Anti-Money Laundering Guidance for Gaming and Gambling

Blog / Anti-Money Laundering Guidance for Gaming and Gambling

Anti-money laundering (AML) is a crucial aspect of any industry that deals with financial transactions, and the gaming and gambling industry is no exception. The gaming and gambling industry has historically been associated with money laundering and other criminal activities, which has led many jurisdictions to impose strict regulations and restrictions on these institutions, whether online or offline. However, with the potential for significant revenue generation, some traditionally gambling-averse jurisdictions are beginning to reassess their stance and amend their regulations to accommodate the industry. Despite these changes, it is still crucial for gaming and gambling companies to have robust AML policies and procedures in place to mitigate the risk of financial crime and stay compliant with evolving regulatory requirements.

What is the Difference Between Gaming and Gambling

Although gaming and gambling are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two depending on the skill level involved in the activity. Gaming typically includes games such as poker, blackjack, or fantasy sports that require a certain level of skill, strategy, or knowledge to be successful. In these games, the player's decisions and actions can directly affect the outcome, and the element of luck is often secondary.

Gambling, on the other hand, is mainly based on games of chance, where the outcome is determined by random events such as the roll of the dice, the spin of the roulette wheel, or the drawing of a card from a shuffled deck. While some gambling games may include an element of skill, as in poker, the overall outcome still largely depends on luck.

Thus, although the terms gaming and gambling are often used interchangeably, there is a clear distinction based on the skill level involved in the activity and the primary factor that determines the outcome of the game.

Financial crimes in casinos involve illegal activities with money or assets in a gambling environment.

AML and Its Importance in the Gaming and Gambling Industry

The gaming and gambling industry is considered a high-risk sector for money laundering due to the high volume of financial transactions involved and the potential for anonymity and lack of transparency. The global gambling market is worth billions of dollars, and with the rise of online gambling, the industry has become even more vulnerable to financial crime.

The consequences of money laundering in the gaming and gambling industry can be severe. In addition to the legal and financial repercussions, it can damage the reputation of companies and the integrity of the industry as a whole. As a result, it is crucial for gaming and gambling companies to have robust AML policies and procedures in place to prevent the infiltration of illicit funds into their operations.

Effective AML measures are crucial for gaming and gambling companies to protect their businesses from the risk of financial crime, ensure the integrity of their operations, and comply with regulatory requirements. AML guidelines for gaming and gambling companies typically include Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures, transaction monitoring, and reporting suspicious activities to the relevant authorities.

KYC procedures involve verifying the identity of customers and understanding the nature of their business relationship with the company. This information is then used to assess the risk of potential money laundering activities. Transaction monitoring involves keeping a close eye on financial transactions and identifying any suspicious activity, such as large or unusual transactions, that may indicate money laundering. Finally, if suspicious activity is detected, gaming and gambling companies are required to report it to the relevant authorities for further investigation.

In 2009, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) revised its Recommendations to further increase AML obligations for the gaming and gambling industry. The revised Recommendations require gaming and gambling companies to implement more stringent AML measures to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. As a result of the FATF Recommendations, FATF member countries have strengthened the regulatory landscape for casinos, bookmakers, and other gaming and gambling institutions. Gaming and gambling companies are now subject to more stringent regulatory oversight, and failure to comply with AML regulations can result in severe legal and financial consequences.

while online video games gains popularity, increasing value of in-game items made them attractive to money launderers.

Identifying and Managing AML Risks in Gaming and Gambling

One of the most important aspects of identifying AML risks is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. This includes examining various factors such as customer profiles, transaction patterns, and geographic locations to determine the likelihood and potential impact of money laundering activities. Once the risks are identified, appropriate measures can be taken to mitigate them, such as the application of advanced due diligence measures on high-risk customers or the application of transaction monitoring systems.

But risk identification is only part of the equation. Managing AML risks requires continuous effort to monitor suspicious activity and adapt to risks that change over time. This includes regular training for employees, maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures, and periodic review of the effectiveness of the AML program.

As a result, managing AML risks in gaming and gambling is critical, not only to comply with regulatory requirements but also to preserve the integrity of the industry and protect customers from harm. So if you're in this industry, make sure you take AML seriously and take steps to identify and manage these risks.

