Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | 9:08 a.m.
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A Las Vegas credit bureau providing data on gamblers to casinos nationwide has agreed to pay a $150,000 fine to settle a federal investigation of its business practices.
The settlement was disclosed Tuesday when the Federal Trade Commission sued Central Credit LLC in federal court in Las Vegas alleging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Central Credit is owned by Las Vegas-based Global Cash Access Holdings Inc., which is best known for operating ATM machines in casinos around the nation and in foreign countries. Central Credit generated revenue of $13.9 million in 2009 and $13.6 million in 2008.
In its lawsuit, the FTC said Central Credit has been collecting and selling credit information about gamblers since at least 1956. The information involves consumers' gaming experiences and check-cashing transactions.
Casinos use the information to determine whether to extend credit to or accept checks from gamblers; and in collecting past-due gambling markers.
Central Credit also provides a check verification service and a check warranty service to subscribers.
In its lawsuit, the FTC complained that prior to 2008, Central Credit failed to provide a required "Notice To Furnishers of Information" to providers of its data spelling out their obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The FTC said Central Credit also failed to provide to users of its data a required "Notice to Users of Consumer Reports."
"The Furnisher Notices and the User Notices inform furnishers and users, respectively, of their responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, such as a furnisher's responsibility to provide accurate information or a user's responsibility to provide 'adverse action' notices," the government said in its complaint.
Central Credit also failed to provide to consumers a complete "Summary of Rights" informing consumers of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, such as their right to dispute inaccurate information, the government charged.
The failure to provide the notices "constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices" under federal law, the government alleged.
The FTC also complained that Central Credit had failed to establish a streamlined process for consumers to request their Central Credit consumer reports. Such streamlined processes are supposed to include a toll-free number posted on websites for consumers to call to request their free reports.
In court papers settling the complaint, Central Credit admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and agreed not to violate the laws requiring notices be given to users and furnishers of information and to consumers.
Central Credit also agreed, when operating "as a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency," not to violate the law requiring that consumers be able to receive their free annual credit reports by calling a toll-free number.
In its 2009 annual report, Global Cash Access said: "Our gaming credit reports are comprised of information recorded from patron credit histories at hundreds of gaming establishments. We provide such information to gaming establishments, that subscribe for the service, which use that data, among other things, to determine if or how much credit they will grant to a gaming patron. At a gaming establishment’s request, we can augment the information provided in our gaming credit reports with traditional credit reports or bank ratings provided by third-party consumer credit bureaus and bank reporting agencies."