We sat down with AgeChecked CEO Alastair Graham to discuss all things age verification, from legislation in the UK gambling sector to the future of digital identity.
Thanks for speaking with us today! Can you tell us a little about AgeChecked and how things got started?
AgeChecked is a leading online verification provider working with operators and affiliates in the gambling and sports betting sector.
AgeChecked was started five years ago when I observed my very young nephew watching content on YouTube that would not be allowed on TV. There was clearly a lack of both regulations and technology that offered the same basic protections online that children have in terrestrial broadcasting. After a quick bit of research, it was clear to me that there was substantial demand for this situation to be rectified. I was in the payments industry at the time, so I had access to some clever IT developers who could tackle the technological challenges that would have to be met. So, I decided more or less at that point to put the team together, which became AgeChecked.
Since that date, many industry sectors have strengthened or introduced new regulations to protect children online, the Gambling Commission being a case in point when they brought in changes to the LCCP to stop under 18’s from accessing gambling websites. So we continue to expand our services and the sectors we operate in as age verification becomes more widely adopted online.
Back in 2017 you described yourselves as “the new kids on the block”. Three years on, how have things changed?
Well, we’re established as a supplier of enhanced KYC solutions, not just age verification, but I like to think we still have a disruptor mentality. We aim for strong collaborative engagement with our corporate clients, which leads to the ongoing development of innovative solutions.
What makes your tech solutions so viable for the gambling industry? Were any adjustments required when entering the sector?
Our platform is built to allow for multiple checks during a customer journey based on the risk profile of customers, so it is ideal for gambling. Each sector and jurisdiction will have its own specific requirements, so adjustments are needed for each circumstance, but the platform fundamentally remains the same.
What proportion of your client base operates in the gambling sector and where are your key geographical markets within this?
40% of our client base operates in the gambling sector, with most of our clients operating in UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, USA and Canada.
You devote a lot of personal time towards age verification legislation outside of AgeChecked, including sitting on the Digital Policy Alliance Age Verification and Internet Safety working group, and you’re co-chair of the Age Verification Providers Association. What motivated you to become an active member of these groups, and how do you reflect on your involvement so far?
It was clear to me in the early days of my involvement in age verification that the demands for greater online child protection would mean not just new age verification solutions were needed, but new regulations and working practices as well.
I saw an area where I could make a positive contribution to an issue that has merit. I am very pleased with the role that the AVPA has taken to promote practical age verification, and the strides that the UK has made to create standards that organisations can follow to increase the safety of children online.
What do you make of current age verification legislation in the UK gambling sector? How significant were the changes made last year, with the introduction of age verification prior to customers being able to deposit, and how do you reflect on its evolution?
The changes were part of the evolution to greater social responsibility in the industry. The UK may be somewhere at the forefront of this evolution, but they are not outliers and we are seeing similar moves in the same direction with many regulators.
The age verification measures prior to deposit are more significant to some business models than others. Free-play is not part of the equation for many operators, but now there is regulatory attention being given to affiliate relationships, which may mean a change to that equation in the future. More attention is also being given to advertising that reaches under-age audiences.
These age verification measures, when seen as part of the wider UK regulatory mix, signpost a legislative momentum towards putting responsibility on online companies to ‘prevent harm’ to minors. I believe it will be the companies associated with gambling, but not those already regulated, that will be most impacted. The Online Harms Bill is currently expected in 2021/22.
How do you see age verification legislation evolving with the advancement of technology?
Hopefully, the legislation will evolve to allow for solutions that increase age verification match rates. There are a lot of innovative methods that are not based on standard identity databases, which we are introducing in other industry sectors. It would be great if we could see these being more readily accepted by gambling regulators, as there are significant challenges in some geographical locations in regard to effective data sources.
How do you expect the world of digital identity to evolve over the next decade? Can we expect consumer and tech trends to push further innovation?
Firstly, I see increasing awareness from site operators and consumers as to how personal data is processed and the potential for misuse. I believe that concern will drive innovation. We adopted the anonymised verification route, rather than carrying the risk of holding valuable databases of customers, that could be the target of hacks or misuse. We see other organisations looking at similar solutions to address this issue.
Secondly, I see an acceleration in biometrics. We are all aware of the huge hacks of identity databases that have reduced the level of assurance of standard database verification. When it comes to anti-fraud and enhanced due diligence solutions this is a significant problem, which is driving the requirement for new solutions that avoid potentially compromised data.