The Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) announced on 3 March 2021 that it has taken action against more than 30 Personal Management Licence (“PML”) holders in connection with Caesars Entertainment UK Limited (“Caesars”), the land-based gambling business.
PMLs are required to be held by individuals responsible for specific activities within a gambling operator’s business (such as, for strategy, financial planning, and regulatory compliance). As part of its powers as industry regulator, the Commission can undertake reviews of PMLs which can lead, in theory, to the imposition of financial penalties or conditions, warnings, or the suspension or revocation of the licence. For further detail, see the Commission’s Statement of principles for licensing and regulation.
Caesars’ £13m regulatory settlement
By way of background, this announcement follows an investigation last year by the Commission into Caesars and the 11 casinos it operates across Britain (the “Licensed Entities”), which revealed “serious systemic failures” in the decision-making processes involving VIP customers. As a result of the investigation, the Commission found the Licensed Entities to be in breach of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (the “LCCP”), referencing a “catalogue of social responsibility, money laundering and customer interaction failures”.
The Commission ultimately reached a regulatory settlement with Caesars in April 2020, which involved a record £13m payment in lieu of a financial penalty. It also included certain conditions, including that Caesars would implement a series of improvements to remedy the failings and ensure that PML holders and other relevant staff would undertake outsourced AML training.
During the course of the Commission’s investigations, three PMLs surrendered their licences, but investigations into PMLs remained ongoing at the point of the Commission’s public statement as regards the regulatory settlement.
Our report on the Caesars’ investigations and settlement is accessible here.
PML review and sanctions
The investigations into certain of Caesars’ PML holders were commenced due to concerns that individuals responsible for activities within the business failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure that they did not place the Licensed Entities in breach of the LCCP.
The Commission has now completed those PML investigations and reviews. The outcomes are as follows:
seven PML holders received warnings;
two PML holders received advice to conduct letters; and
three PML holders surrendered their licences (following notification that their licence was under review).
In addition, 20 other PML holders were subject to investigations outside of the formal licence review process and of those, one PML holder surrendered their licence whilst subject to investigation but prior to notification of a licence review and 18 PML holders received advice as to conduct letters.
The regulatory action against the PML holders at Caesars is the latest in a line of tough regulatory action taken by the Commission and exemplifies its increased focus on individuals with a PML role. Commenting on the sanctions, the Commission’s Executive Director, Richard Watson, warned all PML holders that they “will be held accountable, where appropriate, for the regulatory failings within the operators they manage”.
The Commission’s latest Enforcement Report, which covers the period up to March 2020, emphasised that it is people that make decisions, not businesses, and that the Commission will continue to focus on the role played by PML holders when it is undertaking investigations (see our update on the Enforcement Report here).
To date, we have not seen the Commission suspend or revoke a PML. The statistics published in the Enforcement Report refer to warnings and surrenders with none seemingly reaching the bar for suspension or revocation (or those that did surrendering their licence prior to revocation). This is consistent with the outcomes of Caesars’ PML investigations and reviews. Although the Commission reserves its power to revoke or suspend a licence for the most serious of cases, and so instances of these sanctions are relatively rare, the Commission has emphasised that it will not hesitate to use its full range of enforcement powers, if necessary.
The Commission’s public statement announcing the Caesars’ PML sanctions is available here.
Co-Authored by Alex Askew