It emerged yesterday that a prominent UK Gambling Commission licence holder, Progress Play featured heavily on the Romanian authorities newly published list of companies that are forbidden to operate in their country. The list of 41 companies had a staggering 38 companies operated by Progress Play, under the controversial ‘White Label’ practice, the other 3 were companies covered under Curacao, a small Caribbean island which is emerging as a haven for online companies to operate worldwide. The blacklist is an official list in which the government of Romania orders that all search engines operating in the country blocks access to the companies websites and making it clear that their business is deemed illegal in Romania.
The Gambling Commission’s official register: https://secure.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PublicRegister/Search/Detail/39335 shows that Progress Play only operates 6 official companies itself and has a staggering 122 White Label licenced companies. White Label companies allow the main UK Gambling Commissioned licence holder the ability to operate under their name without the need of having to go through the official process of gaining a licence to operate by the Gambling Commission themselves. Progress Play, which operates sites such as www.national-lottery.com, www.irishlottery.com and www.euro-millians.com has a host of other casino orientated domains, all boasting the UK Gambling Commission’s official badge of each of their sites.
The reasons for their business being deemed illegal in the country appears to relate to a tax avoidance issue, something which raises serious questions over the integrity of the company’s ability to operate in the UK. In 2013 Romania allowed offshore countries to operate on the condition that it paid back taxes of 20% from 2010 through operations within the country. Remarkably, any citizen of Romania that uses a blacklisted company, can face individual fines for doing so. It therefore appears that the 38 White Label companies of Progress Play have been operating in the country without an official licence from the National Gambling Office of Romania.
Additionally, one of Progress Play’s White Label companies listed on the illegal blacklist, www.superscratch.casino-pp.net does not appear on the licence holders register of the UK Gambling Commission. However, www.superscratchcasino.com does. Another domain, www.powerslots.com also doesn’t appear on the register, however the blacklisted site of www.powerslots.eu does.
On March 19 2020, Gamvisory wrote to the Betting and Gaming Council and the Gambling Commission to request for an investigation into the practices of White Label companies (https://gamvisory.com/publications/new-page-3/) as it seems to be a complete loophole for a company to operate with the Gambling Commission’s seal of approval, yet without actually not having to apply for an operating licence to do so. Neither the BGC or the Gambling Commission replied back to us.
In June 2019 the former Deputy leader of the Labour Party, the man lauded for bringing gambling harms and malpractices into the political arena, wrote an article demanding that UK registered companies should be compelled to reapply for their licences. He specifically made reference to White Label companies, citing that between them they donated just £50 in 2018 to Gambleaware. Watson went on to say, ‘I believe that a UK gambling licence should be a hallmark of credibility and trust. It should not be seen as a platform for overseas operators to use the reputation of British sport as a marketing tool for their own domestic audience, whereby the benefits of the UK market are enjoyed, but nothing is given back to address the harm that is caused.’
Both the Gambling Commission and Progress Play were asked to give us clarification on the issues raised but have failed to respond to us.
Tom Watson’s comment, ‘it is plainly obvious to anyone that the system is a mess’ has so far fallen on deaf ears but with mounting evidence of questionable business practices and the questionable ways in which the regulator has been overseeing things, makes the review into White Labels a must to ensure the integrity of the much acclaimed Gambling Commission’s hallmark is not diluted to the point it becomes an embarrassment to hold such an award.
Link to Politics Home, tom Watson 17 June, 2019.