Online gambling is a contentious and hotly debated issue in North America, especially when compared with Europe, where it is more generally widely accepted and permitted, with only a few notable exceptions, such as the Netherlands and Norway. Because online gambling legislation and regulation is typically left to the state and provincial governments in the United States and Canada, implementation and enforcement can be problematic. These challenges are often related to the fact due to the nature of the Internet because it can be difficult to verify both the location and the age of potential gamblers.
How can online gambling sites leverage today’s technology to ensure visitors are of legal gambling age and playing within states, provinces, or countries that allow online gambling?
In jurisdictions such as Nevada and New Jersey, geolocation is a technique that has been mandated by the state governments to restrict access solely to people physically located within their jurisdictions. In Nevada, the state uses mobile phone triangulation to confirm the location of online gamblers. This method works by determining which cellular towers are closest to the person’s mobile phone and is accurate to within a mile. While this has been effective for Nevada, which has a sparse population near its state borders, this solution would not work for New Jersey, which has high concentrations of people near its borders with New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. New Jersey decided to use Wi-Fi to confirm physical location, since it can be accurate to within a few feet.
On the surface, one would think with higher expected accuracy that Wi-Fi would be an ideal option for New Jersey. However, what makes sense in theory doesn’t always work as well in practice. There were many issues shortly after online gambling first went live in November 2013. For example, on the first day of legalized online gambling, 10 percent of people in New Jersey trying to log into gambling sites complained about being denied access. The issue was attributed to either a weak Wi-Fi signal or no Wi-Fi altogether. Gambling websites addressed this issue by sending free Wi-Fi adapters to those affected, which mostly resolved the issue.
Earlier this month, New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement declared its first year of online gambling in the state a success, despite the fact that revenues fell far short of expectations. Despite the initial difficulties, operations have continued without major infractions, meltdowns, or systematic regulatory failures. As a result of working closely with geolocation service providers to resolve the preliminary problems, they claim that the system now has a 98 percent success rate.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the provincial authority that regulates and manages gambling, recently launched its own online gambling site. Like New Jersey, they are encountering similar complaints about residents unable to register online due to false negatives. However, based on reports, it does not appear that Ontario is using Wi-Fi geolocation, which could allow access to more legitimate users. Many also complained about the frustrating identity verification process that discouraged them from using the site.
Experiences like that of Ontario are excellent examples of how important reliable geolocation and online identity verification services are vital to creating a positive customer experience. In addition, making the process of verifying someone’s identity as smooth and simple as possible is critical in order to avoid driving away potential patrons from online gambling sites.
GlobalGateway, Trulioo’s electronic identity verification solution, is used by online gambling operators to instantly verify a name, address and date of birth to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations to prevent those who are underage or outside the legal jurisdiction from accessing their sites. GlobalGateway makes it quick and easy for new patrons to register and start playing.
There is no doubt of the importance of proper age and identity verification when it comes to online gambling. Failure to do so not only breaks the law – leading to disciplinary action, lost revenues, and heavy fines – but it can also result in significant reputational damage. When put into the proper perspective, we can understand the importance of these ID checks. We then realize that they are not a nuisance but in place to protect us as consumers as well as the companies.