I’m sure you know that ‘punching above its weight’ is an expression used to describe a business or person that thrives or prospers beyond expectation. Because it has ‘boxed clever’ since it was established in May 2000 these words could have been coined to describe the impact that Alderney has had on the international gambling industry.
Alderney may be a small British island near the coast of France but it is also a top-tier eGambling jurisdiction well known for its innovative approach. It has a huge reputation for marrying pragmatic regulation with a flexible attitude towards commerciality. In fact, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) is recognised internationally as the leading eGambling regulator in the world and has become a very popular choice for the best operators. There is no better indication that a business is being run responsibly and to the highest standard than to be regulated by the AGCC.
But why is the choice of regulator important for an eGambling operator? Many reasons, but let’s start by recognising that these are times of significant change in one of the most exciting, progressive yet unpredictable industries in the world. Licensees want their regulators to be thought leaders, to have vision and to provide answers to the many questions an uncertain future may bring.
Thanks to mobile technology the next generation of gamblers will have grown up with a remarkable machine in their pockets. Their smart phones give them access to a library, cinema, games arcade and the yellow pages for the entire world at the press of a button. Anyone born in 2000 will become 18 in two years and may well get a credit card for the first time. They will spend lots of money and our industry, both online and land-based, needs to be ready because ‘millennials’ think about the world in a different way. It is unlikely that they will go to casinos and gamble their money on slots. They will want to experience the thrills and excitement of betting, be active and have interaction but they will look to their mobiles, tablets and more advanced technologies to get it.
So we know that traditional land-based casino and bingo operations are facing challenges with the next generation of gamblers but we believe this is a fantastic opportunity. There is huge potential for land-based operators to expand their successful traditional models, embrace new technologies and grow their business in new jurisdictions. However, it is necessary to future- proof and evolve with the times to safeguard revenues and there is no better place to do this than with Alderney.
Fortunately, Alderney has always been an innovator and a first mover that sets the pace in respect of the regulatory framework for the industry. We monitor technical and cultural developments closely and are very aware that there are so many different regulations around the world covering a huge variety of products.
These differences make it challenging for industry to grow in an era when the speed of change is accelerating. Access to different markets and technology is making the world smaller so regulation needs to be appropriate and fit for purpose.
We are proud that our existing framework can accommodate such a variety of rapidly evolving projects and we work hard to keep abreast of the latest advances in order to continually future proof our own offering. eSports and Daily Fantasy Sports are two growth areas that are very topical with the most common video game genres being real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena tournaments.
How will your business react to changing trends and the rise in virtual reality technology? Most of the world’s major tech companies have now invested heavily in this sector. On a recent trip to GiGse in San Francisco, I was fortunate to visit a VR creative office and also try out some of the new VR products. Mindblowing!
Only the AGCC has such an advanced regulatory regime and our model already regulates the betting in these sectors and Alderney would not have to change the regulations to capture them. That is of great comfort to operators.
Licensees want trouble-free access to markets so the other key area that will aid growth in the sector is inter-jurisdictional cooperation. Alderney’s reputation and its cooperative relationship with other regulators and governments ensures that doors are opened and commercial opportunities are maximised. We have a vast array of MOUs with international jurisdictions, in fact, we have secured more than any other gambling regulator. The AGCC liaises regularly with bodies such as the British Gambling Commission, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and we continue to forge new relationships around the world regularly.
On my travels meeting government representatives and potential licensees our reputation precedes us. My colleagues at the AGCC have produced the purest set of online gambling regulations, designed simply to provide robust but pragmatic oversight without any compromise. It works, as they are regarded as ‘best in breed’ and as such have been replicated by many jurisdictions. As you know ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.
Alderney does not have an overly prescriptive approach to regulation. Typically, we work with operators to understand the risks associated with the business with a view to agreeing the best way to mitigate such risks. When entering regulated jurisdictions, businesses will be judged on their record and will be required to show that they can operate according to certain standards.
So, we work closely with operators, visiting our licensees for an on-site inspection at least once a year. It is a great opportunity to discuss, discover and assess what changes are needed in the regulatory framework.
Another example where our innovative thinking helps licensees is through the completion of the first phase of the International Association of Gambling Regulator’s (IGAR) working group project to develop a Multi-Jurisdictional Testing Framework (MJTF).
This is an important step toward harmonising regulatory requirements across all IAGR jurisdictions, and we continue to actively work towards further standardisation of games software testing requirements. Working closely with gambling regulators in the UK, Denmark and the Isle of Man to assist licensees and certificate holders in achieving the best speed to market while minimising regulatory duplication and games software testing costs.
Alderney and its ‘big sister’ island of Guernsey is also an attractive jurisdiction for operators to base their businesses, as we are fortunate to operate in a low-to-zero tax economy. This means that operators working from Alderney can realise the most tax efficient environment to be found anywhere. With increasing duties at the point of consumption operators have to ensure that they are as lean as possible in a world of decreasing margins and Alderney is unassailable in that position. We back that up with world-class telecom links into Paris, London and we straddle the main US/Europe cables. Our location in the Channel Islands, in the Bay of Normandy, puts us a little over 50 minutes from three London airports with regular daily services.
So as you can see, to return to our boxing analogy, if online and land-based gambling businesses are reeling with the prospect of new technologies, get Alderney in your corner and suddenly the future looks very bright.
Susan O’Leary is a lawyer who has represented some of the world’s leading eGambling operators and gambling service providers including many of Alderney’s licensees and has a keen sense of what they require from a jurisdiction: a strong pragmatic regulator who understands the commercial environment, a resilient technical infrastructure, a favourable tax system, excellent support services and a fees system that allows businesses to grow.