Interview with Travis Foley, CTO/EVP North America at BMM Testlabs

"Most operators see that having an online business is not cannibalizing their land-based business"

Travis Foley, CTO/EVP North America at BMM Testlabs.
2021-10-04
United States
Reading time 6:58 min
As BMM celebrates its 40 anniversary at G2E, Travis Foley tells Yogonet how the company has adapted its services and knowledge across markets and products. He describes how new technology implies new regulations and challenges for the industry, as well as what regulators must take into account within the digital segment. Moreover, he describes the growing importance of emerging markets such as Latin America, and the risks of cybercrime for casinos and operators.

What products and services is BMM planning to showcase and focus on at G2E Las Vegas? What are G2E attendants going to find at the company's booth this year?

This year BMM celebrates 40 years of services to the gaming industry that began with lottery and pari-mutuel systems in 1981. And over those 40 years, the company has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience across every possible gaming product, both land-based and digital, for every possible market around the world.

Today we operate 15 locations around the world which we feel perfectly addresses market needs for testing and compliance and we serve over 470 gaming jurisdictions. We have done well establishing consistency of service and test quality all across our operating footprint, and service customers 24 hours a day, 365 days per annum. 

At G2E this year BMM will once again be showcasing this knowledge and experience of our great team which makes BMM the best choice to take your product, any product, to any and every gaming market in the world. For suppliers, entering new and emerging markets can be difficult. From understanding the regulatory requirements to achieving approval for your gaming products, BMM is the best partner for success.

Will the company participate in any educational activities within the expo? Which key topics will you address?

Over the past 19 months, the industry has faced unprecedented challenges but there have also been some surprises during this time. The rapid growth of the online markets in Europe, North America, and Latin America as well as the efforts to implement technology to create a safer casino environment during this time, has been a welcome surprise. Not only are land-based and digital products evolving, but there are eSports, Daily Fantasy Sports, and Skill-based gaming products, as well as emerging AI and Crypto technologies.

For the regulator and the industry, this means new technology to understand and include new regulations to write and old regulations to update, and potentially new definitions of gambling within them – a regulatory challenge for sure. Luckily, companies like BMM are out there supporting regulators and helping them think through these issues, based on world's best practices.

BMM's vision is to protect both the public and the gaming industry. Everything we do is focused on supporting both those stakeholders. The best way we do that is to continue to be the best gaming lab in the world. That is our benchmark.

What are the company's objectives and expectations for the G2E expo? What does this return to in-person events mean for the company, especially to Las Vegas and such a prestigious event?

The pandemic has forced global industries and global companies such as BMM to shift the way that we interact internally as well as externally with our regulatory, supplier, and operator partners. BMM responded to this shift very early on in the pandemic by providing a number of online webinars such as our One 2 One series covering topics which provided insights into how gaming industry stakeholders have adapted to the pandemic's challenges by reimagining their products, solutions and operations. Given the inability to provide in-person events like G2E, these webinars provided manufacturers a platform to update the industry on their key products and share their insights into emerging technology solutions. 

While BMM worked diligently to provide a new and unique way to connect and engage with industry partners across the globe, the inability to meet in person made it difficult to continue or develop those personal relationships that are key to the success of the industry. At G2E we look forward to seeing many partners in-person to share our great understanding of technical compliance and regulatory requirements as well as our support for our customers to access any regulated markets in the world that makes BMM the best lab choice.

BMM has expanded its working jurisdictions, earning approval in Ontario last month. Could you share further insights into new and emerging iGaming markets and your work there as a laboratory?

The rapid growth of the digital markets while the land-based operators have been closed or restricted has been a welcomed surprise. In many cases, such as in the United States, the pace at which state legislatures have enacted enabling laws has accelerated greatly after many years of failed attempts to expand gambling opportunities into the digital space.

The most challenging aspect of this emergence has been the expectations on the time from when enabling language has been put in place to actual go live to the public. This has placed a significant burden on existing or newly formed regulatory agencies to put in place regulatory frameworks to ensure the integrity and accountability of these operations. 

