Earlier this week customer experience marketing agency A Game Above teamed up with Beanstalk to release their first regulatory support product, Yield Sec.
In part one of ‘A shadow across the market’, A Game Above CEO Steen Madsen, and Jack Symons, co-founder and director of Beanstalk, talked about the impact of the black market on the regulated market and licensed companies and introduced us to its ‘first tool’ to provide aid to governments and regulators in monitoring and removing ‘black market threats’.
To culminate the two part miniseries, Madsen and Symons, both supervisory board members for Yieldsec.com, elaborate on the key issue of player protection as well as touching upon the dual strategy potential with Yield Sec.
Taxation and player protection
What does tolerating the presence of the black market mean, in practical terms, for the two key reasons?
The yield from taxation revenue upon betting and gaming will be depressed, frustrated and decreasingly predictable. Taxation yield upon legal, licensed betting and gaming will only be accrued from those sites who responsibly got in line, complied with conditions, gained licensing, pay taxes and operate according to rules and regulation, but who face daily unfair competition from black market sites.
For every site that gains a license, there are conservatively two or more who remain offshore, continue to target a market, but pay no tax, protect no players and comply with no rules.
This duality of the marketplace, invisible to consumers due to the reality of finding operator results and brands online, is referred to by the term ‘channelisation’: the percentage of the betting and gaming universe that moves from a pre-regulated market status, as exists across most of Asia today, to a licensed and overseen status, once regulation begins.
Channelisation is easy to understand when held up to the taxation revenue realised from any regulated market – the lower the channelisation percentage, the lower the taxation revenue realised from betting and gaming, period.
If the black market is not effectively removed, or excluded from discovery, consumers will continue to openly engage with it, in much the same way as they did before regulation, aside from black market operators not being able to market themselves across traditional forms of advertising, such as sponsorship of sports teams or upon television ads.
Online, however, and across the media predominantly frequented by today’s audiences, the black market exists tangibly and, in some cases, popularly, to the extent they can even drown out the awareness and relevance of licensed, tax-paying sites.
Much as the black market creates instability for licensed operators’ revenues, and consequent unpredictability of tax yield, black market operators that illicitly target regulated markets create issues for individuals and society, primarily among minors and those at risk of gambling-related harm.
We are all clear that betting and gaming comprise products that must be offered, operated and consumed responsibly. A system of regulation imposed by law, and executed by experienced, career-professionals across law enforcement and civil service working for the regulator in any market, is the clear sign that betting and gaming products are not meant for everyone.
Regulating a market when there has been little to no public education – not the fault of any regulator, to be clear, since this duty lies with government – is even more challenging for player protection since those at risk of gambling-related harm do not know where to effectively turn when facing a problem, and escaping a spiral of continued, compulsive play is almost impossible when no gambling cessation helpline or tool historically worked to effectively exclude the black market.
Since that black market is just a Google search away, the much-vaunted goal of player protection has, to date, been but a hope. All of the provisions of the legislation, the rules from a regulator, and the fines and threats to licensed status upon regulated operators for breaches of protective measures, target one end: the protection of at-risk and vulnerable individuals.
This will not happen, in any meaningful way, however, if we tolerate the black market and fail to introduce adequate provisions to allow regulators to monitor, police and enforce the meaning of licensing. Provisions for player protection, such as, for example, self-exclusion, will cease to be effective at the end of a list of licensed sites.
An at-risk consumer or minor need simply pick up their smartphone and conduct a swift search to discover dozens, if not hundreds, of unlicensed, black market operators who do not participate in any age verification or know your customer activity; who perform no ID or address checks to prevent money laundering; who share no self-exclusion information between different operators and brands; and, who are, visibly and practically only focused upon one thing: the money.
From which they will not make any contribution to tax, good causes, levies for gambling education and cessation, etc. It is all pure profit, after their marketing and operational costs.
The right tool for the sincerely regulated market: Yield Sec
Why then do we tolerate the existence of the black market, given its existence does not simply deflate the betting and gaming balloon, but threatens to pop it, altogether? To date, there have been no effective tools to simply allow for practical monitoring, policing and enforcement.
Given our backgrounds across the gaming industry, in operational, advisory, and player protection roles, we are proud to be part of the team that recently announced Yield Sec, the first effective tool to aid regulators and government to monitor, police and enforce the licensed marketplace for betting and gaming, and remove black-market influence and instability.
The past several months spent realising Yield Sec – a product formed from a joint venture between customer experience specialists, A Game Above, and player protection experts, Beanstalk, the makers of gambling cessation product, Gamban – have been focused upon building a solution that caters to one essential: providing for a protected, licensed marketplace.
The operation of a sustainable marketplace, with cared-for customers and practically excluded minors and at-risk audiences, whilst raising valuable taxation revenues for society, predictably, is the only way to support our shared mission across A Game Above and Gamban: the customer experience.
Player protection and the operation of a sustainable industry, onshore and subject to regulation, are, in our view, simply facets of the customer experience, overall.
Society has tolerated the black market, to date, as online betting and gaming, internationally, is a teen-aged, and still maturing industry.
The regulators who have had to adapt to the rise and prevalence of online or igaming have done a great job with the tools they had and were often restricted by what the law permitted them to do, and also prevented them from doing in certain instances. The dual targets all regulators can focus upon with Yield Sec alongside their mandate are simple: player protection and tax yield.
Working with government and regulators, Yield Sec becomes the catalyst for a truly level, licensed playing field across betting and gaming. With the world’s largest real-time database of black market sites and presence online, Yield Sec transforms blacklist hopes into blocked sites reality and produces sustainable, predictable performance across taxation-raising.
The solution additionally provides for sincere player protection since it removes the easy availability of irresponsible and unwelcome, unlicensed sites from everyone, including minors and those struggling with problems caused by gambling-related harm.
Yield Sec effectively creates a regulatory ring-fence for all licensed and soon-to-be licensed markets, aligning the will of politics and legislation to control the offering, availability, and pervasiveness of betting and gaming, with the reality of monitoring, policing and enforcement.
Handling the black market: All-in or outlaw?
Rather than simply ignore black market operators, it would be wise to suggest a dual strategy for dealing with them: invite them back onshore, in return for unpaid taxes and fines for their historic illicit status, so long as they now go all-in, seek to license and fully engage with the legal, regulated marketplace; or, outlaw them further, in practical terms, and block their presence, across access to their sites, media mentions, payment processing, social media platform influencers, etc, by way of Yield Sec, and allied tools, that regulators and government can now rely upon.
The social and economic consequences should we continue to tolerate the black market in betting and gaming are simple to foresee:
- Declining tax revenues for government and good causes, since unlicensed sites steal taxpayers’ money
- A reduction in social responsibility and a hollow meaning to ‘responsible gaming’ making any aim of player protection an unrealisable hope for the future
- Reduced revenue growth for operators that did comply with the will of lawmakers and the actions of regulators, and gained licensing, yet face continued unfair competition from offshore poaching
Those are not consequences we need to accept nor should, for the continued benefit to players and taxation that betting and gaming can provide when holistically and sustainably managed by governments, regulators, stakeholders and industry, working together.
To read Part One of A shadow across regulated markets click here