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The Chair of the IGSA breaks down why the gaming industry needs regulation

The gaming industry is at a crossroads, and the only ones who can figure out how to guide it have to be impartial. That’s where the International Gaming Standards Association comes in, with its new Chair, Nimish Purohit, laying out what is needed to keep the industry balanced and how to communicate with regulators across the world to make it happen.

We’re joined today by Nimish Purohit, the Chairman of the International Gaming Standards Association (IGSA). Thank you for being with us.

Very excited to be here. Thank you, Kelsey.

You’ve stepped into some big shoes, you were appointed as the Chairman of the IGSA in early 2024, following Earle G. Hall, a good friend of ours. He’s lauded your previous partnership as Chairman and co-Chairman, calling it a two person package. But how do you feel then stepping into this new role?

Earle is a good friend of the industry. And really he’s provided a steady hand over the years as well. One good thing is, after the elections happened, I also have a very good Vice Chair, who has taken on my previous role as Vice Chair as well. So that new one-two punch is Martin Pedak, from Playtech. And he has done a very good job of providing the support that I was traditionally providing early as well.

So that’s kind of the one good thing that’s come in as well. And then the other thing is just from a stability standpoint, as the rest of the world is changing, there’s a good blend of stability that’s been provided by the other board members as well.

So, as an example, we have Syed Hussain, who’s from Oregon State Lottery, and he’s been there for at least as long as I’ve been there as well. And then finally, you know, we’ve had some changes at the staff level as well. So we have the incoming president with Mark Pace, but he’s not a stranger to the industry, or to the organization. So it’s a good blend of continuity, fresh thoughts. But then, people like Earle are only a phone call away. And so are others if you ever want to call on them.

You guys together bring together a lot of gaming industry experience from various different fields as well. It’s good to see that comprehensive approach towards something which is a standard setting association. Speaking of the the industry, you’ve mentioned right now that it’s at an inflection point, why do you say that?

The industry is always changing, right? That’s the one thing that some people say when one constant is changed, right? Just from our perspective, though, what we look at some of the recent topics that have garnered a lot of attention that are kind of like, you know, hey, what are we doing about this? So as that kind of feedback comes in, we’re focusing on two really niche areas that we think we’ve can fill the void from a technical standpoint, and also best practices. So one is ethical AI and artificial systems in general intelligence or artificial intelligence systems.

And the other one is cyber resiliency. And from our perspective, as well, we look at how can we create some standards and best practices, that can be a little bit of a lift and shift into the industry, and mainly to work at the behest of regulators as well, who we very closely partner with. So you know, those are the kind of inflection point where artificial intelligence is only expected to accelerate and its journey side and unfortunately, so is cyber resiliency. But you know, that that makes it a little bit more fun in terms of how can we raise all ships in the industry on those two topics as well.

What’s going to be the balance point between regulation and reining in the bad actors, but allowing them the freedom to still operate and keep this industry alive?

Yeah, it’s a really good question, right? Because I used to be a regulator before as well. And the thing that we look at is how do we partner with those regulatory organizations? So some examples, just to give you a little practical approach that we take as well.

We work closely with the International Association for Gaming Regulators. And then also anytime there’s an industry event – like at ICE as an example, that happened very recently – we have staff that go out and engage with the regulators there and just ask them: “What is it that keeps you up at night?” Right? “What is it that the industry can do to help you? And how can we keep that as a best practice/technical approach and allow you to use technology and more importantly, how do you adequately regulate the technology that does exactly what you’re talking about?”

Blend in one approach where we’re allowing innovation to come in, but on the flip side, they’re also gatekeepers into the integrity of the industry. So it’s a fun challenge, but at the same time one that we take very seriously in filling that specialized lane that we operate in.

How does that then work in terms of interfacing with your other international, let’s say, partner associations or other groups, which are trying to then make sure that we’re setting the proper standards for the industry?

Oh, great, great question. So I’ll say it this way, if things are not done right, in terms of partnership and collaboration, duplication happens, and no one likes duplication. So internally, as well.

Aristocrat Gaming, IGSA,

So I’ll give you an Aristocrat example. So we have other leaders within Aristocrat that go and engage with these organizations. And what we try to do, as well as the rest of the industry does this as well, is we go and talk like: “Hey, what’s going on in associations, like AGM, or what’s going on at AIGA, from an American Gaming Association, or Associated Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, so a blend of kind of a regional approach.

And then the blend of an approach that is done on a global scale as well, for international jurisdictions like Asia, Pacific, etc. And what we try to do is come back and we say: “Alright, we got a handle on this, can you help out with X,Y and Z?”

So artificial intelligence is a perfect example. We can partner with those associations to inform policy at that level. And then we can fill in the void from a technical or best practice standpoint, that the industry has come around and created those ethical best practices for. But yeah, long story short, we do this to make sure that the resources being what they are everywhere else, we’re not duplicating any of the efforts and making sure that it’s synergize as best as it can.

It’s very tough, as you’ve previously said, there was no such thing as an AI standard within gaming. So trying to keep up with that, it must be very difficult for the IGSA to be able to gather all of the information and then accurately put it forward. But what have been the steps so far? And how do you think that they’ve been received? And are they starting to bear fruit?

No, great question. And then thanks for that catch of that.

There’s no such thing as AI (standards) in gaming, in general, when you look at the the best practices and regulations and standards. And that’s where we came together as an industry and said: “Alright, let’s come up with something that we know. Generative AI is skyrocketing in terms of interest, in terms of the pace and evolution. We know systems, in general, around the world are also evolving.

What can the IGSA do? And as we formed the committee, we’ve taken an approach where it’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck with all the manufacturers. We’ve also invited a couple of regulators to be active, there’s actually a couple of tribal regulators who are very technically savvy that have also come in. And then it’s an approach that is omni channel.

