The Insiders: "The Sheriff of Online Poker" -- Locaid's Rip Gerber
In this day and age of state-run online poker — at least in Nevada, with plans for New Jersey and Delaware — it’s imperative that players are located inside the boundaries of regulated markets. To do this, companies like Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com utilize mobile phones through location companies such as GeoComply USA and Locaid.
Valli Ardalan, GeoComply USA's general manager, was recently featured in an edition of The Insiders, so we thought it only fair to turn our attention to Rip Gerber, who is the founder, CEO and president of Locaid.
Gerber, known as “The Sheriff of Online Poker,” is the founder of “Location-as-a-Service” (LaaS) and has built Locaid into world’s largest location company. Prior to that, Gerber served as GM and CMO at Nokia and led the company until it was acquired for $510 million.
According to the Locaid website, Gerber “holds several patents, sits on the CTIA’s WIC Leadership Council of the CTIA, serves on the board of Aratana Therapeutics, Inc and is the only CEO to be certified by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). Gerber can frequently be found speaking and sharing his thoughts on innovation using location at mobile and technology conferences across the country. He has a Harvard MBA and a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Virginia. Gerber is also a best-selling author and industry commentator. His thrillers have been published by Random House and Forge and he recently appeared on an episode of The Valley Girl Show. In his spare time, Gerber fronts a rock band in San Francisco and curates the world’s largest collection of map postcards.”
Gerber recently sat down with PokerNews to talk about his position within the poker industry.
PokerNews: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Locaid?
Gerber: Locaid has been in the business of location for eight years. We’re the world's largest LaaS (Location-as-a-Service) company providing customers with the most secure, Omni-Location™ platform in the industry. We can determine the physical location of device users in real time with access to over 4.7 billion devices globally. LaaS is a location data delivery model where privacy protected physical location data acquired through multiple sources including carriers, WiFi, IP addresses and landlines is available to enterprise customers through a simple API. Our customers use our API to solve a multitude of business issues including fraud prevention, workforce management, asset tracking, location-based marketing and advertising, and of course to ensure compliance in the gaming industry.
How does Locaid verify where a wager is being placed?
In the gaming industry, Locaid’s Carrier Network Mobile Location is the de facto location source that is required by the state of Nevada for all Internet and mobile wagering. All real-money gaming applications running in the United States today use Locaid’s Carrier Network Mobile Location data to authenticate the location of the mobile device or the online gaming session.
As the recognized leader in location services for the gaming industry, Locaid offers a full suite of location-based technology solutions for mobile gaming (sports betting), online gaming (online poker) and state lotteries (mobile and online). As an example, one of our location-based services is a Compliance API, specifically built to allow gaming operators to follow strict state regulatory requirements in both wagering and lottery offers via the Internet and mobile channels. Gaming operators and platform providers pre-configure rule-based ‘Zones’ based on their own or provided geo-boundaries (shapes representative of areas of interest, including inclusion/exclusion areas). Once configured, these operators submit locations (in the form of latitude and longitude) to be evaluated against the established Zones.
An example use case is a series of boundaries, each separately representing a US state (e.g., New Jersey) and Native American tribal lands. The user, a gaming platform or operator, uploads the boundaries and then specifies the Zone as: “in New Jersey AND NOT in (all tribal lands).” This would be a typical Zone-definition for an online gaming use case. Once the Zone is defined, the user’s application retrieves the player’s location using Locaid’s Carrier Network Mobile Location and submits the resulting latitude and longitude with the Zone reference to the Evaluation API, ensuring location compliance.
What gaming sites currently utilize Locaid?
All real money gambling sites in the US use Locaid. Our customers include Stations Casinos, GTECH, GambleID, Cantor Gaming, SGI, Caesars, 888, Central Account Management Systems (CAMS), WSOP and William Hill.
Why is Locaid the only technology to satisfy Gov. Christie’s law in New Jersey?
A patron’s mobile device location serves as an excellent proxy of a patron’s real-world physical location, but there are several technologies, and dozens of “mobile solution providers,” that claim to provide the location of a mobile device. With one exception — Carrier Network Mobile Location — all of these methods and solution providers can be “spoofed,” meaning the device or application can be tricked into providing a false location to a gaming platform or wagering app. Despite claims of “Certified Location,” it is an undisputed technical fact that any service or application that relies on the device (i.e. GPS) to deliver location can be fooled. All of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 wireless carriers in North America deliver this location through Locaid. Carrier Network Mobile Location is the secure and non-spoofable location, as this is derived from information used by the carriers to route calls, enable E911 and sourced directly from the carriers themselves. The level of modification necessary to spoof carrier network data would likely render the device unusable as a phone.
