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Gambling in the USA

The State of Online Gambling Fraud: An Interview with Declan Raines of TransUnion

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First of all, could you give us a ‘status report’ about the current online gambling environment? How concerned should players be about fraud? Is it a widespread threat?

Online gambling has experienced enormous growth thanks to digital platform improvements, stay-at-home orders, and loosening regulations. The United States in particular reached record highs with more Americans gambling in 2021 than ever before. Mobile sports betting was one of the main drivers as many states turned to online gaming to capture tax revenue and bolster budgets. New York is a clear example; mobile betting went live at the beginning of the year and immediately set records with more than $1.6B wagered by residents in January. Large states like California, Massachusetts and Florida are considering similar legislation and it’s a matter of time before they join the mobile betting market too.

All this growth, attention, and revenue has been great for the industry, but naturally it’s also attracted the attention of criminals. The challenge with measuring fraud is that you have to catch it to count it, but even with that limitation, TransUnion’s 2022 Global Digital Fraud Trends Report saw a 19.2% increase in suspected digital fraud targeting the gambling industry.

We expect attention from fraudsters to keep pace with the growth of online gambling, and it should be a major concern for both players and gaming companies. That’s supported by what we’ve seen in Europe, where online gambling has been legal for some time now and fraud has been a continuous issue. The silver lining is that the U.S. can benefit from Europe’s example and adopt the most effective compliance, risk, and regulation best practices for consumers and the industry.

What are the reasons behind the rising number of fraud crimes committed?

Fraud will always follow large amounts of money, but much of the recent uptick in fraud can be attributed to bonus abuse. The competition from operators for all these new mobile customers is fierce. To stand out, companies are offering thousands of dollars in deposit bonuses when players sign up. These lucrative bonus offers, and incentives have become table stakes in attracting players to online operators.

In the rush to acquire new players operators have opened themselves up to fraud. They are susceptible to things like arbitrage betting where players make opposite sides of the same bet on different platforms but capture the deposit bonuses from each company. There are also bad actors using synthetic identities to create multiple fake accounts to try and clean funds or capture bonuses.

Bonus abuse will continue to be widespread when there’s such an emphasis on offering enormous bonuses to try and draw new players onto platforms. Ultimately bonus abuse in the US is somewhat of a commercial decision for operators as they strive to balance player acquisition with bonus abuse. Even in Europe, where there are more mature markets and smaller deposit bonuses, this type of fraud continues. It’s up to operators to take steps to protect themselves and customers.

What type of information is at risk? How can they be used against players?

The primary concern of players should be account takeover fraud. Fraudsters are actively looking to gain access to account credentials and are using increasingly complex techniques to accomplish that. Everything from phishing scams to SIM swapping to capture one-time passcodes have been used to gain access to funds in betting accounts. Once they gain access, fraudsters will directly withdraw the funds to one of their own accounts or sell that information on the dark web to other bad actors who will do the same.

Players can protect themselves with robust info security practices. When it comes to online gambling, using a password manager is still effective, but other techniques like VPNs aren’t available to consumers since regulation requires geolocation. Ultimately, good cyber hygiene and being vigilant in monitoring your account will be enough to repel most fraud attempts.

What can game providers do against these attacks? Is it possible to protect players without impairing player experience?

There’s a lot that online operators can do to vet and identify potential fraudsters – there are near-countless customer authentication methods available – but the industry as a whole has largely prioritized the player experience due to the risk of player abandonment. Player abandonment is estimated to be near 70% in the online gambling space right now and it’s easy to imagine why. Most people sign up for a mobile betting account with a specific bet in mind, something that’s especially true for sports wagers. A prospective player sits down on the couch to watch the game, decides they would like to make a wager, but only has a limited amount of time before the game starts. If that person has authentication issues or is impeded in any way during the onboarding process, they’re very likely to abandon the attempt or find a more lenient operator.

I would surmise that operators in the US are more tolerant of having fewer authentication methods in place because player acquisition is the priority right now. That will inevitably change as the industry matures, so operators will have to find a balance between a smooth player experience and better fraud prevention practices.

How does TransUnion ensure safety? What makes the company stand out?

Many online operators believe they must choose between the player experience and fraud prevention – but our team at TransUnion knows that’s not the case. Our experiences in Europe show that you can offer a frictionless player journey and a robust prevention strategy that does give you the best of both worlds.

