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Is Player Verification Behind Tropicana's iGaming Success in NJ?

Caesars and Borgata were expected to lead the way when New Jersey’s online gaming experiment began last November, and while they are ranked #1 and #2 in terms of total revenue, a third Atlantic City casino has joined them in the upper echelon of New Jersey’s iGaming industry: Tropicana.

In terms of online casino revenue (disregarding online poker which the Tropicana does not offer at this time) Tropicana is on the cusp of overtaking Caesars in Year-to-Date revenue, as well as overtaking Borgata as the top producing online casino on a monthly basis.

The performance of and has been one of, if not the biggest surprises in the first year of New Jersey online gaming, and there could be a very simple explanation for their success – The Tropicana’s decision to only ask customers for the final four digits of their Social Security Number.

Less Intrusive Player Verification

In the grand scheme of things, it’s likely a combination of a number of things that has allowed Tropicana to ascend toward the top of New Jersey’s online casino industry, as Tropicana has done a lot of things right:

successful marketing campaigns;

partnering with Virgin;

launching with stable software;

and offering exclusive games.

However, the key difference between Tropicana and its competitors is the less intrusive player verification checks. The Tropicana’s online casino sites only require players to divulge the final four digits of their Social Security Number. All other sites in New Jersey require potential players to disclose all nine digits of their Social Security Number.

It may not seem like much, but this one difference makes Tropicana a far more appealing site to potential players who have been conditioned not to divulge their Social Security Numbers, especially amid all of the recent hacking scandals. Yet, at the same time, most people will rattle off the last four digits to just about anyone on the other end of the phone line without hesitation – which is a really bad idea.

All things being equal, most players would choose the less intrusive site.

The requirement by the New jersey DGE that customers disclose their Social Security Number has been mentioned as a major hurdle by everyone from Tom Breitling of Ultimate Gaming, to David Rebuck, the head of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, and this one step in the process is also one of the most common dropout points for registering players – it should also be noted that SSN disclosure is yet another hoop their Black Market competitors don’t require players to jump through, and a major reason some are still in business.

Thus far, the Tropicana is the only company that has decided to adopt the less intrusive KYC checks, but they do so at a price.

Success rates of KYC checks

First, it should be noted that the Tropicana is authorized by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to only require the final four digits of a customer’s SS#, other sites have the option to petition the DGE and adopt the same procedures but they’ve chosen not to, and perhaps for good reason.

According to CAMS CEO Matthew Katz (CAMS handles the player verification checks for the Borgata and for Betfair), using just the last four digits of a person’s SSN drops the success rate of a Know Your Customer (KYC) check from 97%-99% down to just 90%.

This doesn’t mean Tropicana is letting people play at their site that should not be allowed; it means the site rejects many legitimate players other sites would approve in order to continue using their scaled-back Social Security requirements.

Using the final four digits creates more false-negatives, not false-positives.

So while Borgata is turning away somewhere between one and three players per hundred, Tropicana is turning away around one in 10.

That means that somewhere between 7-9 legitimate customers that would be approved by the Borgata are declined by the Tropicana’s online casino. The only reason the vast majority of these players are declined is because the site chooses to only collect the last four digits of a person’s Social Security Number, thereby dropping their accuracy from as high as 99% down to just 90%.

So why is the Tropicana willing to turn away legitimate players in order to continue offering the less intrusive KYC check? The company has apparently decided it’s better to attract 100 players and turn away 10 than to attract 90 players and turn away two.

How this strategy will play out in the long run remains to be seen, as a 10% decline rate might create some PR issues down the road, and could be adversely effecting the entire industry as players become annoyed with continually being denied access, and could apply their experiences to other online casinos in New Jersey.

Revenue figures bolster the Tropicana’s strategy

Still, the Tropicana’s decision to only require players to divulge the final four digits of their SSN seems to be working out pretty well for them. Not only have several competitors in the market mentioned the Tropicana only requiring the final four digits directly to me, but it’s hard to not look at their revenue numbers and attribute a significant amount of their success to this singular difference.

Here are the revenue figures for online casino games in New Jersey year to date (through August) showing Tropicana ready to surpass Caesars: Borgata – $19,642,649; Caesars – $14,313,958; Tropicana – $14,059,363.

And here are the currently monthly revenue figures for the month of August, showing Tropicana about to overtake Borgata in monthly revenue, as the two are nearly neck-and-neck in monthly online casino revenue: Borgata – $2,309,337; Caesars – $1,644,620; Tropicana – $2,264,576.

The Tropicana is not Borgata or Caesars, and their iGaming partner, Gamesys, is not or 888. The Tropicana seems to be over-performing, and the only major difference is the player verification process.



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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.