Does Sky Bet, The Gambling App, Know About You?

LONDON – When Greg stopped gambling at the end of 2018, he was in a dire financial situation. He had lost about $ 15,000 during his nine months of betting on his small house in the UK, owing two loans totaling more than $ 70,000 and a mortgage of over $ 150,000.

Now he is on a hunt to find out if his favorite gambling app, Sky Bet, knows about his problems and still tries to hook him.

The records show that Sky Bet had a dossier of information about Greig. It had access to banking records, mortgage details, location coordinates, and intimate drawings of their habits on slots and football matches to collect information about the company, or users.

When he stopped gambling, Sky Bet’s data-profiling software called him a customer “to win back”. After flagging the marketing software, they received emails such as promoting the chance to win more than $ 40,000 by playing slots that they were likely to open. A predictive model also estimates how much he would be worth if he starts gambling again: about $ 1,500.

Greig learned about behind-the-scenes tracking after hiring a lawyer and taking advantage of UK data protection laws, which require companies to share with them what personal data they have about them Keep it. He wanted to know if Sky Bet had profited and targeted him too because he quit gambling.

He shared the documents with The New York Times on the condition that his full name not be used, worrying that the details would spoil his career and make connections with family and friends.

Sky Bet did not dispute that any of the inscriptions were authentic. But the company said it did not have access to certain information such as banking and mortgage data, which was collected by outside companies.

As gambling apps are in popularity worldwide, documents show how some of the gambling industry’s most popular apps have adopted the Internet’s most aggressive tracking and profiling technologies. Instead of using data to identify and help problematic gamblers like Greg, industry critics said, the information is used to keep players hooked.

Uber ordering becomes easier for gambling like Sky Bet. Many see him as an innocent turn. But for a group of gambling addiction experts, data-privacy activists and industry critics in the UK, home to the world’s largest app gambling market, the documents provide a warning to players and regulators in countries such as the United States , Where similar services are growing rapidly. . More than a dozen states, Including New Jersey, Nevada and Virginia, now allow app-based gambling.

He said the companies behind the apps need more oversight and are calling for stricter laws to identify problem gamblers and prevent them from using the data underhand and in a predatory manner.

“Wherever gambling companies operate, there should be a real understanding of how data is an integral part of the business”, said Ravik, London lawyer Behind Greg’s attempt to get the data. “When we start looking inside the vault, as we are here, we see how vulnerabilities are given to platforms.”

Mr. Naik said that the data thus obtained was only one piece of the puzzle till now. They have filed additional legal lawsuits in the UK, trying to uncover more information about gambling companies with aggregates, and if using it to lure customers and other inducements to entice other customers Is made to make, especially the weakest player. House of Lords Report good Published last year stated that 60 percent of the gambling industry’s profits came from 5 percent of customers who were “problem gamblers” or were at risk of becoming so.

“We are trying to achieve transparency,” Mr. Naik said. “It shouldn’t take so much work from lawyers to understand what’s going on.”

According to market research firm Aptopia, Sky Bet was the most popular gambling app in the UK last year, downloading approximately 140,000 times every month. Once controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s British media company, Sky, it is now owned by Flutter Entertainment, which owns and generates several casino apps. $ 7.4 billion In revenue last year.

In sky bet Privacy Policy, Which runs over 10,000 words, the company says it collects personal information that includes browsing history, spending, demographic data, and behavioral information, such as a game someone likes to wager on. The data, which can be shared across at least 12 gambling services owned by Flutter, is used for marketing and personalization, while financial information is collected for money-laundering and fraud protection, the policy states .

At least eight times in the privacy policy, the company suggests that those who do not want all the data collected “do not use our services and close their account.”

Former FungalDuel CEO, Nigel Axel, who now owns Flutter and is one of the largest gambling apps in the United States, said online gambling companies performed extensive data-analysis to identify their best customers . Companies look at how much people are placing bets and try to predict what they will get for spending more. But he said that gambling companies were in a critical situation as their best customers may also have gambling problems.

“It’s not like they have access to this data – that’s what they do with it,” said Mr. Axel, who now makes a run Chat service for sports lovers. “If you use that data in a way that you know, or should know, that is harmful to your users, then this is a serious problem.”

Mr. Naik, who previously helped Highlight data misuse Grigg was approached last year by political consultancy company Cambridge Analytica, seeking help to obtain copies of the data from Sky Bet and the companies used it to profile users.

The data he and Mr. Naik obtained include a 34-page breakdown of his financial history from a company called Callcredit, which commits fraud and identifies a check for Sky Bet. It contained information about his bank accounts, loans and mortgages along with details of monthly payments. The bold loan default was in March 2019.

Sky Bet, another company used by Innovation, provides a spreadsheet with approximately 19,000 data, which includes identification numbers for the devices that Greig used to deposit into his gambling account and they Network information about where they were made.

A document from Signal, a company used by Sky Bet, that provides users with tools for online and offline tracking, lists personal characteristics, such as Grigg’s history of playing slots and his stakes for football. favourite sport.

The most dangerous, Mr. Naik said, was how the software appeared to suggest software to lure Grieg after he stopped gambling at the end of 2018. In a data profile that listed Greg as a “win” as a customer, noting that he was receptive to gambling. Promotion that featured Las Vegas. After accumulating more than 2,500 on Sky Bet, he was listed as a “high value” customer.

“They got addicted to it and converted it into a code,” Mr. Naik said. “He is high value because he is willing to spend regular and high amounts while he is crippling him. They are saying: Keep him coming back – he is of great value.”

Sky Bet and Flutter Entertainment declined to comment on the record earlier this month after a series of detailed questions were sent to the article. But after the article was published on Wednesday, Sky Bet said in a statement that it did not have access to financial information such as banking records and mortgage loans, which are collected by an outside company, nor did it access certain tracking data. Can reach.

The company said that it used software to identify problem gamblers based on the frequency of games and deposits, and limited a person’s ability to gamble if one was viewed as a risk. The company said that players can also take out selfies.

“Sky Betting & Gaming takes its secure gambling responsibilities seriously,” the company said. “Whenever we run marketing campaigns based on the behaviors and attitudes liked by our customers, we will never try to advertise to anyone who is potentially at risk of gambling loss.”

TransCnion, a large US credit scoring agency that owns CallCredit, Signal and Iovation, said it complies with data protection laws and gambling platforms have used its services in many ways, including detecting fraud and money laundering Have done

Britain has been at the forefront of online betting. In 2020, the gambling app market in the UK $ 7.3 billion totalGlobal Betting and Gaming Consultants, according to an industry research group, doubles Japan’s next-largest market. This week, four of the top five free sports apps on Apple’s App Store in the UK are related to gambling. The companies themselves have football teams and dominate advertising during sponsoring sports events.

The country is at the center of a global debate about regulating the new generation of betting. The government has reviewed gambling laws that would include considering new rules for data access and affordability checks, the agency according to the review.

James Noyes, a senior fellow at the Social Market Foundation, a London think tank, said lawmakers should pass new rules that allow companies to use the data to solve the problem, but for marketing and other sales purposes Limit how to use it for.

“They find out your way of playing, your likes, dislikes, risk instincts and risks,” Mr. Noyce said. “It’s taking information about you and turning it back on you.”

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