From coffee to geolocation, Anna Sainsbury’s career features a knack for innovation Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports · January 20, 2022 at 5:56 pm When Anna Sainsbury started her first job at a coffee shop in Vancouver, British Columbia – “where the sun doesn’t come up,” she jokes – a few customers were always grumpy before their first dose of caffeine. Many patrons were quite particular about their coffee, and Sainsbury made a point of memorizing the drink orders of regulars “because you have to get it right every time,” she says. As CEO of GeoComply, Sainsbury still leans on the lessons she learned working as a barista. “I think the biggest thing that I learned was that being of service and solving problems, whatever that is, and that working with a team of people can be fulfilling,” Sainsbury says. “I really like work. I don’t see it as work, I just see it as participating in my life. All of those jobs as a young person, and early in my career, really helped.” Sainsbury was re-appointed as CEO of GeoComply on January 1, a position she held for seven years after co-founding the company with David Briggs in 2011. She has served as GeoComply’s chairman since 2018. Returning to her former role will necessitate a more hands-on approach. “I get the opportunity now to participate more in the day-to-day business and how we transition ourselves in terms of primarily being ‘that geolocation compliance company’ to location compliance, and also solving areas around fraud and knowing your customer,” Sainsbury says. After working as a barista, Sainsbury worked in the insurance industry, eventually as a broker. Her first client owned Technical Systems Testing, a subsidiary of Gaming Laboratories International, which provides testing and consulting services to land-based casinos, igaming operators, and lotteries. “After time, he brought me on as a Commercial Director,” Sainsbury said, “and it was at this point that I was exposed to the gaming industry and made my way into the compliance and regulation sector.” GeoComply has become the go-to company for gaming operators using geolocation products. During a recent interview, iDevelopment and Economic Association general counsel Jeff Ifrah said, “In this market, when someone needs geolocation software, they go to GeoComply.” But when Sainsbury helped launch the company, geolocation services weren’t exactly in demand. This was before the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018 and sports betting was limited to Nevada, illegal offshore sites, or the friendly neighborhood bookie. Sainsbury’s gambit was not quite like betting on Leicester City to win the Premier League in 2016 at odds of 5,000-1, or wagering that the Vegas Golden Knights would make the Stanley Cup finals in their maiden season. But her wager on geolocation paid off because it was more than just a dart hoping to find a bullseye. “I was looking at the U.S. all those years ago and thinking about what the market was going to need,” Sainsbury said. “This was a challenge, and it was clear it was different to the geolocation challenges we had in international jurisdictions like Europe, which is where I had focused a lot of my time before. “That fact that the technology wasn’t there was just something that sucked me in.” As Sainsbury explored geolocation, she found issues and problems that piqued her curiosity. The initial challenge was verifying users within state lines. But after analyzing data and consulting with law enforcement agencies and regulators, issues including stolen identity, collusion and bonus abuse emerged. To address those concerns, GeoComply developed products including GeoComply Core (digital identity verification, fraud detection and regulatory compliance), GeoComply Hub (historical and real-time location data and analysis), and Pinpoint (creating virtual boundaries complying with regulations). These services analyze 2.3 billion transactions per year, with more than 4 million installations globally on devices. “Once we started looking and turning all the stones over and seeing these complex, interesting issues, that’s what’s kept me here all these years,” Sainsbury says. “And now we have that in our roster of technologies, we’re getting to apply that to other markets.” GeoComply’s services mesh with another emerging trend in the gaming industry: cashless payments. As companies including Marker Trax, PayNearMe and Sightline Payments emerge with new and innovative cashless technologies, the need for operators to ensure safe deposits and boost consumer confidence is paramount. But will gaming operators go all-in on cashless? Sainsbury thinks it’s unavoidable and remembers when the coffee shop she worked at rarely took credit cards and only when orders were over $10. “Now that’s just one drink,” she laughs, noting most shops now prefer cashless transactions. “I think from a consumer perspective, we as a society have all bought into the fact that the world is a secure place with cashless,” says Sainsbury, who is the founder of and a trustee for Conscious Gaming, a non-profit group that leverages technology to create safe online gaming environments. “We’re not seeing more theft on our cards. “So, in the gaming industry, why are we the only industry that says cashless is more dangerous? Some arguments come from legislators about responsible gaming and potential stolen credit card use, but that risk is everywhere. In a casino, people are identified and there are a lot of cameras, so it’s not the best place to show up with a stolen credit card. This is an area that we should be pushing for innovation and legislative changes.” Rege Behe is lead contributor to CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Please follow @RegeBehe_exPTR on Twitter.