The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is responsible for the issuing of gambling licences to companies that wish to offer their services people based in the UK. Introduced as part of the 2005 Gambling Act, it has grown to become one of the most trusted organisations in the world of online betting. Coming under the jurisdiction of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, it regulates any form of betting.
The UKGC is responsible for issuing licences to companies based in the United Kingdom as well as those that are based elsewhere but offer gambling to UK-based punters. As well as issuing the licences, the organisation can also suspend them or revoke them entirely on occasions when the company that received the licence does something wrong. The body can also issue large multi-million fines for failings. Whatever companies might think about the Gambling Commission, they are the ones with all of the power.
Getting A Gambling Licence
Any company that wishes to operate in a manner that means that people in the United Kingdom will be able to use their services needs to obtain a gambling licence from the UKGC. It’s also not as if there’s only one licence, with the United Kingdom Gambling Commission actually offering numerous licences that each company will need to consider and apply for the correct type.
If your company will allow UK-based customers to bet on your site then you will need a licence of some sort in order to operate legally. If you don’t want to be able to offer your services then you can obtain a licence from any number of other organisations, with the likes of the Gibraltar Licensing Authority, the Malta Gaming Authority and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission being prime examples.
The need to have a licence for companies that either advertise in the UK or have customers here was introduced as part of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014. This replaced the notion that it was ok to do those things as long as you had a licence from an authority that was on a pre-approved list, which included the likes of Barbuda and Antigua.
When The UKGC Will Take Action
There are numerous reasons why the United Kingdom Gambling Commission will decide to take action against a company or site that has been issued a licence by it. The aims of the organisation are to stop gambling being a source of crime or associated with crime, to make sure gambling is conducted in a transparent fashion and to protect vulnerable people, including the young, from gambling related harm.
Any company that either violates one of those things or does something that could be perceived as violating it will find itself in hot water with the UKGC. When the take out a licence, gambling companies agree to obey the Gambling Commission’s rules and regulations and to do their best to avoid falling foul of any of the organisation’s aims. An operator that fails to will have action taken against it.
There are a host of things that a company can do wrong and find that the UKGC will look to make a move against them. One of the biggest issues is when an operation fails to properly carry out anti-money laundering rules, which can include something as simple as not knowing where a customer’s funds are coming from. Failing to ensure a degree of social responsibility is also problematic and will be punished accordingly.
This can include something like failing to prevent young people from gambling or even actively appealing to them to do so. Not carrying out checks on a customer’s identification is therefore seen as a major failure of a company’s responsibilities. Even something such as failing to ensure that their website performs well and ensures both the safety of customers and fairness of games will come under the UKGC’s jurisdiction.
Why Licences Get Suspended
Gambling companies regularly fall foul of the Gambling Commission’s rules, often without meaning to do so. The immediate reaction of the governing body will usually be to issue a fine and / or a warning to the company committing the offence. It’s not common for the UKGC to leap to a decision that involves suspending a company’s licence, but they will do it if the organisation feels that it is warranted.
The reality is that there are no hard and fast rules for companies, in the sense that the Gambling Commission doesn’t say ‘if you do exactly this then your licence will be suspended’. That’s because what ‘this’ is can depend on a huge number of factors that will differ between examples. When the licence of Matchbook was suspended in 2020, for example, the following reasons were given:
- Not fulfilling responsibilities relating to money laundering
- Not complying with the UKGC’s social responsibility code
- Behaving in a manner that wasn’t consistent with the statutory licensing objectives
The licence was suspended temporarily whilst the Gambling Commission investigated further, eventually deciding to fine the company more than £700,000 and also impose more conditions onto their licence. This meant that if Matchbook hoped to keep operating then they would need to go above and beyond the usual licensing requirements and do even more to prove that they were behaving.
After issuing the fine and increased licensing requirements to Matchbook, the UKGC also decided to publish the case in full. Their reasoning for doing so was that it was felt that the industry as a whole could learn lessons from the case, proving the point that the rules and regulations of the Gambling Commission aren’t always clear cut. If they were, there wouldn’t have been such a need to publish their findings.
Suspending a company’s licence will always be seen as a last resort for the UKGC, with a range of various sanctions usually turned to before taking such overwhelming action. It’s far more common for the organisation to hit a company with a fine, sometimes extremely hefty ones depending on the transgression. In March 2020, for example, Betway were issued with an £11.6 million fine for social responsibility and money laundering failures.
Recovering From Suspensions
Though far from impossible, it is not all that common for a site to recover from a suspension. Because it is a move that is considered to be a last resort, if a company is suspended by the Gambling Commission then it must have been guilty of some serious failures. It is unlikely that such failures will have come about accidentally and it is more likely to be because of serious issues within a business.
Addison Global Limited’s site MoPlay was suspended in February of 2020 after rumours that the company was in financial difficult and was unable to pay customers money owed. As a result of this, the company went into liquidation. This is a far more common response to a company having its licence suspended, though it’s not the only result of it happening. Betting companies will, instead, simply choose to withdraw from the UK market.