The announcement today from the Great Britain Gambling Commission that the thematic review initiated in late 2017 has resulted in yet two more operators being named and shamed, with one operator being sanctioned and a second entering into a regulatory settlement, has been met with general confusion and trepidation by the industry.
Knee jerk reactions include claims that the risk-based approach required of operators simply is not working and that the Commission should provide hard guidance on threshold limits. It seems from this that many operators are still simply missing the point.
There are now quite obviously a number of “must do’s” for GB license holders. However, operators should not make the mistake of disregarding these items as something inherently British. Operators would be well placed to ensure the following are put in place across their businesses, irrespective of the market:
- Do you place compliance at the heart of your business? Senior management are driving the car, they should know the rules on driving it. Speeding and recklessness will lead to a very quick removal of the license and serious harm to the public. Leaving ownership of compliance with a small legal and compliance function whom are not integrated into the business will result in ongoing failures;
- Are you aware of the risk associated to your business and customers? Do you have a robust risk assessment process in place? A sound risk-based approach evidences, for example, solid understanding of the payment types and products being offered and why some may carry a higher level of risk and should then balance this against what you as an operator knows about the customer at each stage of the customer journey and what natural curiosity about the customer should tell you;
- Do you handle VIP’s in a suitable manner? Whilst a basic loyalty approach would identify high depositors as VIP, it serves operators well to take a broader view on loyalty systems and to ensure that the correct monitoring and socially responsible caretaking of VIP’s remains at the heart of any VIP program;
- Do you appropriately train your employees? Yes, standardised Anti Money Laundering and Responsible Gaming training will provide a tick in the box and give you something to show the regulator but it has been proven that in order for training to be successful it should be relevant. You should seek to provide relevant training on the systems and processes to be used within your operations and educate employees on how this meets the requirements of the law. You should seek to learn from customer facing employees on the effectiveness of the procedures and strive for continuous improvement;
- Do you ensure ownership of policies across the business? A policy should be something that can sit within your business and that the operational part of the business can understand and work with on a day to day basis. Unnecessarily wordy, non sensical and irrelevant policies which do not lead to engagement by the business will result in ongoing failures;
- Do you keep suitable records on customer interactions and your assessments related to your customers? Are these records centrally available and reportable against other data that you hold on your customer? Are you able to capture a holistic view of the risk of each customer? You as a business are held to know every piece of knowledge and data that is held in all systems and all emails of your employees. With this in mind, a centralised system drawing all of the relevant data into one location for easy reporting and assessment purposes is a must.
A further 6 operators remain under investigation by the Gambling Commission, with rumours circulating of an expected individual fine of up to GBP40 million. This does not appear to be anything that will go away any time soon and with the first Swedish licence about to be issued, it can be assumed that the Swedish Gambling Authority is watching the Gambling Commission closely and that the locally regulated Swedish market will be no less onerous than Great Britain.
Operators must stop seeing compliance as a necessary evil or a box to be ticked or a headcount to be filled and seek to move it fully into operations using robust on-boarding of new employees, continual training and technology.