What Are The Compliance Rules For Casino Game Developers?
It’s not a word that gets many people excited, but compliance is at the heart of everything that happens in the gambling industry.
All companies operating in the space in any form have to adhere to certain rules and regulations in order to stay compliant – i.e legal – and many even hire dedicated compliance officers to ensure what they are doing won’t land them in trouble.
The word compliance essentially means conforming to a rule, policy or law; regulatory compliance is about the goals a company or industry is trying to achieve by setting these rules, and their efforts to be aware of this on a day to day basis.
In the gambling industry, this goal is to ensure a safer gambling environment for everyone and protection for anyone who may be classed as vulnerable. To help keep the industry on track the UKGC regulates it, issuing licenses to companies that are able to demonstrate good practice, and keeping rogue operators at bay.
Like many other things, there are grey areas, and plenty of debate over what should be classed as a compliance issue and what should not, and this tricky terrain is what online casino operators have to navigate year on year.
It’s not just the operators though; the developers themselves have to do their bit in ensuring the products they create are compliant, and in this article we will be looking at how they do this.
How Do Game Developers Stay Compliant?
Put simply, they first need to understand the rules, they then need to follow them.
A game developer will not have the same concerns as an online casino operator though, because they both do different things, even though they are connected.
A game developer (most game developers anyway) don’t deal directly with the paying public. They don’t need to collect their personal details or check their ID to meet KYC regs, they just need to make sure the games people play operate within the rules.
This includes things like maximum bet sizes, spin duration, and how wins are presented.
Until fairly recently there were not such tight rules in some of these areas, but in the never-ending quest to make gambling safer changes were made to tone down online casino games.
For example, a player must be made to wait at least 2.5 seconds between spins, and features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over the outcome when in fact the player has none are no longer allowed.
Another recent change pertains to the way losses are presented. You have no doubt played a slot machine that pops party poppers and releases balloons when you win 20p from a £1 spin – well this is a loss being presented as a win, and it is no longer allowed.
Autoplay has also been banned. This one caused a lot of noise because many players use the feature to play the games while doing other things, but regardless of that, compliance rules must be followed.
This sort of thing impacts the developers directly because it is they who design and develop the games and decide on themes, features, animations etc., so they will need to go back through their games are make changes to keep their products compliant.
Going forward, all new games will need to be designed with the new rules in mind. An addition they must work out how to incorporate is that each game must clearly display a player’s overall win/loss for the game session.
Of course, all of this applies to the UK market but not necessarily others. This means developers might have slightly different versions of their games for the different markets in which they operate, creating a difficult job for the compliance officer.
What is a Compliance Officer and What do they do?
A compliance officer is an employee tasked with ensuring that the company they work for isn’t in danger of breaking any rules or flouting regulations.
They keep an eye on the way in which the company is operating, the products they produce, and the data they collect, and make it known if there are any potential issues.
They must also keep up to date with and regulatory changes so they will have their ear to the ground when it comes to things like online gambling reform and the laws specific to gambling in different countries.
Training staff could also be part of their job description, to make sure everyone is up to date with the rules relevant to what they do.
Other responsibilities might include:
- Understanding external governence frameworks and why they exist as they do
- Applying for license applications and provide necessary supporting documents and info
- Improving business practices
- Regulatory reporting tasks
- Keeping in touch with internal and external stakeholders
- Creating internal advisory documentation for different departments within the business
A little like the HR department, the CO will operate outside of the other departments, not really answerable to departmental managers in the same way as other members of staff might be. This isn’t to say they have free reign to do what they like, but their job is to advise, warn and guide in the interest of the company so they are their own entity to some degree.
For smaller companies it may just be a single employee covering the role, perhaps even someone who fulfils another function for the company as well.
Larger companies might have a small team of compliance officers to keep up with the work load.
What Happens if an Online Gaming Company Breaks the Rules?
Most often, fines are issued.
However, for serious cases licenses can be suspended for further investigation or even revoked completely. This is devastating for the company because it essentially puts them out of business in that specific jurisdiction or territory.
For this reason, companies tend to do their best to follow the rules, so breaches of this magnitude are rare – but it does happen.
It is more common for operators to end up with fines rather than game developers, because operators need to market directly to the public whereas developers sell their products to operators in the main, so they don’t have to tread the same rocky advertising path.
The usual reasons for fines are responsible gambling or anti money laundering failures, and this basically comes down to checks not being stringent enough, or rogue VIP managers thinking about their targets and bonuses before their customers’ safety and best interests.
Since remaining compliant is one of the terms of a gambling license – which any company wanting to trade in the UK needs to have to operate legally – it makes sense that companies do their best to stay on the right side of the law.