Social Security Number Overview
Since the passing of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Casinos have long time been treated as a financial institution. As such, they fall under the same rigors of financial institutions especially when it comes to money laundering. Under the BSA,
“With respect to each deposit of funds, account opened or line of credit extended after the effective date of these regulations, a casino shall, at the time the funds are deposited, the account is opened or the credit is extended, secure and maintain a record of the name, permanent address, and social security number of the person involved.”
While some people are not fussed about sharing their social security number, of the belief there is no individual privacy left, a large percentage of people still are loathe to share it. Operators in New Jersey have been the recipient of some very enthusiastic reactions when it comes to giving up those coveted nine digits. The online horse racing industry has been dealing with this issue from the beginning and also had similar reactions from potential players, but the IRS and FINCEN are adamant this is a requirement for anyone in the casino business. The legislation states ( 13:69O-1.3 Internet or mobile gaming accounts) Subsection (b) In order to establish an Internet or mobile gaming account, a casino licensee shall ‘Create an electronic patron file, which shall include at a minimum…Entire or last four digits of the patron’s Social Security number, if voluntarily provided, or equivalent for a foreign patron such as a passport or taxpayer identification number.’ This is a strict law that is taken very seriously. Since September 11th 2001, the US government has enforced these law with great rigor. While currently this has been a deterrent to many potential players, we must accept it and move on.
Currently, the regulations specifically state that either all 9 or the last 4 digits must be part of the operator’s records and according to the BSA casino is required to “secure and maintain” the 9 digit social security number at the time the funds are deposited. All but three sites still have chosen to obtain all 9 digits from the player directly. Tropicana and Virgin opted to require only the last 4 digits from the player, obtaining the other 5 from one of their service providers. This is likely one of the reasons for Tropicana’s top performance on the casino side of the business. Players are more willing to share the last 4 rather than give up the entire nine. This is especially true given their heightened sense of security, right after an operator has asked them to download software onto their computer to track them and the same time likely rejecting their credit cards and asking for the their bank account details.
Recently, there have been some rumblings within the burgeoning industry. According to industry insiders, IRS has recently been questioning the practice of only obtaining last 4 digits. There has been some rumors that those offering the 4 digits may have to revert to the full 9 digits. This could potentially massively hurt the industry. This isn’t a situation isolated to New Jersey but whatever the outcome here will impact every state who chooses to embrace online gaming. In the opinion of some of the leading experts on BSA, the argument for allowing only the last 4 digits is more than sound, believing that so long as the casino “secures and maintains” the 9 digit number at the time the funds are deposited, it should not matter where the social security is obtained from.