Why do bookmakers need to verify my identity?
Nowadays, if you go to any gambling site then you are almost certain to be asked for some sort of verification. In the past couple of years, you might even have been asked to provide more of your personal details and documents to continue betting on your favourite sites. You may be asked to provide include things such as your driving license, a bill addressed to your house or one of your bank statements.
With these stricter checks it can be quite easy to have your registration to a gambling site rejected. One of the problems people run into often is that the photos of their ID they need to require is not clear enough. This could be because the room the picture was taken in was too dark, the flash of the camera reflected off a surface (the clear coating on your driver’s license can be bad for this), or some important information on the documents were covered or out of frame.
Most of the checks, however, shouldn’t take very long to process, especially with some of the bigger sites that have teams dedicated to performing these checks, so you will soon find out if the details you gave were sufficient.
If you fail any of the checks there’s no need to worry. As long as the details you’re using are correct, you can resubmit the information easily, and if you are really finding it too difficult to get a good enough photo of your documents, you can also take a little bit of extra time and post it for certain sites.
Checks Sites Perform
Many of you won’t have checked the terms of conditions of the betting sites you’ve signed up for. Those of you who have, however, may have come a clause that states the site is allowed to perform a credit check on you.
If your credit rating could be better this may worry you, but fortunately betting sites don’t care how good your credit is, it’s just checking you are who you claim to be. Better still, they perform what is known as a “soft search”. This means that the check is not put on your file and therefore anyone that checks your credit file will be unable to see it.
You can check yourself if gambling sites are going to do this yourself. It should be relatively easy to understand as the terms and conditions offered by bookies are required to transparent due to the 2015 consumer rights act.
If you’re looking to have a quick punt on your favourite team to win, it may seem over zealous of a betting site to want your drivers license, passport or any other documents to prove your identity. You may find waiting up to 24 hours for a site to verify that the documents you submitted to them are genuine. There is, however a few good reasons why it is in fact necessary.
As gambling sites are being required to be more responsible for their customers and what is taking place on their sites, better verification is required to do this. Some of the things betting sites are now trying to prevent include, but are not limited to:
- Underage Betting
- Money Laundering
- Evasion of Self-Exclusion Schemes
- Depositing over personal limits
The first reason for verification being required is that, not unlike a physical bookie, an online gambling site needs to be able to verify that its customers are over 18 This is very important because minors are generally unable to understand the concepts of online gambling and therefore need to be protected from putting themselves into. a bad financial situation, which is why it is illegal in the first place for under-18s to gamble.
It is also good for the sites to be sure of their customers ages, as they can be hit with very large fines for allowing underage gambling. The UK gambling commission recently introduced new rules stating that gambling license holders need to verify at a minimum a customer date of birth, name and address.
This also effects previous customers who can now not place bets until they provide this information. If gamblers are unwilling or unable to provide this information they are, however still allowed to withdraw any funds that they have in their accounts.
The reason for these particular new rules is that people were able to create accounts, deposit money in them, and gamble as they wished, but ended up having problems with verification when they tried to withdraw their money. The aim of the UK gambling commission and its new rules are to protect consumers. Further supporting this, the chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur said “I want gambling consumers in Britain to be able to enjoy the fairest and safest gambling in the world and I want gambling operators to work with us to put customer enjoyment and safety at the top of their corporate agenda.”
Another reason for stringent verification is to prevent fraud and money laundering. Gambling has a history of being a way in which money was laundered, so it should come as no surprise that many different entities worldwide, including the UK Gambling Commission are trying to put a stop to this. You might imagine that it must be quite complex how money is laundered through gambling, but it is in fact quite simple.
Let’s say for example a reasonably knowledgeable fraudster has got hold of the credit card details of multiple different people. They can’t keep the money in their bank or spend it because it didn’t come from a legal source. There solution to that problem would to spend it all on low odds bets. They do this until they have spent all of the original money.
They may make some small losses through this but they now have a legitimate reason for being in possession of this money. Fortunately, there is a small likelihood of that working now, as with the stricter checks in place there is a better chance of the activity being flagged as suspicious.
To combat money laundering, if you deposit or withdraw more than a set limit of money, you may be asked to provide even more proof of your identity. This limit fortunately doesn’t affect the average punter.
Similar to the last point. Betting sites are also using the checks to make you can’t set up a betting account in their name without them knowing. If you lose your credit card and somebody finds it, they would be unable to set up a betting account in your name unless they had other personal documents of yours.
Some people who struggle to gamble responsibly also can register to be blacklisted from gambling or even just certain types of gambling. This is done through the UK gambling commission’s self-exclusion scheme. Through the scheme you can register to have yourself excluded from certain types of gambling for at least six months, and gambling sites have to also try and stop you within reason.
The more stringent checks make it much easier to see if somebody who struggles with gambling, and is trying to quit, is trying to access a gambling site using fake details. Also, once a person has self-excluded themselves using the scheme, they are unable to reverse the decision, so they have to wait at least 6 months until they are able to gamble on any licensed sites.
The self- exclusion scheme, also known as GAMSTOP, is a required sign up for all of the gambling sites licensed in the UK, however, not unexpectedly, there are ways for punters to get around the scheme, including using a VPN to access foreign operators or going on a site that doesn’t require verification, neither of which are recommended.
Many of the workarounds for the GAMSTOP scheme are either legally dubious or mean that your deposited money will have very little, if any protection. For these reasons, the self-exclusion scheme is there only to provide reasonable help, with the final responsibility to gamble responsibly on the individual.
Another way that gambling sites can help protect their customers from losing too much money is by allowing them to set deposit limits.
But how do deposit limits work? An upper limit is set by a customer on their account on a gambling site. When the customer is depositing money into their account, if it is over the limit they set, they will receive a warning. Sites, such as Paddy Power can also allow you to instantly decrease your limit, but any increase on the limit takes a set amount of time, such as 7 days, to take effect.
This makes it easier to cut down on the money you spend on gambling, as well as making it harder to give in to temptation and top up your account beyond what you can afford to. With limited checks anyone could create or log into a fake account, which would defeat the purpose of having any sort of limit.
Gambling Providers’ Responsibility
All sites that hold a license in the UK are required to perform the appropriate checks on all of their customers and also investigate further if they find anything suspicious. These checks work along with all of the other rules that have been set to both make sure all the activity on sites are above-board as well as protecting the customers.
This is meant to make the wellbeing of the customers a main priority for the betting operators working in the UK. Not all sites have followed these rules, however, which has led to them being fined, in total, leading to the UK Gambling Commission handing out £19.6 million in fines in 2018.
Present day effects of Gambling Laws
With the stricter the legislation that came into place in 2019, it is not unexpected that the online betting sites will do their best to follow the guidelines to avoid any fines or sanctions that would be imposed upon them otherwise.
An example of a site not following these rules are Caesars Entertainment. The failed to prevent money laundering as well as allowing people with gambling problems to use their site and they were hit with a £13 million fine for allowing a number of rules to be broken over the course of 3 years. On top of that, 3 of the senior managers lost their licenses and therefore cannot work in a casino any more.
With that kind of punishments on the table, it is simply not worth it for sites, or individuals working within, to flout the new rules.
Carl Hughes - Editor
Carl Hughes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".