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Kevin Smith

Operators Respond Differently to UK Report on Underage Gambling

29 July 2004

Reaction from online gaming operators to a recent report on the ease in which minors can access web-based gaming operations has varied over the last two days.

One operator questioned the validity of the study while another called on banks to help monitor the use of Solo debit cards and another has decided to stop accepting Solo cards all together. Another operator said the report could fuel a move to set up and issue their own debit and credit cards to consumers.

On Monday representatives of the children's charity NCH, GamCare, and CitizenCard released a study that showed 30 of 37 online casinos and betting sites that were tested allowed minors to set up accounts. The accounts were setup through a Solo card, with the minor giving their accurate address and personal information, but indicating that they were of legal age to gamble.

Some UK-based banks issue Solo Debit cards to children as young as 11-years-old and a representative with William Hill, one of the sites named in the study for allowing a minor to set up an account, said the banking industry needs to carry some of the burden on how cards issued to minors are used.

David Hood, public relations manager at William Hill, said the findings of the study were alarming to one of the leading bookmakers in the UK, but operators shouldn't be the only ones to blame.

"I was disappointed and surprised when I saw this report," he said in a statement. "There is no evidence at all that there are any 11-year-olds gambling online. We have been aware of this situation and have been working quietly behind the scenes to tackle these problems for some time."

The study had the minors set up the accounts, but didn't have them place any wagers or play any online casino games. Hood said that banks should be able to code Solo cards that are issued to minors to help adult content providers like gaming operators to block their use.

"Banks continue to distribute these cards to children, in a bid to get more customers and beat the competition," he said. "We need support from banks, and we will happily support them to get new restrictions in place. Banks need to provide a code on these cards to block access to restricted sites. This technology already exists in the U.S."

While Hill is hoping to enlist the help of banks in controlling the situation, Carmen Media Group, which operates a group of online gaming sites, decided it would suspend the use of Solo debit cards from its customers. Carmen's action applies to all of its online casinos, its three poker rooms and sports book.

Carmen operates a host of sites, including River Belle Casino, Jackpot City, and Lucky Nugget, just to name a few.

Customers over the age of eighteen who are currently using this payment method will be migrated onto acceptable alternatives, according to a statement released by the firm.

Tim Johnson, CEO of Carmen Media said the company supports the report and efforts made by UK Minister for Gambling Andrew McIntosh to decrease the amount of underage gambling.

McIntosh is hoping to add underage gambling language to the upcoming Gambling Bill and would like to get it passed as soon as possible.

"We support his efforts to introduce legislation to enforce verification checks," he said. "Improvement and enhancement of verification procedures is ongoing. This forms a central part of the company's commitment to lead the industry with respect to responsible gaming."

The controversy over the use of debit cards has been enough to fast-track plans with some operators to introduce their own credit cards. The idea has been tossed around industry circles for sometime now, but David Crave, director of business at Ukbetting (another firm indicated in the study as allowing minors to access their site), said the plan could be launched by the end of the year.

"We're looking to have our own dedicated cards that wouldn't be issued to anyone under 18," he said. A deal is already in place with a card issuer and the study could speed up the implementation of the new card.

One offshore operator, who spoke to IGN on the condition of anonymity, said he questioned the validity of the report since only 37 sites were sampled and no betting actually took place.

"With us you might be able to set up an account, but when you go and try to place a wager we might ask to see more ID or fax us a copy of another credit card or something like that," he said. "We have a lot of measures in place to prevent minors from using our site. It is a serious issue and we want to work with these groups to keep it to a minimum but I don't think they are going about it the right way in publishing this report."

The NCH said that all companies tested were written to and asked to review the way they block underage access two months before the minor went online.

Operators Respond Differently to UK Report on Underage Gambling is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith