Denmark Scrutinises Betting Operators For Money Laundering Violations

Denmark's gambling regulators will scrutinise gambling operators for potential money-laundering problems after similar cases in the UK, an official said on Thursday.

The concerns in the Nordic state come after UK bookmakers Ladbrokes, Gala Coral, bet365 and casino operator Aspers were warned by the UK Gambling Commission over anti-money laundering failings.

"When you hear about cases like that, you go back and look at your own operators to see if we have the same problem," said Birgitte Sand, director of the Danish Gambling Commission. Sand said she hoped to speak to her UK counterparts for tips on how to best deal with any possible suspicions. She elaborated on her remarks as part of a panel on regulation at the European Association of Gambling Research in Helsinki on Thursday.

The UK commission said that the episodes it highlighted were serious policy failures from which the companies should learn "important lessons".

Sand stressed that she wasn't singling out any specific companies, and no punishments are currently planned. "In the beginning, we are more positive than negative," she told GamblingCompliance.

The European Union is looking to extend money-laundering security checks to all forms of gambling, not just casinos as at present. Such protocol would involve steps including identity checks every time a player logs on to play.

Meanwhile, online operators in Denmark have received a boost from the country’s largest opposition party, which announced plans to sell off the unit of state-owned Danske Spil that competes with commercial operators.

The sale of Danske Licens Spil, which Danish press speculated could generate up to DKK4bn (€540m), was included in the Danish Liberal Party’s proposals for next year’s state budget. The party also proposed privatising Denmark’s oldest lottery, the state-owned Klasselotteriet.

Mads Roervig, the Liberal Party’s chairman of the taxation committee, said: “We believe fundamentally that a state company that works entirely on commercial terms should operate in a free market and Danske Licens Spil is now ready to be sold.”

The Danish Online Gambling Association (DOGA) argues that Danske Licens Spil has an unfair advantage because it can draw on the large database of players who play Danske Spil’s state-owned lottery games.

An investigation by the Danish Competition Authority into the benefits that the state-owned firm has over its online rivals is ongoing.

DOGA chief Morten Ronde said: “The state has nothing to do with a private market. Selling a state company which dominates the market through unfair competition will create a more level playing field. When 31 gaming companies are licensed and one takes 60 percent of the market due to some advantages granted by the law, then there is only a 40 percent left to share for the 30 others."

Henrik Norsk Hoffmann, a Danish gambling law expert, said: “Will it be easy to find an interested buyer for the largest business on the market with the strongest brand? I certainly think that it will, but I also think that it will be difficult for Denmark to get the price they want. The reason for this being mainly the very fuzzy separation between monopolised games and liberalised games, which Danske Spil is exercising.”

The proposal from the Liberal Party will be used to negotiate next year’s budget with the current Social Democrat-led coalition government and the rest of the parliament.

A general election will take place in September 2015, when the Liberal Party will hope to win back a majority in parliament by partnering up with the Conservatives, the Liberal Alliance and the Danish People’s Party. All three parties support the proposal to sell off Danske Licens Spil as part of a wider privatisation drive to raise money for the state, according to the Liberals.

The party lost power after the last election in 2011, despite winning the most votes, as the Social Democrats formed a coalition with two other parties to take the most seats.