UKGC finalises licence review into IMME over ‘significant’ failings

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has taken enforcement action against International Multi-Media Entertainments Limited (IMME) due to suitability, social responsibility and money laundering’.

After a nearly year-long licence review, commencing on 17 January 2020, IMME has made the decision to surrender its UK gambling licence, after the Commission was minded to revoke the certification. 

IMME offers services for the betting on international lottery outcomes under a UKGC real event betting licence as well as a lottery syndicate business – the latter of which does not require a licence – obtaining customers by calling consumers and across its lotteries.com website.

On suitability, the UKGC highlighted customers complaining of being called repeatedly by IMME sales agents, including one in her 90s who was called several times a week. Another complainant stated that a lotteries.com customer was called every 30-40 minutes, five or six times until the phone was answered.

It was also determined that 75% of the operator’s customers were over 60 years old and 20% were over 80. The UKGC observed the company was “disproportionately focused on older people,” adding that “IMME had not considered the potential vulnerabilities of their customer base”.

The UKGC investigation found ‘significant’ breaches across a range of requirements, with the company having knowledge that two of its top depositors were retired postmen who had been allowed one to bet £20,345 in five months and £16,207 in six months respectively without obtaining further information to support that level of spend.

IMME was unable to provide evidence of adequate safer gambling interactions with its customers and there were no records of interactions with a 78 year old customer who spent £63,951 in just over three months, whilst a 74 year old was able deposit £9,379 in eight days without an adequate responsible gambling interaction.

Furthermore, a depositor who was 100 years old at the beginning of the review wagered £23,839 in just five months. His deposits more than doubled from £2,992 in September 2018 to £6,090 in October 2018, it was said, and continued to rise but IMME did not obtain source of funds evidence.

Multiple complaints by consumers to the police were also identified, and instances of IMME call centre staff using aliases were described by the regular as raising “the question as to why a staff member might be told to or choose to be dishonest about their real name”.

Helen Venn, UKGC Executive Director, remarked: “We will not tolerate gambling businesses behaving in the way IMME did. Gambling operators in Britain must follow our social responsibility and anti-money laundering rules, and a failure to do this will lead to us taking tough action.

“We suspended IMME’s licence following initial concerns and – having delved even deeper into the business’s activities – discovered failures that would have inevitably led to complete licence revocation had the operator not surrendered it. There is no room in Britain’s gambling industry for operators who fail in the way IMME have.”

The indictment of IMME follows on from the UKGC’s £780,000 fine against Buzz Bingo, also for a range of social responsibility and AML shortcomings, whilst the regulator recently asserted that it is finding ‘increasing instances’ of operators failing to connect money laundering and terrorist financing to problem gambling.

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