The rapid expansion of legalized online and land-based gambling in the United States and elsewhere thrusts many operators and providers into unfamiliar territory.
Everyone from online game designers with the next great slot idea to already successful operators eyeing a new jurisdiction encounter the same hurdle: meeting that market’s complex and often-unique compliance standards and regulations.
James Boje, managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Gaming Laboratories International, said he knows of gaming newcomers and veterans who have encountered costly certification delays that could have been prevented with a better understanding of what regulators require.
He sees GLI’s job as helping clients navigate the labyrinth of gaming laws in jurisdictions around the world and ensuring that their products comply fully. That begins with GLI representatives working with regulators to understand the nuances of various rules.
“We build a relationship with regulators globally, across more than 560 different jurisdictions,” Boje said. “Clients rely on us to make sure that their product is compliant in the field. We give them the confidence and the trust that we will get them certified in the best possible way.”
For example, he said the numerous requirements of a jurisdiction’s Slot Accounting System (SAS) protocol can trip up applicants, especially those new to the gaming industry. SAS protocols set standards for numerous slot machine functions, including meter reporting, player tracking, and cashless gaming.
A GLI pre-compliance review can identify and correct problems before the formal application goes to regulators. Boje said clients sometimes think they’ve met all the requirements but GLI finds “gaps” in the procedure.
“It’s painful for the client because they have to go back and do more development,” he said. Even if the flaw seems simple, such as incorporating a bill validator or ticket printer, “you have to implement the protocol appropriately. If you don’t, it’s not going to interact with your product the way you hoped. Our job is to make sure that pain doesn’t happen, and that the development process is as informed and streamlined as possible.”
The number of GLI clients involved with online gaming has increased substantially since the COVID pandemic. “The market is accelerating at a rapid pace globally,” Boje said. “The land-based market is still strong and growing very well. But it’s very clear, as the U.S. has opened up in online and sports betting, … it has driven growth globally.”
Since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed each state to regulate sports betting, 34 states and the District of Columbia have implemented it; four more states have legalized sports betting but not launched operations. Most states with legal sports betting allow mobile wagering. Seven states allow online casino gaming.
One result of that expansion was that numerous companies from Europe, home to much older sports betting and iGaming markets, flocked to the United States. “They had to go back and make some changes to their hardware and firmware,” Boje said. “There will always be differences between various countries and jurisdictions. You will always have certain elements of differentiation as regulators in various jurisdictions enact regulations to meet the jurisdiction’s unique policy objectives.”
He added that the rapid growth poses a new challenge for online companies: developing skills that go beyond game development to ensure that their products meet the technical requirements of various gaming jurisdictions.
GLI, which has a network of laboratory locations across six continents, has certified nearly 2 million items and tested equipment for more than 560 jurisdictions since 1989. Its suite of services covers regulatory compliance, technical compliance, end-to-end testing and full lifecycle compliance. Boje said the lifecycle approach ensures clients maintain compliance with auditing, AML, Responsible Gaming and due-diligence requirements as they evolve.
“There are many areas and facets that we can add value to a client in speeding up the process to market and maintaining their certification,” he said. “Each client’s challenges are different. What’s important is understanding their roadmap, because we can’t help them if we don’t know what their vision is, where they want to go, and how quickly they want to go. The more they can share with us, the more we can guide them and help them. We see ourselves adding a lot of value in that space.”
The relationship goes beyond the bottom line, he continued. “It’s about trust and integrity, making sure that if they get challenged, we’re going to be there to support them.”