Betfred sanctioned £3.25m as UKGC uncovers AML & SR shortcomings


Betfred is to pay a £3.25m UK Gambling Commission regulatory settlement after an investigation discovered a series of failings between January 2021 and December 2022.

In addition to finding shortcomings in the group’s implementation of anti-money laundering policies, procedures and controls, deficiencies were also uncovered regarding safer gambling policies, procedures, controls and practices, including weaknesses in implementation.

Regarding the aforementioned total payment, which will be used for socially responsible purposes and includes a divestment of £1.05m, Betfred, which runs 1,750 retail betting shops, agreed to the publication of related facts and will pay Commission costs. 

Aggravating factors identified include the seriousness of the breaches, impact on licensing objectives and the fact that senior management “should have been aware of governance issues that lead to the breaches, given their significance”.

Steps taken to remedy breaches, meeting the UKGC’s timetables of providing material and responses and early and voluntary acceptance of findings and request to enter into the regulatory settlement process were stipulated as mitigating circumstances.

“In recent years there’s been a public focus on online gambling but this case illustrates how important it is for us to continue our drive to raise standards across the whole industry,” said Kay Roberts, executive director of operations at the Commission.

“Gambling is a legitimate leisure activity enjoyed safely by millions but it is vital that every single operator – either online or offline – has in place effective safeguards to prevent harm or crime.”

AML failings identified include poor record keeping and financial alerts being set too high, as well as failing to consistently obtain know your customer and source of funds information.

Customers were found to have staked large amounts without the appropriate KYC being conducted. Examples were provided of three individuals that lost £61,000 over four months, £72,000 within nine months and another that staked £429,222 and lost £120,353 across 11 months.

In addition, the UKGC noted that Betfred was “placing an undue reliance on open-source information and should have taken further steps to corroborate customers’ SoF information”.

Social responsibility shortcomings include having insufficient controls in place to protect new customers and to monitor high velocity spend and duration of play.

In addition, the Commission also found that Betfred was “making assumptions that customers were not at risk of harm because they were winning customers”.

The company, the UKGC noted, did not carry out interactions on one customer that staked £517,499 between March 21, 2022, and May 18, 2022.

This was due to it being “of the view that this customer was a professional poker player, displayed no signs to encourage staff interaction, and was in a winning position of £8,585 in the period”.

The UKGC added: “It was established that the customer was able to stake close to the entirety of his net worth (based upon open-source checks carried out by the licensee) within a two month period and should have been subject of SG considerations”.

Furthermore, the operator was found to have a lack of evidence of evaluation of the effectiveness of individual customer interactions, as well as poor record keeping that could limit the effectiveness of future interactions.

This becomes the latest in a slew of financial penalties handed down by the UKGC this year, with Star Racing and a £594,000 financial penalty Videoslots, via a $2m sanction, and SkillOnNet (£305,150) among the latest to fall foul.

Earlier in the year, 888 vowed to continue collaborative efforts alongside the regulator after the William Hill Group received a record £19.2m penalty for an array of social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures. 

The financial punishment, which surpassed the £17m issued to Entain last year, saw Mr Green pay £3.7m, while William Hill’s online business penalised £12.5m and a further £3m was aligned to the company’s retail operations.

This followed 10bet’s £620,000 penalty package, Intouch Games being handed down a financial penalty of £6.1m, a third in four years; TonyBet being penalised £442,750 and Vivaro, trading as VBet, making payments in lieu of a penalty package of £337,631. The Commission also penalised the Kindred Group’s Unibet and 32Red brands a combined £7.1m.