“ABOVE THE GAME” / COLUMN / October issue, 2020

Column By:

Ismail Vali, Chief Product & Marketing Officer for A GAME ABOVE.com

The jigsaw

The move to local market regulation for iGaming is taking place on a country by country, and state by state, basis. In each jurisdiction, this has led to myriad new laws, rules, requirements, issues and opportunities across the licensing and administration of betting and gaming. The lack of harmonisation across markets, particularly in territories like the USA and India, and across blocs like the EU, creates a virtual jurisdictional jigsaw as each local regime enacts and unveils subjective interpretations of responsible gaming, player protection and social responsibility.

For the many stakeholders to the betting and gaming industry, including government, regulator, operators, suppliers, media, gambling-related harm, player-cessation groups and the much overlooked players themselves, this has led to confusion and, often, conflict, in the conversation between operators and, as the media often portrays it, everyone else.

As an industry, it’s clear we need to adapt and change the conversation we’re having in many markets. How we do this is another matter entirely, and one that is complicated by the fact of the jurisdictional jigsaw – most operators are global businesses, with local market, regulated distribution, but just how “close” are they to the day-to-day conversation in each market?

Split into fractions

The lack of harmonisation in gaming law and practice is a fact of today’s local markets and global business. For operators, this has meant the practice of running a global betting and business has been split into fractions by each new, legal marketplace. Whilst operators are focused on meeting and marketing in line with local conditions, and competing against other licensed brands, and, indeed, against the phantom menace of the black market without adequate marketplace protection, it is clear they do not have the bandwidth to focus upon each locally-specific rule and ensure amended treatment and compliance with the same. This is particularly true where new rules are vague, or inadequately notified in advance, as can be witnessed from Sweden’s bumpy ride for all stakeholders since market regulation in January 2019.

Often, it is the suppliers to these operators, and to government and regulators, who make the reality of the local marketplace work. Under the labels of “responsible gaming”, “player protection” and “social responsibility”, we feature many disciplines: payments, game design and manufacture, platform design and provision, gaming test labs, compliance (AML, KYC, ID verification), data provision and analysis, sports integrity and risk management, affordability, gambling-harm therapy, gambling cessation, and, fundamental to this new, local-first era, marketplace protection.

So many that perhaps it’s time for a new label to describe what this essential supply chain to the range of betting and gaming stakeholders provides: the supply of sustainability.

A new value chain

Without the services of this group of Sustainability Suppliers, often performing tasks which cannot, and sometimes should not, be left to operators direct, for reasons of neutrality and independence, we would have no path to a working marketplace that realises a fair, safe and protected level playing field for regulated, responsible betting and gaming, in which harm is minimised, the customer experience enhanced and society safeguarded.

Rather than seeing all of the tasks performed by this group as separate, divisible functions, perhaps the way we should view them, and even encourage them to work in future, is more holistically, and for the benefit of many stakeholders. After all, no other group sees the jigsaw fall into place across players, government, regulator and operators as the sustainability supply chain does – they are first to witness the changes and deal with them for the impact upon the day to-day-reality of the business, and their clients across stakeholders. This change management ability, propelled by the prospect of commercial gain, clearly works across an industry that is dependent upon the abilities of many suppliers and focuses a potential future as one inviting public markets and M&A activity around the ability to create one-stop-shop capabilities from the currently broad skills across sustainability suppliers.

It is likely the case that a response to new regulation and changing market realities comes swiftly and surely from these suppliers because of the commercial necessity they exist under – if every operator built and managed their software and back-office, or fully handled their compliance, how likely would it be for many to remain in “difficult” licensed markets? By having a supply chain built on sustainability suppliers who think globally, and act locally, across many partners and stakeholders, we ensure for best practice, marketplace benchmarking and objectivity that can assist the government, regulator and operator discussion, seek the benefit and entertainment of players and work towards a safeguarded society and functioning onshore industry.

Sustainability Suppliers

I advise the supervisory board for the world’s first effective marketplace protection product, which helps regulators and government to monitor, police and enforce the licensed, regulated marketplace for betting and gaming, by removing black-market influence and instability: Yield Sec.

Working with YieldSec, regulators and government can balance the regulation challenge in every market, across player protection and taxation yield. Yield Sec cannot, of course, perfect the marketplace, it protects through monitoring, policing and enforcement so the marketplace functions to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Perfecting the marketplace is something Yield Sec seeks to encourage, however. Every quarter, in every Yield Sec marketplace, we invite a cross-stakeholder panel, including government and regulator, to meet, greet and debate the functioning, organic marketplace by including them in a regular advisory process: the Yield Sec Regulatory Roundtable.

Yield Sec sees sustainability suppliers as a core component of this process, by virtue of their objectivity from an experience of many markets and their ability to get things done across the reality of the business, today, on a local basis.

Collecting together the views and opinions of just a small range of today’s sustainability suppliers for this issue of EI Industry News has demonstrated how much colleagues and peers across the industry seem to agree with this new label I’m proposing and I’d encourage you to read the detailed views and opinions they share on the theme this month.

My reason for proposing it? Reactive to regulation, our industry has adapted and achieved many new skill sets. It needs a new headline for what this sector of the business now does, and can achieve for all stakeholders, going forward.

If Sustainability Suppliers works as a new label to better describe what this supply chain does, it will help progress us to iGaming’s optimal market equilibrium: one in which all stakeholders benefit and no group suffers the disenfranchisement that has characterised many changing markets of the past.

You can learn more about protecting the licensed marketplace for betting and gaming at YieldSec.com