London, England - UK Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson has called on the Gaming Commission to order a review of online casino licenses. This also includes a call for online casinos to re-apply for their Great Britain licenses.
Watson’s call came after the Gambling Commission fined four online casino operators just last week for failure to put in place a mechanism that ensures responsible gaming and prevents money laundering activities. The penalties also have to do with the businesses failing to adopt a system for keeping their customers safe from any form of gambling harm. The fine amounted to £5.8 million, with the biggest individual fine being £2.2 million.
The Commission revealed that these penalties are the result of an ongoing investigation that began about a year and a half ago. They have engaged with, or conducted assessments of, a total of 123 online casino operators. Of these, 45 were asked to submit an action plan to the Commission, detailing how they are going to raise their standards. So far, 38 are already showing signs of improvement.
These developments gave Watson an opening to call for the re-issuance of licenses. Watson is a known critic of the UK gambling industry, and he has confirmed on his social media accounts that he has sent a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, expressing his concern that more than a third of online casino operators in the UK are “failing their customers”.
To be specific, Watson called for licenses that were issued in 2014 to be up for re-issuance. Major players in the gambling industry are concerned that this could lead to a significant hit on the industry, as only those who are up to standards or have shown major improvement will have their re-application approved if the Gambling Commission heeds Watson’s call.
The Times, which managed to get hold of Watson’s letter, also mentioned the results of its own research showing that while online casino operators spend £120 million overall to sponsor Premier League football clubs, they only gave £50 per team to the biggest gambling charity of Great Britain. Watson himself cited TGP Europe Limited, pointing out that while the betting operator signed a £48 million sponsorship with Everton, they only donated a measly £100 to GambleAware last year.
Watson had a hand in almost all proposals for change in the UK gambling industry in recent years. Among other things, he is calling for an overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act, as well as for fresh ways of preventing people from gambling and new restrictions on how much an individual can bet. In his letter, he says:
“A gambling license should be a hallmark of credibility and trust. It should not be seen as an opportunity for operators to push the limits of their conditions and responsibilities.
The regulator cannot be in a position where it is continually playing catch-up to an opaque and agile global industry. We need a structured response to the situation. This will require a total overhaul of our register of current remote sector licences.”