The key to that is intelligence. Our approach measures confidence levels across three different data categories for each player: who they are, where they are, and what devices they are using. You can quickly identify fraudulent activity from any misalignments in those data elements. For example, if an address doesn’t match with the geolocation or an identity doesn’t match to a device, our team can flag for operators that this account needs an extra layer of scrutiny or friction before allowing access.

This is possible through the industry consortiums we support and work with to share information on potential fraudsters. If a device is associated with healthcare, credit card, or synthetic identity fraud, our gambling operator partners know and can act accordingly if the same information or devices are used on their platforms.

Our teams cast the widest net possible to ensure that online operators don’t have to ask for additional information and can avoid increasing friction in the onboarding process and improve the chances of legitimate players going through the experience seamlessly.

My belief is that with a fully accurate summation of fraud in the gaming market in the US would dwarf the fraud that happens Europe. Operators haven’t been able to put procedures in place to adequately protect themselves during the race to bring on new players. This is temporary; operators will eventually incorporate more robust fraud prevention into the onboarding process as the emphasis on player acquisition is reduced with market maturity. But knowing when to do it, and understanding how to preserve your player journey and experiences, will allow operators to apply a “friction-right” approach where they can have the best of both worlds.

Gambling in the USA

Pennsylvania Skill Congratulates Casinos on $504 Million in April Revenue

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Pennsylvania Skill, powered by Pace-O-Matic (POM), applauded the April revenue reports that show the gaming industry in the state made more than $504 million for the third time since April of last year. Pennsylvania gaming grossed nearly $1.7 billion in commercial revenue in just the first three months of 2024, second only to the casino capital of the United States, Nevada.

The funding comes from slot machines, table games, internet gaming, sports wagering, fantasy contests and video gaming terminals (VGTs).

As the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) celebrates yet another big financial month, however, casinos continue to falsely claim their revenue is impacted by skill games.

“We want to know what the revenue number is that casinos need to hit, or the next record they need to break before they stop claiming skill games are competition,” said Mike Barley, chief public affairs officer for POM. “Every month, we read about their incredible revenue gains, and then the casino industry turns around and claims they are losing money because of skill games. Their arguments don’t pass the smell test.”

Instead of battling skill games, Barley said casinos should support legislation sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw and Rep. Danilo Burgos that will regulate and tax skill games. There is bipartisan backing for the legislation that will place guardrails around skill game operations and provide as much as $250 million in skill game state tax revenue in just the first year. Gov. Josh Shapiro wants to see skill game tax revenue as part of his 2024-25 state budget.

Given the casino industry revenue gains so far this year, it is hard to understand why they are crying wolf. “It’s difficult to see how skill games are causing hardship for a billion-dollar industry,” Barley said, adding that there is room for both gambling and skill games in the Commonwealth. Since skill games entered the marketplace, gambling revenue has increased and broken records.

Several courts have ruled Pennsylvania Skill games are legal, including a unanimous Commonwealth Court last year. In addition to providing supplemental income to small businesses, many Pennsylvania Skill games are manufactured in Williamsport, and over 90 percent of the income they generate stays within the local economy and the state.

The baseless accusations, Barley explained, are an assault on small businesses, veterans groups, volunteer fire companies and other fraternal clubs across the state that count on legal skill games to make ends meet. Small business owners with skill games in their establishments are saying the revenue has saved their businesses.

Many of these locations rely on income from skill games to offer competitive wages and benefits to their employees, who are often heads of households supporting their families. This is what struggling families need right now, not another roadblock, Barley explained.

The proposed legislation limits the number of skill games per establishment to no more than five in LCB and lottery-licensed locations and up to ten at fraternal clubs.

Skill game distributors, operators and locations will be licensed and regulated through the Department of Revenue. The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control & Enforcement and local law enforcement in counties of the first class would be responsible for policing the skill game industry, helping to crack down on illegal games encroaching on communities across the Commonwealth.

“Backing this legislation means speaking up for the little guy – volunteer fire companies, VFW posts, mom-and-pop shops, fraternal clubs, small businesses and their employees. I believe Pennsylvanians can sleep comfortably knowing that the big internationally owned casinos will continue to survive on their record profits.” Barley said.

 

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Gambling in the USA

Detroit Casinos Report $109.44M in April Revenue

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The three Detroit casinos reported $109.44 million in monthly aggregate revenue (AGR) for the month of April 2024, of which $107.87 million was generated from table games and slots, and $1.57 million from retail sports betting.

