Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson (pictured) used last week’s Global Gaming Expo spotlight to repeat his oft-stated claim that online gambling companies have no power to prevent underage players from blowing their college funds. Despite reams of evidence that online companies know their customers far better than brick-and-mortar casinos, Adelson maintained that “when you’re on the internet, you cannot know your customer.”
Adelson’s view got a big boost last week in Belgium, where new outlet Nieuwsblad reported that an unidentified 15-year-old Antwerp boy had spent €37k of his mother’s money via the online strategy free-play app Game of War: Fire Age. Mom had given her boy her credit card info because she wanted to purchase some eBooks to take on a trip but needed his help navigating the newfangled technology. The boy linked the credit card data to his iTunes account and went back to playing his online strategy game.
The boy claims not to have understood that the countless number of in-app purchases he made represented real money. There’s a chance the boy’s mom won’t have to sell her son’s kidney to pay off her credit card, as Apple has previously agreed to wipe the slate clean in instances similar to this in the UK and also settled a US class action lawsuit brought by angry parents earlier this year.
The boy’s tale of woe was reported just as the Belgian Gaming Commission sought permission to bring social gaming under its mandate in order to protect youth from similar chicanery, so we’re only half-convinced this brouhaha actually brouhaha’d, but don’t let our cynical selves sway your opinion.
TRICK AND MORTAR
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania gaming regulators have fined the operators of the SugarHouse Casino in Philadephia $20k for allowing underage gamblers to access their casino floor earlier this year. You must be 21 years or older to gamble in Pennsylvania but a 19-year-old used a fake ID to get past a doorman, then was challenged by a blackjack dealer, only to have a supervisor overrule the dealer and let the kid go on to lose $60 before a pit manager stopped the party.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board also suspended the CEO of the Valley Forge Casino Resort for 15 days for “recklessly” allowing two underage females onto the casino floor back in May 2013. Casino boss Michael Bowman admitted waving off a security guard who’d attempted to verify the ages of the two 20-year-old ladies. Bowman claimed he thought the girls were at least 30, which is closer to their combined age, but, you know… math, right?
Adelson’s company owns the state’s leading casino, Sands Bethlehem, which also leads its competitors in number of underage gambling incidents. Sheldon would prefer you to dismiss these types of incidents as aberrations, while simultaneously expecting you to view the Belgian kid’s experience as standard operating procedure.
The truth is that all defense systems are based on attrition, in that a certain percentage of the attacking force will ultimately overcome whatever barriers you put in their path. The trick is to learn from these types of incidents, upgrade your defenses accordingly and for God’s sake stop throwing rocks around that glass house in which you live.