The online casino sector has slowly become most scrutinised vertical in the industry. Under the watchful eye of a number of regulatory agencies governing safer gambling, marketing and advertising activities, AML/sources of wealth and customer standards, is the need to meet regulatory requirements beginning to dominate daily online casino operations?

With this in mind, it begs the question – do casino management teams have the capability to meet such requirements effectively without stifling innovation? So we put it to the CasinoBeats 100 Club.

THE QUESTION

“Are regulatory requirements holding back the online casino sector in terms of delivering innovation and enhancing the player experience?”

The answer options were:

  • Yes – complying with a range of these such requirements is at risk of dominating daily casino operations
  • Maybe – casino managers should be able to meet these requirements but it is a question of appropriate resources and setting priorities
  • No – the sector should be meeting these standards as a minimum requirement
  • I have no idea

The CasinoBeats 100 Club delivered a clear, majority response.

Only a small 10 per cent of the respondents voted ‘yes’ in believing that regulatory requirements are holding back the online casino sector.

The remaining responses delivered a split between ‘maybe’ and ‘no’, with 30 per cent of responses opting for maybe, with the majority 60 per cent asserting that such requirements are should not be holding back the sector.

Mikael Hansson, founder and CEO of Enteractive, was one of those who believed that the online sector is not being held back: “All regulatory requirements affect and have an impact upon operations but at the end of the day, it’s about being fair, direct and transparent with your customers as we see it.

“If you are striving to take care of your customers and their experience long term then you probably would follow most of the rules and regulations that are outlined to protect customers anyway so the regulation itself would not change the way you conduct your business that much.

I don’t believe compliance is the enemy of innovation. Clear rules to follow are positive and I am confident that there is a lot of room for innovation within these rules.”

James Myles, analyst at Eta Delta, concurred with Hansson, stating: “It differentiates regulated operators from black-market operators. It allows legitimate businesses to demonstrate that they are responsible. Politicians and regulators, however, they need to better recognise these commitments.”

“It allows legitimate businesses to demonstrate that they are responsible,” – James myles

Mark Robson, CEO of King Gaming, believes that there should be no excuse and that regulatory requirements should be an integral part of future development plans: “Existing requirements should be a well trodden path for every business, so there’s no excuse for not ensuring they are integral to development plans. Issues tend to arise when new regulations are put into place with extremely tight deadlines for implementation…

Companies may have to effect significant changes to a large suite of existing products (which may not have been designed in a way were the type(s) of changes required are easy to accommodate). 

In instances such as this, focus and resources may have to be diverted from innovative projects in order to achieve the required results in the given timescale.”

In response, Sam Hobcraft, CEO, Omnia Casino, argued that it has become increasingly difficult to enhance player experience within the online casino industry whilst also being able to focus on building a differentiated business.

I worry about the impact this will ultimately have on preventing reputable B2C start-ups entering and surviving in regulated markets. It will be a sad day, when customers can only play at sites that are owned by PLCs.”

“It is increasingly difficult to balance demands whilst remaining focused on building a differentiated business,” – Sam hobcraft

Chris Benstead, digital director at Degree 53, and voting no, believes that it is the operator’s flexibility and investments that allows them to innovate.

In our opinion, regulation itself isn’t what slows down innovation,” he said. “The operator’s flexibility and investment in innovation are the primary factors in being able to innovate. Whether it’s a response to regulatory changes or their own initiative, operators need to be spending time to evolve and innovate their products. 

Innovation doesn’t happen randomly. It requires planning, time and skilled people to create something that truly stands out. Operators also need to be flexible to be prepared for any unexpected changes in regulation. This means having separate, dedicated teams to ensure the delivery of regulatory changes and continued product innovation.

If an operator is dedicated to the goal of innovation, they will make sure they have the necessary people committed outside of the day-to-day maintenance, upgrades and implementations that always need to be carried out.”

Lee-Ann Johnstone, CEO of AffiliateINSIDER, stressing that there could be room for change when it comes to being able to work with regulatory requirements: “Operators, affiliates and affiliate managers are able to help combat these issues with the help of compliance tools like Rightlander and better data management in affiliate platforms and tracking solutions. 

Independent businesses like Betblocker.org and Midway-ai are also striving to help early prevention and player protection to gambling problems. The industry is mobilised to make positive change, and that’s the innovation we should be focused on.”

Simon Thomas, CEO at Hippodrome Casino, said that operators need to grow up and take a look at the industry: “Abuse, greed and lack of compliance is damaging the industry. Operators need to grow up and take a long term view rather than exploiting regulatory weaknesses which will damage the long term industry.”

“Abuse, greed and lack of compliance is damaging the industry,” – simon thomas

Sticking in the ‘No’ category is Stian Hornsletten, CEO of CasinoEngine, saying that the Swedish MGA regulatory requirements challenged both casino vendors and operators to find solutions to comply.

These requirements support innovation because they force everyone in the market to address compliance issues by generating and developing creative and functional solutions that ultimately enhance the player experience to the benefit of the end-user,” it was said.

Rhi Burns, CCO of Zimpler, summarised her thoughts on the debate: “Compliance is often seen as taking all the fun out of the industry but the problem with this industry is that it’s had fun, at the players’ expense, for too long now. This does mean that some regulatory bodies have gone in hard and fast and, maybe, gone a little overboard in their requirements, but something had to give.

Players are what keep us in business and they deserve to be well protected. I may not agree with the length some regulators go to, but it’s there and something we have to all come to terms with. 

“Those who think it kills innovation are simply lacking imagination. Innovation shines in times of great change. All regulation has done is to prevent things from being done the same way they always were. Now, we are forced to innovate, forced to come up with better products that bring in revenues whilst also meeting all compliance requirements.”

“If regulation has killed innovation within a company, then that company must have been sick to begin with,” – rhi burns 

Regulatory requirements and the enhancement of player experience will be discussed in a panel at CasinoBeatsMalta on March 24-26, 2020.

If you would like to be considered for the CasinoBeats 100 Club, please email us at 100Club@CasinoBeats.com.