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The Financial Services Authority

By: Joan Peppin, Wednesday August 4th 2010
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Online casino players browsing through web sites of payment services providers would have come across the comment that the service provider is registered with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the United Kingdom. In fact most payment services providers to the online casino industry highlight this on their web sites because it promotes confidence among their users. In order to understand why this should be so, it is essential to know the basic facts about the FSA.

The FSA is an independent non-governmental body, given statutory powers by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The Treasury appoints the members of the board which seeks to implement the objects of the FSA through an executive committee. Thus the FSA is accountable to Treasury Ministers and, through them, Parliament. However they operate independent of the government. The FSA is financed by the firms registered with it and who operate under its regulation. These include payment service providers to the online casino industry.

The overall objectives of the FSA have been incorporated in the statute that has established it. These objectives are maintaining confidence in the financial system, promoting public understanding of the financial system, ensuring that the financial system remains stable, securing protection for consumers who use the services of the financial operators and minimizing the possibilities of financial crime. The consumers include players making deposits and withdrawals at online casinos using the services of the firms regulated by the FSA.

In order that it may perform its activities effectively the FSA has been given a wide range of rule-making, investigatory and enforcement powers. Hence the first task is to prepare a set of regulations for the registered firms to follow. These regulations are set out in the Handbook of Rules and Guidance. Then there is a supervision mechanism to ensure that the firms are adhering to the rules. The supervision mechanism varies across individual firms and industry segments based on perceived risks but it includes a planned schedule of audit visits to the firm on a continuous basis, analyzing a firm’s financial and other returns and checking compliance with notification requirements.

The FSA is empowered to take action against errant firms. The action ranges from withdrawing a firm’s authorization and imposing penalties for market abuse. These actions taken by the FSA would result in widespread negative publicity for the payment services provider and would erode the confidence online casino players have for that services provider. Hence the possibility of such action being taken is sufficient to ensure that the payment services providers toe the line. For more serious offences the FSA can apply to the Court for injunction and restitution orders and can initiate prosecutions.

The best part of the FSA is that it provides for interactions with actual users of financial services, that in the case of the online gaming industry is the player. In the first instance a wealth of information is provided on the FSA web site, particularly with regards to errant services providers. There is also a mechanism available for making and following up with complaints.

Some of the payments services providers to the online casino industry that are registered with the FSA are paysafecard, Neteller, Moneybookers and Ukash.

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