Earlier this year, the UK Gambling Commission set out a series of new measures which are expected to change the ways in which players engage with the online casino and slots sector. But according to Ondrej Lapides – CEO of Tom Horn Gaming – these restrictions are an ‘intrinsic part of natural evolution of the market’ and can lead to more innovative features.
Speaking to CasinoBeats, Lapides outlined why market players will have to remain compliant with new restrictions in order to ‘stay in the game’, before highlighting why regulators must strike a balance when introducing new regulations.
CasinoBeats: 2021 started off with the UK Gambling Commission announcing sweeping regulatory changes for the online casino and slots industry. Has this changed your approach to the UK market at all?
Ondrej Lapides: All regulators constantly seek to enhance player protection to mitigate any risks stemming from gambling activities. Everyone agrees that gaming experience must be fun but safe. The package of new measures announced by the UKGC presents the market incumbents with a number of new tough measures they will have to implement in order to stay in the game.
While some of them will certainly make the player experience less exciting and intensive, they will also give players more control over their gaming habits, reducing binge play and risks of gambling related harm.
We agree that losses should not be disguised as wins and the player should be able to get properly familiarised with all the features and bonuses featured in the game. Bonuses should not be used to deceive the player. They should enhance the overall player experience without misleading customers in terms of their chances of winning.
With every new game, we have always carefully examined regulatory requirements in all our operational markets. Therefore, the latest changes in the UK regulation on online gaming will not affect our future development in any significant way.
We believe entertainment-driven games with fair yet innovative features will keep players coming back to play slot games, therefore we always make sure our games deliver on this.
CB: Do you think the changes were accelerated by the pandemic? Are regulators still trying to find that balance between entertainment and RG measures?
OL: Preparing for regulation of new markets or re-regulation of existing markets requires patience and focus. It is a long-term process based on appropriate strategies. Regulatory changes are an intrinsic part of natural evolution of the market. The pandemic has therefore not been the major driver behind new measures introduced in developed jurisdictions like the UK.
On the other hand, in unregulated markets it might have pushed towards the more speedy introduction of a regulatory framework. It is important that regulators work in tandem with operators and providers to shape the future of new regulated markets in a way that provides a level playing field for all companies whilst ensuring safe and transparent entertainment for players.
CB: Should we expect these new regulations in the UK to precede similar changes in some of the other major gaming jurisdictions?
OL: We are already seeing other countries implement similar regulatory changes. More developed countries such as Germany or Sweden follow in the footsteps of the UK introducing more severe alterations of their regulatory framework focusing on the further consumer protection.
Elsewhere, countries might embrace a different approach in revamping their national gambling policies. The final set of regulatory measures, gaming standards, product requirements and legislative processes depends on a number of factors ranging from the national gambling strategies, cultural values, political climate to interest of operators seeking to join a specific marketplace.
CB: Is lower stake, more entertainment driven content the future for slots on a global level?
OL: To ensure a well functioning gambling market one must take into consideration a number of aspects and work closely with all stakeholders before introducing the regulatory framework. I believe that regulators always try to work in favour of creating a safe player environment. I’m not, however, convinced they share the same belief we have in the power of entertainment and excitement gambling provides.
Gambling products are designed to stimulate the senses. Excitement, suspense, anticipation of big wins stem from a mixture of well-balanced features, game mechanics, math models, visual and audio representation of the game. Remove one of the ingredients and the whole experience is ruined.
Naturally, with measures such as limiting the max bet, the dynamics will change and the conditions will be less appealing to players who tend to wager larger amounts. For them the thrill will be gone.
Tighter regulations might contribute to the rise of a troubling development in which the unlicensed markets continue to grow, providing desired excitement to those who cannot find it within the regulated gambling space.
CB: What steps is Tom Horn taking to produce innovative and creative content in 2021?
OL: Data and analytics are fundamental to any decision making in our company. They help us understand player habits and anticipate what new features will be at the forefront of their interest. It is therefore, no surprise that our game development will even more heavily depend on a data-driven approach, helping us deliver more player-focused games with unique features.
Localised content has always been part of our business strategy and 2021 will see the production ramp-up of innovative and compelling games targeting players in specific regions.
In the following twelve months, we aim to accelerate our expansion across existing and new regulated markets and I believe that increased investment in technology, compliance and business development will enable us to achieve or even surpass our growth objectives.