Exclusive interview to Karen Sierra-Hughes

"Our global experts at GLI work very hard to stay abreast of developments worldwide"

Pictured: Gaming Laboratories International's Director of LatAm and Caribbean Business, Karen Sierra-Hughes, with the rest of the GLI team and Argentinian Gaming authorities at ICE Totally Gaming 2018.
Reading time 4:48 min
This week, Gaming Laboratories International's Director of LatAm and Caribbean Business Karen Sierra-Hughes spoke about the company's participation at ICE Totally Gaming 2018, the opportunities she perceives in Colombia now that the country has embraced online sports betting regulation, and what the future will hold in terms of growth for GLI.

This year, the company had a double presence at ICE through the GLI and NMi stands. How do you describe that experience? What conclusions do you draw from this edition of the fair? What were the highlights?

We are pleased to have the NMi team as part of GLI. This expands our capacity and our capabilities even further, particularly in the fast-growing iGaming sector, and our clients at ICE were very receptive to the introduction to our joint strategy.

As far as the rest of ICE is concerned, three common themes emerged in our discussions with clients from Latin America and the Caribbean. First, regulators and suppliers alike were inquisitive about iGaming in Colombia and how our GLI-19 Standard on online gaming could help the certification process. As you may recall, GLI-19 was developed with input from key stakeholders around the world and is an amalgamation of online gaming best-practices. For more information on GLI-19, we encourage people to visit our website, where they can download a white paper, view a video, and download the standard itself.

Along these same lines, attendees were very curious to learn most about the status of online gaming and sports betting regulations across Latin America and the Caribbean. This is perhaps too long a conversation for the limits of this newsletter; however, our consultants are prepared to help regulators, suppliers, and operators understand the latest developments and their potential impact.

Last, regulators were interested in gaining greater insight in the latest technologies both for land-based and online gaming and sports betting, which certainly was a natural line of questioning, given the incredible exhibits that populated the ICE tradeshow floor. This is truly an exciting time.
Parallel to the exhibition, panels focused on the Latin American industry were developed, in which the regulators and entities that group the operators of Colombia and Mexico participated, for example.

While GLI’s Latin America team did not speak on any panels at ICE, we did attend the conferences, and there were several points of discussion that stood out to us. First was the need for a greater understanding of the size of the Mexican market and how, even with limited regulations, the professionalization of the industry is thriving and growing steadily. Next was Brazil, which is always a hot topic of conversation where the conference centered on the status of the Lotex project as well as further clarifications on the future of sports betting legislation and the operation models that are under consideration by the regulator, which will require further study. Last, because Colombia recently published their online gaming revenue numbers with additional data regarding market particularities, this raised additional interest in the jurisdiction. We applaud Colombian regulators for providing so much transparency and certainty about their processes and requirements.
With the regulation of online sports betting, Colombia has become an interesting market for many operators and suppliers from other countries with strong regulations in this segment. GLI is one of the authorized laboratories in this country. What aspects of the process of obtaining the license to operate online sports betting in Colombia do you think needs to be improved?

Colombia is doing a lot of things right, which is why, as you mentioned, so many operators and suppliers from all over the world are interested in Colombia. The online regulation and licensing process is not only for sports betting – it also includes the operation of casino games and event wagering with some exceptions. It’s important to understand that COLJUEGOS issues licenses only to operators, not to vendors, and the process has a range of financial, technical and administrative requirements and evidence of compliance that has put the country on a strong path for success in guaranteeing the game is fair for everyone.

It was challenging at the beginning for companies interested in the jurisdiction to understand that full compliance with all the requirements was necessary to be able to present the request of license before the regulator, which includes the certification process. The transparency of the licensing process as well as the open communication that the regulator has with the industry, created the confidence for operators to do the investment with the confidence that a license will be granted as long as proof of compliance with all the requirements is provided.

COLJUEGOS previously worked on a draft regulation modifying the online gaming requirements, which includes the allowance of Virtual Sports and Racing Betting, international shared liquidity, scratch games, keno as well as live studio casino games. With this, we evidence a continuing effort of the regulatory entity to increase the interest of the industry in the jurisdiction and to provide more options for operators already licensed in the jurisdiction.

It will be interesting to hear the licensed operators’ opinion on what can be improved when they reach their first year of operation, as we consider it a prudential timeframe to do an evaluation of the current operating market and its challenges.

The Colombian regulator expects to have 20 authorized online operators for the World Cup. Do you consider that the regulations are strong enough to support this number of companies? What are the main queries that you receive from operators interested in Colombia?

Regarding regulations, they were designed for an open license market operation, and we believe they fit the objectives that the regulator clearly outlined for the legalization and regulation of online gaming in Colombia.

Regarding the queries we receive from operators and vendors interested in Colombia, there are several lingering questions. First, they realize they need to gain a greater understanding of the operator’s licensing model, because Coljuegos will only accept the operator’s certification discussed before.

On the operator side, initially there were doubts about the need or not to have an agreement with a local land-based operators to achieve a license in Colombia, which is not the case for this jurisdiction, and we helped our clients understand that is not a requirement.

On the supplier content side, they have questions about how to satisfy the need to integrate their games and sports betting content platform approvals to each operators’ certification when a commercial agreement is reached.

We also helped clients understand what are the requirements for the Inspection System (also known as SAFE in European jurisdictions) and what third-party companies are offering the service.

Online real event sports betting can take place in commercial locations, with certain requirements and there is a growing interest on understanding the requirements for those.
Everything related with the methods of payment and integration.

Last, we discussed at length the key differences between the Colombia regulation and the Spanish and US jurisdictional requirements to access multiple certifications in a single submission.

Online gaming is a dynamic field, and our global experts work very hard to stay abreast of developments worldwide, so that we can give our best advice to regulators, operators, and suppliers. We strongly encourage businesses to contact us for the latest information today, not wait for the next tradeshow.

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