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The endless changes within the gambling industry can be a chore for both players and the casino sites themselves. The UK Gambling Commissions (UKGC) introduction in 2007 has inundated the sector with regulation changes that can be seen as a hinderance. But for many the need to bring more stringent rules, including the requirement to have a UKGC licence was a positive step in protecting vulnerable gamers.
This focus on ensuring that the gambling industry is responsible and has integrity, led to further changes such as making terms and conditions more user-friendly and the removal of credit cards as a banking choice.
But the biggest impact has come from what is known as KYC or ‘Know Your Customer’. Within this guide we are going to explain what it is and why Know Your Customer was introduced in the first place.
What is Know Your Customer (KYC)
New players registering on any online gambling sites are now legally required to complete verification checks. This is a mandatory requirement for a gambling sites UKGC licence and as such they take this process very seriously. Initial checks will happen at the point you register on the site, so this will be before you make a deposit, claim a bonus or any welcome credit. You may find that the site will request an update of the information further down the line, but we’ll explore this further on in the guide.
The need to gather documents to verify your identity will always been seen as a hinderance for players, as it can impede on you playing slots or casino games at that point in time. It’s an added frustration when you compare it to a player who simply walks into a high street bookies and places a bet without in depth verification processes. Online there tends to be a delay from the point you register on the gaming site and when you can play, although most larger brands can perform the checks pretty quickly. This final point is well worth noting, as it may influence your decision for the types of gaming sites you choose. Are you willing to wait for a smaller brand to conduct their checks, purely because they offer better regular bonuses?
So, lets get down to the nitty gritty of what is Know Your Customer and how it impacts the player. Basically, the gaming site must ensure that their players are legally responsible enough to gamble. These actions will help safeguard both young adults under the age of 18, who are vulnerable to the enticements that gambling can bring and also older players who may struggle with addictions. In addition to the human aspects of the rules, there are also more economical elements such as the need to prevent money laundering, which has reputationally been linked to online gambling in the past.
Reasons why Gambling Sites Need to Verify Identification
- Prevent Underage Gambling – Ethically this is the reason why verification checks were brought in, in the first place, and it was the focus of the UKGC when they were introduced. All players with a registered account must be 18 years or older and the sites must have documents to prove as such. Gambling online has an element of anonymity to it which you don’t have with high street bookmakers. When you are face to face with a customer there is the ability to visually ID them before asking for identification should it be needed. But this is impossible for online sites and as such they must validate the customers identification through legitimate documentation. Studies have found that players under the age of 18 can be extremely impressionable when exposed to free bonuses and promotions. Demos of slot games have been found to be a precursor to gambling addiction and as such the UKGC legislated that they would only be available for gamers, after they had registered with the site and as such had provided verification of age.
- Prevent Fraud and Money Laundering – Money laundering is a term that most of us know but we may not understand the principle behind it. To launder money, you are making what would be classed as illegal and legitimising it or ‘cleaning it’. The act of laundering illicit funds has an economical impact and as such gaming sites need to ensure that they can tie any money to a certain customer using identification. As you can imagine this will make it harder for criminals who wish to remain anonymous. If a gaming site is suspicious of a player and suspect that they may be money laundering, they can refuse their custom or request further ID. Examples of why this may occur include, if the payment information given by the gambler has a different address to the one given on their identification when they registered. These additional identification checks may happen if the player is displaying a variation in their normal pattern when they are crediting or withdrawing, such as adding a large amount of money.
Completing the KYC Process and the Documents Required
This is probably the information you’re really intrigued to know. What exactly is it that your chosen gaming site will request from you?
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
The most significant of the three is the need to verify your identity and age, which is done using a government issued ID. This tends to be a passport or drivers’ licence, but if you do not have either then you can use a birth certificate, but this may take longer to complete verification.
When scanning or taking pictures of your documents, make sure all of the details are as clear as possible. It is also essential that the document has a current date to ensure it is valid, because any out of date documents will not be accepted by the site.
