Anti-money laundering directives and combatting illegal gaming dished up at World Regulatory Café

Anti-money laundering directives and combatting illegal gaming dished up at World Regulatory Café

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Implications of anti-money laundering directive amendments and combatting illegal gaming markets were among discussion topics at the International Casino Conference’s World Regulatory Café on Monday.

The forum, moderated by Philippe Vlaemminck, Managing Partner of Pharumlegal, encouraged panel members and delegates to identify regulatory problems they faced and present them to the panel. On the panel was Marja Appelman, Director of the Dutch Gambling Authority; Harrie Temmink, Deputy Head of the Public Interest Services Unit at the European Commission; Mandis Jääger, CEO of the Olympic Entertainment Group and Peter Naessens, Director of the Belgium Gaming Commission.

Harrie Temmink said new anti-money laundering directives (AML) had been launched with all games of chance now falling under these directives. He added that the main change was that the new directive would cover the entire gaming sector, previously it had only covered the casino sector. He added that member states could go further than the cited directives. All games of chance included but member states can exclude some games if they could prove they were low risk and could be exempted.

Temmink went on to say a fourth anti-money laundering directive was proposed for June 27, 2017. This would be transposed to a wider sector than just the casino industry. He said: “It’s a work in progress and it’s extremely difficult, although your [the gaming] sector does have experience.”  

Peter Naessens said that the AML issue was hard to tackle: “Lots of meetings, lots of documents, very technical language and at the end, not all the questions are answered.” He said the directives failed to take into account experience within the sector and placed casinos “at the level of a second hand car dealer, adding: “The risk of money laundering is more on the online gaming sector rather than the already well regulated casino sector.” Illegal casinos were still a problem and directives should still be applied to all online operators, he finished.

Harrie said the European Commission could not justify lower standards for AML as the directives were not about stifling competition from elsewhere. But he added: “Sometimes even in Central Europe there is room for improvement in the enforcement of these rules.”

Moderator Philippe Vlaeminnck said: “For many years, at a European level, I’ve seen regulators meeting and I’ve seen operators meeting. It would be more valuable to see them sitting together. How can we as experts talk to each other to find a conclusion?”

The panel also discussed the need for more action to be taken against illegal gaming markets. Vlaeminnck described this as “item number one” on many operator’s agendas, with markets changing so fast that a regulator applying existing law was operating at a slower pace than illegal operators. “Illegals are always one step ahead – they are always starting new games. Then they try to play cat and mouse with the justice department. Cross border advertising of secondary products is a very big issue.”

Naessens said this was one of the biggest issues for the Belgium Gaming Commission: “Illegal operators did not exclude people with a gambling addiction. They do not take into account age restrictions.” He added that judges struggled with the internet and online advertising for illegal gambling.

Marja Appelman of the Dutch Gambling Authority said as a small regulator, they had found a range of “soft actions” had generated results. She said not only included operators but service providers such as marketers and app stores. “It’s been more effective – the impact has been huge. Speaking softly has more impact that the good old fashioned stick.” She added that as illegal gambling was often linked with other crimes, the authority was working together with police, the tax office and other officials to find the best way to deal with these criminals such as closing their shop. She said: “We have local government helping us, so it’s not only the regulator that’s doing the enforcing.”

Madis Jääger said: “Regulations have been established in the Baltics, which has resulted in sites being blocked and payment blocked from banks. At the end of the day there will be people who want to play on the illegal sites, which they will find by changing their VPN or other methods, but the majority of people will be protected by the influence of the law.”