Legal & compliance

Survive and thrive in a tough regulatory environment

| By Elena Carruthers
Education around compliance is not a simple process. Complex by nature and subject to abrupt changes, a solid grasp of compliance is paramount to future success. Jaime Debono and James Harrison reveal the top regulatory challenges in today’s climate and how operators can best prepare.

James Harrison, Head of Compliance at Partis Compliance and Jaime Debono, Managing Director of iGaming Academy – both part of the Conexus Group.

While a week now barely seems to go by without news of an operator falling victim to some form of regulatory sanction for compliance failings, their errors can form meaningful lessons for others to learn from. While licence revoking is rare, operators risk getting warnings, licensing conditions, and financial penalties.

According to Partis Compliance’s James Harrison, as the global regulatory environment becomes increasingly complex, education on how to stay compliant across various regulated jurisdictions becomes a powerful tool.

Harrison kicked off by outlining the top challenges faced by operators in today’s climate.

“Whilst the EU gambling regulatory environment is, of course, a patchwork of different regimes, some more restrictive than others, it is certainly possible to identify a few common threads that run through most.”

As regulations continue to tighten, operators must look ahead and predict compliance failures – handling them by means of prevention, he argues.

A tough game

As jurisdictions have shifted towards prioritising safer gambling in the past few years, a robust regulatory system has never been more important.

EU-licensed operators are now expected to have tried and tested processes in place for combatting problem gambling. This customer-oriented approach means operators are taking the safe bet while taking crucial steps towards prioritising customer wellbeing.

“As ever, the GB Gambling Commission, as a tough regulator that is getting tougher, is the exemplar of this trend of obliging gambling businesses to have a greater duty of care towards their customers, and this now extends as far as understanding their personal financial circumstances.”

“The Commission’s 2019’s customer interaction guidance (strengthened by additional requirements in response to the pandemic) which set out how operators were expected to do this, has proved to be a tough thing to comply with. You need to look no further than the recent regulatory settlements and the Commission’s own enforcement report to see that many operators have failed to do so.”

Licence reviews and financial penalties are just a few of the punishments operators are hoping to avoid.

Coming under increasing scrutiny and pressure from politicians and the press, operators should not expect the GC to relax their regulations anytime soon.

The take-away, according to Harrison, is to stay in tune with these regulatory changes and take a rigorous approach to staying on top of them – which starts with understanding these at the board level.

On mitigating risks, Harrison outlined four main strategies: deploying technology, carrying out reviews, ensuring policies are relevant, and educating staff.

“There is no silver bullet, and we always advocate a multi-pronged approach to regulatory compliance generally, and so in our view, the best ways to mitigate the risk of adverse attention from a regulator is to take a holistic view of your compliance setup.”

From the top-down

iGaming Academy’s Jaime Debono expanded on these insights by outlining the key pillars HR leaders can focus on to tackle compliance, including personal responsibilities and engagement strategies.

“It’s no surprise, of course, that the quality of training content itself is highly important for employee engagement. Compliance topics can be somewhat dry, but the learning experience should always aspire to bring content to life. Enjoyable experiences are more memorable and therefore more effective.”

“We know that all compliance failings are a function of policy, procedure or control – indeed these points come up time and again in the written findings of the GC, for example,” says Debono. 

Successful management of compliance is a top-down process, according to Debono, who stresses the power that executives hold in educating their employees.

Debono continues, “This is much more an issue of organisational culture, and the important role of executives in not only creating a culture of compliance but one of best – or at least – better practice.”

Implementing a secure policy provides clear steps for identifying, handling and preventing compliance failures. A robust policy is one that is preventative at its core and sets out a clear strategy for meeting objectives.

Additionally, it is useful for all employees to recognise their own role within the compliance process. With proper compliance training and an effective policy in place, these responsibilities will be laid out clearly to each individual. Following this, it’s important to get control measures in place which clearly assign management responsibilities for monitoring these processes.

“It is then the role of HR, training leaders and departmental managers to disseminate all required knowledge throughout the organisation. But, crucially, knowledge alone isn’t enough; they must also strive to create a culture of compliance.” 

Engaging people is therefore the next important step in ensuring a genuine understanding of compliance issues.

Debono explains that this education, as a process, is best carried out when implemented flexibly. Rather than being a short series of events, education should be consistent and work around employee schedules.

“Compliance training has to be delivered efficiently, fitting into organisational structures and employees’ workflow. The business’s imperative to minimise compliance risk is clear, but if training is not delivered efficiently, it can become a significant burden.”

“Employees respond best when training is provided in an efficient medium that requires minimal disruption to their workday. Training should ideally be delivered in their environment, with the flexibility to fit in around existing commitments.”

A tailored approach is also conducive to its success, ensuring that different learning styles are considered so that each employee can get the most out of compliance training.

“For employees who require greater persuasion, HR leaders should certainly consider the time-saving benefits of automation, which can do much of the hard work required to achieve 100% completion rates.”

The result of this is increased engagement, a deeper understanding of the subject matters, and higher completion rates. 

iGaming Academy’s training has relevance for operators worldwide, with specific content currently available for licence-holders in the UK, Malta, Sweden, Europe (EU), USA, Canada, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

Debono elaborates on the value of these training courses, “Interactivity is found in all our eLearning courses, with learners encouraged to answer questions throughout, explore topics in detail and follow scenario-based pathways. To check understanding, assessments are required before a course can be successfully completed.

Employers get peace of mind that all employees fully understand their compliance responsibilities.”

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