A growing number of U.S.-based citizens are now able to legally play slots and card gameswithout having to visit a brick-and-mortar casino. Just as Amazon.com freed consumers from having to drive to a mall to buy everything from toys and tools to jewelry and refrigerators, local online gaming operators are bringing casino action to the homes of players in states were Internet wagering has been recently promulgated.

Online gaming is already legal in New Jersey and Delaware, and online poker also is legal in those states plus Nevada. Legislatures in California, Florida and New York also seem poised to consider legalization of casino-operated gaming websites in 2014.

But online gaming regulations require that players must be within the borders of the states where it is legal, so casinos much take precautions to verify that players meet this requirement along with standard rules that players must be of legal age to gamble. And there need to be ways that players get gambling funds to the site and winnings in return.

For all of these needs, casinos setting up online gaming sites must first contract for geolocation services. Geolocation technology enables online gaming sites to quickly verify any customer’s physical location so that the resulting transaction will be legal under state laws, explained Eliot Klein, CEO and founder of XYverify.

Current users of this technology include mobile phone-based payment vendors, mobile banking services and other financial services providers seeking to add another layer of fraud protection. For years, these companies primarily used the IP address (the URL address captured by a web page accessed over an Internet connection) to geolocate. While this works, it is often not accurate or can be “spoofed” (users moving web traffic through phony or captured URLs) and is thus insufficient as a standalone method for verifying where a customer is actually located. Another shortcoming with this geolocation technology is that it was developed when online access took place through stationary desktop computers, an anachronism in today’s world were people increasingly visit the Internet through laptops, tablet computers and smart phones. 

To meet gaming regulations in New Jersey and other jurisdictions where customers must be within state borders to legally wager, geolocation verification companies are turning to technologies that can determine with greater certainty the exact location of a player, no matter what device they use to access a casino website. According to Salim Adatia, CEO of GLI Canada, these technologies include tried-and-tested methods such as triangulation, which in this case can be done through cellphone towers, and new, cutting-edge systems such as global positioning satellites (GPS). With such tracking technologies in place, an Internet gaming operator can provide site access to a customer even if they’re in a moving object such as a train or bus, since access to the site would terminate once the person crosses state boundaries.

 

VERIFICATION NEEDED

Geolocation providers such as XYverify are familiar with these tracking technologies and have adapted them to fit their customer needs.  “XYverify offers geolocation services that provide trustworthy location intelligence to better verify any transaction,” Klein said. “We apply real-time mobile phone location with any online transaction request to eliminate fraudulent transactions simply by confirming mobile phone cell tower signals, and other location data source locations, that we privately and securely match to a geographic area, making sure they are within that expected official state approved geographic zone to better authenticate a player or transaction.”

“The service is available to licensed casino operators and can be combined with payment or identity services to bundle into one-solution platform,” he added.

Different from other mobile geolocation platforms, XYverify location verification works within licensed casino-branded environments. This provides a better experience that is tailored to an enrolled player’s current verified location both indoors and outdoors, Klein noted.

XYverify is already licensed in Nevada as a Class II provider for geolocation services. The boundaries for each gaming property can be easily “geo-fenced” and stored, along with the appropriate business rules to approve or deny a transaction. This significantly expands the ability to enhance and audit mobile wagering applications—whether they’re on-site or in an approved gaming area.

The company also markets identity theft prevention products to banks and businesses and has worked with developers and marketers of online video games to assure secure sites for players.

 

EUROPEAN EXPERIENCE

GeoComply USA offers a software package that casinos can embed on their gaming websites.

“The software checks player location through a variety of methods including cellphone links, Wi-Fi, computer IP and GPS,” said Anna Sainsbury, CEO of GeoComply. “These methods are put through an algorithm to provide the most accurate geolocation information even when the player is mobile.”

“The computation of exact location is tempered to use the least energy so as not to interrupt the gaming experience,” she added. “And checks of a player’s location automatically become more frequent the closer he gets to jurisdictional boundaries.”

GeoComply, which had earlier provided geolocation services in Europe, began two years ago to tailor its technology to U.S. markets. As a result, it secured the bulk of the geolocation contracts from New Jersey gaming sites because it anticipated the needs of U.S. casinos, Sainsbury said.

One change was that in New Jersey you don’t have to live in the state to wager on its gaming sites; you only have to be in the state when you do, Sainsbury added. In some European jurisdictions, nonresidents are specifically barred even when in those areas. Canada’s British Columbia also bars nonresidents from its casino, poker and lottery sites.

