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On Sept. 1, 2023, the U.K. Gambling Commission announced that it has suspended the licenses of In Touch Games Limited. This news was announced in a statement on the Gambling Commission website. The suspension took effect immediately.
More About this Action
The U.K.G.C. is tasked with overseeing both brick-and-mortar and online gaming within the United Kingdom. Under section 116 of the Gambling Act 2005, the Gambling Commission is authorized to conduct a review of the activities of any licensee if it thinks that it is not following the conditions attached to its license. Under section 120 of the same act, the Commission can suspend licenses in certain cases while a review is being conducted.
According to a statement posted to its news section on Sept. 1, the U.K.G.C. has opted to conduct a review of In Touch Games and to suspend its licenses while the review is underway. In Touch Games holds licenses to conduct remote bingo and casino games and to install gambling software remotely. All three of these licenses are now suspended.
Following the license suspensions, industry body Betting and Gaming Council took the decision to suspend In Touch Games’ membership in the group.
About In Touch Games
In Touch Games is a Birmingham-based online gaming operator that was founded in 2001. The websites it operates in the United Kingdom are:
The most popular of these sites is mFortune, which was launched in 2007. An examination of mFortune’s website (before its license was suspended) shows that it offered slots, casino table games, and bingo although the table games appear to have been limited to just a single version of blackjack and roulette. It accepted customers from only the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Courtesy of Internet Archive
The mFortune home page now displays the following notice:
We regret to inform you that we have taken the difficult decision to surrender our licence with immediate effect and you will no longer be able to deposit and use our services.
Please be assured that any outstanding balances on your account will remain protected and available to be withdrawn in accordance with our terms and conditions.
You can find further details of how to withdraw your funds by logging in to your account. If you have any queries relating to our surrender you can direct these to our customer support team by using the Support section of the website.
Similar statements are posted on the sites of the other brands within the In Touch organization. Thus, the firm appears to be abandoning the U.K. market rather than waiting for the results of the review or complying with whatever additional restrictions the Gambling Commission might see fit to implement. The status of these licenses is listed on the UKGC’s public register as “surrendered” on Sept. 4, 2023.
In June 2022, In Touch Games was acquired by Skywind Holdings. Curiously, Skywind Holdings has had U.K.G.C. licenses for both software and casino games since October 2018, and they appear to still be in good standing despite the fact that there are no active domain names associated with them. Perhaps Skywind intends to transfer its U.K. clientele to a new brand or an existing site. Skywind does have a U.K. subsidiary although it has only been around since April 2021.
What Did In Touch Do Wrong?
The U.K. Gambling Commission’s statement on the recent license suspensions is somewhat vague, noting that, “It is suspected the operator failed to follow licence conditions related to money laundering, fair and transparent terms and practices, and reporting key events.” No details were given regarding what exactly In Touch Games did wrong.
However, this wasn’t the company’s first run-in with the Commission. By examining past enforcement actions directed at In Touch, we can gain clues as to why its license was suspended.
In May 2019, In Touch was caught up in a crackdown that saw the UKGC fine four separate entities a total of £4.5M ($5.8M) of which In Touch’s share was £2.2M ($2.8M). The official news article revealing these fines stated that these businesses lacked “effective safeguards to prevent money laundering and keep consumers safe from gambling harm.”
In March 2021, Intouch received an official warning and was fined £3.4M ($4.75M) for failures involving social responsibility, anti-money laundering, and fair and transparent terms and practices. Among its misdeeds were ignoring the signs of problem gaming, refusing to properly review source of funds information, and sending SMS texts promoting bonuses but failing to disclose some of the fine print attached to these offers.
In January 2023, In Touch Games found itself in hot water again, this time having to forfeit £6.1M ($7.56 million). Among its faults were failure to interact with a customer whose history of play demonstrated erratic patterns, not seeking to verify the income of a user who claimed a £6,000 monthly wage, absence of policies to deal with AML risk factors, and – perhaps most damning – not following the guidance previously issued by the Gambling Commission.
We can see a history of In Touch Games being found wanting in the areas of customer protection and anti-money laundering with the penalties getting higher with each enforcement action. It’s not really a surprise that that the U.K.G.C. determined that fines weren’t enough in this case and license suspension was therefore appropriate.
UKGC No Rubber-Stamp Regulator
The United Kingdom has a reputation in gambling circles of being one of the strongest regulatory jurisdictions. Unlike many licensing authorities around the world, which sometimes issue licenses to just about anybody who asks, the U.K.G.C. has strict procedures for obtaining licenses, and it then follows up by punishing operators that break the rules.
Just this January, the UKGC fined TonyBet and Vivaro close to £800K ($1 million) in addition to the fine we previously mentioned against In Touch. Then in March, a £4.1 million ($5.1 million) penalty was assessed against 32Red and £3 million ($3.6 million) against Platinum Gaming. The Commission was only just getting warmed up, though, because in late March, it hit respected bookmaker William Hill with a mammoth penalty of £19.2M ($23.7 million).
These are only some of the enforcements the U.K.G.C. has meted out this year. Had we provided an exhaustive list, this page would have been much lengthier.
There are many who feel that the Gambling Commission is creating a hostile environment for internet gambling enterprises. The rules are often updated and made more stringent, and many of them are not straightforward but rather subject to interpretation. The costs of compliance and the large fines that are sometimes dished out may put U.K. gambling firms at a competitive disadvantage and thus be bad for the industry in the country.
Other Online Casinos Beckon
The departure of In Touch games from the United Kingdom is disappointing, but there are still many internet casinos available. If you’re searching for a new online casino home, then perhaps it’s best to choose an offshore one that isn’t subject to the whims of the Gambling Commission. We’ve identified Tiger Gaming as a fine gambling destination that has a small but interesting library of casino games, including Live Dealer tables. In addition, it boasts a fully featured sportsbook and poker room. To begin playing at TigerGaming today, click on the button below.
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