Gaming:

How online poker companies track players and verify their location

Julie Jacobson / AP

Casino industry representatives and exhibitors watch an online poker game during industry’s G2E conference, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas.

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Rip Gerber

People call him the "sheriff of online gambling," but Rip Gerber says he's more like border patrol.

As CEO of Locaid, a San Francisco technology company, Gerber makes sure gamblers are where they say they are. Locaid verifies the location of online gamblers for Ultimate Poker, William Hill and the newest entrant into Nevada's online poker industry, the World Series of Poker.

On what Locaid does ...

We are the world's largest location company. We created what's known as "location as a service." We provide location information to all industries, from financial services to health care to hospitality and gaming.

What the regulators are saying about mobile and Internet gaming is, "I'm OK with it as long as you can verify that that person placing the bet on that device is in my state." What we do is locate those devices.

On how his company locates devices …

We can locate more than 5 billion devices anywhere on the planet through multiple location sources.

It could be through the cell towers you see dotting the countryside or through wireless carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. It could be off the device, through an IP location from your Internet connection or from a third-party database. We bring all those location sources together.

On his nickname, the "sheriff of online gaming" …

I'm not the cop. I provide information to the sheriff's office, which might be 888 Holdings or Verify or GTech or Bally, who provide the platforms. I'm more like border patrol.

An online gaming company will come to us to see if a player is in the state of Nevada.

Basically, we draw a line around the state and ping the device they are wagering on. If the dot is red (outside the border), the transaction doesn't go through. If it's green (inside the border), it's OK. That information is provided to the sheriff's office.

Caesars Entertainment, for example, takes our information into their system to ascertain if that wager can go through. They also use a lot of other information for authentication, such as age verification and identity verification. We focus solely on location.

On how often people try to trick the system …

There's a very small percentage.

Most of the applications don't let you get through to the end of the registration where my location fix would be utilized if you're trying to log in from, say, Virginia. You can't even register if you're not in the correct state.

A spoofer app can get in and trick the platform. Some of the gaming apps, like Cantor's, for example, do a pretty good job of trying to detect if a spoofer app is in place. But hackers and blackhat guys are very savvy about jailbreaking the phones and getting around them.

On the challenges of verifying location …

We use multiple technologies for authentication.

For example, one interesting requirement in New Jersey is that a bet can't be placed by the pool or in the parking lot. So we can authenticate that you're in the state with one technology, but to get highly accurate to see if you're inside a particular wall, we use a locale-based technology like Wi-Fi networks.

The challenge becomes that all of our customers have their own twist on what they require. It's not like you just plug in and everyone drinks the same water. There's a little bit of mix and match that goes on.

On whether online gaming will change brick-and-mortar casinos …

A good example is the retail industry. Has the mobile phenomenon stopped retailers from existing? No.

There is a sense of community and sharing and entertainment that happens inside a casino that you cannot replicate online. Most people want to interact with other humans. That's never going away.

As long as casinos provide an amazing experience and brand, and as long as they mean something to their community, this is going to be a major enhancement.

Tags: Business, News
Gaming

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