The April market shares were:

  • MGM, 46%
  • MotorCity, 30%
  • Hollywood Casino at Greektown, 24%

Monthly Table Games, Slot Revenue, and Taxes

The casinos’ revenue for table games and slots for the month of April 2024 decreased 1.6% when compared to the same month last year. April’s monthly revenue was 11.8% lower when compared to the previous month, March 2024. From Jan. 1 through April 30, the Detroit casinos’ table games and slots revenue decreased by 1.6% compared to the same period last year.

The casinos’ monthly gaming revenue results were mixed compared to April of last year:

  • MGM, down 0.7% to $49.86 million
  • MotorCity, down 4.5% to $32.68 million
  • Hollywood Casino at Greektown, up 0.6% to $25.33 million

In April 2024, the three Detroit casinos paid $8.74 million in gaming taxes to the State of Michigan. They paid $8.88 million for the same month last year. The casinos also reported submitting $12.8 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments to the City of Detroit in April.

Monthly Retail Sports Betting Revenue and Taxes

The three Detroit casinos reported $15.28 million in total retail sports betting handle, and total gross receipts were $1.57 million for the month of April. Retail sports betting qualified adjusted gross receipts (QAGR) were up by $1.5 million in April when compared to the same month last year. Compared to March 2024, April QAGR was down by 1.7%.

April QAGR by casino was:

  • MGM: $475,492
  • MotorCity: $516,812
  • Hollywood Casino at Greektown: $578,131

During April, the casinos paid $59,362 in gaming taxes to the state and reported submitting $72,554 in wagering taxes to the City of Detroit based on their retail sports betting revenue.

Fantasy Contests

For March 2024, fantasy contest operators reported total adjusted revenues of $494,162 and paid taxes of $41,510.

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Gambling in the USA

CogniPlay Launches New Social Casino Platform

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CogniPlay has today announced the official launch of their new software product, which aims to provide a robust online sweepstakes or social gaming platform to their clients.The system is designed to be modular, allowing customers to tailor their brand and offering to what they believe will give them optimal performance.

The rise of sweepstake casinos in the US is continuing to gather pace and many companies from real money gaming are investigating the business model and the potentially lucrative revenue opportunity. With no standout platform solution currently on the market, CogniPlay looks to serve clients a full white label style solution with every detail taken care of. Brands like Chumba and Pulsz are already seeing tremendous success and CogniPlay gives an extremely efficient route to market for potential new sweepstake casino owners.

The CogniPlay system has several key integrations which help to deliver the product, including games integrations with the likes of Pragmatic Play, BetSoft, Mascot Gaming and many more, giving them 100s of games for their clients. There are other integration options for their customers to pick from too, including affiliate programme software, CRM platforms and associated products, KYC, ID verification, Geo-IP systems, Gamification, and customer support.

They also have a very long and extensive development pipeline which will see the product offering develop at pace, giving clients an extensive list of options and USPs, and of course giving players a great user experience as a result.

As well as the platform itself the CogniPlay team, due to their considerable experience, also offer a whole host of managed services, with almost a menu that clients can choose from to fill any gaps in their own skillsets or experience.

It is also this experience that CogniPlay hopes to utilise to great effect to provide industry-leading client management to build successful relationships and partnerships with their clients. CogniPlay’s Chief Executive Officer Allan Turner said, “We are very proud to take the CogniPlay product to market and are excited that people who want to start a new social or sweeps brand can get in touch with us to see what we can do for them, or in fact established brands that are unhappy with their existing provider.

Our underlying principles are that we want to provide the most flexible platform in the space, to enable our clients to create the product they want to have, not for us to dictate the product to them. The two other main areas of focus are that we want to be the most future-proof product on the market with plans for any regulatory or legal changes that may arise in the future, and that we have all the right safeguards in place to ensure that we look after both our clients and players with our responsible gaming setup.

This of course means having the right tech and processes in the key areas of KYC, Geo-IP tech, anti-money laundering, fraud, risk assessment and ID verification.”

 

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GamingAmericas.com (part of HIPTHER) is your one-stop portal for the latest news, insights, and analyses in the gaming industry across the Americas. From legislative updates and market trends to interviews with industry leaders, we provide a comprehensive look at the dynamic landscape of both online and land-based gaming. Whether you're a stakeholder looking to stay ahead of the curve or a gaming enthusiast eager for reliable updates, GamingAmericas.com has got you covered. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for real-time updates and exclusive content. Make informed decisions and stay ahead in the game with GamingAmericas.com.

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