protecting minors online - minors not welcome at Thunderbolt Casino

When cameras caught a 12-year-old girl playing slots at an Australian casino, debate was reignited over how minors can be better protected from gambling. Minors are prohibited from gambling in almost every country in the world but the level of enforcement of those laws varies from one country to the next.

Online casino sites have come under particular scrutiny by anti-gambling activists due to the fact that it’s difficult to monitor online presence. As with social media and other aspects of internet involvement, minors can be especially vulnerable to becoming involved with illicit online activity. Activists want to be sure that the online casinos are taking necessary steps to ensure that minors aren’t able to access real money gaming sites through government intervention and online casino action.

Star Casino’s 12-Year-Old Patron

The Star Casino in Sydney is under intense scrutiny after a 12-year-old girl was seen on camera placing bets at a slot machine. The girl was one of three minors that regulators identified as participating in betting activities at the casino. Surveillance footage showed the girl being brought into the casino by her mother who held an exit door open to allow her daughter to enter. The girl then joined her parents at the poker machines, placing bets and playing the games.

NSW Independent Liquor & Authority Chair Philip Crawford was stunned. "It's quite staggering that the young girl's parents facilitated her entry in such a deceptive manner, let alone allowed their daughter to gamble," he said when fining The Star $64,500 (90,000 Australian dollars). The fine also covered an additional 2 cases of minors gambling and being served alcohol including that of a 16-year-old who entered the casino through a VIP area with an older member and a 17-year-old boy who managed to buy alcohol and play 22 hands of poker and 42 rounds of roulette before his age was discovered and he was escorted out.

Critics were quick to point out that it was hard to understand why the casino hadn’t anticipated underage patrons sneaking in through exit doors. Liquor & Gaming NSW Director of Investigations and Intervention David Byrne said that "there were a number of opportunities where staff should have noticed a very young person playing the poker machines -- well before they actually did which was when the family was leaving." In the case of the 16-year-old girl, Byrne noted that he had even been served alcohol at the bar and her deception was not noticed until a security guard checked her ID – a learner driver’s license – and saw that it was not hers.

Byrne said that the two older children had interacted numerous times with staff before they were caught. All in all, 32 minors entered The Star gaming area in 2019. Crawford noted that the issue was brought to the Authority’s attention by the casino  and he acknowledged the casino’s cooperation with the investigation. "We appreciate The Star's cooperation in coming forward each time they detect a minor, however we do take these cases seriously," Crawford said. "The penalty indicates that every breach requires a regulatory response befitting the risk of harm to young people and the community."

Online Casino

Online casinos are under heightened scrutiny as countries try to give their citizens free access to gaming entertainment while protecting them from unfair advertising and access to problem gamers and minors.

Restricting minors from brick-and-mortar casinos is easier.  The authorities can task the casinos with placing signs and instilling financial restrictions that will deter underage gamers from entering the casino. Some casinos, off-site betting facilities and racetracks employ tools such as player screening, randomized checks and on-the-floor requests for proof of identification.

All sides acknowledge that online usage brings with it different challenges. Young players are as much at risk – if not more – online as they are at a land-based location. The problem with online gaming is that anonymity can keep underage gamers from being identified as a minor.

Age Verification Tools

For this reason, online casinos are investing in age verification tools and other types of advanced security protocols that allow the casino to verify the age of the customer using tools that are applicable in an online setting. Online gambling sites are required to have built-in age verification measures that deny casino access to minors. Such verification tools usually appear when an individual attempts to open his or her casino account.

As part of the registration process, the registrant is required to provide his/her full legal name, address and date of birth. To verify the information online casinos can require e a copy of the registrant’s passport or driver’s license to prove the identity. Such verification is  often operated by a third-party.

In areas in which gaming is limited by law, geo-targeting tools are used to verify the player’s location in order to determine whether or not s/he is entitled to access the casino.

Even though no one model works for every country or for every casino, there are a number of options so that every online casino can meet any government guidelines to eliminate underage players. Regulated, licensed online casinos recognize that, by keeping underage gamers from accessing their sites, they are laying a good foundation for good business practice. 

Online Banking

Online banking institutions must also play their part in denying underage gamers access to online gambling sites. Many ebanks, including cybercurrencies, are careful to ensure that underage account holders do not link an online bank account with a casino account. They use driver’s licenses, passports, credit card statements and other methods to keep such policies in place.  

Finally, KYC and AML rules are also used to filter out minors from eligible players. These are the tools that are used to detect money laundering and terror financing online bank transfers and are increasingly being used by online casinos to deny access to underage players.

Full Compliance

As of now, it’s not possible to completely ensure that underage individuals never gain access to an online casino but gambling operators believe that the time will come when it will soon be a reality. Age-verification measures are becoming more and more sophisticated and the industry is becoming more pro-active in devising and implementing policies that will prevent underage access.