Ensuring integrity - the debate on the disconnect between regulators and operators continues

Ensuring integrity - the debate on the disconnect between regulators and operators continues

Indeed both Ewa Bakun and Christina Thakor Rankin raise valid points in their blog posts last week. And that is exactly why you will see some industry players behave in either described manner. The clearest point is that gaming operators are in the business of revenue generation - this is not a fault, it is their purpose. I am still not sure why so many people have an issue with that.

What’s not so clear is, “what is the ‘uncontaminated’ function of a Regulator?” This will, based upon whom you interview and their “mission”, vary wildly. I would venture to say, that the primary mission is Integrity of the business. Anything else hung on the tree, is based on those factors as pointed out by Tina, (tax revenues, public and political pressure and perception, etc.) I have to admit as a regulator with more than 20 years experience in the gaming industry, I too on occasion, ask myself, if rule or policy is necessary to ensuring the integrity or not. That said, there are times when there is a law in place that is not up to a regulator’s discretion such as legal age of participation, or perhaps types of games that can be offered in a particular jurisdiction. Those things are established legislatively based on external factors mentioned in the commentary. However, I disagree with Christina's comments on external forces as my mission should not be dependent upon those influences. Once the laws are made, a regulators focus is on compliance to any established laws and integrity of the operations and play of the game.
What I have noticed is that as a jurisdiction matures, the regulators mind-set does as well. This is no different than the proverbial parent Christina mentioned. When you are first given a child, many of us tend to over parent and perhaps tend to be over protective while  trying to implement every bit of advice we receive or read in a parenting magazine. Or perhaps our personality is that of I can parent better than anyone who has ever parented since the beginning of parenting. Soon though, we begin to understand our responsibility and the nature of that which we are charged with overseeing. And to Ewa’s point, communication is the best way to get there.  
It is for that reason, I have established relationships throughout the industry - casino executives, dealers, managers, product developers, gaming equipment suppliers, etc.  I find that including the Regulator in the conversations of early planning can provide useful insight for both parties and in the end save a lot of unnecessarily consumed resources, such as time and money.  
Conversely, independently planning and working and dropping a new service, device, game ortechnology shortly before you wish to go to market is not very advisable.  It puts a lot of undue pressure to catch up to where the operators are.  Worse case scenario the plan goes too far down the wrong path to fix with minor adjustments.  This creates tension, distrust, frustration and inefficiency on both parties, and then we are all at the point you are referencing.  
I frequently get contacted with questions like, “before we invest too much leg work in something, do you see any potential issues?  I have also been met with, “I was told that the Commission would never allow that.”  However, with a recommendation or two, we did.
I find that attending industry trade shows and expos that are not totally segregated into Regulator and Operator the best way to actually narrow this relationship gap and as well as lead times on project approvals.  It is also the perfect way for each of us to see through one another’s spectacles.  The point is we all need the industry to be healthy, and it will only be so if it has integrity in perception and fact, and as long as it can derive a profit.  
Transparency is key for both parties, it nurtures the trust of all stakeholders.  Therefore, my vote is always on open communication and early involvement - it is good for both sides.  And collusion is a term we use for two of more parties working toward something illicit, not towards the common good.  In my house we don’t consume Turkey at Christmas, so Turkey’s should feel safe voting for Christmas, so long as they do so openly!

Read Ewa Bakun's post "It's good to talk!" and Tina Thakor-Rankin's response 'Blurred Lines: Regulators and Operators – the balance between interaction and independence'

The theme of Regulators & Industry Disconnect will be discussed at EiG in Berlin (18-20 October 2016) with Francesco Rodano, former Italian regulators, Chief Policy Officer, Playtech, Jenny Williams, former UKGC CEO, Andre Wilsenach, Executive Director, UNLV International Center for Gaming Regulation, Claire Pinson, European and International Affairs Officer, ARJEL and Wendy Zitzman, Head of Compliance Consultancy and Training, iGaming Academy, as part of the session ‘It’s good to talk’, moderated by Ewa Bakun, Head of Content, Gaming, Clarion Events. Click here for more details.

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