What Are The Punishments For Committing Gambling Crime?
Anyone that has ever read a newspaper or visited an online news website will almost certainly have read a story about someone stealing money so that they can gamble online, or being involved in a form of money laundering. It is a popular story for media outlets to run with, given the manner in which it covers several of their favourite topics in crime and the world of gambling, which they can act superior about.
Whilst we all know about gambling crime as a concept, what many of us might not realise is the actual punishments that come along with said crimes being committed. The Gambling Act of 2005 is the legislation that is currently responsible for deciding upon the punishments, with different ones being in place for the various crimes that are carried out. On this page, we’ll investigate what punishments perpetrators can expect to suffer.
Looking At The Gambling Act
In order to get a sense of what punishments will be dished out to perpetrators of gambling related crime, we need to look to the Gambling Act of 2005. It is the legislation that is responsible for the laws that gambling operators have to obey, as well as any people that partake in gambling as an activity.
It would be a lie to suggest that the Act is a riveting read, but it certainly helps understand what punishments can be expected for those that engage in gambling related crime.
Where You Can Gamble
The first place to start is with what is said in the Act about where you can actually gamble. Anyone wishing to provide such a facility needs to get a licence to do so from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Those that fail to do so will fall foul of Section 33 of the Act, which says that providing gambling without a licence is an offence that can be punished with as many as 51 weeks in prison and a Level 5 fine, which cannot exceed £5,000.
The same punishment can be dished out to people supplying, installing or adapting gambling software without the correct licence to do so. The same punishment can be given to someone that has either cheated or assisted another person in cheating, plus that combines the maximum £5,000 and up to 51 weeks in prison with two years on indictment, making it a much more severe punishment.
Severe Punishment When Young People Are Involved
As you might imagine, the authorities do not look too kindly on people that involve young people in the world of gambling. Section 46 is the part of the Act that predominantly deals with this, especially when it comes to causing, permitting or inviting young people to gamble. That includes distributing advertising documentation that encourages young people to get involved in gambling.
As long as 51 weeks in prison as well as a Level 5 fine can be handed out, with a Level 3 fine possible if the person doing the offending is also young, carrying with it a maximum of £1,000. A young person gambling when not permitted to do so, entering a premises that offers gambling or providing the facilities for others to game also comes with a £1,000 fine. Should any of the following occur then the young person involved will be fined £1,000 and the adult will serve up to 51 weeks in prison:
- A young person is employed in a facility that supplies gambling
- A young person is employed to provide the likes of the football pools or the lottery
- A young person is employed somewhere that offers bingo or gambling that requires a permit
- A young person is employed somewhere that offers Category A to Category D machines on a premises that has a licence
- A young person is employed at a casino, adult gaming centre or somewhere where bets can be placed
- A young person is invited, permitted or caused to take part in lotteries that aren’t exempt
- A young person is invited, permitted or caused to take part in a football pools betting scenario
- There is a failure to comply with the operating licence conditions that would see the stake returned to a young person
Vulnerable people being allowed to gamble is something that the Gambling Commission has an understandable problem with. This might be young people, but those that have a gambling problem and have been allowed to bet even after asking to enter the self-exclusion scheme is also not responded to well by the UKGC. An example of this can be seen in the £7.8 million fine that 888 had to pay in 2017 for failing to protect vulnerable customers.
Other Things Can Be Fined
The Gambling Act of 2005 covers a whole wealth of other things that can result in a fine being issued. You can get a fine of between £500 and £5,000 depending on what exactly it is that you’ve done that goes against the terms of the Act. The likes of stopping the police from doing their job investigating gambling is an example of just such a thing that will result in a fine being issued to the person stopping the police from acting lawfully.
Whether it be failing to advertise products in the correct manner or some specific law breaking information around lotteries and bingo, there are different rules in place for all of the smaller crimes that might be committed. It is in the bigger crimes where the real information of the act is to be found, with the likes of match-fixing, money laundering or identity theft being the sort of thing that is firmly clamped down on.
Unsurprisingly, anything that involves the legitimacy of a sporting result being called into question is something that the Gambling Commission wants to come down hard on. Match fixing has long been a problem for various sports, with tennis being one of the main ones that has seen corruption become almost common place. When the outcome of an event or a specific moment in a match is known in advance, bettors can take advantage.
