Why do Bingo sites require my ID?

Introduction

If you’ve ever played Bingo online, then you’ve probably wondered why you had to go through such a rigorous verification process. Seems a bit overkill for a game of Bingo, right?

As harmless as Bingo may seem, it is still classified as Gambling, and therefore it falls within the jurisdiction of the UK’s Gambling Commission. Verifying personal details, such as your age and address is a legal requirement for anyone possessing a gambling licence in the UK. As most Bingo sites are run by gambling operators and money is exchanged, then this means Bingo accounts need to be legally verified.

Before the Gambling Act of 2005, online gambling was like the Wild-West. Ok, there weren’t gunfights and lynchings, but there were plenty of cowboys! Therefore, cleaning up the gambling industry was a big part of the Gambling Act’s objective.

Now you may think this is strange given that you can walk into a betting shop, pay cash and leave without anyone asking for your details. Despite what you may think, this has nothing to do with the government keeping tabs on you. It’s more to do with protecting the vulnerable, particularly minors and preventing money-laundering and fraud.

It’s also part of a wider ‘personalisation’ trend that is transforming businesses. Marketers refer to it as ‘Direct-to-Consumer’ marketing. Simply put, the more you know about your customer, the better you can serve them and the more money you can make from them. This means collecting personal details.

British Passport – Image Source

Age Verification

This is the main reason for verifying your account because you have to be over 18 to gamble.

You can’t physically enter a casino if you’re under 18, security will refuse you entry because it’s illegal. You can enter a betting shop underage, but they won’t let you place a bet. This old-fashioned system has been successful at keeping minors away from gambling. But how do you do that with a gambling site?

The answer is you can’t.

That’s why personal details have to be identified.

Money Laundering

It’s no secret that gambling has been synonymous with money-laundering for decades. Gambling is almost the perfect mechanism for laundering money. It’s easy to place multiple bets and games can pay-out over 90% of the time. If you’re looking to clean dirty money, then losing a few quid at the bookies is a small price to pay.

Your gambling operator, therefore, will require identification to cross-reference against police databases. If a bookie suspects that your banking method doesn’t belong to you, then they will ask for further details. Having different addresses for your bank account and registered address will most likely cause this to happen.

What ID do I need to provide?

ID requirements can vary from Bingo site to Bingo site. However, at the very least they will all ask for your name, date of birth, address and a payment method. Your gambling operator will then cross-reference your name and address against the electoral roll. If the details align, you’re sorted.

However, if you’re not on the electoral roll and your registered address is different to the address associated with your payment method, then a flag is raised. If this happens, then further ID is required. Typically, you will be asked for one of the following:

  • Photo ID: Passport or Driver’s Licence.
  • Payment ID: A scanned image of the relevant bank or credit card. Both sides.
  • Proof of Address: Bank statement or utility bill with your address on it.

Remember a gambling operator will allow you to bet without verifying your account. However, they won’t pay-out until the account is verified. To avoid any issues later, make sure your account is verified.

My Bingo site hasn’t asked for any verification

Although this is unlikely, there are probably two reasons for this to be the case.

Firstly, your details were probably automatically verified through the online registration process. If all your details are correct and above board, then this could well be the case.

Secondly, and much more worryingly, you could be using an unlicensed operator. It is illegal to operate in the UK without a licence, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always deter some companies. Now, you may be thinking, this isn’t so bad, especially if you want to avoid being verified. Trouble is, you’ll have no legal protection, and no recourse should they suddenly decide not to pay-out your winnings.

The ‘Direct-to-Consumer’ trend

Handing over personal details is not unique to the gambling industry. Nowadays, almost everything you buy online means setting up an account.

The move to digital has changed the way businesses operate. Data is now at the heart of everything they do, and the personal data of their customers – sometimes known as first-party data – is now hugely valuable to businesses.

The belief is the more you know about your customers, the better you can service them, which in turn will generate more revenue from them. This is executed via direct to consumer marketing campaigns, with the email being the most commonly used tactic.

Remember, the digital industry is built on data. This means your data is almost as valuable as the cash you spend.

Conclusion

The old ways of knowing if someone was legit or old enough to gamble, namely by physically meeting them and deciding if they are over 18, cannot be replicated online. Protecting the vulnerable, especially minors, means personal verification is required.

It’s also important to understand who is gambling in the UK. Gambling is uniquely vulnerable to fraud and money-laundering. Putting the right checks and balances in place, including ID verification, is essential to protect the industry from crime.

Providing your Bingo site with your details might be a chore, but it’s a small price to pay for a safe and clean gambling industry.

Sarah Price - Editor

Sarah Price is a well know expert in the field of Online Bingo. She began her career with an MSc in Computing and IT from Cardiff University before working within the industry with names like Foxy and 888Ladies.