GGPoker accused of using UK affordability checks to ban winning players

Jon Pill
Posted on: February 20, 2021 19:20 PST

GGPoker appears to be banning winning players again. This time they may be using the United Kingdom Gambling Commission's affordability checks as an excuse.

Andy Wool, known as "ruffler" on GGPoker, woke up this week to find that the site had shut his account down.

"[GGPOker has] decided, upon the completion of a thorough review by our responsible gambling team, that we will no longer accept you as a player at GGPoker," the email began. "Please understand that there is no accusation of wrongdoing implied and that this action is born of compassion and a sincere desire to help. We don't want to see anyone hurt."

The email goes on to suggest a number of links to sites that help problem gamblers.

The email followed after Wool contacted GGPoker to increase his deposit limits. This appears to be the trigger for the review and ban. At first, it seemed like it might be a case of one overzealous customer service agent overplaying their hand.

But Phil Galfond suspected there may be more going on.

Tired of winning

Wool has taken the unusual email as well as one can expect, tweeting about the matter.

"Warning UK players!" his tweet begins. "I contacted @GGPoker to increase my deposit limits since new UKGC regulations and they've permanently shut my account down. See image. Ignored my appeal request too. Top work." He ends his message with the line" "RIP ruffler" and a pair of coffin emojis.

Phil Galfond has a pretty good grasp of international online poker regulations thanks to his role heading up RunItOnce. He replied to Wool asking for some details, and tweeted his thoughts shortly after.

Galfond tweeted: "Very strange. I’m not an expert. But I can’t imagine there’s even a small chance that UKGC regulations would require they ban you based on this. [...] Many MTT players may not be able to show income/assets to justify their stakes. I’d have expected those to be the first winning players banned (if the goal is to ban winners)."

GGPoker sometimes seems to cock up so often, that it is starting to feel deliberate. Perhaps they believe the old maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Certainly, it hasn't hurt them so far. They started out as a relatively small Asia-facing company. Now they are one of a handful of first-tier worldwide poker companies like partypoker and PokerStars.

GGPoker has a reputation for overusing their ban-hammer. During the WSOP, GGPoker took a slew of accusations of banning players for being too profitable. GGPoker is trying to target recreational players as customers. GG likes the kind of player who keeps money moving around the poker ecosystem. They'd rather avoid anyone that withdraws money to cover their rent. GGPoker can't rake your rent.

Who's next?

That said, GGPoker may be tightening up. They could have seen the recent cases where the UKGC did fine sites for failing to protect their customers.

The UKGC fined Aspers Stratford City Casino £652,500 (~$915,000) for "player protection and anti-money laundering failures."

These measures serve to protect players who can't afford their losses. But the measures also ensure that the funds aren't being laundered through the casino. The commission looked into Aspers when a player committed suicide after playing there.

White Hat Gaming took a £1.3 million hit for similar failures to conduct affordability checks.

So this may be a case of GGPoker getting some examples on the books. Then they can point to them when the UKGC comes sniffing around their due diligence files. David Nicholson put this idea forward.

He wrote to Wool, "no sites really care about protecting players, the main objective is to be able to prove at any point when investigated by UKGC that every bit of DD was carried out to prevent people gambling beynd what they can afford."

Whatever the reason, it won't help Wool much.