Why Regulated Poker Sites Need Social Security Numbers

John Mehaffey June 4, 2014
online poker sites ID verification

Regulated online poker and casino games have not met expectations. Some operators have blamed the signup process for the lower than expected player counts. Each click can lead to a potential new player giving up and moving on to something else, including an offshore site with a simpler process.

One click that has left some players uncomfortable is the request to supply the gaming site with a Social Security Number. This is something rarely asked by offshore sites.

The first use of a Social Security Number is to identify a player. The information provided by a player is compared to a government or private database. A Social Security Number helps narrow down information for common names. This speeds up the account creation and player identification process that helps prevent gambling by minors.

A Social Security Number can also be used as a way to track fraudulent players. If a player attempts to make a deposit with a stolen credit card or initiates an electronic check with insufficient funds, then the poker room and payment processor have a better idea who it is. This helps in two ways.

One is that pinpointing who a player is and their location will prevent the site from accepting future bad deposits from a player. This information can also be used to pursue the customer if he or she refuses to make good on returned echeck or disputed credit card charge.

It can also be used to challenge a fraudster that has stolen a credit card or bank account information. The thief would also need someone’s Social Security Number to complete the transaction. This is much harder to obtain.

Some players mistakenly believe that winnings from offshore sites are not taxable. This is simply not true. Any player that wins money from an offshore site is still obligated to declare it under gambling winnings on a 1040 or as a professional gambler on a Schedule C. Many players over the years have failed to do this assuming that there was no trace of winnings. Those players may have a rude surprise in the future, especially if winnings were substantial.

These issues may only seem useful for poker sites, but players benefit from less fraud. The less money poker sites lose to thieves, the more money they may return to players. It also adds to the financial security of a poker site. Some offshore sites have been wiped out entirely by thieves.

Some players are angered that regulated sites would want to track winnings through a Social Security Number. Taxes are one of the benefits pitched to lawmakers as a reason to legalize online poker and casino games. This makes it imperative for operators to at least have a way to track wins and losses in case there is an inquiry later. This can benefit losing players that may now have access to profit and loss statements from poker sites.

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