ACGCS: New industry hires lack compliance expertise – we can help change that

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Imagine spending over a decade in law enforcement, studiously observing a whole raft of regulations across financial crime and human trafficking, then entering a new industry to find a lack of compliance training and certification opportunities. 

Well, that is the story of Dr. Ian Messenger, founder and CEO of the Association of Certified Gaming Compliance Specialists (ACGCS). Established in 2022, the ACGCS was borne out of Messenger’s experience having entered the gaming industry in Canada the year prior, only to notice that many new professionals lacked the required level of compliance knowledge. 

Messenger, a Brit who previously worked at the U.K. National Crime Agency and international banks in Canada, had noticed there was a plethora of compliance expertise from other sectors, but as new people entered gaming, they lacked the industry-specific proficiency. 

He told SBC Americas: “I was seeing a lot of new hires come into the industry, who may have worked in compliance elsewhere. They understood anti-money laundering, they understood fraud, but they didn’t really have an understanding of some of the complexities of the gaming industry. Things like sports betting, odds manipulation, security, surveillance and responsible gaming. 

“So, myself and a few others got together and, using our practitioner and academic  experience, we launched the ACGCS with the intention of building out a one-stop-shop gaming compliance certification.” 

The ACGCS offers training courses and education programs for the casino industry to better equip their staff to tackle the intricacies of gaming regulation compliance. It offers a 35-hour self-study course online, the Certified Gaming Compliance Specialist (CGCS), as well as  online training via a partnership with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Messenger explained to SBC that the partnership with the university has attracted the attention of several gaming regulators: “This makes us the only training organization in this space that has an academic partnership and we found that this partnership has really been interesting to gaming regulators. Several regulators have send their staff through out  program this year” 

“We run not just a public version of the course but we often run bespoke closed sessions for gaming regulators.” 

The ACGCS also sought to address another gaming risk – Human Trafficking. The association partnered in 2023 with the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking to launch the industry’s first – and free – Human Trafficking Risks in Casino Gaming certificate.

Customers of the ACGCS include casino operators, employees, gaming commissions and regulators, reflecting the association’s ambition to be a best-in-class provider of educational tools for the gaming industry. 

And despite Messenger picking up on a gap in specific gaming knowledge when it comes to compliance, he stressed that this was not an insult to the “dedicated and focused” individuals who are coming into the space. 

Rather, this presented a symbiotic opportunity for the association to grow its operations and for those individuals to become more specialised, particularly as the online private market opened up in Ontario back in April 2022. 

He elaborated: “This really created a wealth of opportunities for individuals to try something else and try a different segment of compliance.” 

Messenger, who has had a storied career in various sectors of compliance, is a self described builder of systems. And when it became clear that casinos and gaming would be the next big frontier for compliance in North America, he jumped at the opportunity to build an education platform for the space. 

“I’m always looking to deal with the next challenge and the casino industry, from a compliance perspective, was that. With the liberalization of Ontario back in 2022 and the  liberalization of states in the US, when it comes to gaming and sports betting, we’re seeing an environment that is dealing in some cases with compliance for the first time.” 

As aforementioned, on top of the 35-hour self-study course for professionals, the association also has a burgeoning relationship with Dalhousie University, which also offers a Certificate in Gaming Leadership course and a number of micro credential courses. 

But the association is also keen to build a long-term relationship with those organizations who enrol on the university course to offer compliance advice and resources long after the completion of the micro credential course. 

After receiving a “significant amount of industry interest” in the academic courses via Dalhousie University, ACGCS has rolled out a six month self-study version of the micro credential, Casino Gaming Investigations, and is exploring further academic partnerships with other institutions to help increase the footprint of its services even further. 

“We are in discussion now with several universities to look at some postgraduate certificates, and potentially an MBA in gaming compliance,” Messenger noted. “This is really driven by requests from industry from our client base.” 

The association is also contributing to the academic space by contributing towards research into compliance. After building up a significant number of clients since forming in 2022, the ACGCS is seeking to use the rest of 2024 to ramp up its brand awareness to a much larger scale.

The firm is seeking to drive up even more interest to its courses and will be appearing at the Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto on June 18-20 to showcase its products and expertise. 

“Attending the Canadian Gaming Summit is, for us, an opportunity to connect with our counterparts in the industry and with a larger audience, putting faces to names and being able to talk about our products and answer questions from individuals,” Messenger concluded.