SBC News TMT Analysis: Verifying identities is easier than you think – William Hill learnt the hard way

TMT Analysis: Verifying identities is easier than you think – William Hill learnt the hard way

Fergal Parkinson, TMT AnalysisFergal Parkinson, Director of TMT Analysis, asks whether gambling companies should be doing more to verify players’ identities, drawing upon the recent example of William Hill.

British gambling giant William Hill has recently been hit with a record-breaking £19.2m penalty by the UK Gambling Commission. It could have been even worse – the regulator reportedly considered suspending the organisation’s licence. 

According to the Gambling Commission, the sanctio was issued for “widespread and alarming” social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures. These included allowing customers to deposit, and lose, large sums without appropriate checks in place, with one customer spending and losing as much as £70,134 in a month. 

It’s not the first time the gambling household name has faced fines. Back in 2018, it received a £6.2m fine from the regulator for similar issues – classed as systemic social responsibility and money laundering failures. 

Breaching the strict rules in place, intended to protect consumers, has resulted in yet another huge financial hit for the company. And reputational damage is also a concern, especially amidst a cost of living crisis where millions are struggling and more acutely aware of money than ever before. 

The case has much wider implications for the industry, confirming a growing trend we first highlighted in our 2022 research. Amidst a volatile economy, where people’s financial circumstances are changing from day to day, global regulators are increasingly cracking down on gambling firms. 

As of December 2022, penalties totalling £105m had been handed out across the year, which was almost three times the £40m levied on gambling companies in 2021. With this high-profile William Hill case, the trend has continued into this year. 

And it also begs the question; how do gambling firms prevent these fines from happening again? 

We live in a data-rich environment, where – through technologies such as open banking – companies can assess someone’s ability to pay for something in the same way a bank does when an individual applies for a loan or a mortgage. So, why do gambling firms continue to risk both their finances and their reputations by not making better use of the latest technology to strengthen the safeguards they have in place? The answer to their woes lies at their customers’ fingertips. 

Adopting a more mobile approach

To operate responsibly, it’s imperative that gambling companies verify their users’ identities before it’s too late and they drown under the weight of multi-million pound fines. They can do this by adopting next-generation mobile and authentication technology. 

In our increasingly digital world, it’s little surprise that gamblers who use mobile devices account for around 88% of all punters across the global industry. It therefore makes complete sense for identity verification to be inextricably linked to the mobile usage of online gamblers. 

The right technology is already available, and can help online casinos and other gambling firms to verify an individual’s identity, including their age. And it’s all done via a single point of access: their mobile phone number. 

The best solutions draw on real-time data gathered from over 80 countries every day, including trusted sources such as telecoms companies, mobile network operators, and regulators. This technology can strengthen the onboarding process for businesses, reducing the number of impersonations and more accurately verifying a user’s identity. 

This data is fast, reliable, and minimises the opportunity for fraud to occur. It’s also a much more cost-effective alternative to the other, older technologies available in the market. And from a user experience perspective, the direct involvement between customers and online operators means that the delicate balance of increasing security whilst maintaining low levels of friction can be easily achieved. 

The industry, which is firmly in the regulatory spotlight, must now let the case of William Hill be an eye-opening lesson. The right technology for the digital age of gambling is here, and it’s ready to use. Industry players simply need to adopt it in order to ensure a responsible business model fit for the future.


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