Why Regulation Matters: The Dangers of Playing on Offshore Online Poker Sites

MGCB warns Michiganders about the serious risks of playing on unregulated offshore gaming sites in new press release promoting the importance of choosing safe, regulated online gambling sites and ways to protect yourself against fraud.
By December 20, 2021

While there are plenty of options available to players looking to gamble online, many of the choices open to Americans are actually unsafe and unregulated offshore online casinos.

While those sites often allow US players — including players from Michigan — to get into the games, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) is warning players about the numerous risks of playing on unregulated gambling sites. Since many of the risky offshore sites appear to be legitimate and often promise very tempting bonuses, the MGCB recommends that poker players only entrust their information and money to the online casinos that are on the list of regulated Michigan online poker sites.

In a new press release, the MGCB put out a strong warning about the dangers players might face when gambling on unregulated, offshore sites. MI Gaming Review broke down the key points made by the MGCB, which largely revolve around privacy and serious security risks.

The three main dangers that the MGCB pointed to in its press release were:

  1. Identity Theft
  2. Financial Risk
  3. Support for Organized Crime

While the MGCB’s purpose is to protect Michigan online poker players — and all other online gamblers in the state — from exactly those sorts of problems, it can only work with the sites that it regulates. As with all US state regulators, the MGCB’s jurisdiction does not extend beyond its own state, and so it has limited powers to protect players from becoming victims of malicious offshore entities.

Identity Theft is the Main Concern

The biggest worry MGCB has for Michiganders who play on dangerous unregulated sites is regarding the security of their personal information. “If you share personal information with an unregulated gambling site, there are no guarantees your information won’t be sold to or used by criminals,” said MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams.

Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent in the modern world — 2020 saw 1.3 million reports of theft across the US, with more than 24,000 of those coming from Michigan itself. Once stolen, personal information can be used for a variety of illicit and fraudulent purposes, including securing credit and accessing medical services and data using your identity.

While the security of data is a big concern at offshore sites, it might not even require a hack to put your information in the hands of criminals or nefarious actors. With no regulations in place to prevent it, offshore sites could easily see personal data as a money-making opportunity, selling it off to the highest bidder.

One of the biggest responsibilities of the MGCB, and the Michigan online poker sites it licenses, is preventing such theft or resale of data. There are vigorous protections in place for Michigan players who play on MGCB-regulated sites in-state, but both the MGCB and Federal authorities have very limited powers to help players who run afoul of cybercriminals through their activity on offshore sites.

Financial Risk and Criminal Activity

The MGCB went on to discuss a couple of other risks that playing on unregulated sites may present to Michigan players. Another major concern is the security of player deposits on a gaming site. For sites regulated by the MGCB, there are strict protections for players guaranteeing their money is secure, with easy and fast payouts.

Players on offshore sites, however, have no such protections. While the unregulated sites may be happy to accept player deposits, with no formal oversight in place, it may be easy for them to come up with reasons to delay or fail to process withdrawals altogether.

Again, federal and local authorities have very little power to intervene on behalf of the players if the infraction happens at an unregulated, offshore site. On regulated sites, there are a variety of strong and effective measures that regulatory and law enforcement agencies can take to ensure the player’s money is safe and secure.

The final concern the MGCB cited was organized crime. The FBI reports that numerous offshore gambling sites are active in money laundering for organized crime, so players who play on those sites are supporting that activity, at least passively. Part of the mission of the MGCB and other regulatory boards in the licensed US markets is to keep money laundering out of regulated gaming sites, so players who play on licensed Michigan online gambling sites or other fully legal, licensed gaming sites around the US can be sure their money isn’t passively or actively supporting organized crime.

The MGCB and regulatory bodies like it across the USA exist to protect players and keep them safe from unscrupulous and negligent actions by gaming operators. In cases where play happens regulated sites, players have a high degree of protection, but if a player chooses to take their money to unregulated, offshore operations, regulators like MGCB warn that their money and identity are seriously at risk.