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The online casino and betting industry seems to have had an avalanche of changes since the introduction of the UK Gambling Commission in 2007. Their focus on regulating gambling sites by introducing licences and regulations has been a welcomed addition for some and a frustration for others. But the need to protect vulnerable gamers has always been at the fore front of the UKGC’s agenda. The introduction of accessible and comprehensible terms and conditions, and the removal of credit cards as a payment option were significant changes within the industry. But within this article we are going to focus on the identity check requirements, otherwise known as ‘know your customer’; what do they mean and why were they introduced?
What is Know Your Customer (KYC)
All gambling sites are legally bound to conduct verification checks on any new players joining their site. This is a mandatory requirement of their UKGC licence, and it will occur at the point of registration, before a first deposit or bet is made (this includes those of you who may be using a bonus or free welcome credit). For many players it is seen as a hinderance, especially when you consider the fact that you can go into a high street bookie and place a bet without needing to provide any form of identification. This is because it can cause a delay between the point you register with the site and when you can actually begin to play. Most of the larger gambling companies have the ability to conduct their verification checks quickly, so that may influence your decision when choosing which operator to go with.
The term know your customer means pretty much what you would expect. It is the process of ensuring you know your customer is legally responsible enough to play on the gaming site. It was introduced for a number of reasons, but mainly it keeps online gaming fair and helps safeguard those who are underage and as such are vulnerable to the difficulties that gambling can bring. But there are also more legal reasons such as preventing money laundering, which has been a big problem within the sector in previous years.
Reasons why Gambling Sites Need to Verify Identification
- Prevent Underage Gambling – This would be considered as the main reason the UKGC introduced the new legislation. For customers walking into land-based betting shops or casinos there is an element of visual ID verification which is missing for online gambling. Should the person look underage then they can request ID before the bet is placed. Online sites don’t have this luxury and as such they must ID all players with a registered account to ensure that they are 18 years or older. Younger players can be susceptible when exposed to bonuses or promotions, and even demo slots have been known to be a precursor to gambling addiction.
- Prevent Fraud and Money Laundering – The basic premise of money laundering is taking money which has been made illegally and legitimising it, or ‘cleaning it’. If this process were allowed to continue, it would have a significant economical impact and as such ID verification was introduced. It is much harder for criminals to use this format to clean their money, if they have a connection to it via their identification. Also, if someone has previously been suspected of money laundering then the site can refuse their custom or request further ID. This has been known to occur if the customers payment information does not have the same address as the one given upon registration. You may also be required to provide additional identification if you are crediting or withdrawing a large amount of money, which isn’t your normal pattern or reaches the sites threshold.
Completing the KYC Process and the Documents Required
We have explained to you the reason why gambling sites complete the document checks, but what exactly are you expected to provide. The general three areas that need to be verified are;
- Proof of identification and age,
- Proof of Address,
- Proof of payment method(s).
Proof of Identification and Age
To verify your identity and age, the betting site will request a government issued ID. The most common options are normally your passport or driver’s licence. If you do not have either of these documents then you can use a birth certificate, but you need to be aware that verification may take a little longer.
To ensure the process is quick we would recommend that the image you send of the document is as clear as possible. Also, that the date on the document is valid, because out of date documents will not be accepted.
Proof of Address
Most sites will request a utility bill or bank statement with your name and address on to fulfil this requirement. This can include a council tax bill or even water and electrics bill, but they have to be dated within the last three months.
Proof of Payment Methods
The number of payment methods now available in online gambling is vast and will vary depending on the type you choose.
Soft Credit Checks
Some sites may conduct soft credit checks on their players to confirm their identity. It is normal to feel concerned about this but be reassured that the check is purely to validate who you are and has little or no affect on your credit score.
Sometimes the gaming site may ask for extra documents before they can complete the verification process. This will purely be at the sites discretion and is normally them just ensuring they have thoroughly conducted the legal requirements. It could also be that there are inaccuracies between the information given when you registered, and the details provided on the documents. As such they will need to delve a little further and ask for additional information.
If there are additional queries in regards to your financial information, then you may need to prove your proof of earnings (sometimes known as source of wealth documents). This is to protect people who may have vulnerabilities to gambling addiction and who may not be able to afford what they are adding to their account. Documents may include a payslip or bank statement.
These requests will vary from casino to casino, even though the general premise is used by all UKGC licenced sites. As we mentioned above it is important that when you scan or photograph the document that it is clear and unobstructed.
How Will my Information be Used and Stored?
Most gaming sites will have an area where you can upload your documents from your mobile or desktop device. This is also the section where you will discover if you have been approved or declined. If there are any problems with the information you have provided, then the site should contact you and confirm what the issues are. Verification occurs when the site checks your address against the electoral roll, so if you aren’t registered, then you may have to provide additional documents. Generally, the process will take between 1 and 3 days to complete, depending on the gambling site you have chosen.
Should there be any changes to your personal information, then it is a good idea to update the details with the casino. Sites should ensure that the information they have is accurate and as such you may be required to confirm that your details are correct, every so often.
In terms of storing your information, that will be kept securely by the site and will only be shared with government regulatory bodies if required. All gambling sites have to comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which regulates how information is stored.
What Happens if my Documents are Refused?
The first thing to remember is that gambling sites are legally bound to conduct these checks and ensure they are completed accurately. If they fail to comply or follow the regulations, then they may be fined or have their UKGC licence removed. You can appeal and see if they will accept additional documentation, or simply register with another gaming site.
If you are already a registered customer with the casino and they have requested an update of your documents which then fails the validation, you always have the right to appeal. The fact that they suspect some inaccuracies may lead to your account being suspended and as such they will refuse to pay out, or they may even close it completely.
There are external companies such as Resolver and IBAS which are Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, who may be able to help mediate your complaint. But we would always recommend trying to deal with the gaming site first, as any ADR’s will want to see that you’ve attempted some form of communication.
Summary of Know Your Customer Checks – Online Casino and Betting
Although the Know your Customer verification process can be an inconvenience for players, hopefully this has illuminated the reasons for its existence. It not only protects the players, but also the sites themselves from the possibility of fraudulent and criminal activities. This means we can feel confident in our betting site and trust that they will safeguard our money and personal information. The real frustrations can occur when you want to withdraw funds and the site requests a KYC update. But with today’s technology the process is generally pretty simple, and most sites will complete verification quickly. Sadly, there is no alternative and we have to accept this as part of the gambling online experience.