The Geo-location Game

mkodo Mark GibsonUS States, Delaware and New Jersey went live with regulated eGaming on 31 October 2013 and 26 November 2013 respectively. These states followed on from Nevada, which was the first state to go live (with online poker).

These online gaming launches bring to the forefront discussion about the key issue of geo-location; the ability to locate where players are physically placed when they’re interacting with eGaming services.

Get geo-location right on mobile and you give your eGaming product a key market advantage. It will pass through the approvals processes more smoothly in the more stringently regulated jurisdictions, facilitating both speed-to-market and the acquisition of a broader client base.

Customer intelligence
Accurate geo-location tools can also significantly support marketing and product development disciplines through the supply of sophisticated customer behaviour intelligence. Location information can map customer behaviour and trigger marketing communications on that basis.

Geo-location knowledge can also be used to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of promotions – focussing media-buy and ad spend at the best time and in the best places for the product in question. Data drawn from geo-location mapping for your user-base/population can also be invaluable for identifying contextual usage for your product or between product sets.

Getting mobile and location right also avoids the risk to brand reputation that would be incurred if local or jurisdictional requirements were transgressed. Where jurisdictions proscribe, in law, that players must be ‘in jurisdiction’ in order to legally interact with the service, there is significant potential harm if gaming services are consumed by users outside of that jurisdiction; non-compliance can affect operators’ current gaming licences and can go as far as criminal conviction for company executives.

Geo-location through IP-checking and validation for the desktop channel is well established. For mobile devices however, this IP method alone is insufficient due to the nature of IP routing within mobile networks – a mobile network can – and does – route its web traffic through just a few (or even a single) data centre and IP-location. So, all users could appear to be in the same area, regardless of their actual location.

There are multiple options of location ascertainment on the mobile channel – from using a location provided by the mobile device itself (e.g. GPS) to the cellular mast location, to wi-fi network ID. The key challenge is configuring these options in an appropriate manner to enable the most accurate results for each mobile device. This is particularly important, given that mobile devices apply various location look-up processes, some in a non-standard manner.

After the location has been determined, there is a further challenge: the validation process. Geo-location checking (on a very high-level view) goes through two steps: the first is to determine the location. The second is to check that the location is in a valid area.

Step 2 can be achieved by sending information off to a third party that performs an IP-location check. This, however, may return just a Yes/No response as to whether the IP-location is an allowed location. Some accreditation bodies and regulators require more transparent, more auditable information, such as latitude and longitude coordinates.

In conclusion, if you are offering online gaming, then a significant number of your players will access your services from a mobile device, whether or not you have promoted a mobile- specific service. It is important to your marketing efforts, your organisation as a whole, and potentially to the executives of your organisation personally, that the mobile channel is given specific consideration when it comes to the geo-location process.

Mark Gibson is business development director at mkodo