There's so much going on in this segment for regulators to deal with. Not only are digital products evolving, but there are new challenges emerging in the gaming industry such AI, Block Chain and Crypto technologies that can play in part in the digital space. For the regulator and the industry, this means new technology to understand and include new regulations to write and old regulations to update, and potentially new definitions of gambling within them – a regulatory challenge for sure. Luckily, companies like BMM are out there supporting regulators and helping them think through these issues, based on world's best practice.

We are seeing extraordinary demand in both Europe and the U.S. for certified digital products across online casino, online poker and sports betting. While there seems to be an underlying growth rate of about 10-12% in this segment, with COVID-19 closing or restricting so many land-based operations it feels like this rate has doubled. Luckily, most operators see that having an online business is not cannibalizing their land-based business, so it's all in. 

Given our experience and capabilities, we are finding more and more clients shifting from their current lab to BMM in both Europe and the U.S., or at least splitting the work in a balanced way, enabling better overall testing performance and risk management. BMM Europe's digital business has grown 1000% in the last 5 years, emanating from a good base. BMM North America's digital business grew 300% in the last 12 months, coming from a strong base.

What role does the Latam market play within BMM's operations? What are the main regulatory issues in the region? As some previously undeveloped markets begin to see their gambling operations expand, what are the main emerging points to tackle from a regulatory point of view?

The Latin American market, much like the United States market, has been very limited with its involvement with the online or digital gambling industry. BMM believes that Latin America is now a very important market for suppliers and operators that are looking to take advantage of growth opportunities as part of their overall strategic plans. With the establishment of regulatory frameworks for digital gambling in countries such as Colombia, Chile, Panama and parts of Argentina we have seen many European-based suppliers and operators looking to enter or entering these markets.

The Latin America market is a key operation within BMM's global footprint and is managed by an excellent leadership group led by Marzia Turrini which has been able to make progressive and incremental changes that have resulted in significant growth in the Latin America market for BMM. With this leadership group also responsible for the oversight of our European operations it has provided for a seamless transition for European-based suppliers to expand their global footprint into the Latin America Digital markets as they are established. 

Suppliers need to be ahead of the market access curve, particularly in Latin America and the United States to take advantage of the growth and emergence of expanded and new markets for the digital space. If you are not already engaged with a lab that can take you to these markets now, such as BMM, your competitors will have a significant advantage.

As land-based casinos begin relaunching operations over the world, how is the pandemic affecting the regulatory landscape? What new compliance services are needed by the gaming industry under these circumstances?

The global pandemic not only caused land-based casinos to close due to the concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) but it also forced millions of employees to shift to remote work to accommodate government social distancing directives. Like every other industry, this has had a tremendous impact on the gaming industry and is likely to result in a new model of remote employee for gaming suppliers, operators and regulators. This new model will continue to challenge how regulators engage with suppliers and operators and has already witnessed the rise in threats that will challenge the regulatory responsibility and response. Amidst this global phenomenon, we have witnessed an extreme surge in cybercrime activity.

The FBI has reported an exponential increase in cybercrime activity in 2020 and it is anticipated to grow at an even greater increase in 2021. The gaming industry has seen firsthand the impact of this criminal activity with a number of land-based casinos having to close following reopening due to cyber-attacks. Security breaches, such as loss of personal and financial data, can cause immense reputational and financial harm to casino operators and regulators. Regulators must reevaluate and constantly evolve their regulations and minimum internal controls for operators to minimize gaps within the security infrastructures especially given the new environment of remote workforce.

In this area, BMM has been asked about how to best regulate or improve the data security of operations to ensure the appropriate mitigation best practices are in place. We reviewed the market and its service providers and found many of them offering the same services and ultimately competing on price, not quality – most saying the same things. We crafted a different value proposition, specializing in particular areas of cyber defense and established partnerships with key providers. These partnerships along with BMM's regulatory and gaming technology expertise are prepared to assist regulators in how best to manage this threat as well as provide support and compliance services in this area which is unparalleled to services unfamiliar with the unique regulatory frameworks and technology of the gaming industry.

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