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IGC Calls British Study a "Wake-up Call"

23 August 2004

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – (PRESS RELEASE) -- Aug. 9, 2004 -- The Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) supports the initiative of three British organizations – NCH, GamCare and CitizenCard – with regard to their recent study on underage access to online gambling sites. However, at the same time, the IGC is alarmed by its findings. The study is a wake-up call to the interactive gaming industry and its responsibility to prevent minors from accessing its web sites. It strongly reinforces the efficacy of governmental regulation of this industry.

"In addition to the serious social and moral implications of underage gambling, minors are simply not good for business. Underage gamblers are a no-win situation for everyone involved, including the operator," said Rick Smith, executive director of the IGC.

In the study, which was announced July 27, 37 gambling sites were tested by having a 16-year-old girl attempt to register. She lied about her age, but provided other information that was apparently accurate, including her Solo debit card number. Only seven of the sites, including one that did not accept Solo debit cards, blocked the girl's registration. The study cautions that debit cards are widely available to minors.

Although the teenage volunteer did not actually place bets or try to collect money from her account, the report infers that she would have been able to do so, and would have also been able to wager through related services at some of these sites, such as wireless and interactive television services.

"The study would have been more telling if the results revealed that the underage person actually placed wagers and withdrew funds from the account," Smith said. According to Smith, some jurisdictions and / or operators will allow online registration to permit immediate play, subject to the identity being verified offline, and thus completing the registration process. In this process, and pending the offline verification, a player may only make limited deposits and wagers, but cannot withdraw funds until the player's registration is complete. Thus a person who fails the offline verification process cannot benefit financially, and a strong motivation to play is taken away.

"Nonetheless, the results of the NCH/GamCare/CitizenCard study indicate that something's wrong, especially if operators are not opting to adopt best practices and technologies to prevent underage persons from accessing online gambling," Smith said. "It is the responsibility of operators to adopt best business practices and to undertake appropriate staff training on responsible gambling initiatives.

"Minors do not belong in a gambling venue, either in the real world or in the virtual world. Whether or not underage persons make actual bets with real money or just participate at play-for-fun sites, the industry doesn't want them there and neither should parents or society at large. It is critical for governments, industry and parents to ensure that an appropriate balance of education and monitoring of Internet usage is implemented for children, regardless of the online content."

An encouraging aspect of the report is that four of the sites that blocked the underage person from registering are based in Alderney, a self-governing territory of the British Crown. Alderney has one of the world's most current regulatory regimes for online gambling.

"Throughout our eight years of existence," said Keith Furlong, deputy director of the IGC, "the IGC has been an advocate for government licensing and regulation of online gambling sites. This study further demonstrates the need for, and value of, meaningful government regulation."

"Charitable groups like GamCare and NCH have performed a valuable public service in highlighting this sensitive issue, but true protections need to be the job of an appropriate regulatory infrastructure in conjunction with an overall awareness and education campaign. Government regulators ensure that most of the world's land-based casinos do not admit minors, and they can, and should, do the same when it comes to online gambling," Smith said.

The British government plans to implement a tough online gaming regulatory scheme, and the IGC advocates that it do so without delay.

The IGC also believes that larger issues need to be addressed. British organizations sponsored this test, and it makes sense that they focused on sites that are located primarily in, or have some tie to, Britain. However, the Internet is a worldwide medium, and minors need to be protected wherever they reside.

"This report is a good start," Smith said, "however, consistent, international standards are what's necessary. The Internet offers many wonderful opportunities, but it also poses a threat to minors. Responsible businesses need to work with governments, non-profit groups, other key stakeholders and parents to prevent harm to minors.

"Children everywhere, not just in Britain, are vulnerable. The IGC is eager to do its part in solving this universal problem."


Formed in 1996, the IGC is the leading trade association for the international interactive gambling industry with its membership operating or supplying services to most of the reputable interactive sites on the World Wide Web. Based in Vancouver, Canada, the IGC champions fair and honest interactive gambling environments. To help parents protect their children, IGC members are encouraged to participate in the self-labeling system of the Internet Content Rating Association. The IGC has developed a Code of Conduct for members, and a program called Helping Hand to assist problem gamblers.

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