Tony Allen, Founder & CEO, Age Check Certification Scheme
As I read the first issue of EI Industry News, two thoughts struck me: the first, the huge inefficiency of each jurisdiction developing and enforcing unique gaming regulation; the second, how, in a field where governments are so reluctant to cooperate, international standards might be a better way to make progress towards rationalising the global rulebook.
The standard I had in mind is the rather obscurely titled “PAS 1296:2018 Online age checking. Provision and use of online age check services. Code of Practice.” Developed in the UK by the British Standards Institution – BSI – in partnership with industry, this documents the minimum requirements for online age verification, and a hierarchy of increasingly reliable checks which offer the appropriate level of assurance required. It allows regulators to define succinctly their expectations by simply referring to a standard; and allows operators, if they choose, to submit to audits and secure certification that they are meeting those standards, often giving a degree of protection from enforcement action and penalties.
My own background is 25 years working in regulation, and I am always fascinated to watch how regulators, especially those newly appointed to this role, approach their task. The classic mistake is to micro-manage – to specify every last detail of how those you regulate should operate, and worse still, to set this in stone by statute. Not only does this make rules vulnerable to technological changes and stifle innovation, but it also leads to a game of cat and mouse you’ll never win.
The seasoned authorities have learnt that the most effective regulators set things up so they rarely need to take enforcement action. They outsource their work to those they regulate. They set clear, principle-based desired outcomes, and leave it to industry to figure out how to deliver them. Once that has happened, the regulator encourages the industry to organise itself to agree on standards that deliver those outcomes, based on their development efforts. The regulator incentivises this by offering a degree of immunity to those operators who participate in certification schemes which assure those standards are being met.
This is how the Age Check Certification Scheme was established – anticipating regulators’ requirements, not least Great Britain’s Gambling Commission. When regulators are persuaded that an internationally recognised standard and an associated assurance scheme satisfies their demands, everyone wins. The regulator has barely expended any resources; operators face a level playing field; suppliers, in this case of age verification technology, are delivering to a common specification, so do not need to invest in expensive new bespoke solutions; and consumers become familiar with the demands on them to comply with the rules which are, at worst, similar across operators, and, at best, interoperable between them.
The most effective regulators set things up so they rarely need to take enforcement action.
So, what if there were also a cross-border standard for Know Your Customer (KYC)? That could make life just as easy for all concerned. Well, “BS 8626 Design and operation of online user identification systems – Code of practice” is being finalised and partly delivers just that. And as Vasiliki Panousi of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) was advocating in the first issue of this magazine, a European approach to self-exclusion, perhaps building on the great work of the UK’s Gamstop, could be delivered through international consultation on a new standard defining an approach which was interoperable across any country that chose to adopt it.
When regulators are persuaded that an internationally recognised standard and an associated assurance scheme satisfies their demand, everyone wins.
Standards exist within an established global framework, not reliant on new treaties or amended free trade agreements. Instead, each government recognises national accreditation bodies, and they offer mutual recognition through the multinational ILAC framework.
Standards are also developed and maintained by the industry, not the regulators. They need investment – technical panels to approve and update them – but standards then offer regulators a menu of good choices from which to compile a comprehensive regulatory environment without re-inventing the wheel for every product, sector and jurisdiction.
So rather than spending millions lobbying multiple governments each time any of them proposes a new regulation or amends an existing one, perhaps the gaming industry should consider investing a fraction of this in creating its own, new global standards for all the core aspects of player protection – build them, and the regulators will come.
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