Player safety: an odds-on focus at ICE 2019

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BBC Radio 4’s Long View episode, Gambling and New Technologies, provided a timely exposition of the industry’s historical relationship with technology. It began by looking at the inception of horse racing sweepstakes in the 1830s and how the combination of newspapers, railways and establishment of 1846 Electric Telegraph Company facilitated off-course betting – the original remote betting. These innovations have continued through physical shops, into online and the subsequent mass adoption of mobile that has driven real time betting and the expansion of betting and gambling products and markets.

This week we will be attending ICE London 2019: Totally Gaming. The event brings together the online and offline gaming industries, and it’s odd-on that player safety, technology, market expansion and legislation will drive many of the conversations we have with operators.

A robust and thorough approach to player safety is paramount

Player safety is an umbrella for a wide range of issues including responsible gambling and financial crime prevention, and is underpinned by legislation. Technological innovation and its adoption, combined with explosive market growth, has enabled the introduction of key pieces of regulation such as the guidelines announced by the UK Gambling Commission (GC) in March 2018 that focused on affordability and the protection of vulnerable gamblers. There are indications from the UK GC that further regulations may come into effect in the near future that will require identity controls to occur at the point the operator first engages with the prospective customer during the onboarding process.

With headline grabbing fines and research findings, the industries awareness and understanding of public and government concerns is highly acute. As regulation evolves we can see that operators are raising the bar on player safety and that it is seen as a positive metric that can be evidenced for compliance. Examples of this can be seen in the recruiting of roles such as Player Safety Analysts and brands like SkyBet using their approach to player safety as an additional feature, bringing responsible gaming messages into the forefront of their advertising.

As we work with operators around responsible gambling we’re using data points and developing robust but unobtrusive controls to deliver safer and smoother gaming experiences. This can involve helping operators to understand affordability to identify potential vulnerable customers or recommending and integrating the controls needed to spot players who might be trying to obfuscate their self-exclusion.

More secure but unobtrusive security and technology solutions

Since the inception of online we’ve seen a change in the way people interact with gaming. The retail market is generally in decline and the competition within digital between traditional and new vendors is fierce. In this environment a core challenge for product teams is how to design a seamless onboarding process that balances the demands of customer experience, compliance and operational policies that ensure player safety. Ultimately operators want to deliver a digital experience that optimises the number of new customers who can be onboarded and utilise the best available technology to do so whilst mitigating bad actors.

Our focus in this area has been to develop solutions that remove the friction out of the onboarding process while giving businesses greater confidence that the person who is using their products is real and is who they say they are. This can be done through traditional and non-traditional data points enabling operators to see how a player is interacting with them and helping to combat identity fraud risks around issues like bonus abuse or money laundering.

Fraud, and wider financial crime in its various guises, is often inaccurately portrayed as a victimless crime. However, we know that activities such as money laundering via mule accounts can be traced to organised crime, directly connected to wider criminal activity such as trafficking and drug dealing. It’s clear that gaming is aligning with the wider financial services landscape as it looks to combat the use of its services to enable cybercrime.

Technology driven solutions such as iovation (documented in our recent Retail Fraud white paper) and our CallValidate suite, allow sophisticated device technology to be combined with services that can forensically profile the relationship players have with their digital data, which can create additional controls to mitigate risk. With the fines regulators have issued in relation to identity controls having increased in recent years tarnishing reputations it is critical that operators get their approach right and capitalise on the commercial opportunity it offers.

Josh Gunnell, Head of Pre-Sales Fraud team, explains the technical advances that are occurring in the gaming sector: “Within proof of concept activity for operators we’ve looked at non-traditional player data and we’ve been able to profile bonus abuse through characteristics in their mobile numbers and email addresses.

“The regulatory changes to the gaming market creates an opportunity for operators to adopt and implement technology which will allow them to demonstrate to a regulator the processes and controls they have in place to identify risks. For example being able to understand if a player’s device has been used to de-fraud an operator before and stop it at the front door. Understanding the legitimacy of the identity, email and telephone data number the player is presenting whilst avoiding duplicate records in an operator’s player database to ensure they deliver in their commitments to player safety – in that if someone wants to self-exclude, for example. We’re well positioned to support operators meeting their obligations and delivering market leading best practice.”

Regulation is preparing operators for new futures

Liberalisation of gaming territories and alternative currencies are ongoing conversations within the industry.

The focus on opening-up the United States seemed to be progressing when last May the US Supreme Court overruled a nationwide ban on sports betting. Operators anticipated this would lead to a liberalisation of gaming laws in the US, however in January this year the US Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act – which it had previously said outlawed only cross-state wire communications for sports betting – also contains “prohibitions [that] sweep beyond sports gambling” leaving operators confused about the future direction of gaming laws in the US, lengthening the odds of change anytime soon. Whilst this is a set-back, UK operators should take heart from UK gaming market’s maturity in terms of regulation and the fact that they are in a strong position to take those learnings and apply them to new territories if and when the opportunity materialises.

Likewise chatter about cryptocurrency as a potential payment or cash-out method needs further discussion and consideration. The reality, is that until the cryptocurrency market is more stringently regulated it won’t be a viable option. Indeed, it will generate the need for additional controls in place for due diligence, for example, for crypto e-wallets could present an issue in terms of where the source of funds for that cryptocurrency has come from.

It’s said that there is no such thing as a certainty when placing a bet, but history shows that when it comes to digital innovation across customer experience, innovation and growth, the gaming industry remains a clear favourite to continue to succeed.

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