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Having Fun with Fines: Should Authorities Tighten the Noose?

This year, the iGaming scene was all about safe and responsible gambling. With 2023 coming to an end, we are encountering reports about all sorts of strategies, tools, and policies that should keep players safe from themselves. The Swedish gambling authority is calling for a credit card ban. Spain does market research to fight problem gambling. Germany has already done it. The Netherlands is handing out tickets to operators like flyers. 

And while I’m all for staying on the right side of the track, I can’t help but notice something is obviously missing in the media narrative. People rarely dare to question the effectiveness of those policies or, to be more precise, whether the current fines imposed on operators have any effect on their practices.

A Slap on the Wrist is Not Enough

Too many times we encounter news using terms such as “warning”, “slap on the wrist”, and “yellow card”, mostly related to online gambling operators who misconducted, but obviously not enough to earn a monetary fine. And while I’m all for dialogue and making compromises, I also believe this pushes things in the wrong direction. Such an approach toward unethical and unprofessional behavior only increases the lack of trust some players have in gaming authorities and licensed brands. 

How is that possible? If anything, it only shows that authorities are proving they are diligent! Well, it depends on who you ask. Imagine an average fan of sports betting, always happy to receive a bonus. They signed up with a licensed brand, and in a month or so, the IGA (Imaginary Gaming Authority) issued a warning. The reason? Their bookie was doing some shady business with whatever part of the gambling law you want to imagine. 

For that particular player, all the reasons to sign up with a licensed brand with a smaller bonus disappear. From their point of view, the effort was futile, as the licensed brand showed the same signs of misbehavior one would expect from an unlicensed brand. On top of that, the company gets away with it. Next time, they will likely choose a brand with a better offer, licensed or not. 

Money Can Buy the Way Out

Not all misconducts should face the same penalties, and I agree there are many things to consider when issuing a monetary fine. However, I also agree with Andrew Wilkie, the independent MP in Australia, who said that fines get lost in the company’s margin of error. Wilkie is convinced some companies make so much money, current fines probably won’t affect their behavior or prevent misconduct in the future. If anything, they send a message that operators can get away with anything, as long as they keep the engine running. 

They believe fines should be high enough to actually impact the business and make shareholders ask important questions. Besides, higher fines would make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again. Although to some, Wilkie might sound like a broken record, he tackles some serious points, including the aftermath of malpractices. 

I have to admit that it took a politician from the Land Down Under for me to consider the bigger picture. If there was data leakage, are those who experienced it compensated in any manner? What about AML cases? The public rarely hears any info on further measures. If the money is stolen, does it ever go back to its source? 

Optimizing the Fines System is the Key

One could easily think I advocate for stripping operators of their licenses and making them do the walk of shame until they leave the market for good, but that is not true. I advocate for higher levels of discipline and fines that would be proportional to the company’s revenue. For instance, a €100k fine sounds unnecessarily big to many of us normies, but when a company is making billions, it is probably the same as their budget for office supplies. Imposing a 10% fine or a 20% fine would leave a much bigger impression. In the end, why not make the fines grow exponentially if they repeat the violation? 

Throughout the years, I noticed certain names end up in such news over and over again. To make things more interesting, they seem to be making the same mistakes. They get a slap on the wrist, perhaps pay a small fine, and continue on their merry way. It is not encouraging for players or companies who do business by the book. 

Finding the Balance

Revenue and fines aside, it is important to acknowledge that iGaming is a big employer. What seems like nothing more than a bunch of websites, is supported by a network of writers, designers, and IT experts. Let’s not forget all the accountants, secretaries, support agents and such. Working in the background, they are cogs that keep the engine running. It is not in anyone’s interest, especially not mine, to ruin it.

That being said, authorities should rethink some policies. They must show they mean serious business and discourage repeated violations. Currently, the majority of big companies would rather pay a fine or two and polish their reputation with the help of the PR team. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

Even though we like to think of responsible gaming as a one-way street in which players get all the tools and support they need, the issue is more complex than that. Authorities also have a reputation to live up to. Just look at what happened to MGA in just a couple of years. From a decent watchdog, it turned into the butt of the joke, especially as authorities in other markets become more proactive. 

Regulators are sheriffs, and it is their role to prevent the market from becoming the Wild West. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed they’ll succeed. 

This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.

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Borina Kopcic Pandur
Borina Kopcic Pandur
Last Update: 07 Dec 2023
Borina Kopcic Pandur is a skilled and imaginative writer with years of experience in the gambling industry. As a writer for GoodLuckMate, she specializes in crafting detailed and engaging casino reviews that offer a fresh perspective on online gambling. With her unique writing style and profound industry knowledge, she provides readers with expert evaluations and insightful perspectives.

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