This might be something of nothing but after taking a bit of a closer peak into FSB Technology UK, a UK Gambling Commission licence holder, things just don’t add up.  The story perhaps begins when news broke about 1x Bet being involved in some unscrupulous and criminal practices.  In July 2019, the de-facto champions of English football, Liverpool FC announced their partnership with 1x Bet.  Just two months later, the footballing giants ended the deal along with two other footballing powerhouses, Tottenham and Chelsea.  The independent go-to news source for Liverpool fans, ‘This is Anfield’, reported that the club had ‘quietly suspended’ the deal with 1xBet and cited that the company had been promoting gambling to children, promoting illegal streams of sports (whilst displaying the football clubs logos named above) and promoting the gambling of sports involving under 19s. Perhaps worse still, they showed topless models within online casino platforms and were involved in cockfighting: https://www.thisisanfield.com/2019/09/liverpool-quietly-suspend-ties-with-1xbet-under-pressure-from-governments-gambling-body/.  

The reports state that 1xBet was a Cypriot registered company and was Russian owned and that following the emergence of news stories about the firm, the Gambling Commission suspended their licence.  Now this is where it begins to become a little confusing.  It emerged that the company had been ‘blacklisted’ by various regulators around the world already, which in itself raises questions as to why the firm was granted a licence from the UK Gambling Commission.  Some analysts may be quick to point out that so called blacklists are common but that doesn’t mean we should take them with a pinch of salt, as has clearly proven to be the case with 1xBet or its white label associations.  A UK registered company blacklisted by fellow European countries which go so far as to threaten criminal proceeding against them is not something to be glossed over.  Peter Szyszko, who is the Chief Executive of a firm in London that battles to combat intellectual property theft on behalf of private clients and governments, commented that the company (FSB) has been helping to fund websites that are ‘run by criminal gangs’ in many cases, which the Gambling Commission will take a dim view of as their investigation into the matter progresses.   This is a very powerful statement, yet the company has been fined just £600k. 

It is important to note that as per usual, The Gambling Commission only commenced their investigation into 1xBet, following the national press stories into their illegal practices.  Now this is where more confusion creeps in.  Naturally to seek some clarity about what has gone you would have thought visiting the Gambling Commission’s own website and typing ‘1xbet’ into the search would do this.  Well seemingly not, feel free to try yourself, no results come up at the time of writing this article for me.  The next port of call is a visit to the licence register: https://secure.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PublicRegister/Search/Detail/39126.  By typing in 1xbet you’ll note that the licence holder named ‘Tonybet’ appears which is a company registered in Lithuania and has four active domain names and an additional White Label.  One of the active domains is 1xbet.uk which doesn’t load when you type it into your browser.  All other 1xbet variations do load but display a message stating that the websites aren’t available in your country.  However, the initial link to 1xbet was through FSB for the purposes of the Gambling Commission’s investigation into them, who were fined just last week in relation to the scandal.  Confused?  You’re not the only one.

Let’s then go the Gambling Commission for some clarity;  as indicated, the reactiveness of the regulator kicked in following press reports centred around the top football clubs linked to 1xbet. This resulting in the Gambling Commission releasing a statement on 22 August 2019 saying they had instigated a review due to ‘regulatory concerns’ and that FSB had ‘voluntarily’ suspended its ‘activities’ for its ‘Blackbet’ website.  FSB, on the Gambling Commission’s register has just two active domains, one being ‘Blacktype.bet’ (not too dissimilar to the now banned ‘Blackbet’ site), both are in use and trading and they also have six ‘White Labels’ listed, one being the now defunct blackbet.co.uk, which was named within the regulatory action of last week.  Another is called mjsports.com which is actually ‘Mark Jarvis’.  What is interesting about this is that Mark Jarvis had regulatory action taken against them by The Gambling Commission on 15 October 2018 for the usual Social Responsibility and Money Laundering failings (I say this intentionally flippantly despite the actual criminal nature of these failings).  Then you may ask yourselves, why was this not commented upon by The Gambling Commission during its investigation into FSB? Why was this not listed as an aggravating factor since they are a White Label of FSB?  These questions need answers.  The partnership between FSB and Mark Jarvis was announced in May 2019, some seven months after the action taken against Mark Jarvis and just three months before the Gambling Commission announced their investigation into FSB.  To add to the confusion, Mark Jarvis is listed a further two times under different licences on the regulator’s website.  One licence is called Corbett Bookmakers Ltd based in Cheshire and uses the trading name ‘MarkJarvisBet’ and the other is called Mark Jarvis Ltd based in Leicester and trades under the name of ‘Mark Jarvis’.  The latter has the listed sanction against them from 2018 on the register, the former makes no mention of it.  For transparency purposes would we not be right to expect that Corbett Bookmakers, trading under the same name as FSB’s Mark Jarvis domain, should have the sanction also listed on this licence?  After all, type into your search engine, ‘Mark Jarvis’ and the search results direct you to FSB’s ‘mjsports.bet’.  And to make things even more cloudy, the licence register doesn’t even mention the action taken against FSB from last week. 