So we have AI gaming globally, as well as land-based that’s representative. And what we do is we’ll come up with series of policies and standards, look at what, you know, as an example, what the European Union might have done, or the recent passage as well, and look at areas: Where is data protection a key area? Can we take a risk-based approach? If you do this, what are some of the things that we can implement that are actually testable/auditable from a regulatory standpoint as well.

And then after doing a series of proposed standards, we go in and calibrate with a specialized committee called the Regulatory Compliance Committee for IGSA. And that regulatory committee is actually comprised of regulators. So when we presented this after working on some draft standards, were about four or five months, we got glowing reviews that: “Yep, you are on the right path. We haven’t even thought about this, keep doing what you’re doing.” And it’s good to get that feedback. And I know it’s a little bit of a longer answer.

But when, you know, the bearing fruit part, I’ll just address that too. So we’ve looked at like some common sense things as well, that are very unique to gaming, which is, how do we audit the outcomes of algorithms as well and AI systems? So something as simple as: hey, the industry recommends that let’s do a biannual audit of the output just to make sure that it’s not going outside of its intended norms, objectives of the algorithm capture that and codify that. Little things like that I think they can go a long way and they still sit within the paradigm of regulated gaming products.

Well, and that’s the the part that saves us from meeting Sarah Connor right?

Yeah, exactly.

Now, just to duck away from AI real quick because I know that it’s a very interesting topic, and I know you know a lot about it. But I just wanted to look at the omni channel side because you mentioned that and specifically within your background and your current position, obviously within Aristocrat, do you think that that helps? Is that more advantageous? And then to be able to help IGSA? Because you’ve got that insight,you’re on the ground, do you understand everything that’s happening, you know exactly what people need.

It’s a very good observation. So from an enterprise standpoint, my role is at the technology level, from an enterprise standpoint. And I partner with all three of our business verticals. So that’s Gaming – which is our land-based business, Anaxi – which is our iGaming and enterprise systems, or back of the house systems as some people call it, that vertical as well. And then we have Pixel United, which is our free to play. So even though it’s not regulated, from an omni channel slots philosophy, a lot of time though, that content goes back and forth across those verticals, as well as it does for a lot of different manufacturers.

So what we try to do is, like I’m a voice of the industry back into those partners and product creators that are looking at the capabilities that they’re putting in and just say: “Hey, just FYI, here’s kind of a direction that the industry is thinking of taking, just keep that in mind as you go through the next level.” And vice versa. I’m also a voice of all of those business partners back into the IGSA.

And making sure that they also understand that that’s not really quite how it works, or: “Yeah, that’s spot on, go into it”. So it’s kind of like a two-way calibration, just do to use that beat-up word there. So it does help quite a bit.

Within the various aspects of gaming, they’re very different. And they continue to be evolving, even though some of them are integrating a little bit more as we see in the Philippines. But land-based, AI gaming, sports betting, even the social gaming side, as you mentioned, with Pixel, what aspect is most difficult at this point?

I, generally speaking, and my this is going both off my experience before as a regulator and also as a now kind of a voice of industry at IGSA, I found land-based, believe it or not, to be one of the tougher verticals to both regulate and to be regulated. And it’s a simple reason: because you’ve got the software that’s supposed to be designed to be on the floor for a while. But at the same time, it’s the only vertical that also has hardware requirements. And the other two are kind of a ‘bring your own device’, where there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of entry criteria, device coverages and things like that.

So as we look at the overall component level, regulation and the component level, technical standards and blending that for a product that then stays on the floor for a while, and is built with that in mind, it comes closer to more of a car philosophy: that the car is going to be there. So quality comes into play, all these other things come into play as well.

But then looking at the AI side, do you think that that’s going to be implemented more across the iGaming, the sports betting sides? Is that more of a concern for trying to lay out those standards immediately, because sports betting exploded across the US, we’re seeing another explosion within Asia. LatinAm, obviously. What do we need to be looking out for?

I would say that the IGSA is focused on the algorithmic fairness. That’s kind of what we bring everything back to. And then aligning that with the responsible gaming tenants as well. Is there something that the algorithm is building in where the regulations don’t exist, who really need to put something in? So from a sports betting example: Are there AI systems that are potentially allowing cheats to proliferate in the system, and they’re not being monitored, and the risk profiles are not being created? So having a standard that accompanies that, saying: We must, as an industry, embrace the fact that we do need monitoring for these types of bad actors.

In those kinds of situations where AI can actually hit the ground running right before even the regulations can keep up. And vice versa, you know, it will come over in those types of arenas quite fast. In some instances, as you called about, it already does exist there. But other ones, I think the challenge ends up being what I’ve observed as a Slack Effect, where the regulations are usually behind the technology. And that’s generally seen as: “Yep, not allowed”. And as they start to carve out a path to get into that arena, it ends up being a very non-straightforward path of getting into that that market.

Thank you so much. And yet again, congratulations on your role as the Chairman of the International Gaming Standards Association. This is Nimish Purohit, the Chairman of the IGSA. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you, Kelsey. Had fun talking to you.

Kelsey Wilhelm
Kelsey Wilhelmhttps://agbrief.com
Kelsey Wilhelm is a broadcast, print journalist and editor based in Asia for over 15 years. Focused on content creation, management, cross-cultural exchange and interviews for multi-lingual productions. Writing focus on gaming, business, politics, culture and heritage, events and celebrities, subcultures, music, film, art and fashion. Some of Kelsey's specialties are: editing, writing, copy creation, multi-lingual content production, cross-cultural exchange, content creation and management for Asian markets.



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