In the 15 years I have been working in the online gambling sector, there have been multiple regulatory events that have shaped our industry.
Big ones spring to mind like the closure of the US following UIGEA in 2006, the introduction of Point of Consumption Tax in the UK, although we mustn’t forget the smaller changes too – the introduction of Reality checks on UK games that locked the industry for a year whilst everyone upgraded their games, or the changes to advertising of Free Bets and Bonuses that required technology changes.
If we are to listen to the politicians and the reports emanating from Westminster, it is again where the UK industry finds itself, with the possible or probable introduction of some form of stake limit for online slot games, following the UK retail Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting shops.
A crude, blanket stake limit would be disappointing in as much as it underplays the use that technology can play to deliver a much more personalised and relevant experience for players in real time – dynamic, player orientated stake limits should be what we strive for, personalised to each player based on their play history, circumstance and safety.
Unlike retail, online players are not limited by geography. Traditional, blunt instruments of this kind are likely to drive frustrated players offshore to gamble on unlicensed casinos, thereby increasing player risk rather than reducing it.
Planning for Fundamental Changes
Whether its dynamic or static stake limits, I would like to share some personal experience about the importance of planning for fundamental regulatory changes like this.
- Get ahead of the game. Any legislation that is to be passed is likely to be some months if not years into the future. Do not delay, get ready whilst you still have time.
- Measure the impact. As with any change of this nature, you can model the impact that stake changes might have on your casino and games. But be careful – it is not a straightforward financial analysis – you need to consider player behaviours, game exposures and so much more.
- Appoint an owner. Task someone in your business with the responsibility to prepare, assess and manage any changes required to mitigate the impact. And not just someone in Compliance – they're already busy - include someone on the commercial side too for a rounded view.
- Take it seriously. Given the potential impact of stake limits and the importance of slots, ensure that your Board is regularly updated with progress in this area.
- Crying will not get you anywhere. You may wallow in the financial and player impact that stake changes may have, but what is the point? Seek alternatives and mitigating actions – altering your games mix, ringfencing exposed players, adjusting your player acquisition strategies, prioritising overseas market entry – there is lots you can do with a few month’s planning and key actions.
- There’s always tech work. Do not leave it till the last minute – find out what needs to be changed, and how. Do you games suppliers have the ability to make the adjustments? Plan your roadmaps accordingly.
- Feeling in control helps. Once you understand the impact, you can assess what levers you have in your business to adjust. Fortunately, in casino there are always lots of levers – you just have to identify which ones, make sure you can control them and set to making adjustments, with plenty of testing along the way.