US urges rethink on UK gambling law

The US Government is urging Britain to amend the new gambling laws as part of a drive to crack down on money-laundering. The recommendation comes in a report presented to the US Congress which also calls for Britain to draw up new rules to monitor bank customers with links to foreign regimes.

The US call for changes to the Gambling Act 2005 emerged as bookmakers opened on Good Friday for the first time, as a result of the same legislation. The Salvation Army raised concerns that the change could lead to the normalisation of an addictive activity.

The State Department’s annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report names Britain among one of more than 50 „major money laundering countries“ alongside nations such as Afghanistan, Colombia and Russia as well as the US itself.

It cites figures from Britain’s FBI-style Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) estimating that GBP 15 billion of ill-gotten gains may be laundered in the UK each year.

The report highlights Britain’s role as a leading financial centre as part of its attraction for money launderers.

But although High Street banks are praised for tightening controls against money laundering, the report suggests that criminals are turning increasingly to card fraud or „purchasing high-value assets“ to process the proceeds of their activities.

While the British anti-money laundering regime comes in for praise, the report calls for the UK to bring in new rules to monitor transactions made by „politically exposed persons“ – with links to foreign regimes.

It also calls for changes to the Gambling Act 2005, bringing in new checks against criminal proceeds being laundered through gaming.