In a world where there are hundreds of gambling licences each with their own unique and potentially contradictory requirements, it has become increasingly difficult for online gambling operators to ensure they comply with the stipulations of their licences.
We spoke to Ian Sims, founder of compliance monitoring company Rightlander, to learn more about the challenges facing the industry and how Ian has morphed his years of affiliate marketing experience into a leading compliance product.
GP: Ian, you had a long and successful career in affiliate marketing, how did you pivot from driving traffic to creating the Rightlander.com compliance platform?
Ian: I developed some tech to watch my landing pages to see when they changed or died or lost relevance. Each week I would get a page of screenshots back which made it really easy to spot where the customer journey was broken or could be improved. That was the foundation for Rightlander so when I sold my affiliate network, I decided to develop that out. Compliance became a big thing while that was happening, so it was a natural sidestep.
GP: Could you clarify what it means to be “compliant” in the iGaming space?
Ian: Being compliant means recognising that we offer an addictive form of entertainment which can exploit human vulnerabilities and then taking action to ensure that we minimise the impact. That might be through education, ethical marketing, or appropriate messaging but in my opinion, it is not about removing the ability for people to make their own choices to protect the vulnerable.
GP: Given the nuances and intricacies of various regulatory bodies, is it possible to set a single compliance standard? If not, how does Rightlander.com navigate these individual market requirements?
Ian: I don’t think it is possible. Addiction triggers can be different for different people. For some it is boredom, for others it’s lifestyle, for others it might be something else and as a result, you need to find different solutions. The common denominator is that an addict has to want to stop and not all addicts do. But that being said, from a marketing angle there are some common ideas to minimise the risk and impact, and most of that is just common sense. The trouble is that a lot of marketers don’t really understand the impact of what they are doing so you need to have guidelines and create conversations that provoke them into thinking about it.
GP: The internet is a massive and evolving ecosystem. How does the Rightlander.com platform cover the bases you spoke about while addressing the thousands of pages of content that are added to the web daily?
Ian: It’s impossible to police the web, but it is possible to remove a significant amount of threat if you know the most likely places to look. When you work in a vertical like gambling, our crawler can recognise relevant content fairly easily but social platforms and closed message platforms present significant challenges because of their transient nature. Technology has to constantly evolve but also, technology alone isn’t always the solution. You need the right people to back it up and often to investigate the data that has been found. Rightlander isn’t so much a data provider as a massive time saver for a person with a responsibility to ensure their affiliates perform compliant marketing.
GP: On Rightlander.com your intro video refers to the fact that online gambling operators are responsible for the messaging affiliates use in connection with their brands. Why is this and what is non-compliant marketing messaging?
Ian: It is the logical approach for a regulator who has limited resources. Someone needs to be accountable and if an operator chooses to market via affiliates, they do arguably have to take some of the responsibility. Affiliates are essentially a sales team, and while not employed by the company per se, they are representing them in an official capacity. Affiliate licensing will happen in some jurisdictions, which, no doubt, operators will welcome, and I agree that is a sensible move from an accountability standpoint. However, it will take time and resources and of course, the industry will have to foot the cost.
GP: In practical terms how do the services that Rightlander.com offer benefit the online gambling operators – looking at both the short term (day to day operations, reputation protection) and long term (market growth, brand awareness etc)?
Ian: Compliant marketing is mandatory in many countries now, so we have standard sets of reports for most countries that cover the essentials, but we also do a lot of customised reports depending on what needs the client has. Sentiment, PPC monitoring for non-compliant messages of brand bidding, investigative services for serious issues, monitoring of subscription content, brand coverage and brand protection monitoring are all services we can and do provide for individual clients. Image monitoring, discovering old logos and even monitoring video scripts on YouTube are all requests which come up, but the technology is very versatile.
GP: Does the compliance magic that Rightlander weaves also have a tangible benefit for the player?
Ian: No-one on the licensed side of the industry wants a problem player and the problems often start with the marketing messages that prey on the trait of human greed or exploitation of the vulnerable so obviously, the more items we can help operators to remove, the better. However, my main concern right now is that over-regulation will remove the fun. It’s almost like politicians see that as the answer but in my opinion, it will push players to unregulated operators and undo all the good that has been achieved.
GP: Looking to the future, what do you foresee being integral to the success and maturation of the online gambling market?
Ian: Instilling some common-sense into regulation, marketing, and the product. For operators, we need a shift in mindset from getting punters thinking of gambling as a way to make money to instead, thinking of it as a form of entertainment. For regulators, they need to start thinking about not what to prevent but how to control it. When the whole industry recognises the damage that bonusing and incentivising have done, I think things will start to improve dramatically. However, the problem is that the regulators and politicians cannot give them the safe environment to do that yet because everyone knows that the unlicensed operators will just jump in and take advantage.
GP: In closing, what does the future hold for Rightlander.com? Are there any exciting new products and developments you can share with us?
Ian: Rightlander’s USP is that we are driven by our clients. I always wanted Rightlander to be a different thing to different people rather than a set-in-stone set of products. The buzzword I think is ‘agile’! That makes it remarkably interesting to run but also challenging in that you never quite know what is next!
An Eye Opening Conversation
When considering a new online casino to play at we often look at bonuses, wagering and online reputation. Compliance practices are not high our list of considerations however thanks to Ian we now have a clearer understanding of its importance in ensuring we have a safe and secure gambling experience. Playing at a compliant casino ensures they remain above board with their marketing practices, retain their regional licences and we have the peace of mind of gambling with the protection of our local gambling authority.
- online casino marketing
- affiliate marketing
- reputation management
- igaming compliance
- online gambling
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