Posts Tagged ‘Million’

UKGC Fines William Hill £6.2 million for Money Laundering Prevention Failures

 UKGC Fines William Hill £6.2 million for Money Laundering Prevention Failures

William Hill continues to put itself on the bad side of the UK’s regulatory agencies. Less than a month after coming to an agreement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority to remedy unfair promotional marketing practices, the gambling operator has been fined £6.2 million by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) for failing to protect problem gamblers and prevent money laundering.

“We will use the full range of our enforcement powers to make gambling fairer and safer,” said UKGC Executive Director Neil McArthur in a news release. “This was a systemic failing at William Hill which went on for nearly two years and today’s penalty package – which could exceed £6.2m – reflects the seriousness of the breaches.”

“Gambling businesses have a responsibility to ensure that they keep crime out of gambling and tackle problem gambling – and as part of that they must be constantly curious about where the money they are taking is coming from.”

In an investigation, the Gambling Commission found that William Hill fell short of money laundering and social responsibility regulations numerous times between November 2014 and August 2016. In that time, ten customers were able to deposit sizable sums of money – six-figures worth – that were “linked to criminal offences.” William Hill profited £1.2 million from these players.

William Hill will be required to surrender that money and make any players whole who might have been victimized by the customers who should not have been permitted to gamble. The other £5 is a punitive measure.

Here is a sampling of the violations committed by William Hill, per the UKGC press release:

• A customer was allowed to deposit £654,000 over nine months without source of funds checks being carried out. The customer lived in rented accommodation and was employed within the accounts department of a business earning around £30,000 per annum.
• A customer was allowed to deposit £541,000 over 14 months after the operator made the assumption that the customer’s potential income could be £365,000 per annum based on a verbal conversation and without further probing. The reality was that the customer was earning around £30,000 a year and was funding his gambling habit by stealing from his employer.
• A customer who was allowed to deposit £653,000 in an 18 month period activated a financial alert at WHG. The alert resulted in a grading of ‘amber risk’ which required, in accordance with the licensee’s anti-money laundering policy, a customer profile to be reviewed. The file was marked as passed to managers for review but this did not occur due to a systems failure. The customer was able to continue gambling for a further six months despite continuing to activate financial alerts.
• A customer was identified by WHG as having an escalating gambling spend with deposit levels exceeding £100,000. WHG interacted with the customer seeking assurance that the customer was ‘comfortable with their level of spend’. After receiving verbal assurance and without investigating the wider circumstances the operator continued to allow the customer to gamble. In our view that interaction was inadequate and did not review the customer’s behaviour sufficiently to identify if their behaviour was indicative of problem gambling.
• A customer exceeded deposits of £147,000 in an 18 month period with an escalating spend and losses of £112,000. WHG systems identified the issue but its only response over a 12 month period was to send two automated social responsibility emails. Our view is that this action alone was not sufficient given the customer’s gambling behaviour coupled with the severity of the losses.

So basically, William Hill saw players deposit tons of money and possibly lose tons of money or not really be able to prove they actually had this sort of money to spend and just said, “Yeah, it’s cool. Have fun.”

William Hill, for its part, has said that it has cooperated with the UKGC and is working to improve its customer screening procedures.

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Partypoker Going for All the Glory with a 2018 MILLIONS Online Guarantee of $20 Million

 Partypoker Going for All the Glory with a 2018 MILLIONS Online Guarantee of $20 Million

Earlier this month, partypoker hosted its first online version of its already-popular MILLIONS event. The $ 5 million guaranteed tournament was a hit, as over one thousand players registered, generating a $ 5.1 million prize pool. Jon Van Fleet won the event, banking just over a million dollars. Players will have to wait a year for the next MILLIONS online, but their patience will be rewarded, as partypoker is quadrupling the guaranteed prize pool.

Yes, I had to re-read it at first, too. I’m not normally impressed by tournament guarantees, as they come in all sizes and we have seen plenty of them at a million dollars or more for some of the more significant online poker series. But holy hell, next year’s MILLIONS online guarantee is going to be $ 20 million? I don’t really even know how that’s possible.

The $ 20 million guaranteed MILLIONS online will run December 1st though December 4th, 2018 at partypoker and will feature the same $ 5,300 buy-in that it did this month.

Players can start ramping up as early as February, as the MILLIONS online leaderboard will kick off on Monday, February 5th. The top ten players on the leaderboard every week will be awarded a $ 5,300 seat in the December event. Players who win more than one seat will receive the additional $ 5,300 prizes in tournament dollars. Mid and low leaderboards will also exist, with the top 20 players on each winning smaller denomination satellite tickets.

Of course, MILLIONS is primarily a live tournament series, so partypoker is making sure that live players aren’t left out of the fun. The first through tenth place finishers in every live MILLIONS Main Event will also receive a $ 5,300 seat into the Millions Online tournament.