 

HUB POWER

Besides determining exactly where a player is when they access an online gaming site, Geolocation providers can also help online gaming operators in two other vital areas: verifying patron identification and age, and establishing a line of credit and a way to pay off losses or gather winnings. Traditionally, this has been accomplished during the player registration process, when customers provide identification such as a driver’s license and voter records, and proof that they live where they claim, such as a utility bill. A credit card is also registered, to provide gaming stakes and a credit check.

PlayerVerify has set up a central hub that both players and casinos can use to expedite registration documentation. The former can download onto its website all the documents necessary to create a verifiable presence online. The latter can access these documents to verify that the player meets legal requirements to wager on their sites.

“Instead of providing documents to each individual gaming site, PlayerVerify provides a one-stop place where enthusiasts can download this proof of eligibility once,” said Mark Dalton, marketing manager. “Then every time they decide to wager on a different online site, at their direction the casino can check them out on the PlayerVerify site.”

PlayerVerify’s site offers unlimited storage for documents for gamers based in the U.S., who pay $9.95 annually for full access and unlimited checks by online gaming sites. Casinos also pay $9.95 a year but PlayerVerify can waive the fee if they make lots of verification checks of stored player information, Dalton said.

Another feature of PlayerVerify is that if an online player commits a fraud, all registered gaming sites will be notified, thus denying the bad player access to future visits. And registered players can set limits as to how much they wish to wager at each session.

 

INTEGRITY COUNTS

Having offered online identification services since 2001, the Integrity Direct unit of Aristotle Inc. is bringing its services to the online gaming industry. Already approved in Nevada and preliminarily licensed in New Jersey, Integrity offers a time-tested package of player verification services to casinos.

“Processes used by online gaming sites have to be highly accurate to restrict participation to adults over the age of 18, yet fast enough to provide a satisfying online experience for legitimate players,” said Michael Bolcerek, vice president of Integrity. “They also have to safeguard their operations from fraud from credit card thieves and money laundering rings. Our Player ID system does both quickly and efficiently.”

When a customer applies to play online, he sends Aristotle identification documents including his Social Security card and drivers’ license. Integrity checks this information against information held by the state to verify he is who he says. The company also has technology to determine if these documents are altered to screen out fraudsters.

Once in the database, casinos can check each time the customer logs in to verify his legitimacy.

Customers are further checked against other lists to verify they are not terrorists, moneylaunderers or problem gamblers, said Bolcerek. Integrity is especially adept at weeding out underage kids who might pretend to be an adult, having since 2003 screened children attempting to visit adult websites run by Budweiser.

Integrity’s services are geared toward creating a safe online gaming environment that protects both customers and the casinos,” Bolcerek noted.

 

SAFE AND SECURE

The last element necessary to make online gaming viable is the ability to transfer funds from player to online casinos and back.

SecureTrading Inc., which has experience in processing payments for online gaming sites dating back to 2006 in the United Kingdom, offers a complete suite of services that ensure safe financial transactions and required consumer protections for online gaming operations. These include providing player registration, verification and validation; and providing financial payments processing, tax computation, collection, payment and reporting. The company’s program enables players to register up to three credit cards on an online gaming site to use during wagering sessions.

SecureTrading further provides responsible gambling tools that will allow players to self-exclude from future online gambling activity or elect online to seek help for problem gambling.

Complicating matters in the U.S. is that credit card companies are still a bit squeamish about online gaming as many put blocks on their cards being used to fund online poker and gaming sites based offshore. According to said Ted Friedman, SecureTrading CEO, they are starting to come around now that individual states are legalizing online wagering. MasterCard has created a proprietary merchant’s code for online gaming, but VISA has so far refused.

SecureTrading is currently talking with MasterCard to allow online player winnings to be transferred back to the cards after the player checks out of the site.

 

DIGITAL AID

SecureTrading is not the online company looking to streamline the online wagering payment process. Skrill USA includes a digital wallet as part of the payment processing services it offers on gaming sites based in New Jersey. Officially approved late last year by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, Skrill already provides its online gambling wallet in Europe by bet365, 188BET and BetVictor.

The Paysafecard digital wallet functions similar to PayPal, said Joe Hall, vice president of Skrill USA. Players can use it to transfer money several different ways, including through debit cards, credit cards, peer to peer transfers, merchant payouts and automated clearing house services.

 “It makes depositing cash and placing bets on their platforms far simpler,” Hall emphasized.