This is something that must be avoided, with a level playing field being a prerequisite of a fair and even sporting event. The governing body of each sport will look to deal with match-fixing as a problem, but when gambling is also involved it becomes a different conversation. The Football Association might ban a player guilty of match-fixing in the United Kingdom, but what about the gamblers behind it all?
That’s where things become complicated, given that it’s much more difficult to prove who has placed bets because they’ve been given insider information and who has just placed a bet based on little more than a hunch. It is for this reason that the players involved are banned from professional sport and also issued with fines, whether the offence involve the Football Association and English players or the Italian FA and teams in Serie A.
One of the things that is much easier for the authorities to clamp down on with specificity is money laundering. And a practice, this is when criminals will attempt to ‘wash’ dirty money in with clean money, meaning that when it comes out the other end it is clean. A simplistic example would be a drug dealer placing £2,000 on a bet that has odds of Evens or better, ensuring that they will win their bet or come as close to doing so as possible.
Winning the bet will result in them being paid out with clean money, having paid for the original bet with ‘dirty’ money. Gambling is, for obvious reasons, a great pastime to use to launder money, so betting companies need to be really hot on stopping criminals from using it as their way of doing so. Whether it be bets on sports events or money gambled in casinos, it is likely that billions are laundered through betting outlets each year.
How long someone is sentenced to serve in prison for money laundering will often depend on how much was laundered. The more serious the crime, the bigger the punishment. An unlimited fine can be given to guilty parties, as can prison sentences of between six and 12 months in length. One of the main ways that companies are trying to avoid being caught up in money laundering scandals is via the Know Your Customer scheme.
In short, Know Your Customer is a process whereby gambling companies need to ask their customers to complete a series of verification checks. On top of this, anyone depositing large sums of money into an account is supposed to provide the gambling company that they’re working with with a source of funds check. This is designed to stop people from suddenly just having tens of thousands of pounds that have come from nowhere.
The Gambling Commission tends to come down extremely hard on companies that fail in their KYC requirements, especially when it’s linked to possible money laundering. In April of 2020, as an example, Caesars Entertainment were given a £13 million fine for failing to meet the requirements of their licence, with money laundering being one of the crimes that it was believed to have been guilty of.
Gambling With Stolen Money
One of the main stories that often makes its way into the newspapers involves people stealing money from others in order to gamble with it. Obviously someone suspected of stealing money in order to gamble will be investigated by the police and dealt with through the courts, but what about the companies that accept stolen money? Those KYC checks should make them aware that there’s something fishy going on, but they don’t always respond correctly.
When that happens, the UKGC will issue the offending company with a fine as well as a warning about their licence. In 2020, for example, the gambling company Betway was hit with a record £11.6 million fine because they accepted deposited with money that had been stolen. A VIP customer of theirs deposited £8 million over four years, losing half of it and much of the money turned out to have been stolen.
When Matthew Stevens stole more than £850,000 from the company that he worked for and used it for the purpose of gambling, he went to prison for three years and four months. The company that he’d placed his bets with, Betfred, was fined nearly £800,000, with more than half of that being paid to the victims of Stevens. The rest of the money was paid towards socially responsible causes.
Stealing Someone’s Identity
Though stealing the identity of someone else in order to gamble doesn’t seem like as big of a crime as laundering money or stealing someone else’s cash, it is still a major crime that will be investigated by the authorities. Stealing someone’s identity isn’t limited to crimes involving gambling, of course, but it’s gambling that we’re most interested in here. Identity theft is the jurisdiction of the UK Fraud Act, which can be punished with up to ten years in prison.
Those that are guilty of stealing someone else’s identity in order to gamble will usually receive between six months and two years in jail, however. It can involve the likes of stealing documentation and using that to open an account, using someone else’s password or other form of personal information. The newly opened account is used for the purposes of betting, with the reasons for doing so often myriad in their forms.
In 2021, a New Jersey man was arrested on suspicion of having used stolen identities to create more than 1,800 online accounts. Though that was in the United States of America rather than the UK, it is still a good example of how rife identity theft for the purposes of gambling is in the modern era. There had been a 17-month investigation prior to the raid on his property, showing just how much effort goes in to rooting out such corruption around the world.