In the United Kingdom, the Gambling Commission has reportedly announced that it has launched a formal investigation into 17 online gambling operators over alleged social responsibility and anti-money laundering concerns and may be forced to revoke the licenses of up to five firms.

According to a report from The Guardian newspaper, the regulator has sent letters to every one of the unidentified operators to express the ‘serious nature’ of the supposed findings discovered via an initial review, which looked into all licensed firms’ controls to combat problem gambling, money laundering and terrorist financing.

“Due to the serious nature of our findings, we have already begun investigations into 17 online operators and are considering whether five of these require a license review,” reportedly read a statement from the Gambling Commission.

The Guardian reported that the regulator’s preliminary review had allegedly found failings at the 17 operators such as the hiring of money laundering reporting officers that had no formal qualifications and had been ‘unable to provide suitable explanations as to what constitutes money laundering’. The Gambling Commission purportedly also declared that some of the firms had demonstrated ‘a general lack of understanding of how criminal spend could affect the business’ and had not handed over sufficient information regarding suspicious betting activities to law enforcement bodies such as the National Crime Agency.

The newspaper reported that the initial review was launched in October in order to determine how well licensed operators are meeting their current responsibilities and additionally found that some of the 17 operators may have failed to intervene even after some customers showed signs of problem gambling.

In a statement, Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive for the Gambling Commission, declared that it was ‘vital that the gambling industry takes its duty to protect consumers and keep crime out of gambling seriously’ and that the regulator’s current action is ‘just one example of how we will be relentless in turning that vision into reality’.

“As the online sector continues to grow and now accounts for a third of the British gambling market, it is right that we maintain a sharp focus on online gambling,” read the statement from Harrison, who is set to step down next month. “That is why in addition to our work on compliance among online casino operators, we have also been conducting a wider ranging review of online gambling looking at how the market has evolved and to identify where further action can be taken to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers.”