The Gambling Compliance Global Regulatory Awards Ceremony, and Why It MattersBy Luke Haward, CDC Gaming ReportsMay 3, 2018 at 3:00 amGambling Compliance landed a great representative from the gaming world to present the awards at their second Global Regulatory Awards Ceremony in April, that being poker’s (and the BBC’s, and the Observer’s) Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is perhaps most famous for becoming the world’s first-ever two-time EPT champion when she took down the EPT Sanremo in 2014. She’d already made history when she won in 2006, becoming the first woman to win an EPT outright. She’s clearly an outstanding poker player and sharp across the board, as evidenced by her flashing wit on Have I Got News for You and other shows and her competitive interest in Scrabble. This is to say nothing of her equally sharp and vigorous demeanor at the poker tables, which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing several times over the years while playing at the same table.What stands out most for me about Coren Mitchell’s character – and what is perhaps a significant factor in her being chosen to present these awards – is the clear statement she made by stepping down as a Pokerstars pro player when it was announced they would introduce casino gaming to their platform. This is no easy move; it means sacrificing an incredible amount of equity and player profile, and I’m sure she did not make the move without a great deal of deliberation.When she left, Coren-Mitchell was careful to state that this was “…no criticism of PokerStars itself… business is business, they are providing a new service that people want, and I know they intend to abide by some key principles of responsible gaming.” She went on to clarify that it was a personal decision: “Poker is the game I love (and) poker is what I signed up to promote… I’m always careful to explain the difference between the essentially fair nature of poker, where we all take each other on with the same basic chance (of winning), and those casino games at unfavorable odds which can be (especially online) so dangerous for the vulnerable or desperate.”Possessing these kinds of personal standards regarding what she’s comfortable promoting or standing as a figurehead for is virtually the gold standard of integrity, and that’s something we could do with a good deal more of in the gaming world.A number of key individuals and firms were recognised during the awards ceremony. Ian Ince from Playtech was awarded Chief Compliance Officer of the year, with judges stating that the firm “has a clear focus on leadership and change, rather than just compliance with existing standards.” It seems Playtech, then, are raising the bar when it comes to what compliance means. Again, something badly needed in the current climate.The Iowa Lottery was recognised with the Compliance Outstanding Achievement Award for their Hot Lotto fraud investigation, which helped bring to justice three major fraudsters who rigged several states’ lottery drawings by installing malicious computer code which gave the trio access to the winning numbers.The Stars Group’s Responsible Gaming Manager, Jeanne David, received the Outstanding Individual Contribution to Responsible Gambling in a Customer Facing Role Award. Judges praised her for establishing much of the existing responsible gambling programme at Stars “at a time when there were few specific responsible gambling regulations or requirements.” She was also hailed for the efficient use of “… data analysis to evaluate effectiveness”.The firm who featured most heavily in the awards, however, was Kindred Group, whose staff picked up two awards during the ceremony and which was also “highly commended” in several other categories. The two awards won outright went to Maris Bonello for Most Significant Contribution to Responsible Gambling Research, and Anna Niewiadomska, who was named Data Protection Officer of the Year. Judges commented that Kindred are “investing heavily in this area and are undertaking a unique and effective approach to help manage player safety.”Back in early 2017, Kindred Group were the first firm to gain a full accreditation of the EU’s ‘Recommendation on Consumer Protection’ consumer standards and policy mandate. This required an independent audit confirming that the firm had achieved good standards in all areas contained within the mandate, including transparent information and communications, responsible advertising, age and identity verification, responsible gaming tools such as self-exclusion and deposit limits, and staff training for responsible gaming issues.RegTech (regulatory technology) Provider of the Year was awarded to BetBuddy, whose patented PowerCrunch data mining and machine learning platform provides feedback both to operators and to players, allowing operators to tailor marketing strategies and to make interventions where appropriate. For the player, PowerCrunch generates automated, personalised communications, and offers choices taken from different operators’ player protection frameworks.The Compliance Lifetime Achievement Award went to Phill Brear of the Gibraltar Gambling Commission, for “dealing with enormous change in Gibraltar regulation.” Innovation of the Year recipient SBTech listed the factors recognised in their award as “… full integration of all compliance features with the company’s Chameleon360 iGaming platform, high scalability… fast and uninterrupted transfer of vast amounts of information from SBTech databases to regulatory authority vaults and operator databases, real-time display of the Risk Score report to give operators full visibility, and AML and Social Responsibility triggers (which) ensure operators are automatically alerted to suspicious activity or potential problem gambling.” An impressive list indeed. (This quote is taken from the SBTech press release regarding the award.)Finally, Passport Technology Inc, a company that’s only been in commercial operation for about the past year, scooped the Compliance Payment Solution Provider of the Year. Passport’s portfolio includes attended payment kiosks, cash access systems, server and web-based analytic technology, agnostic application management systems and interactive content and services, all of which was outlined in a recent press release. They have partnered with leading problem gambling organizations such as GamCare and GambleAware, and Compliance Awards judges commented that theirs was an “impressive solution which focuses on responsible gambling, donations, managing problem gambling risk, … faster payments, and lower cost transactions.”This second annual Gambling Compliance Awards Ceremony deserves our attention. The awards themselves are working to raise the profile of the issues at hand: namely, protecting the vulnerable, and ensuring not only that good standards are met, but that they are, where possible, exceeded and improved upon by key players in the industry. This is absolutely an area of the gaming world which needs more focus. Really, it should be centre stage. This is an arena where there is a very real risk of problems developing as a direct consequence of players engaging with the games on offer. Wherever possible, an industry must take very active steps to protect its consumers. This has been sadly lacking in the gambling industry, both in my home, the UK, and across Europe and the wider world. Much more remains to be done, but awards ceremonies such as this one play a key role in raising awareness, rewarding innovation and discipline in approach to these tough challenges, and setting a nice high bar for the rest of the industry.