NAGRA director explains why it is “high time” for intercontinental regulatory forums

US and EU flag
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When regulators are establishing a framework for gambling in North America, it has long been said that communication and cooperation are key to success.

It is natural to lean on experience when establishing a new regulated gambling framework, much like we all learn from more experienced people in both our personal and professional lives. 

As North American markets have been established there has been plenty of discussion about what state regulators can learn from their European counterparts, given there are much more mature markets on the other side of the Atlantic. 

But now, there is a move to crystalize that relationship and formalize those discussions as the North American Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA) has signed a partnership to collaborate with the Gambling Regulators European Forum (GREF).

As part of the partnership, the two regulatory bodies will hold meetings, invite members to speak at annual conferences and jointly host seminars discussing emerging regulatory risk threats in both North America and Europe. 

Ryan Winfield, the Executive Director of NAGRA, spoke exclusively with SBC Americas about the collaboration and what the body seeks to learn from GREF. 

“We’re all regulators, we’re all regulating the same industry and we’ve all been exposed to all sorts of different things,” Winfield explained. “So we thought it was high time to get those discussions going between the different parts of the world that are all in the same industry, and it just seemed like it was a natural fit, that we started having those discussions to really get everybody in the same room, and start collaborating.”

As part of the deal, NAGRA and GREF will attend each other’s conferences to have discussions on regulatory developments on both continents and share information on best practices. 

This will include joint board meetings in 2024 and the relationship kicked off as Tim Miller, Director at the UK Gambling Commission and GREF board member attended the NAGRA 2023 conference in Boise, Idaho

Winfield explained that this collaboration will only help defeat bad actors in the gaming industry worldwide.

“We’re all playing in the same sandbox, so to speak, as far as vendors go, as far as things that are being offered in terms of gaming in the different parts of the world. It just seemed like a natural conversation to have where regulators on this side of the pond are having the same conversations with folks in Europe and learning from each other and hopefully working together. 

“We’re all here to essentially ensure the safety and the regulation of the gaming industry, because there’s obviously plenty of room for bad characters in this industry, whenever you’re talking about those large sums of money, you know, think things can go bad.”

The risks that bad actors can have on the industry are existential; any reputational damage that gaming gathers is a risk to its future, given its heavily regulated nature. 

It is, therefore, of paramount importance to ensure that, on a state, national and global level, regulators are communicating between each other to keep on top of issues and stamp out any bad actors. 

Because, Winfield noted, if players cannot have confidence that the operators and products they engage with are legit, trust will be eroded and it could lead to the industry’s downfall. 

“If customers don’t have assurance, and they don’t have the peace of mind that what they’re engaging in, in the gaming industry is on the straight and narrow and on the up and up, they are not going to want to participate in those gaming activities, and then we’re all out of a job. 

“That’s the whole point is to create that bigger audience and create that bigger group of folks that can get together and work together and collaborate together. That is what I’m actually hoping to get out of this is to learn from each other, and work together.”

So as NAGRA and GREF aim to crystalize their relationship in 2024, the regulatory body aims to widen its global reach throughout the year. 

Attending and hosting conferences is high on the agenda as well as having conversations with other regulatory bodies to ensure gaming has a safer, more secure future. 

“We will try to expand our exposure as far as having those conversations and trying to extend that olive branch to those other associations that have more of a discussion,” Winfield concluded.

“I think it’s no longer just a North American thing or a European thing, I think it’s going to be a global thing. And I think it’s important for us to start collaborating and to start having conversations in order to remain current in this industry, not only for our jurisdictions on this side of the pond but also expanding into that global market.”