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Mark Halstead, head of compliance at iSoftBet, on some of the challenges the supplier faced when modifying its games for the market in Romania

ONLINE casino operators are now truly global, and are constantly looking for new markets in which to launch their brands and products and grow their businesses.

Eastern European countries have been of particular interest of late, with the likes of Albania, Poland and Serbia either moving towards, or already offering, online gambling licences to overseas companies.

Romania is another jurisdiction that has caught the attention of operators and suppliers alike; it opened its digital doors to regulated online gambling back in 2015 and the market has grown steadily ever since. Licences are handed out by the National Gambling Office (ONJN), with the likes of Betfair, PokerStars and 888 already plying their trade in the country.

But while new markets offer plenty of upsides, they also present challenges that must be overcome for both operators and suppliers. Due to the country-by-country approach to online gambling regulation, it often means operators and suppliers must meet different requirements and be compliant with different rules and regulations in each market they enter. Romania is no different.

Here at iSoftBet, we focus on ensuring our games are fully compliant with all of the markets in which we offer them. We received our Romanian licence and are happy to share some of the challenges we faced while going through the process. From start to finish – submitting our application, game testing, certification, audits, to licence – it took around three months.

Over that period, we faced a lot of tight deadlines which involved long hours working closely with the independent testing laboratory to ensure everything was completed on time and satisfactorily. In fact, obtaining these certifications was the most difficult part of the whole process. The main focus was on the return to player (RTP), rules and outcomes of our slots, as well as translation.

“Translation is another key consideration”

Translation is another key consideration. All aspects of the game – from the “spin/bet” button right down to the game guide had to be translated into Romanian. This is not only a key licencing requirement, but vital to ensure Romanian players enjoy the same experience as those playing in English or Italian, for example. If a game is not properly translated, it can really impact its performance.

Translation always takes longer than you expect, and this was a major factor in us being on such a tight deadline. Of course, we are experienced in going through the process or modifying our games so that they are compliant with different rules in different markets, and knew this was likely to happen. Even so, being under increasing pressure as a deadline approaches is never a nice feeling.

Another consideration is the subtle differences between desktop and mobile games, and what is required to ensure both versions are compliant. For us, that wasn’t such a problem as we develop, in Pulse, a proprietary, state-of-the-art HTML5 framework that allows us to launch our titles on desktop and mobile simultaneously – in short, we build just one version of the game that is optimised for both channels.

For others, however, it can mean making small changes. The game rules need to be reflective of the game version being offered e.g. desktop/mobile. They must also be accessible and a true refection of the game being offered. This is part of the testing process for Romania carried out by the third-party testing labs.

These are just some of the challenges we faced when it came to ensuring our full suite of games was compliant in Romania. It was undoubtedly a tough three months but throughout, the ONJN was very supportive and did what it could to make the process as smooth and seamless as possible. Some of the hurdles were expected, while others were not.

“the process of applying for, and receiving, a licence in Romania has been a win/win for us.”

Regardless, the process of applying for, and receiving, a licence in Romania has been a win/win for us, and undoubtedly for the other operators and suppliers who have done the same.

With each new market we enter, we become more experienced and better equipped at modifying our products for other pre-regulated jurisdictions on the cusp of joining the likes of Romania.

At the end of the day, compliance is key for both operators and suppliers looking to grow their footprint and establish themselves as truly global businesses.