Europe Operators Told To Monitor Russia Sanctions, Ban Bets

March 7, 2022
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As the war in Ukraine intensifies, gambling businesses are being required to monitor and comply with sanctions against Russian entities.

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As the war in Ukraine intensifies, gambling businesses are being required to monitor and comply with sanctions against Russian entities.

The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) last week warned licensees to pay close attention to the raft of Russian sanctions being imposed by multiple countries as well as the European Union, reminding them to carry out sanction screenings before entering into any new business relationship.

Malta licensees must also be aware of the new anti-money laundering (AML) risks caused by the situation, meaning they must monitor the geographical location of any economic activity and the source of funds of their customers.

“International financial sanctions need to be considered within customer risk assessments,” according to the MGA.

The regulator added that new or updated sanctions should be considered by licensees as a “triggering event” to run new checks on a customer.

Licensees are also urged to ensure their sanction monitoring systems are effective and that their customer databases are subject to the most recently updated sanctions list, available on the Maltese government’s website.

The Maltese Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) also issued a guidance note on Thursday (March 3) for businesses on the new sanctions to explain how to comply with them.

The UK Gambling Commission published a similar reminder for its licensees on February 28, warning them that breaching sanctions could result in enforcement action.

Beyond monitoring new sanctions, many industry stakeholders have called for a ban on bets involving Russian athletes, teams or leagues, just as many have been already been banned from competing in international competitions, such as the Paralympics or UEFA football tournaments.

The European State Lotteries and Toto Association (EL) executive committee has recommended its members stop taking bets on Russian and Belarusian teams and leagues. Additionally, the EL suspended its members in Russia and Belarus.

Various operators have withdrawn markets on Russian or Belarusian events and on Friday state regulators in Colorado published a directive to prohibit wagering on leagues or games in the two countries.

Elsewhere, Flutter’s PokerStars cancelled its European Poker Tour event scheduled to be held in the Russian city of Sochi later this month, following the cancellation of numerous large sporting events such as the Russian Grand Prix.

In the UK, the Parliamentary All Party Betting and Gaming Group (APPG) put out a statement calling on all gambling industry conference and exhibition organisers to boycott Russian speakers and exhibitors.

The APPG said it fully supports the sanctions and wants those who profit from the British gambling industry to follow suit and take a stance against the Russian state.

Separately, there has been a large humanitarian response to the Ukraine situation from the industry.

As of Friday, a gaming industry Ukraine relief GoFundMe page had raised £167,867 ($222,000), including large donations from Betsson, Entain and Microgaming.

Operator Paf and its owners the Government of Åland donated 300 000 euros to Ukraine, paid out from Paf to the UN Refugee Agency and the Red Cross.

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