Betfred to pay £3.25 million for anti-money laundering and safer gambling failings

Profits have risen at Betfred according to their latest set of accounts
Betfred: settlement will go to socially responsible causesCredit: John Grossick

Betfred will pay a £3.25 million settlement to socially responsible causes after a Gambling Commission investigation found failings in anti-money laundering (AML) and safer gambling measures in place at the bookmaker’s betting shops.

The settlement is the second significant action taken by the Commission regarding Betfred in the last 12 months, with the operator also fined £2.87m for failures of AML checks and social responsibility measures relating to its online brand in September last year. In the last 24 months, betting and gaming operators have paid out £95,288,400 as a result of failures identified by the Commission's investigations.

The investigation into Betfred shops covered a period between January 2021 and December 2022, during which the company failed to comply with their licensing obligations on “appropriate risk assessment and the implementation of appropriate policies and procedures . . . with the objective of preventing money laundering and terrorist financing” and failing to “interact with customers in a way which minimises the risk of experiencing harm associated with gambling”.

Preventing money laundering and terrorist financing are included together in the Gambling Commission’s licence conditions and codes of practice that all operators are subject to.

In Betfred's case, examples given in a statement published on Tuesday included one customer losing around £61,000 in a four-month period with no action taken by the bookmaker as it had previously concluded there were “no AML concerns” and failing to obtain know your customer and source of funds documentation, including from customers who lost £72,000 in a nine-month timeframe and £120,353 in an 11-month period, due to the bookmaker “relying on uncorroborated open-source information”.

Gambling Commission: Betfred paid its costs and agreed for a statement of facts to be published
Gambling Commission: Betfred paid its costs and agreed for a statement of facts to be published

The Commission also cited examples of a failure in customer interaction around safer gambling, which included one customer, who placed 1,375 bets over five months for a loss of £19,336.28.

While the customer was interacted with 12 times during the five months, staff said the conversations were “positive” and that the customer was “happy at this level of spend” despite displaying concerning signs such as his card being declined and placing large bets.

“The interactions did not escalate in any way and there is no evidence to suggest this customer was offered any information or support,” the Gambling Commission said. “The only factor that appears to have been considered was whether the customer appeared happy to continue to gamble.”

No safer gambling interactions took place with another customer, a professional poker player, who staked £517,499 between March and May 2022, as the bookmaker concluded the bettor had “displayed no signs to encourage staff interaction” and had won £8,585 during that period.

As well as making the £3.25m settlement, Betfred paid the Commission’s costs and agreed for a statement of facts to be published.

A spokesperson for Betfred said: “Following a review of our UK-based betting shops we have entered into a regulatory settlement with the Gambling Commission. As noted in the commission’s findings, we implemented an early action plan to remedy our identified weaknesses and we strengthened our anti-money laundering and social responsibility policies.

“During the assessment, however, the commission found no evidence of criminal spend in any of our shops. Betfred remains committed to ensuring that a safer gambling ethos lies at the very heart of our business.”

The Gambling Commission outlined that Betfred had taken significant steps to “remedy its failings”, was cooperative in its dealings and engaged in “early and voluntary acceptances” of the findings against it.

Kay Roberts, executive director of operations at the Gambling Commission, said: “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.

“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.”

Last week, bookmaker Star Sports was fined £594,000 by the Gambling Commission for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures between March 2020 and May 2021. The brand’s operating company Star Racing Limited has also received an official warning and had conditions added to its licence.

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Peter ScargillDeputy industry editor

Published on 18 July 2023inBritain

Last updated 19:40, 18 July 2023