Regulations, Tech Help Stop Attempted NJ Online Gambling Fraud
In an interview last week with Betty Liu of Bloomberg, Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. and a man whose end-of-life goal is to abolish online gambling, said the following of the keeping track of players on the internet:
“I can’t tell who’s got financial difficulties. I can’t tell who is not gaming responsibly. I can’t tell if money is being laundering [sic]. I can in the casino.”
Well, Mr. Adelson, the state of New Jersey begs to differ. The New Jersey State Police recently announced that it has arrested a woman for allegedly attempting to defraud an online gaming site. And it was technology prescribed by the state’s gaming regulations that allowed them to catch her.
In a press release, the State Police explained that on Wednesday, April 30, 31-year old Diana Zolla of Jackson Township was arrested and charged with Theft by Deception. Theft by Deception is fairly self-explanatory, defined as when someone “purposely obtains property of another” and “purposely creates or reinforces a false impression.” This is a third degree crime; Zolla could face between three and five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
According to the State Police, Zolla created an online gaming account (the exact site on which she played was not revealed) and lost $9,565 in combined wagers and banking fees. Most people at that point would decry their bad luck, maybe break a few things, and move on with their lives. But Zolla filed a complaint with the police saying that someone stole her identity, creating the account using her maiden name.
Detectives from the New Jersey State Police Casino Gaming Bureau and the Financial Crimes Investigations Unit got to work investigating her complaint because, after all, identity theft is serious business, but they discovered that she was actually the one to create the account. Zolla was allegedly attempting to worm her way out of her nearly $10,000 loss by faking a crime. Instead, it appears she may have committed one herself.
While Zolla is innocent until proven guilty, her alleged act is clearly Theft by Deception, as she was trying to get almost $10,000 that was no longer hers by lying about how it was lost.
The State Police said that technology was what turned the tables on Zolla, as the detectives used internet service provider, banking, and online gaming records to piece together a picture of the gaming account’s history. Pokerfuse.com also points out, “Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance guidelines—specifically designed to prevent crimes such as identity theft and money laundering—along with geolocation technology may have played an important role in determining the validity of Zolla’s story.”
In the press release, Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said, “People who gamble online may be tempted to fabricate an identity theft complaint in order to avoid paying their debt. This criminal activity can only make a bad situation worse. The New Jersey State Police and the Division of Gaming Enforcement will continue to work cooperatively to aggressively enforce state laws that govern online gaming.”
David Rebuck, Director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, added, “The Division of Gaming Enforcement and the State Police are committed to working together to deter fraudulent activity and instill confidence in internet gaming operations for all involved, including players, platform providers, and payment processors. Suspicious transactions are thoroughly investigated, and as this case shows, attempts to defraud New Jersey casinos will not be tolerated.”
Now, opponents of online poker might say that even an attempt at fraud like this couldn’t happen in a brick-and-mortar casino because it’s not like someone could effectively fake identity theft in person. True, but that’s not the point. The point is that internet gaming’s opponents say that things like fraud, underage gambling, problem gambling, and money laundering are easier to perpetrate online because transactions are faceless and money is virtual. While this incident does not definitively prove that nothing bad could ever happen in the regulated online poker world, it does provide evidence that regulations and technology can work together effectively to catch criminals and stop the things they are supposed to stop.
Sheldon Adelson thinks that just because he says it’s one way, it is. He is wrong. Well-defined regulations work. Sound technology works. It would be fantastic if Ms. Zolla is the last person to try to commit an online gambling-related crime (allegedly), but she won’t. Fortunately, in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, systems are in place to catch those who are up to no good.
“Wherever we can control it, we should control it,” Adelson said in that Bloomberg interview. That is one point with which we can all agree. Online gambling should be controlled, not banned.