Regulatory Requirements and Compliance Obligations for AML in Gaming and Gambling

In order to comply with laws and regulations aimed at preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, gambling operators must take certain steps. 

  • Customer Due Diligence (CDD): This process involves verifying basic information about clients and checking them against databases of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), sanctioned individuals, and adverse media.
  • Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD): Online casinos are often required to perform EDD, which includes verifying the source of funds (SoF) documents for clients who pose a high risk of money laundering.
  • Employee training: Compliance teams must receive adequate training on AML-related red flags and annual refresher courses to ensure they understand general requirements and risk tolerances specific to their casinos.
  • Reporting: Operators must report instances of known or suspected money laundering and terrorist financing, with no minimum financial threshold for reporting.
  • Ongoing customer monitoring: Regular monitoring helps operators understand the customer's business and risk profile, including sources of funds if necessary.
  • Independent AML audits: Independent auditors should audit AML compliance programs to measure their efficiency and avoid possible regulatory fines.
  • Money lending prevention measures: Online casinos must take appropriate measures to prevent organized money lending between customers on their premises and be prepared to report such cases to the relevant authorities if commercial and/or connected to ML activity.

Money laundering is used to convert funds from criminal activities into legal money in the Gaming and Gambling industry.

KYC in Gaming and Gambling

KYC information is critical to detecting and preventing money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes in the gaming and gambling industry. KYC requirements for gaming and gambling operators vary by jurisdiction, but there are some fundamental elements that are generally expected. 

  • Verifying the identity of customers: One of the most basic KYC requirements is to verify the identity of customers. This means collecting personal information such as name, address, and date of birth and verifying it against reliable sources. This may involve checking official documents such as passports or government-issued IDs.
  • Verifying the source of funds: Another important KYC requirement is to verify the source of funds. This means ensuring that the funds used for gambling come from legitimate sources and are not the proceeds of criminal activity. Online casinos must also monitor customer transactions and be aware of any unusual or suspicious patterns that may indicate money laundering or other illicit activity.
  • Understanding the nature of customer relationships: KYC procedures must also include an understanding of the nature of customer relationships. This means knowing who customers are, who they do business with, and whether any relationships may pose a risk of money laundering or other illicit activity.
  • Developing risk profiles: Online casinos must develop risk profiles for each customer based on factors such as their transaction history, level of activity, and overall risk level. This helps to identify customers who may be at higher risk of money laundering or other illicit activity.
  • Monitoring transactions: KYC requirements also include monitoring customer transactions in order to detect and prevent money laundering or other illicit activity. This may involve automated tools and processes to flag unusual or suspicious transactions for further investigation.
  • Reporting suspicious transactions, when applicable: Finally, online casinos must report any suspicious transactions to the relevant authorities. This includes transactions that appear to be unusual or suspicious, as well as transactions that meet certain financial thresholds or other criteria specified by local regulations.

importance of KYC and AML compliance in gaming, providing information on regulations that help prevent illegal activities

Case Studies and Examples of AML Violations in Gaming and Gambling

Here are some examples of AML violations in gaming and gambling:

  1. Caesars Palace: In 2013, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was fined $8 million for failing to prevent money laundering. The casino was accused of allowing a wealthy gambler to play anonymously without verifying his identity or source of funds. The gambler was later found to be a drug dealer who laundered millions of dollars through the casino.
  2. Crown Resorts: In 2020, Crown Resorts, one of Australia's largest casino operators, was found to have facilitated money laundering through its high-roller VIP rooms. The company was accused of turning a blind eye to suspicious activity by wealthy foreign gamblers, who were able to deposit large amounts of cash without proper scrutiny.
  3. Wynn Resorts: In 2017, Wynn Resorts, a major casino operator in the US, was fined $35 million for failing to report suspicious activity by a high-rolling gambler who was later found to be involved in a major drug trafficking operation.
  4. The Star Casino: In 2019, The Star Casino in Sydney, Australia was fined $64,500 for allowing a self-excluded problem gambler to continue playing and for failing to detect and report suspicious transactions. The casino was also found to have failed to comply with its AML obligations in relation to high-roller clients.

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