The Man Who Would Be Sheriff (of Online Gambling)

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Rip GerberSan Francisco-based Rip Gerber plays a critical, but often overlooked, role in the US regulated online gambling market.

Gerber’s company Locaid provides location verification services to casinos such as Station and Caesars and online gambling powerhouses like 888 and William Hill.

OPR interviewed Gerber to get his take on the health of the U.S. iGaming industry, where regulators could improve and how to balance the need for location verification with the growing demand for individual privacy online.

Follow Gerber on Twitter @RipGerber.

OPR: In your opinion, what have regulators gotten right so far when it comes to online gambling? 

RG: The technical teams within the gaming enforcement divisions in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are very smart and are well-versed in the latest geolocation technologies. The regulators have gotten that right: bringing top technologies into the discussions that are shaping the state regulatory and licensing requirements.

And these state regulators understand that technologies such as mobile geolocation are enablers, not barriers. Since nearly every consumer is carrying a powerful mobile device in their pocket or purse, the regulators understand how this powerful technology and mobile location proxy can bring all the benefits of gaming with greater convenience, ease of access and enjoyment to consumers.

Another area where the regulators are getting it right is in implementing strict policies for using location data that can’t be spoofed. Not all location data is created equal. State regulators such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) have spent years battle-testing software and services to develop a rigid set of requirements that confirm that a user cannot falsify their location and are thus within state lines. The NGCB now insists that real-money wagering on a mobile or computing device must include location sourced directly from carrier networks.

And where do you see room for improvement?

Areas for improvement? Too many states are moving entirely to slow. Some states have a fear of technology and do not understand the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) shift occurring today. We live in an always on, always connected, mobile society. For example, I can purchase anything from my mobile device, including a house or an automobile.

But in most states, I cannot buy a $1 lottery ticket from my smartphone. Why can I only buy a lottery ticket at the corner store? Mobile technology is not going away. State regulators need to embrace these new tools that will drive tax revenue and resident satisfaction up for their communities. The good news is that many states are moving forward; today, ten more states are now advancing bills to allow Internet and mobile gaming.

Does the near-exclusive emphasis on a player’s mobile device for determining location leave the entire verification process vulnerable to the simple hack of leaving your phone where you should be and playing where you want?

Ascertaining the location of a bettor’s mobile device is not the only information considered in geolocation. There are multiple location sources utilized in the authentication process, from bettor’s registration records to real-time mobile device and desktop location inputs.

In a post-Snowden world, do you anticipate any customer blowback against online activities – like online poker – that require the consumer to surrender a certain level of privacy?

There is an international debate today on the balance between privacy and transparency. Internet and mobile computing are powerful enablers, which means they can be used for both good and bad. Information such as geolocation data can provide security, but can also bring unwanted exposure.

That is why we at Locaid take privacy very seriously. I myself am a Certified Privacy Professional, the only CEO in mobile and in the igaming ecosystem to be awarded such a degree. The major brands, gaming apps, casinos and operators all understand the power of a trusted and respected brand.

What’s the best way for operators and companies like yours to mitigate that blowback?

Always provide the end-user of any geolocation service three things: consent, notification and control. Only locate a device if you have that person’s consent. Notify them frequently and remind that person you are utilizing location to provide the service they desire. And provide easy to use controls to stop the location requests at any time. In other words, put the consumer in full control.

Reach Gerber on Twitter: @RipGerber and on LinkedIn.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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