If the IRS Gets Its Way, Players Should Revolt By Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D. June 18, 2015 at 11:17 am I am beside myself with disgust at the thought of the IRS using casino player’s cards to track slot winnings. My main objection has nothing to do with the burdens and costs such a draconian regulation would place on the casino industry. There is that, of course, and I am behind those arguments 100%. My opposition is fear based: I simply don’t trust businesses, whether public, private or governmental, to safeguard my personal and financial information. That distrust certainly includes casinos. In November of 2013, I visited a Target store in Northern California and used my ATM card. One visit. That visit happened to coincide with the massive data breach at Target, where over 70 million credit and debit cards were impacted. In February of this year, the company my wife works for changed health care insurance providers from Cigna to Anthem. Within a month after making the change, we were informed by Anthem that our personal information was part of their massive data breach. As many as 80 million records containing names, birthdays, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information were stolen. Last year my Skype account was hacked when I accessed the Internet using Wi-Fi at an airport. The hackers (from Nigeria) quickly drained my PayPal account, one $10 auto-refresh at a time. I run an Ubuntu Unix server on which I do most of my computer programming and analysis. I have it set up so I can access it from anywhere, using the encrypted “ssh” protocol. My computer log files show that I get well over 1000 break-in attempts per day from hackers. By tracking IPs, I know exactly where these hack attempts are coming from. China … Hong Kong … Russia … the good ol’ U.S.A. I’ve already received four replacement credit cards this year, with new expiration dates and CCV numbers. The parade marches on. Do you recall the astounding recent story that the SSN of every federal employee was stolen by hackers? There’s the Sony breach that nearly busted the company outright. Then there is the news story that broke just today that 600 million Samsung Galaxy phones could be potentially accessed by hackers. I am a privacy advocate, big time. I know it’s too late to do much about it. My personal information is already everywhere, spread out like a thin mist covering the ether-space and stuffing the files of countless databases, both virtual and physical. But, I try. I withdraw enough cash from my bank account each month to cover most incidental expenses, including gasoline, groceries and small purchases. I only use my credit cards when there is no other good option. I try to use my debit card at my own bank’s ATMs and nowhere else. I don’t have a Facebook account; a company that, in my opinion, is one of the most egregious abusers of privacy on the planet. Whenever possible, I opt-out of web-based accounts and services. My wife thought for a long time that I was off-the-charts obsessive about privacy. Then the hacks started impacting us and she now gets it. Earlier this year I was playing poker at a Las Vegas casino. I got very lucky and made a Royal Flush after being dealt the A/Q of Diamonds. This casino’s poker room had a high-hand bonus of $250. Before I could get my prize (which was well below the W2G threshold), I was asked to fill out a form that included my social security number. I could hardly believe it. A piece of paper, sitting in some desk drawer or file cabinet, with my SSN on it. After I voiced my opposition, the other players at the table told me to just make up a number. There is no such thing as a secure database or a secure application process. Forcing casinos to store tax identification information for their players is a recipe for identity fraud, either internally or externally, by hacking or just plain theft. This is not idle fantasy. Just today I was told about an incident where a casino employee stole Jeffrey Compton’s SSN number from a slot club application. The employee used the ill-gotten SSN to purchase a cell phone and sign up for a plan. It took Jeffrey over a year to get the item removed from his credit history, including having to make a cross country trip to file a police report. Players are already very superstitious about the use of player’s cards. Many players think that casinos manipulate the machines to make them lose when the machine knows who they are. By using player’s cards for gathering tax information, there will likely be a revolt by players. If I can do anything to encourage this revolt, I will. In fact, if the IRS gets its way, I will suggest that every slot player in the country throw all their player’s cards into Boston harbor.