The Gambling Commission is considering a license review for five online casino companies after warning them that they were not doing enough to stop criminals using their websites to launder money.
The commission has written to 17 online casino companies, flagging up its findings on their controls against money laundering, terrorist financing and problem gambling.
In its letter to firms in the sector, the commission said it had identified failings not just in money-laundering controls, but also in social responsibility provisions designed to protect problem gamblers.
These included companies hiring money laundering reporting officers with no formal qualifications who were “unable to provide suitable explanations as to what constitutes money laundering”.
The news will undoubtedly be a concern to online casino players, although there are steps they can take to ensure they have joined a reputable site.
Review sites such as BestCasinos.com provide in-depth analysis of 100s of licensed UK online casinos including the largest casino sites with a UK gambling license. Factors such as the different types of games, bonuses and promotions are taken into consideration, but it also conducts important research into each operator to ensure that they possess a valid and verified gambling license.
Some of the commission’s concerns centred around firms not submitting enough information about suspicious activity to law enforcement agencies such as the National Crime Agency.
Certain online casinos are also failing in their duty to intervene when customers were showing signs of problem gambling, the commission said.
The regulator said it had spotted customers showing signs of problem gambling, but that the behaviour didn’t trigger a customer interaction by the operators in question.
It instructed them to improve their measures to protect customers and prevent money laundering, warning it may review whether five of the 17 operators should have their license withdrawn.
The regulator’s chief executive, Sarah Harrison, told the Guardian: “It is vital that the gambling industry takes its duty to protect consumers and keep crime out of gambling seriously.
“The Gambling Commission’s new strategy sets out our vision for a fairer and safer gambling market.
“The action we are taking to examine online casino operators’ compliance with money laundering and customer interaction requirements are just one example of how we will be relentless in turning that vision into reality.”
The online market, which accounts for a third of the UK industry, is being closely scrutinised by the commission with a view to ensuring that players can gamble in a safe and secure environment.
The Remote Gambling Association, the trade body for online gambling companies, confirmed that keeping crime out of gambling is one of the three main licensing objectives.
“If the commission has identified failings in this area then it must take action,” it said. “It would be wrong to prejudge the outcome of their investigations, but we would obviously want to work with them to raise standards wherever necessary.”