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Due diligence: Penn’s sign up & KYC processes keep players safe

| By Cole Rush | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Every branch of the sports betting industry is growing at a speedy clip. As the industry thrives, new features and functions come out to give players new ways to place their bets and enjoy their favourite sports. One of those branches, often overshadowed in the zeitgeist by the flashier elements of betting, is safety and security.
Penn Entertainment

Penn Entertainment is changing the way sportsbooks go about security by staying on top of know your customer (KYC) practices. The company deploys its tools across all its brands, including ESPN Bet in the states and theScore Bet in Ontario. Chris Soriano, vice-president and chief compliance officer for Penn, says such practices are of paramount importance.

“Customers are giving us information about their bank accounts, where they live and who they are,” Soriano says. “We want that process to be safe and secure from beginning to end.”

Sign up, lock down

The sportsbook sign-up process is a crucial step in keeping the entire experience safe for all involved. When building the sign-up process, Soriano and Penn took multiple considerations into account.

“How do we know our customer? How do we know who they are, where they are, whether they’re 21 or older? How do we know they’re located in the proper jurisdiction? We have a couple of steps that answer these questions up front.”

The process, then, includes all the standard fare – email, phone number, date of birth, address, etc – plus a few steps Soriano says are cutting edge for sports betting operators.

Penn Entertainment
ID verification forms a large part of Penn’s KYC procedures, says Chris Soriano

“Email verification at signup is very important,” he says. “Some sites have that step later in the user journey, but we do it at the beginning. We know your email address is valid. Most importantly, we know we can communicate with you at that email address.”

Communication is essential and Soriano says it’s valuable to get it confirmed from the get-go so ESPN Bet or theScore Bet can notify users of security issues, such as unusual account activity.

Email verification is relatively universal, but Soriano says many other operators require it later in the user experience – before withdrawal, for example. Verifying from the jump enables better communication with bettors.

Safety first

Another pillar of Penn’s approach to secure sign-ups? ID verification.

“We required the information from a government-issued ID. We can check that information for accuracy. It lets us confirm, from a literal identification perspective, who that person is.”

In other words, Penn betting properties aren’t just allowing bettors to input their information. They confirm it with a required picture ID.

That goes one step further with the next requirement: a live selfie.

“It all comes back to the big question,” Soriano says. “How do we know a customer is who they say they are?”

The selfie upload requirement is another safeguard that benefits all. The sportsbook has more information to confirm a player’s identity and the player has an added layer of protection to stop wrongdoers from creating accounts in their name.

“Our system requires that it be a live selfie. In other words, you can’t take a picture of a picture of you – that won’t work.”

And finally, we come to the omnipresent account security tool: multi-factor authentication.

“You’re starting to see it everywhere,” Soriano says. “I think it can be entertaining in some cases, like when I log in to pay my electric bill. I thought, ‘If someone wants to pay my electric bill for me, hey, it’s all yours.’”

Still, Soriano sees the value, particularly in the sports betting space. “We’re a highly regulated business. There are a lot of eyes on us, and we want to make sure we’re doing it the right way.”

For the players

All of Penn’s KYC practices are intended to benefit the player.

“When you have a customer go through the process,” Soriano says, “it makes them trust the platform more.”

Even if the sign-up process takes a few extra minutes, he says it’s worthwhile.

“It’s no different from opening an online banking account. You want your information to be accurate and you want the institution to protect you. We’re talking 20 extra seconds or so as an insurance policy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot of time and it helps in the long run.”

Soriano thinks other operators may button up their processes to align with theScore Bet and ESPN Bet sooner than later. Why? Because players will start to take note and consider security more than ever when choosing a sportsbook.

Penn's KYC
Detailed KYC requirements encourage players to trust the platform, says SORIANO

“I think customers will feel more confident when they’re putting their information in and knowing they are being onboarded in a secure way. We’re taking the time to verify their details and keep them safe.”

Plus, players who complete verification and ID steps up front have less friction as they go about their betting activity.

“Now that’s out of the way, there are fewer hoops to jump through later,” says Soriano.

What’s in a name?

Penn is known across the industry as one of the biggest names in betting. Its sports betting brand, ESPN, is a household name even outside of gambling-savvy circles. That plays into Penn’s goals.

“We want to make sure that both Penn, ESPN and theScore are best in class and we want people to trust those names. People trust Penn in gambling. They trust EPSN and theScore in sports. We want them to trust the combination of those businesses in sports betting, too.”

Like a diamond, brand recognition has many facets and security should be among the shiniest of them. This approach also extends into the responsible gaming world. It starts with the obvious elements.

“You’ve got to start simple,” Soriano says. “There’s one tenet of responsible gambling that doesn’t get subsumed into the jargon enough and that’s underage gambling. Our KYC process confirms anyone signing up is 21 or above and there are multiple verifications required – the ID, the selfie.”

The information pulled on sign-up fuels further responsible gaming initiatives. Getting better information about who is signing up can help sportsbooks keep at-risk players safe.

“It gives us more robust information to check against self-exclusion lists. Ensuring we get accurate and useful data – legal name rather than a nickname, for example – can help us identify self-excluded individuals.”

  • Regions:
  • US

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