Back we go to 1xbet, which is listed under Lithuanian owned ‘Tonybet’ as ‘1xbet.uk’.  Let’s remember that this whole thing began with the 1xbet scandal, the scandal which resulted in FSB being fined a meagre £600k for clear criminal links.  The same London based FSB that does not even have 1xbet listed whatsoever on its licence.  1xbet isn’t mentioned whatsoever by The Gambling Commission on its website via the search tool or within its regulatory statement.  The same 1xbet that is linked to illegal activity and has been blacklisted by many countries globally.  There are no such things as coincidences.  Does it not seem remarkable that 1xbet.uk is still listed as being an active company in the UK?  

London based FSB, Mark Jarvis and The Gambling Commission will no doubt just cite administrative technicalities for these issues not being in the public (better still they’ll do what they do best and ignore it all and hope we forget about it) domain or that perhaps due to the CV19 virus, they’ve lagged behind on their admin when updating the licence holders register but further questions are to be asked of the Gambling Commission’s abilities to affectively regulate.  Whether they conduct the correct due diligence and why they have been so vague about the dealings of 1xbet.  Interesting within their regulatory ruling of 6 May 2020: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/News/regulator-issues-warning-to-operators-over-third-party-responsibilities-as-fsb-receive-sanctions-for-failings they ironically state that a failing of FSB was as a result of lack of diligence.

We can see that the main emphasis, as per usual, is the criminal act of money laundering offences, together with self-exclusion issues and marketing also.  But what is a little different with this ruling is that it poses more questions than it answers.  The ruling talks about ‘Website B’ and ‘Company C’ but doesn’t name them.  Why is this?  Perhaps the most stark part of this ruling is the following statement;

In particular, we noted FSB had not sufficiently assessed the risk in respect of ownership of Company C which had links to an individual regarded as a politically exposed person (PEP). PEP status should have raised concerns and increased monitoring in respect of the level of risk- but in this case it did not. For example, despite knowing the PEP was running for political office they had not established that he had been elected. In addition, FSB failed to discover that Company C had ‘deregistered’ its company status during the business relationship.

Who is this ‘politically exposed person?  Why are we being kept in the dark about the names of all of the companies and websites merely characterised by a letter?  Other parts of the statement are as follows;

We found an inappropriate banner advertisement (the banner ad) containing cartoon nudity was displayed on a GB facing website which seemingly was providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content.

When clicked upon, the banner ad took users to a website FSB operated namely Website B following a third-party business licence arrangement (BLA)[6] that it had entered into.

We found that if FSB had taken reasonable steps in respect of due diligence it would have identified obvious concerns that there was a risk that the third-party could place such advertisements noting its clear association to an unlicensed website with a questionable repute. We therefore consider the FSB was in breach of Paragraph 16.1.1(b).

FSB entered into what it referred to as a BLA third-party arrangement with Company B. The BLA required that FSB operated a website offering gambling facilities using an international website brand name associated to Company B.

No doubt the owners of 1xbet, named as ‘Technifusion’ who are based in Gibraltor and appear to be largely Russian owned and seemingly have a massive footprint in African countries.  They are registered on the Curacao market, a small Netherlands owed Carribbean island.  Gambling companies pay just 2% tax there, it takes just twenty days to get a licence and costs as little as 16,900 Euros to renew the licence each year.  An affiliate ratings site scores Cauracao’s casino industry at 5/10.  Considering it rates the UK Gambling Commission at 10/10 then this gives you an insight as just how bad they are.  It’s also interesting to note that The National Council on Problem Gambling, based in Washington, USA is listed as giving The Curacao Gaming and Control Board, silver membership.

We demand answers because it seems very clear that the Gambling Commission appear to not be telling us the whole truth and for a UK Government agency, this is extremely concerning.  The very fact that the Gambling Commission, within its FSB ruling, heaps praise on the company for ‘assisting’ the regulator throughout the investigation and praises them for their quick proactive action clearly seems like a smack in the face to all of those self-excluded individuals that were allowed to have their disordered gambling suffering prolonged and exacerbated due to sheer negligence and criminality.  Whilst the billionaire owners will see the £600k as nothing more than something their insurance will cover (most likely tax free), what is being done to look into the legacies of harm created to the 2,324 targeted individuals that could have suffered disastrous consequences as a result of this negligence?  

As for the £600k, some of which will most likely be stolen money, well that will no doubt go to fund the already cash-rich charities that are carefully hand picked by The Gambling Commission to promote ‘responsible’ and ‘safer’ gambling.  The wait for accountability and answers has to end now, The regulator is simply not fit for purpose and we cannot allow this to carry on whilst so many people continue to suffer immeasurable harms at the expense of sheer greed and arrogance that they can do as they please.