Dirk Vennix, CEO of the Association of British Bookmakers, discusses the European Commission’s recent extension to money laundering regulations and the impact it will have on betting shops in the UK
– So there we were, reviewing and updating the ABB’s guidance on anti-money laundering, feeling reasonably happy that betting shops are working well within the existing laws.
Recently, the Treasury, when reviewing Europe’s Money Laundering regulations, concluded that extending those regulations to betting shops was not necessary. Then, out of nowhere, the European Commission announced they were going to do just that.
Money laundering is obviously a serious matter and all Member States must play their part, but that does not mean new rules are needed, especially ones that will have an adverse impact on one particular sector in one particular country.
Given the number of cases of suspicious activity in LBOs in the UK is small – just 89 out of the UK’s 230,000 money laundering cases related to LBOs last year – the proposals from the EU for the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive are completely over the top. They will have a huge impact not just on betting shops but for on course bookmakers too, adding huge and unnecessary costs to normal every day operations.
With all the very detailed and complex reporting rules that are contained within the proposals, we estimate this will cost betting shops as much as £100million. Yes, you did read that right, £100million. At a time when bookmakers are seeing profits fall and needing to pay the new machine games duty, you can see the potential for damage this has for the future of our industry.
We have been taking the message directly to decision makers in Brussels, showing Members of the European Parliament and Commission officials the measures already in place to deal with this issue. We have shown how betting shops already work within the framework of the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Gambling Act 2005.
The Gambling Act alone covers this issue, as one of the key licencing objectives is that betting shops must “prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime.”
We have also been talking to our own Government, noting how existing laws already deal with this matter, and the Treasury is sympathetic to our position that no regulation is needed.
The fact is there is no evidence at all to suggest money laundering is a major issue for betting shop operators, and we will continue to campaign to ensure the revised Directive from the EU is not extended to cover betting shops.