In the gaming industry, regulatory requirements, driven in part by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, are extremely strict for location authentication. Locaid also provides what we call “Layered Location Intelligence authentication,” which means multiple location sources are used to authenticate a patron’s true physical location. Locaid delivers this to the gaming industry by combining Carrier Network Mobile Location, Geo-IP location, and WiFi and Bluetooth location using beacons. This level of multi-factor authentication service delivered through a single API is not available outside of Locaid.
In addition, Locaid provides a service that combines non-spoofable location, Layered Location Intelligence authentication, as well as the Compliance API, which has been specifically created for the purposes of validating location within a state border (compliance) through the use of location data.
How do you go about choosing and collaborating cell providers? For example, while in Vegas for the launch of WSOP.com, some players were unable to verify their location because their cell provider, U.S. Cellular, was not approved.
We are the location platform for all the Tier 1 and Tier 2 wireless providers in the US, so we handle all the approval processes for our customers. Depending on the size and maturity of the provider the time to get an app approved will vary. It’s not that unusual for an app to launch with one carrier approval still pending. The big carriers that we work with such as AT&T and Verizon are massive networks, processing millions of bytes per second for millions of customers every day, a five-nines performance. These large and important networks are considered national infrastructure so it’s very difficult to navigate inside of these organizations, but not for Locaid. We know the right people in the carriers, we know how the networks all work and operate, and we know location, so we wired together, with our proprietary code and our location API, an elegant, user-friendly interface that leaves all of the complication and complexity to us. Our customers will get the benefit of a simple, easy-to-use and access location source, so that they can focus on their core business and operations. We are the Amazon of location: we go to many different sources and gather the goods, but the customer only needs to go to one website to get what he or she needs.
We have heard that players living near state borders may have troubles if a cell tower happens to be in the neighboring state. Is this true?
That’s where our Compliance API comes into play. Once the Zone is defined, the gaming application retrieves the player’s location using Locaid’s non-spoofable Carrier Network Mobile Location and submits the resulting latitude and longitude with the Zone reference to the Evaluation API, ensuring location compliance.
How much accountability does Locaid have regarding online gaming? Is your company subject to fines, penalties, etc. from gaming commissions if any mistakes are made?
Not from the gaming commissioners, but we have strict Service Level Agreements in place with our customers that make sure mistakes aren’t made. Upfront, the regulators in each state have to approve all service providers for online and mobile gambling — including geolocation providers. We’ve applied to become a licensed services provider of “geolocation and compliance technology” in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. And currently we’re the only licensed provider of geofencing and geolocation data for mobile and online gambling operators in Nevada. These checks ensure that the chance of mistakes happening are absolutely minimized.
Is Locaid applicable to any industries other than poker?
Absolutely. We work with the largest financial institutions, mobile marketers, M2M platforms and developers. Example customers include Penske Truck Leasing, FedEx SenseAware, #TAXI, Life360, Agents 511 and many more. And in gaming our location is also used by sports books and mobile lotteries. Locaid is the Switzerland of mobile: we will provide location to anyone in the value chain, and that value chain is some of these emerging industries such as mobile wagering is quite complex.
You’ve been called the “sheriff of online gaming.” How do you feel about that moniker?
I am not a cop. I provide the information to the sheriffs office which might be 888 Holdings, Verify, GTech, or Bally, who provide the platforms. I am more like boarder patrol. Basically Locaid draws a line around the state and ping the device they are wagering on. If the dot is red (outside the boarder), the transaction doesn't go through…if its green (inside the boarder), its OK.
What is your experience with the game of poker? Do you know how to play?
Of course — it was the game of choice during my Harvard MBA. And I have a great poker face — just ask our customers!
We understand that you front a rock band in San Francisco and curate the world’s largest collection of map postcards. Seem like interesting hobbies for the “sheriff of online gaming.” Can you talk a little bit about that?
I’m a big believer in balance. Music has always been a passion of mine and I started out as a concert pianist when I was about five years old. That brief flash of talent has degenerated into fronting rock and roll bands for charity. My current project covers Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and the Rolling Stones. I sing like those old guys. I also play keyboards, more like Billy Joel than Elton John. I’ve performed at the Ferry Building and on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. I once opened for Tom Petty at a private event in Mexico. That was wild, and as for the map postcards, what can I say - Location matters!
For more on Gerber, check out this video where bnetTV speaks with the "Sheriff" at the 2012 MWC event in Barcelona:
*Lead photo courtesy of chieflocationofficer.com.