The GCF have written to the Financial Conduct Authority regarding the many reported cases of individuals and companies being ‘debanked’ because of gambling transactions or links to the gambling industry. The GCF take issue with a perfectly legal activity being considered by banks to be suspicious or illicit, particularly when Government agencies deem the money laundering risk to be low. The letter is reproduced below:
‘We write on behalf of those in the gambling industry currently experiencing increasing and unjust difficulty when legal transactions relating to gambling go through bank accounts. We have deep concerns relating to regulated and licenced bookmakers having access to bank accounts removed. Naturally this impacts the millions of ordinary gamblers in the UK who are simply partaking in a legitimate hobby, and one that supports many of Great Britain’s most iconic sporting industries, such as horse racing.
A report in the Racing Post on the 26th July stated ‘Numerous racecourse bookmakers have revealed they have had accounts closed by banks without explanation. One bookmaker, Graham Thorpe, told the Racing Post he had had 11 accounts associated with him closed, including those of charities and organisations for which he was treasurer.’
We understand banks are enacting these closures under the guise of anti-money laundering regulations. However as I am sure you are aware, within Chapter 16 of the Joint Treasury and Home Office National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing paper, the money laundering risks in the gambling sector remain low, and has a low likelihood of being abused for money laundering purposes. It should also be noted that in the 2022 Annual Report of the National Crime Agency Suspicious Activity Reports, gaming and leisure made up just 0.7% of Suspicious Activity Reports, a reduction from 0.83% from the year before. Furthermore, the 2021 NCA National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime states on page 57 that the NCA only consider gambling as something money launderers potentially spend their money on. Banking organisations are therefore applying mass exaggeration to what is a clearly defined minute risk in their practise of bank account closures.
The Gamblers Consumer Forum would therefore request the current advice the FCA are offering banking institutions around the treatment of gambling transactions. We would also ask whether the FCA has concerns regarding the closure of accounts in the regulated gambling sector, and whether it agrees with the statements regarding anti-money laundering and the low risk status that the Treasury, Home Office and National Crime Agency has assigned it.
We would welcome a response on these important and urgent points as soon as possible please.’