Intouch Games were, until fairly recently, an independent online slot developer that was founded and run from Birmingham. However, they were acquired by Skywind in 2022, and this is important to remember as you will see shortly.
The company also operate their own casino and bingo sites such as mFortune and PocketWin, becoming popular with players because they only offered games they developed themselves, making their brands stand out in a sea of others which all plugged more or less the same content.
However, as popular as they had become, their internal social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) processes have been failing to make the grade according to the UKGC, who first hit them with a £2.2 million fine back in 2019.
Another fine of £3.4 million came along in 2021 when things hadn’t improved, and now, less than two years later, they seemingly still haven’t done enough to satisfy the regulator.
When you hear some of the instances cited by the UKGC as evidence of the failings, you will be hard pressed to disagree.
Why Have Intouch Games Been Fined Again?
These fines always come quite a long time after failings have been identified, because once the regulator finds an issue, they have to investigate and gather evidence before they can decide what an appropriate penalty amount might be.
In this case, the UKGC put Intouch through a gambling compliance assessment back in March 2022, which they failed spectacularly by all accounts.
Since then, the investigation has been underway and the UKGC have been ensuring everything has been done by the book, and only now, 10 months later, has the fine been handed out.
When this first happened back in 2019, Intouch will have been told to up their game, improve their internal systems and processes, and make sure that next time the UKGC came to have a look at how they were handling social responsibility and AML they would be satisfied.
Executive Director of Operations at the UKGC, Kay Roberts, said:
“Considering this operator’s history of failings we expected to see significant improvement when we carried out our planned compliance assessment. Disappointingly, although many improvements had been made, there was still more to do.
“This £6.1m fine shows that we will take escalating enforcement action where failures are repeated and all licensees should be acutely aware of this.”
This is why the company have been scrutinised with such regularity and why the fine amount has increased each time; the commission are keeping closer tabs on Intouch and are running out of patience with them.
However, if you have the keen mind of a detective you will have noticed that all of their misgivings were picked up before Skywind took control of the company, so the new ownership might help to steer the ship in the right direction.
7 Week Wait Before Contacting Player Flagged as At Risk
I’m sometimes sympathetic towards companies that get fined, since gambling rules do change a lot and are often a bit vague, so it is difficult to keep up.
Not this time though.
Intouch have been warned several times and should have put systems in place that were over cautious if anything, to avoid any further problems.
They certainly didn’t do that, since some of the worst examples of their failings included:
“Not interacting with a customer until seven weeks after they had been flagged for interaction for erratic play patterns and extended periods of play.”
“And accepting a customer’s word that they earned £6,000 a month without verifying this information after the customer account was flagged due to customer spending and gambling during unsociable hours.”
Pretty difficult to put these things down to human error – 7 weeks!
When it comes to AML failings, they were numerous but included:
- Not adequately taking account of the risk of a customer being a beneficiary of a life insurance policy ; having links to high-risk jurisdictions; or being a politically exposed person (“PEP”), family member of a PEP or known close associates of a PEP, within its money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment.
- Not having policies, procedures and controls in place to address the risk factors mentioned above
- Not sufficiently considering the Commission’s money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment or the Commission’s guidance
- Not ensuring its policies, procedures and controls were implemented effectively, for example not following its own policy to request source of funds information from customers who had deposited and lost £10,000 in a 12-month period.
Essentially, they weren’t doing proper checks or taking important considerations into account when accepting deposits from certain people.
Intouch haven’t made a public statement on the matter, possibly because their change of ownership is still fairly recent in the grand scheme of things, and no mention has been made of license suspensions, but you can bet Intouch will be getting another visit from the regulator soon, and they really need to have their house in order when that happens.