Bank Policies Toward Virtual Casino Merchants May Change in the Caribbean and Latin America

26 October 1998

A senior executive in the banking services industry says that the Directors of VISA's Caribbean/Latin American region have announced new policies that will be issued in mid-November.

In May, the Visa International Board approved a resolution recommending establishment of International Operating Principles. "The Principles will establish a series of requirments with which Acquirers must comply, such as ensuring that online merchants operate in accordance with the regulations for electronic commerce, comply with the Global Member Risk Policy requirement for High-Risk Telemarketing Merchants, verify that the merchant has a valid license or other authroization to operate its website under the laws of its country, ensure the use of certain mandatory data elements, ensure that the merchant information requirements on it website, include certain conditions in the merchant agreement and others."

The good news is a recognition on the part of VISA officials in the region that virtual casino merchants can legitimately be served with VISA merchant accounts by VISA member banks. However, VISA will be requiring a registration fee of at least $5,000 for each merchant and it looks like the merchants will be required to comply with the VISA "Global Member Risk Policy requirements for "High Risk Telemarketing" merchants -- even though of course virtual casinos are not necessarily doing telemarketing at all.

What this all may mean, according to our source, is more scrutiny by VISA (and probably MasterCard following suit soon, as they always seem to do). This might mean more rules and more literal interpretation and enforcement of existing rules regarding chargebacks, credits and other aspects of credit card acceptance. It may also mean higher underlying costs for credit card transactions processed with banks in the region.

In the U.S., that High Risk classification sets merchants up in a separate monitoring program and means they pay VISA's highest "interchange rate" (i.e. the rate charged to cover the transaction acquiring bank's payments to the cardholder's issuing bank).