Compliance, regulations and responsible gambling have been three areas which have become a key focus for the gambling industry in recent years, as companies look to ensure that they are deploying the most effective player protection measures.
SBC spoke with Andy Masters, the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer of Crucial Compliance, and Paul Foster, Managing Director, to discuss company expansions, self-regulation and the balance between possibilities and realities.
SBC: Crucial Compliance has significantly strengthened its team in the last few months, with both the Andy Masters and Wesley Taylor appointments. How will these new hires support your ongoing strategy for international expansion?
Wes brings the experience of an experienced board member with substantial financial management experience. With the expectation of continued International growth, the knowledge of a former finance lead will be crucial to navigate any growing pains as we continue to organically invest heavily in product and people.
He will also oversee the governance required to keep our clients comfortable in their partnerships with Crucial Compliance within an international framework. Crucial is intending to be the leading multi-territory solution provider in the UK, Gibraltar, Malta and mainland Europe before expanding into the US, Africa and Latin America and with these ambitions, we need the best.
Andy brings well over two decades of knowledge of database marketing and solutions and has been a part of the transition into multi-channel which is the benchmark for operating in iGaming today. This experience will be applied to compliance and player protection, driving innovative solutions to minimise player harm.
Having worked with Andy and his team during my time at GalaCoral, LadbrokesCoral and GVC; it is clear we have the same vision and that building a sustainable igaming business must encompass both compliance and responsible gaming principles right at the heart of a sustainable and profitable gaming company.
SBC: How is Crucial Compliance helping gambling companies to create a sustainable player base?
A sustainable player base was often a dream during the early regulation of the industry as the focus was on acquisition and retention by financial means and product. Today, as regulation takes full hold of the industry, players are looking for a lot more, and player protection is at the heart of the road to sustainability.
At Crucial, we offer a genuine partnership approach to the multifaceted and sometimes confusing world of player protection and compliance to ensure that regulation is understood at all levels and that RG and customer protection are embedded throughout the organisation.
This builds player trust which builds loyalty. Loyal customers stay longer, churn less and over time create the sustainable player base which will be the benchmark of future success. In support of this, we have developed simple to use interactive training tools for all levels within igaming plus a suite of player protection solutions to help manage the customer using advanced analytical models which the operator deploys through their player management system.
SBC: Focus has shifted dramatically over the last few years towards compliance and responsible gambling – why do you think this is? And do you think the industry has reached its watershed moment?
With the benefit of hindsight, the adoption of RG within compliance was far too slow. A lack of credible evidence around the problem and a shortage of quality research about solutions meant that at senior levels the discussion about RG adoption lacked clarity and evidence.
The industry also allowed old tensions to hold it back from effectively working together to support research and development and missed the opportunity to drive the agenda with regulators through positive action.
With some channels of the press focused on human stories linked to gambling-related harm and regulators reacting to political pressure, the Industry has now definitely reached the watershed moment as change is essential. All companies are now on the RG and player protection journey, but are in vastly different places.
Our focus is very clearly on being proactive with those companies early in their journey as well as those operating in emerging markets to support this change. Utilising the extensive data held by companies, including UK facing operators, to streamline the player protection process and increase Player Interaction speed and quality is now the main way forward.
SBC: How important is it for operators to implement a responsible gaming strategy that goes beyond their compliance requirements?
Compliance should be the basis of operations, and within that RG and player protection should move beyond the requirements into the “ethical thing to do”. RG must be sat at the heart of the boardroom, with companies actively training all employees whilst executing a first-class marcomms strategy utilising smart systems to drive interaction and player management.
Reputation is becoming more and more important within a regulated market. Those that go above and beyond will build loyalty, decrease churn and drive their long-term sustainable player base. In brief, the most successful operators must adopt this approach to stay relevant in their markets which drives true shareholder valu
SBC: Do you think that the gambling industry can self-regulate when it comes to ensuring compliance and player protection?
Historically, this was clearly not the case. However, in the face of continued regulation, political press and continued negative press coverage, companies are now driving many areas of the agenda and setting standards that are in effect, self-regulation.
The set-up of the BGC in the UK, the role of the EGBA in Europe and the GBGA in Gibraltar all point towards this shift and within the emerging US market this model is being put in at the start or the regulatory process. This is because in emerging markets there is the opportunity to work with regulators to help create effective but inclusive operating frameworks and guidelines which is something we support and are working with the Industry in several Markets to achieve.
SBC: Are you concerned about operators cutting corners if regulatory demands become too much, especially from a cost perspective?
Unfortunately, there will always be cases amongst operators where this happens, sometimes for reasons outside of their control such as the financial crisis or the COVID-19 Pandemic. These cases should be the exception and we are already seeing a reduction in operators doing this.
The level of enforcement action across all key regulated markets plus the fines which are being given mean that cost-cutting within compliance is no longer a preferred option. The utilisation of automation, tools and systems will help streamline the increasing costs and as the industry reaches regulatory maturity, the compliance costs will become set within the fixed costs of doing business and will in effect, become a cost of sales.
SBC: Is there a balance to be achieved between what’s possible and what’s realistic? If so, how do we achieve that?
This is the biggest question in the industry today and one which is vexing many boards around the world. Regulators are pushing for the best solutions, policies and tools. But the industry is playing catch up. Although there is an element that states more money equals more progress there are still fundamental issues holding the Industry back around research and development.
Quality research takes time, as well as money, which means it may be possible, but its actions are to be based on the findings. Under tight timescales, this is not yet realistic. The ever-changing agenda and political landscape also mean that companies are reactive and that the right solutions are often put on a shelf as short-term solutions are developed.
The only way this will be solved is industry joint working as is happening with the BGC and within Gibraltar with the creation of the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming at the University of Gibraltar. Overall there are positive signs, but time is the main factor holding back the industry.