We had the pleasure of meeting David Pope, who has been an influential figure in the gambling industry since 2004. David specializes in the realm of identity and his work primarily involves aiding operators in identifying and understanding their customers. His company, Mitek Systems, is a leading provider of identity verification services in the gambling sector.
Identity verification is a pivotal aspect of gambling due to regulatory requirements. Governments and regulators demand operators to confirm the identity of their customers, ascertain that customers are at least 18 years of age, and maintain robust measures to keep crime out of gambling. This includes the prevention of fraud and money laundering, commonly referred to as KYC (Know Your Customer) protocols.
In addition to ensuring compliance, gambling operators strive to understand their customers deeply. Companies like Betfred use the services provided by Mitek Systems to not only verify the identity of their customers but also gain insights into their ability to afford the bets they make. This comprehensive understanding of the customer is pivotal to maintaining responsible and sustainable gambling practices.
One of the significant problems that online casinos face is fraud. David Pope highlights a particularly pressing issue—money laundering. Gambling operators work diligently to verify all customer details, including name, address, date of birth, telephone number, and email address, among others, to prevent such fraudulent activities.
One of the major fraud concerns in online gambling today is account takeover. This type of fraud occurs when malefactors gain access to existing gambling accounts using stolen usernames, passwords, and payment details. This issue has surged by a staggering 307% over the past three years, posing a significant threat to online casinos and their customers.
Account takeovers are not just harmful for customers but are also detrimental to the reputation of gambling sites. Customers, feeling their account details compromised, will often leave the site, taking their business elsewhere. Additionally, these incidents may lead to hefty fines imposed by regulators, such as Malta's MGA or the UK's Gambling Commission.
In the wake of increasing account takeovers, biometrics has emerged as a more secure alternative to traditional password-based security systems. With an astonishing 22 million people worldwide using '123456' as their password, it is evident that users find passwords cumbersome and difficult to manage. In contrast, biometric verification—using a user's face or voice—provides an added layer of security for high-risk actions like account withdrawals or placing high-value bets.
Biometric verification involves a straightforward enrollment process where users are asked to take a photo of their face. This photo undergoes liveness detection, which ensures that it is an actual live face and not a photo, video, or mask, thereby minimizing fraud. During high-risk transactions, users simply take another selfie, which is then compared to the original face using a unique biometric numerical template.
The same process can also be done using voice biometrics. With the rise of account takeovers in the gambling industry, operators are increasingly looking to use biometrics to safeguard their customer accounts and move beyond simple passwords.
One might wonder about the time taken to validate the documents during the biometric verification process. In reality, it's a matter of seconds! Enrolling for biometric authentication takes less than three seconds, with the actual biometric authentication process being even quicker.
At Mitek Systems, the focus is not just on providing the technology for validating identities, but also on delivering a smooth digital journey. The user interface is designed to guide the user effectively, providing prompts and guidance throughout the process. This approach aligns with Mitek's goal of ensuring 'safe digital access for all.'
While the document validation process is often automatic, certain cases may require a more in-depth examination. This is particularly true when images are not clear or when specific ID documents are presented. In such instances, specially trained agents conduct a forensic examination of the documents, a process that may take a minute or two.
However, operators appreciate this additional layer of security. The thoroughness of the process assures them that underage gambling, fraud, financial crimes, and account takeovers are kept at bay, reinforcing the trust in their operations.
Many users have voiced frustrations about the long validation periods in traditional casinos, with delays stretching over several days. Similar complaints have been raised about the time taken to process payouts—a crucial aspect as users are eager to get hold of their winnings.
Mitek Systems aims to resolve these issues by speeding up both the validation and payout processes. Many times, such delays occur when operators rely on their in-house staff to verify identity documents. Unfortunately, these individuals may not have the necessary expertise or tools to quickly analyze the ID documents, resulting in unnecessary delays.
At Mitek, the process is accelerated through the use of advanced technology and expertise, providing a quicker, smoother digital journey for customers. This not only improves the user experience but also enhances operator efficiency and reputation.
A crucial concern among users is the handling and storage of their personal data. At Mitek Systems, the approach to identity verification is designed along data protection and safety principles. The company minimizes the amount of data it holds and does not retain identity documents unless specifically requested by clients. Rigorous security assessments and certification processes are carried out to ensure compliance with all data protection and security standards.
The timing of the KYC process in casinos varies based on the jurisdiction where the casino is licensed. Some regulatory regimes, such as those in Malta, the UK, and Germany, require KYC processes to take place when the customer signs up and makes a deposit. In other jurisdictions, the KYC process can be performed later.
However, delaying the KYC process until the point of withdrawal poses risks, such as allowing underage individuals to gamble or potential money launderers to infiltrate the financial system. Therefore, over the past decade, there has been a significant shift towards conducting the KYC process at account creation.
While this may introduce some friction for the user at the account sign-up stage, a well-designed user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) can make the process seamless and non-disruptive for the player.
Technical issues and language barriers can sometimes create friction during the KYC process. Mitek Systems takes a proactive approach to these challenges, designing the user journey to anticipate and address potential issues.
One solution is providing the user interface (UI) in the user's local language, based on the default language settings in their browser, making the process more accessible and understandable for non-English speakers. This flexibility extends to over 20 languages, including Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian.
Moreover, Mitek Systems prioritizes not just validating the user's identity, but also helping their gambling operator clients maximize the percentage of users completing the KYC process. The company assists users in overcoming any challenges they face, such as understanding why their identity document has been rejected, and guides them through the resolution process.
One question that comes up is why, if technology exists to make the KYC process so simple and efficient, many gambling operators still use outdated, time-consuming processes.
One reason is that some operators use a document validation provider behind the scenes, capturing the document themselves and then sending it for validation. This is an inefficient approach, as the KYC process should ideally be part of the operator's digital journey, embedded within their website or app, providing a seamless user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
When operators manage the document capture themselves or use their own back-office staff for verification, this can create significant delays. Mitek Systems advocates for the use of their own UI, embedded in the operator's site or app, which guides users to capture a high-quality image of their document right from the start. This approach allows for quick, technology-driven document validation, with fewer documents needing manual review.