A casino operator is challenging the decision of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to revoke its license to operate a casino in London.
Silverbond Enterprises, which runs Park Lane Club London, was told the license was being revoked over a “change in corporate control” at the company.
The upscale cardroom would have had to close its doors this month regardless as a result of London recently being moved into tier three of COVID-19 restrictions.
Confusion over the ownership of the casino has been ongoing for some time.
Some reports have suggested that entrepreneur Vasilijis Melniks is still the owner of Park Lane Club London, though he was not specifically named in the UKGC statement about the facility.
Long time advocate of stricter controls for both online and offline casinos, DogSlots, had this to say: “This should be a wake-up call for the industry that they need to take licensing issues seriously, or they risk the wrath of UKGC.”
Lack of information behind UKGC decision
In a statement, UKGC confirmed it has revoked the license of Park Lane Club London “because of its unsatisfactory history in providing information requested as part of our enquiries”.
Helen Venn, the organisation’s executive director, stated that the ownership of the casino was a key factor in its decision.
“We revoked this licence because we are not satisfied as to the source of funds (SOF) used to acquire and support the Licensee at the time of the change of corporate control or to whom future profits of the Licensee would be paid,” she said.
“We also identified concerns with the suitability of the new controller because of its unsatisfactory history in providing information requested as part of our enquiries.”
The decision to revoke Park Lane Club London’s license came after UKGC fined Silverbond Enterprises £1.8 million last year as a result of money laundering failings.
The penalties were imposed after an investigation was carried out at Park Lane Club London and found a variety of social responsibility problems at the site.
A customer at the casino was found to have been displaying violent behaviour, while the operator’s compliance procedures were deemed by UKGC to be inadequate.
Silverbond Enterprises appealed against the decision by UKGC to revoke its licence, which means its licence revocation will be stayed until the outcome of that appeal.
Park Lane Club London denies links to Melniks
Melniks is a controversial figure who has been accused of fraud and money laundering in the past, but his involvement at Park Lane Club London is extremely murky.
He took over Silverbond Enterprises back in 2014 but it has been confirmed he is no longer in charge of Park Lane Club London after a change in ownership went through in 2018.
It is this that raised the attention of UKGC, though the takeover process has been protracted.
Additionally, a loophole in the law means the new owner of Silverbond Enterprises does not need to be identified, which has been criticised by various experts from the casino industry.
Debbie Dunn, the compliance director for Silverbond, told London’s Evening Standard newspaper recently that the “recent decision from the Gambling Commission is strongly contested” by the company.
“The premises can continue to trade during the appeal process,” she added. “Following the sale of the company in 2018 Mr Melniks is no longer a shareholder nor a director of the company so we are unable to comment on his affairs.”
Do London casinos have a future?
It is unclear what the future holds for Park Lane Club London, which is located at the Hilton hotel and attracts millionaire clientele.
The high-end casino faces a lengthy battle over its license with UKGC, which may put people off from visiting the facility until the issues are resolved.
Park Lane Club London is not the only casino in the city facing a doubtful future, though.
With brick and mortar casinos in the city shut once more due to COVID-19 restrictions being ramped up in London, it is unclear when they might be able to reopen their doors.
Casinos in the UK generate £120 million a year in tourism spend, according to the Betting and Gaming Council.
There is some bright news for casinos in London, however. Plans to reopen the iconic gambling venue The Clermont Club in Mayfair in 2021 are continuing despite the COVID-19 shutdown.
No opening date has yet been confirmed for The Clermont Club, which is in Berkeley Square.
The club will target a high-end clientele with innovative dining available from a quality menu that has been designed by executive chef, Arturo Granato, who has a Michelin star.