Industry Reports

Crossroad at the Digital Treasure Island

It is always exciting to observe communication. For curious minds, never a dull moment. One cannot escape the notion that most of our misunderstandings come from our perceptions.

Anaïs Nin famously wrote:

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”

A number of people throughout our history ruminated on this thought, from Talmud to Thoreau and beyond, not to mention psychologists. The debate on who planted the first seed is still on. Frankly, irrelevant.

Crossroad at the digital treasure island

What isn’t — it’s a fact.

We experience it daily in our careers, relationships, friendships. Toddlers often remind us about it. Sports are another example — “that ball definitely crossed the goal line and my team has the lead in finals, saw it clearly” — where we project our wants onto the current situation.

An interesting thing, that brain of ours.

When we add the enticing opportunities of our consumerism into the picture it gets far more vivid. When our money or health or security gets involved, though, we can quickly become livid.

Not so often (or perhaps too often?) these particular things — perceptions, opportunities, money, health, security — intersect in the exact same place.

When they do, they usually require regulation as any complex crossroad does.

The Crossroad

For the last couple of years, we are observing such activity in the United Kingdom at the crossroad called the gambling industry.

Governed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), the land-based gambling and iGaming business is intrinsically intertwined with social responsibility ever since the UK Parliament passed the Gambling Act in 2005 compounded by the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act in 2014.

The crossroad

In effect, nowadays it’s not enough to regulate our own business or industry — we also have to define the rules to govern its consequences to others.

Correctly assuming that progressive contemporary society needs both sides of that penny, particularly in an online segment, UK lawmakers created premise best sublimed by UKGC chairman Bill Moyes on 2017 Raising Standards Conference in Birmingham:

“Online gambling industry will have to choose whether it’s viewed as a responsible part of the entertainment industry or… [as one] requiring tough action to tackle its worst excesses.”

UKGC’s goal is elaborated in UKGC Strategy 2018-2021 guide that addresses five core areas:

  • Protect the interests of customers;
  • Prevent harm to consumers and the public;
  • Raise standards in the gambling market;
  • Optimize returns to good causes from lotteries; and
  • Improve the way of regulation.

Highlighted with the intention to make gambling fairer and safer UKCG significantly ramped up the enforcement of these areas in 2018.

But what does it all mean for the operators, affiliates, and players?

The operators avenue

The Operators’ Avenue

Servicing the UK market worth £13.8 billion net in total (31% made online) generated by 32 million gamblers (out of 50 million 16+ population), the industry is busy.

Not only by providing the best possible conditions for players to enjoy in but also by focusing more on:

  • Business processes and practices;
  • Providing patrons with more information about the risks of gambling;
  • Implementing effective arrangements to resolve complains and disputes; and
  • Advertising messages.

In addition, operators are to provide well-grounded advice and opinions to UKGC in order to improve regulatory activity. They are also to be part of, should we say self-regulating enterprise by taking “precautionary action where necessary” to counter operators that fail to live up to the UKGC’s normative.

In a way, the operators are to become leaner. They are to trim the superfluous elements and to embrace the principles of mobility and agility.

Operations are to run smoothly and consistently cruising through the market without turbulence. This might see an increase in online casinos workforce both in front- and back-office segment.

The new business will have to be generated by innovative approaches to attract customers with high technology IQ, particularly in the context of upcoming generation Z. It is fair to assume that joint endeavors with lateral industries may play part in this, as we can see in case of gamification.

Customer service is to be trained and prepared to handle a number of interactions with consumers that are more demanding and self-centered. We live at high speeds and consider the time to be a very precious commodity. To create a business environment that will thrive on efficiency and client satisfaction — no small task at all — is of paramount importance for online casinos.

Operators will also have to be on a lookout for new technologies and AI in particular. To stay behind the technological curve of the 21st century in the strictly regulated ecosystem may prove to be costly. Way too much.

Whenever we embrace the stretch our unknown strengths are revealed.

Finally, driven by high UKGC standards, the industry is to enjoy an influx of fresh human resources. As qualified personnel becomes more available — as is the case in any growing industry — they will bring along a specialized set of transferable skills.

This, in turn, will significantly enlarge the knowledge pool that online casinos are to employ in running their operations.

Provided that online operators endorse such broadminded management of the opportunity — which is to say, to view UKCG standards as half-full glass and approach it with suitable dedication — they might be rewarded in the future. Hugely.

The Affiliate Drive

It may appear that an extension of online casinos has been hit hardest by UK compliance standards. To uninitiated ones it certainly might.

To the initiated one they are just a new brief to be executed in a manner that provides similar results. The brief is fixed. The desired outcome is known. That leaves us only with how.

Considering the wealth of knowledge and experience that an initiated affiliate possess, how is only a matter of creativity and flexibility. And yes, the hard work. Probably much harder than before. But that is exactly in what the initiated one thrives in.

Thus affiliates are given the opportunity to connect what others might not have seen as the connection while they fundamentally base their business on online operators. Looking down the same lane of regulations they have more leeway for innovations to which they can allocate more resources.

To illustrate this in military terms…

…affiliates don’t have an armored division but do possess a number of light ones.

In the industry primed for mobility and agility — using the same analogy, in urban or mountain terrain — that is an important and significant attribute.

It is also not difficult to foresee market emergence of the most resilient affiliates.

They are to be the ones with deepest knowledge and skills pool, equivalent shareholders’ pockets that may also come from mergers and acquisitions, and a unifying business culture that resonates Hannibal’s thought:

“We will either find a way or make one.”

In the process, this type of online casino affiliate just might be the one to create a new iGaming standard or even a new industry niche. One that we may be writing about in a year or so. One that will then be regulated by some authority in order to be trimmed down.

And one that will upon it just say — “may I have another one?

The players boulevard

The Players’ Boulevard

Those 32 million gamblers — only 400k classified as problem gamblers — are the key beneficiaries of UKGC standards and strategy.

First and foremost, their gambling interests are very well been taken care of in much fairer and safer environment. What gambling industry has to give out is to be received by players.

They are to enjoy their play in a “well-regulated gambling market that works for consumers”. USGC is to impose “tougher and broader sanctions on operators who fail to treat customers fairly and make gambling safe”.

The safety is on.

They are also to indulge themselves in an unprecedented level of transparency when it comes to educating themselves. Short of all public resources at their disposal players are empowered by casinos’ initiatives and efforts to make more informed choices, being aware of the risks. They are clear about when and how to seek help. They can self-exclude themselves from operators if such need occurs. They are to be supported by independent arrangements to redress. They are to enjoy in all benefits of an open dialogue with experts in the field.

The understanding is on.

High standards that operators face means that market will burst into the competition based on customer care and values. This is worthy addition that provides players with triangular criteria operators have to fulfill:

  • Overall quality of service;
  • Games variety;
  • Customer care.

Healthy competition among vendors always results in a better product for the consumer.

The choice is on.

As a fundamental segment of the crossroad, players are offered potentials for exceptional experiences delivered only by the best operators.

What else could we hope to have when it comes to the market economy?

The Treasure Time

Oh, yes — the time to evaluate our choices and relish in quality of the right ones. Well, such time we will have to earn. No giveaways or buyouts there.

If we are to enjoy the treasures of our digital island we will have to rely on ourselves to correctly understand our perceptions, opportunities, money, health, and security.

We will have to control our opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. Not to let anything else cloud them. To have in mind our family and friends impacted by our pastime. To know when to raise the stakes and when to live to play another day.

Above anything else, if we are to revel in any kind of treasures anywhere, we have to…

…possess the burning desire to get better and to believe that we shall.

Not only in gambling but in life too.