswork. We believe that the single greatest mistake that could be made during this process is not solving the problem of financial harm caused by gambling. That won’t be an issue if the government requires decisions to be made by operators in possession of a proper financial picture of their customers.

2. We can solve two problems at once

The consultation focused on affordability checks, but it would be almost perverse to ignore the wider reality at play here. Operators also have to perform anti money-laundering and source-of-funds (SOF) checks on their customers, and they do so by looking at bank statements. Given this is the case, it makes a lot of sense to us to effectively combine both these requirements within a single check.

3. At higher spend levels, it makes sense to keep customers connected

There has been a lot of talk about how frequently checks should take place, or to put that another way, whether it should be necessary to go back to a customer within six months or a year if they have already passed a check. To us, this rather misses the opportunity presented by Open Banking in particular. After the first check, assuming the player allows it, any checks in future can be entirely frictionless. The connection can remain in place and used when necessary (and only when necessary!) in order to make the ongoing compliance relationship as smooth as possible. We don’t expect ongoing connection to be mandated, but it should certainly be held up as best practice for all concerned.

4. Some of the proposed data points make little sense

When a solution that takes guesswork out of the equation is available, does it really make sense to suggest that postcodes and job titles are meaningful ways to determine an individual’s financial situation? We don’t think so. We believe that continuing to ‘lean in’ to data like this gives a misleading impression that it is good enough. It isn’t. Even as part of a broader decision-making process, it is very difficult to see where some of these data points fit in. You could say the same, of course, about missed loan repayments from three years ago.

5. The solution exists – why cobble together a new one?

Hovering behind the entire consultation process appears to be a not-quite-defined ‘solution’ to the affordability challenge. This is apparent in the various hints towards the use of CATO data (let’s just say it, even if the Commission aren’t willing to) and a hodge-podge of random data points in order to make affordability decisions, as part of a system that would have to be piloted in order to ensure a) it works and b) it doesn’t create data security issues.

Leaving aside the absurdity of asking us to judge the merits of an approach that hasn’t actually been defined, we would simply point out that in Open Banking, a solution to this challenge already exists. One that is already used by over 7 million people in the UK, by most UK operators to handle payments, and already used to handle affordability and SOF checks by forward-thinking operators. Why on earth are we re-inventing the wheel?

So there you have it. That’s what we told the consultation, albeit in language a little less colourful. I hope they listen.

Compliance Updates

EGBA Welcomes Confirmation Of Frankfurt As Seat Of New EU Anti-Money Laundering Authority

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EGBA Welcomes Confirmation Of Frankfurt As Seat Of New EU Anti-Money Laundering Authority
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The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), the association representing Europe’s leading gambling operators, welcomes the recent confirmation of Frankfurt as the seat of the new European Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA). This agreement, reached by the EU institutions, creates a European anti-money laundering authority which will operate together with, and in addition to, the already existing national anti-money laundering (AML) authorities of the EU member states.

AMLA, which will commence operations in mid-2025 with over 400 staff members, will possess both direct and indirect supervisory powers over obligated entities, including the EU’s biggest financial institutions. With the power to intervene in cross-border cases, AMLA is expected to provide comprehensive guidance that further harmonises AML rules and their application, including creating a standardised reporting template for Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs), which will greatly benefit various sectors, including gambling, by standardising reporting formats across EU countries.

The establishment of AMLA as a new authority is a fundamental part of the ongoing reform of the EU’s anti-money laundering framework, which is expected to be finalised and agreed by the EU institutions before the end of the current EU mandate in June 2024.

As the EU finalises the new AML legislative package, EGBA has developed industry-specific guidelines on anti-money laundering to help online gambling operators comply with the AML rules in the EU, including the upcoming EU AML Regulation. Developed collaboratively with our members, the guidelines offer a risk-based approach and include practical direction for operators in areas such as risk assessments, customer due diligence processes, suspicious transaction reporting, and record-keeping.

To ensure the effectiveness of the guidelines, EGBA members will engage in regular discussions on their implementation and are obliged to submit annual reports to EGBA summarising their progress. To promote transparency and accountability, these regular discussions and reporting will help to identify and address potential issues or areas for improvement in the guidelines and ensure they remain up to date with the latest developments. Other operators are invited to adopt the guidelines and participate in the reporting requirements.

“We welcome Frankfurt as the chosen seat of the new European Anti-Money Laundering Authority. Given the city’s position as the centre of European finance, it is a logical choice. We look forward to collaborating with AMLA to ensure the representation of the gambling sector’s voice in future EU-level AML discussions and help contribute positively to the fight against money laundering. The standardisation of STRs will really benefit gambling operators, particularly those who operate in many countries, because there are currently many different reporting formats across EU member states. By implementing our AML guidelines, operators can also already be well positioned for the EU’s incoming AML rules and play their part in raising standards across the industry.” – Dr. Ekaterina Hartmann, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, EGBA.

 

Source: EGBA

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Compliance Updates

BOS Opposes Swedish Government’s Credit Card Ban

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On Friday, the government came out with a proposal to ban the use of credit cards for gambling. The government is thus going against its own state investigation into the matter, the so-called Over-indebtedness Inquiry.

In a previous opinion, BOS has supported the Over-indebtedness Inquiry’s conclusion to continue allowing credit cards for gambling.

“It is sad that the government does not listen to its own expertise and instead proposes a ban on credit cards when gambling, contrary to what the government investigation has concluded. Interestingly, the government does not propose a corresponding credit card ban for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, which in Sweden is only offered by a retail monopoly owned and operated by the government itself,” Gustaf Hoffstedt said.

“The government is handing yet another competitive advantage to the unlicensed gambling market, which has a 41% market share when it comes to online casino. The risk is great that unlicensed gambling will overtake and gain a larger total market share than licensed gambling in 2024. The government needs to change focus and show that it is on the same side as the licensed gambling companies and the safeguarding of consumers,” Gustaf Hoffstedt added.

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Compliance Updates

James Blake Fined for Breaching Tennis Sponsorship Rules

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Miami Open tournament director and former top 10 player James Blake was fined $56,250 for violating tennis’ rules about betting sponsorship, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced Wednesday.

The London-based ITIA said the violation was unintentional and Blake “cooperated fully with the investigation and did not contest the charge”.

If Blake breaks the rules again during an 18-month probationary period that began on Feb. 9, the agency said he would be subject to an 18-month suspension and an additional fine of $131,250.

The TACP rules state that: “No Covered Person shall directly or indirectly, facilitate, encourage and/or promote Tennis Betting (Facilitation).”

Karen Moorhouse, CEO of the ITIA, said: “Across our members – the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams – the rules prohibit accredited individuals from having commercial relationships with betting companies.

“This case is more a matter of perception, rather than corruption. The rules apply to players, coaches, officials and accredited tournament staff – who all have the ability to influence results or have access to inside information.

“We urge anyone in the sport who is unclear or is considering commercial deals like this to get in touch with us to seek guidance.”

The ITIA is an independent body established by its tennis members to promote, encourage, enhance and safeguard the integrity of professional tennis worldwide.

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