This is impressively ambitious. The $ 5.1 million prize pool for the recent MILLIONS Online was the largest tournament prize pool in partypoker’s history and partypoker has been around for a long time, at least in online poker terms. The poker room will need to attract a field of 4,000 to meet the guarantee, but even if it hit that number on the nose, there would still be a hidden overlay because a good number of seats are being given away. Now, there is an entire year for players to compete in satellites to earn their seats, so I suspect achieving a no-overlay $ 20 million prize pool might be achievable (the guarantee alone will likely drive traffic to partypoker and encourage players to register who might not have otherwise done so), but it will still be an uphill climb.

John Duthie, President of partypoker LIVE, said in a partypoker blog post, “I love the concept of a MILLIONS leg on partypoker, it gives us the opportunity to bring together our MILLIONS players from all over the world at the end of the year to compete for an unprecedented prizepool. I was a little nervous about trying this concept out, but players supported us this time so we should return the favour and go for a record breaking online prizepool in 2018.”

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888 Ordered to Pay Over $10 Million Fine for Technical Failure

 888 Ordered to Pay Over $10 Million Fine for Technical Failure

One of the biggest things mentioned about a regulated online gaming industry is that, if a business goes awry of the regulations, there are methods of punishment that can be administered. A case in the United Kingdom against one of the biggest online gaming and poker companies in the industry is a clear demonstration of this fact.

According to the BBC, 888 Holdings, the operators of the popular 888Poker, a very reputable sports book and online casino (among other things), has been ordered by the British Gambling Commission to pay a £7.8 million (slightly more than $ 10 million U. S. dollars) for not adhering to protect at-risk customers. According to the Gambling Commission, there were “significant flaws” in a technical segment of the 888 software that failed to reject about 7000 players who had “self-banned” themselves from being able to bet on the site.

Reuters went into further detail as to how the violations occurred. 888 operates two separate products, Reuters reports, one for casino gaming, poker and sports betting and another outlet for bingo. While players might have excluded themselves from going directly to the casino/poker/sports side of the operation, it was found that it could be circumvented by going through the bingo side of the 888 operations.

Once particular case highlighted by the British Gambling Commission demonstrates what they believe were the flaws in the 888 Holdings’ “social responsibility process,” as the BBC called it. A customer of 888 was able to wager £1.3 million over a 13-month period, including £55,000 that the customer had stolen from his employer. Online for three to four hours a day gambling, 888 allegedly failed to “(interact) with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in the gambling,” the British Gambling Commission reported. “(These actions) raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at risk of gambling harm.”

£3.5 million of the fine will be used to settle claims from the 7000 players who weren’t blocked from playing after they had requested to be put on the list. Another £4.25 million will be donated to gambling support organizations to “invest in measures to tackle gambling related harm.” Finally, £62,000 will go to the company who was the victim of the player who embezzled money from the company to gamble.

The fine by far exceeds the previous record for a fine from the Gambling Commission. Last year a bookmaker, Gala Coral, was ordered to pay a £880,000 fine after not inquiring into the activities of a customer of their service. In this instance, the gambler was stealing money (to the tune of £800,000) to fund his gambling endeavors. While they started a preliminary investigation, Gala Coral received uncorroborated evidence that the player was “independently wealthy” and halted the investigation.

2016 also saw another prominent player in the online gaming industry take a hit. Paddy Power was ordered to pay £280,000 after they were accused of “encouraging” a problem gambler to continue wagering (the Gambling Commission does not explain how they “encouraged” the gambler). That person allegedly lost five jobs, his home and visitation and access of his children over the situation.

The seriousness of the fine is but another assertion that the British Gambling Commission, under the auspices of Sarah Harrison, the Chief Executive of the organization, that violations of the regulations in the United Kingdom will be dealt with severely. Before the 888 case, the Commission had stated that “the gambling industry should be on notice that the issues identified in this statement are likely to form the basis for future commission compliance activities.”

The fine is a substantial one for 888 Holdings. It represents 17% of the pre-tax profits from 2016 for 888, but it didn’t seem to have an impact on its current business operations. On the London Stock Exchange, 888 Holdings finished the day at 264.25p, a.48% uptick from the previous day’s trading prior to the fine announcement.

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Phil Ivey Loses Case with the Borgata, Owes $10.1 Million

 Phil Ivey Loses Case with the Borgata, Owes $10.1 Million

After a drawn out civil trial that saw both sides reveal the dirty underbelly of the gambling world, poker professional Phil Ivey has lost his civil suit against the Borgata in Atlantic City, per the New Jersey Law Journal and writer Charles Toutant.

In a decision released on Thursday, Ivey and his playing partner Cheng Yin Sun were ordered by U. S. District Judge Noel Hillman to pay the Borgata damages totaling $ 10.1 million. The judge could have ordered more damages as the Borgata wanted (the casino issued their statement saying they would have won more from Ivey if he had been losing), but Hillman rejected that notion as “too speculative” for the case. After hearing all the evidence in the case, it came down to a simple fact, according to Hillman.

