Life would be easier for everyone if regulators from different European countries collaborated on producing mutually compatible rules for e-gaming, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) says.
Currently, what’s allowed and what’s not can vary dramatically from one territory to another. But “market fragmentation of this kind makes regulatory compliance less efficient; increases regulatory burden for regulators; is detrimental to consumer value; and may lead to the satisfaction of consumer demand by providers established outside the European Economic Area or completely unregulated providers”, according to the RGA.
So the trade body has issued a set of model guidelines, citing a report last year by the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee that suggested regulators should work more closely together.
“As countries are essentially licensing the same products and businesses, logic dictates that in most cases they should adopt similar regulatory measures, such as those set out in our guidelines,” says RGA CEO Clive Hawkswood.
The 49-page document covers issues including system architecture, account security, use of customer data, self-exclusion, prevention of under-age gambling, complaints, generation of random outcomes, game fairness, jackpots, and anti-money-laundering measures.
The RGA is not the only one concerned by fragmentation of e-gaming regulation: operators may find it a lot harder to implement online Poker in the US on a state-by-state basis than nationwide, the CEO of International Game Technology (IGT) has warned.
Patti Hart spoke out following the closure of IGT’s European e-Poker operation, just a year after it paid $115m for Swedish Poker provider Entraction, saying that restrictions on cross-border play had “shifted [the model] from dot-com to dot-country”.
And the difficulties of operating bespoke services for each territory could be repeated in the US, where the Department of Justice has reinterpreted the Wire Act to allow Poker and other casino games on the Internet – as long as they are not played across state lines.
However, despite this setback, IGT appears deeply committed to online. It will continue to offer Bingo, slots and sports betting via the Internet in Europe, it has added free Bingo to its DoubleDown Casino both on Facebook and its own Website, and it is also extending its partnerships with land-based venues.
Most recently, the Bonanza Casino in Reno, Nevada and the Hard Rock in Las Vegas have signed up to put DoubleDown on their own sites.
“Engaging through the Website allows players to remain connected to the property they know and trust, with DoubleDown Casino simply providing the gaming entertainment,” said Eric Tom, Executive Vice President of Global Sales at IGT.
The first real-money gaming product is now up and running on Facebook. Bingo & Slots Friendzy is operated by Gibraltar’s Gamesys as an extension of its Jackpotjoy operation, and available only to British users over 18.
Said Jackpotjoy Managing Director Michael Saunders: “As the UK’s leading online instant win and Bingo operator we are committed to extending our products to a wider adult audience. We’ve reinvented our exclusive Bingo and slots games to appeal to the UK Facebook community. This marks an exciting turning point for the industry and a milestone for the Gamesys business.”
Meanwhile, Zynga – the dominant provider of free-to-play games on Facebook – has invited tenders for a real-money Poker platform, with Gtech G2 and Playtech among those believed to be interested in providing it. The firm is meanwhile reported to have been in talks with the Wynn in Las Vegas about a partnership that could see its brands make their first steps into the offline world.
The move to real-money Poker is a logical one for Zynga given the enormous success of its free-to-play Poker game on Facebook. And perhaps real-money sports betting could be next: Zynga has also teamed up with RocketPlay to create a new virtual-currency sportsbook.
“Sports Casino delivers an authentic virtual sports-betting experience to social gaming and sports fans,” said Mani Honigstein, CEO of RocketPlay. “We’re thrilled to launch with Zynga’s support – it’s a company that has set the social gaming benchmark.”