Many believe the gambling industry across the globe is at a crossroads right now in all areas of its business, and there are two options to choose from for the future – chaos or sustainability.

Taking part in the panel entitled: ‘Chaos or Sustainability: The Choice is in our Hands’ – sponsored by KPMG – on day one of CasinoBeats Summit, Richard Schuetz, CEO of Schuetz LLC, explored what’s wrong currently with the gambling industry, to which he believes there’s ‘a total lack of harmonisation’ across the industry in the European Union, the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Speaking on the Betsson Group sponsored Products & Innovation track, Schuetz said: “I think there’s a crisis in the US, I think there’s a crisis in the UK, and I also think there’s a crisis in the EU. There’s a total lack of harmonisation. You can go to the United States, operate in one state, then go across the state line and the rules are all different.

“The internal controls could be different, you may have to have a separate server, if you look at how Tennessee does it versus how New Jersey does it, its apples to oranges. That’s a system that’s not conducive to a strong industry being able to develop. 

“There’s regulatory failures throughout… We have a whole bunch of regulators that have no earthly idea what they’re regulating. In the United States, they appoint politicians to become regulators. I notice in the UK, they pick people who have experience with public utilities because I guess that gives them some insight that they’re going to need in order to understand.

“I always laugh at that because I use the example of how would you like to go for heart surgery, knowing that the person that regulates that process, is a politician’s friend? The person that wrote the internal controls for your heart procedure is a lawyer. I’m just startled by the fact we don’t use people with industry experience to regulate the industry.”

Alongside fellow panellists San Diego State University professor and Endowed Chair, Katherine Spilde, and Praxis Consulting and Advisory managing director, Steven Myers, Schuetz believes a solution to bring sustainability to the gambling industry is the Gaming Knowledge Center.

Spilde explained that the GKC is based on the Sycuan Institute On Tribal Gaming, and aims to deliver sustainability through three key agendas – evidence-based research, teaching knowledge of the industry, while acting as a resource for public policy issues.

She revealed that the GKC will deliver on these agendas by conducting data-driven, evidence-based research on gaming issues; developing programs and materials to encourage globally sensitive modelling and policy; and facilitating successful government-industry-community relations for informed choices and productive discourse around legislation.

Further measures would include encouraging and developing global gaming standards in service, regulation, responsibility and policy; and gathering and analysing gaming industry data from around the world to utilise a best practice approach 

Spilde added: “Gambling is exploding globally in all forms. Certainly in the US, we have an explosion of online and sports betting happening state to state. Some of it is reactionary, ‘the neighbour state is doing it so we’re going to do it’. That harmonisation really is a big challenge.

“There’s so many concerns that governments have that I think a lot of this type of academic and rigorous data-driven and evidence-based research could really help and I would love to share our model and honour the tribe. I’ve actually worked with over 180 tribes individually in the United States and I have a lot of models which we can draw from and I would love to share that with everybody that is still expanding globally.”

Regarding how the GKC would work, Myers said the most important thing that needs to be established is ‘trust’ between the industry, the government and the academics, as well as to get a debate following, especially with strategic partners.

He stated: “The Gaming Knowledge Center is about providing some harmonisation. Whilst Europe tells us explicitly that harmonization is not the way forward, we believe that it is in terms of best practice, in terms of the gaming industry, and using evidence-based research for everyone’s benefit is important.

“Of course, data is important, particularly between operators, data-sharing is quite often a difficult thing to ask, but we hope over time that will happen. Saying that there’s a lot of data out there at the moment, it just needs cleaning up, and we can really make an effort to do that and carry out some good empirical research with regards to it.

“We want to give a balanced, global view of success and failure. At the end of the day, you need to know sometimes what’s wrong and why, but equally, why success happens and what makes it a success. Sustainability is a risk at the moment within the gaming industry.”

The GKC would operate on a ‘spoke and wheel’ concept with information flowing from the hub, out and back again to its three founding centers in Europe, the UK and the US. Each centre will be specialised in a certain area and will share its information with the other centres.  

Potential research areas and collaborative working include strategy, suitability, sustainability, diversity, regulation/legal, responsible gaming/problem gambling, economic impact, taxation, and data analytics.

In terms of funding, Myers noted that this can be achieved through philanthropy, the industry, regulators and government, as well as through an endowment. A university ‘Chair’ sponsorship named after a renowned individual(s) in the sector, a knowledge repository (physical and online), individual research projects, and global gaming census sales were also named as possible funding sources.

As for how the centres will operate, they will do so through strict integrity and suitability criteria, independence at the heart of centre research, an advisory board, visiting faculty, and a wider pool of research grants as centres become more integrated.

Funding proposals for the GKC are currently scheduled to take place later this year in the autumn/fall, and the first executing training programs are expected to take place in London next year, as well as a preliminary gaming research report.

Schuetz concluded: “We’re trying to give something back. We’re trying to create a legacy that will be worthwhile to this industry. I think it’s imperative to understand that really what we’re trying to do is create sustainability. Right now, this industry has not done a very good job of creating sustainability. It’s creating instability.”

“The second thing and this is the most important thing we can say, of all the products that we generate, the most important is trust.”

The CasinoBeats Summit 2021 conference and exhibition on 14-15 July takes place in an innovative integrated live and digital format. A select audience of senior executives will attend in person at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta, while a global audience of industry professionals will participate in the event online. 

The conference agenda focuses on the next generation of slots and products, key established and emerging markets around the world, leadership in igaming, and marketing and affiliation. The programme also includes the inaugural Game Developer Awards ceremony. 

Register for a free online pass for the event at the CasinoBeats Summit website.