Proof of Address
By providing your proof of address alongside your identification, the gaming site will be able to confirm that you are who you say you are. Most will ask for a utility bill or bank statement with your name and address on. More commonly used documents include a council tax bill, electric or water bill. For the document to be accepted then it must be dated within the previous three months.
Proof of Payment Methods
The number of payment methods now available in online gambling is vast, as such verification will be dependent on the type you choose.
Soft Credit Checks
Although not a common occurrence, some sites may choose to do a soft credit check as an additional form of identification. For many this causes concern, but we can confirm that this check will have little or no affect on your credit score and is merely an extra ID check.
Further document checks such as this are within the site’s discretion, and they tend to be conducted simply so the site can show the UKGC that they have done everything within their power to verify the customers identity. Because the sites must have a UKGC licence to be able to provide a service in the UK, then they will be eager to ensure that they have met all of the legal requirements.
As we have previously mentioned, if there are any differences between the information you have provided during the update request, from the details given at registration, then additional documents will be requested. This is because they will need to clarify why there is a difference, so they can confidently agree that the player is who they say they are.
Should there be any concerns about your financial information then the gambling site may ask for additional documents to show your proof of earnings (sometimes known as source of wealth documents). Types of ID may be a bank statement, pension documents or a payslip. Players tend to find that this occurs if they amend their normal betting patterns. It is a way that the site can ensure they protect their players who may be vulnerable to gambling addictions.
The information we have given you should cover most of the gaming sites you will come across, but just be aware that this may vary from site to site. The UKGC has given general rules so that the casino has minimum standards to comply with. Again, as mentioned above, it is important to ensure that the documents you send are clear and unobstructed, as poor images could cause a delay in you accessing the games.
How will my information be used and stored?
The general rule on most casinos is that you will upload your documents to their site, from either your mobile or desktop. This is the area where all of your information will be stored and where you will find out if you have been approved or declined. The gaming site will also steer you here to deal with any queries, as it may require that you upload further documents.
For a site to verify your identity they will compare the address you have given against the electoral roll. If you are not registered, then they will request further documents to complete the process. If they have everything they need, then you will find that the checks will take between 1 and 3 days, but this will depend on the system the site has in place. Larger brands will have their own verification team, whereas smaller sites may outsource the job.
If at any point your personal information changes, for example you move house, then it would be a good idea to update your details with your chosen gaming site. So that the casino can ensure they are adhering to their licencing rules, they will request updated documents on occasion.
Since the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), we as customers can be assured that our personal information is kept securely and that it can only be shared with government regulatory bodies if required.
What Happens if my Documents are Refused?
It’s important to note here that failure to conduct appropriate verification checks can lead to the gaming site losing their licence and as such not being able to provide a gambling service in the UK. If your documents are refused then you have the right to appeal, to send additional documentation or to go to another gambling site.
This can be difficult for those of you who have winnings that they wish to withdraw, so our recommendation would be to try and find a common ground and ensure the site has what they need to comply with UKGC rules. If the documents do not fulfil their requirements, then you may have your account suspended and as such they will refuse to pay out, or they may even close it completely.
It is in these cases that you should consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services such as Resolver or IBAS. They have no legal hold on the site, but they may help mediate and provide support to you in your communications. The first step should always be contacting the gaming site and trying to deal with the matter.
Summary of Know Your Customer Checks (KYC) for Betting and Gaming
To ensure that the gambling industry remains credible and fair, then there needs to be rules and regulations in place to keep both the sites and players responsible. Yes, Know Your Customer can be a hinderance for us, but its impact on protecting those who are vulnerable should not be underestimated. It also reduces the effect of criminal activity in the sector which had been a problem in the past. To ensure that you don’t get caught out when making a fast withdrawal of winnings, it’s always a good idea to keep your Know Your Customer up to date. The process itself is simple, it’s waiting for the acceptance which can be the frustration. But hopefully now you’ll understand why it’s needed and accept that it’s a part of life if we want to gamble online.