Certification is the “bread and butter” for igaming platform providers with ambitions to participate in regulated markets, said GiG’s General Counsel Claudio Caruana, who added that certification can guarantee speed to market for partner operators and attract key interest from those aspiring to enter a new market.
As part of an exclusive interview for SBC News, Caruana (pictured above) also discusses coming at certification from two angles – targeting those that are mandated by specific regulation or complying with internationally recognised standards forming the basis of a number of regulatory specifications.
He concludes by arguing that to some degree technical standards harmonisation – from a European perspective – is a “reality within reach” for igaming platforms, even if the prospect of overall regulatory harmonisation remains bleak.
SBC: Thank you for talking to us, Claudio. On a general level, how important is certification for a platform provider looking to newly regulating markets?
CC: Like bread and butter. The certifications held or those that a company aspires to obtain is directly correlated to the current or future commercial strategy of a platform supplier. Having a number of certifications in place opens up immediate opportunities amongst operators that are licensed, or seeking licences, in the respective territory.
It gives peace of mind and a guarantee of quick time to market to operators seeking a licence. On the other hand, a clear statement of intent to become certified in new markets puts a platform supplier on the map of an operator aspiring to enter the market.
And if we also have to consider the question from a technical and financial perspective, certification requirements are the single most important aspect of market entry to be considered by a platform supplier. Such requirements define the effort required in order to enter that market, and therefore the set up and maintenance cost for the platform supplier.
SBC: Okay, so what are the key licences and certifications that a platform provider would typically be looking to obtain?
CC: One needs to consider the question from two angles. Firstly, there are those certifications that are mandated by regulation and are therefore a must in order to enter into that jurisdiction.
These certifications, and the effort required to obtain them and maintain them, are unavoidable and directly correlated to the expansion strategy of a platform in markets which the platform specifically intends to enter.
The alternative, and an equally plausible strategy, is that in lieu of obtaining specific regulatory certifications in target markets, some platforms prefer to lay the groundwork by complying with internationally recognised technical standards that form the basis of a number of regulatory specifications.
In this instance, the platform would most likely be adopting a client led market expansion strategy, having a broad desire to enter into those markets which adopt such standards.
Then there are other certifications which demonstrate that a platform supplier follows best industry practices, those which put a platform on the radar of tier 1 operators. Here we are talking about a mix of ISO certification, PCI compliance, and other forms of certification.
This is naturally not a substitution for the regulatory mandated certifications, but complementary, and generally, also leads to certain exemptions from parts of the certification requirements.
At GiG, we strive to maintain a healthy mix between certifications required to meet specific regulatory standards, and those which demonstrate that the company follows international best practices.
SBC: And would the ease or difficulty in getting such approvals ever influence your decision over whether or not to enter a market? Or is this more based around the market strategies of your operator partners?
CC: We are not discouraged by the complexity of technical specifications, as long as those requirements are justified by the commercial prospects and upside we can get from that market.
We don’t rule out markets because they are complex. Only if the level of complexity, and therefore the cost involved, is not proportionate to the size of the market and the future commercial prospects would we walk away.
One key aspect we pay a lot of attention to, which is a key influencer in the decision to determine the timing of a certification is the pool of operators to whom services can be offered in that market.
Whereas in a market which is fully liberalised it makes commercial sense to enter that market on own initiative, in markets where operator licences are limited or where the barriers of entry are high, perhaps having a partner in advance is prudent.
SBC: From your experience, have you found any regulators that put up too many barriers to entry from a platform perspective?
CC: We come across various regulatory regimes and regulatory styles. We come across jurisdictions that carry out detailed probity checks on the persons connected to the platform ownership, management.
Some level of probity checks are proportionate, but considering that the platform does not handle end user funds, in depth investigations could possibly be replaced by a lighter touch due diligence and more focus can be placed on matters more relevant from the technical perspective. Focus in my view should be on the experience, reputation and readiness of the platform to supply services within the market.
Departing from globally recognised wagering and internet gaming standards which does not directly translate to stronger consumer protection is a regulatory overhead which also could be avoided.
SBC: We’ve already alluded to complying with internationally recognised technical standards; how far and wide are GLI standards deployed for platform providers?
CC: We observe that many US regulators have put their weight behind GLI standards, whereas e-Cogra standards also provide the foundations behind various European regulatory standards. The standards are a culmination of industry best-practices and respond continually to technological innovation. The standards are of tremendous value to suppliers who use the standards as a guide in their R&D process when the same are recognised by regulators.
SBC: And finally, is a greater harmonisation from market to market achievable as more markets regulate in Europe?
CC: Whilst the prospects of regulatory harmonisation in Europe are as bleak as they have always been, governments and regulators should focus their efforts where they are more likely to find some common ground without having to let go of any regulatory oversight or regulatory powers over the operators active in its territory.
To give the gambling industry some semblance of freedom to provide services across the EU, gambling regulators across the EU should seek to harmonise a baseline set of technical standards, and a result recognise regulatory certifications covering that baseline standard across the whole of the EU.
With the right amount of political determination, I believe that technical standards harmonisation is a reality that is within reach.