Noting that Ivey and Sun admitted to using “edge sorting” – picking out slight cutting errors in a deck of cards and having them “adjusted” so they would know it when seen again – Hillman said that their actions was a violation of a ban on marked cards. Ivey and Sun believed they were playing an “advantage” (the ability to use information to shift the odds in the player’s favor), but Hillman didn’t buy the story. In fact, he went so far as to give the Borgata more than what Ivey won ($ 9 million) in those four baccarat stops because some of the money won was used in other games.

The entirety of the case was a demonstration of what the casinos will do to bring in a “high roller” like Ivey and what he will do – the “edge sorting” – to garner an edge against the casinos.

A main contention of Ivey’s case was that he never touched any card to “mark” them in any way. Ivey asked the casino to provide him a private playing area, a dealer that spoke Mandarin Chinese, a specific type of cards and an automatic shuffler (the automatic shuffler wouldn’t change the positioning of the cards). During play, Sun would indicate to the dealer that an advantageous card would be turned 180 degrees, allegedly as a “superstition” of Ivey’s but in reality so that they could identify the card when it came up during another deal. This, in Ivey and Sun’s eyes, meant they weren’t “manipulating” the cards and that the casino was acquiescing yet again to another of their demands for play.

During those four periods of play in 2012, Ivey racked up winnings of $ 9.6 million and walked away with the money. Then the Borgata staff learned of Ivey’s lawsuit with a London casino, Crockfords, where he allegedly took the same actions and beat them for $ 12.4 million. In the Crockfords case, they denied payment of the winnings almost immediately and instead fought it out in court, thus Ivey never received the money. That case is currently under appeal after the British courts ruled against Ivey.

The future of the New Jersey case is unknown at this time. Ivey does have the option of appealing to a higher court, but it is rare that a civil judgment such as this would be overruled on appeal. Ivey and the Borgata could also negotiate a settlement in the case but, with the decision in their pocket, it is unlikely that the Borgata will settle for less than what the judge has stipulated.

Poker News Daily will continue to monitor this decision and report as necessary.

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Playtech Co-Founder Sells £329 Million of Company Stock

 Playtech Co Founder Sells £329 Million of Company Stock

Playtech PLC’s co-founder Teddy Sagi, the company’s largest shareholder, has sold off a sizable chunk of his stock in the company. The sale was made through his trust, Brickington Trading Limited.

It was known that Sagi was going to sell some of his stock, but he decided to increase the amount from 10 percent to 12 percent of his holdings. He still remains Playtech’s largest shareholder, owning 21.6 percent of the online gaming firm. The fun figures: 38.7 million ordinary shares for 850p each, a total of £329 million.

As part of the sale, Sagi and Brickington (which sounds like a LEGO city) agreed to not sell any more shares for 180 days.

The sale put a hurting on other shareholders, as naturally Playtech’s stock price plummeted to the level at which Brickington sold. On November 29th, the day before the sale, Playtech (LON: PTEC) closed at 921p per share. Brickington clearly sold at a discount, but when selling that many shares, that is not unusual, as Brickington needed to match up with buyers. So while it hurts other shareholders in the near term, this sort of thing is commonplace.

Sometimes, when major shareholder sells a significant piece of their holdings, it can be a sign that said shareholder is not confident in the future of the company. That is not the case with Sagi. Sagi simply wanted to diversify Brickington’s portfolio, not keeping it weighted quite so heavily in Playtech (though it still is). The trust also holds shares in tech ventures and UK property. Playtech has said that Sagi is still very much onboard with where the company is going.

In March of 2014, Sagi made a similar transaction, selling 15 percent of his stake in Playtech at the time for £326 million. He had not originally intended to sell that much, but according to Reuters, Playtech said that there was such high demand for the stock that Sagi decided to up his sale from 29.3 million shares to 45 million. After that sale, Sagi owned 33.6 percent of Playtech and promised to not sell any more shares for a year. Playtech Chief Executive Mor Weizer and Chief Financial Officer Ron Hoffman both bought thousands of Sagi’s shares in the offloading.

Playtech is the world’s largest online gaming software developer, providing licenses for a number of customers, including Betfair, William Hill, and Paddy Power. It operates the iPoker Network, currently ranked sixth in terms of cash game traffic by PokerScout.com. With a seven-day average of 950 cash game players, it is just behind the Winning Poker Network (1,000 cash game players) and Winamax.fr (1,100). The top three poker rooms are PokerStars (13,000), 888poker (1,900), and Ignition, which took over Bovada’s poker room (1,200). Ignition and Winning Poker Network have an advantage over iPoker, as they still accept customers from the U.S.

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