Francesco Alocchi, legal & compliance manager at The Mill Adventure, spoke to Focus Gaming News about the new licence the company has obtained to operate in Germany.
Exclusive interview.- The Mill Adventure has recently obtained a licence to operate in Germany, a market that has been growing by leaps and bounds.
To discuss this achievement and the broader landscape of the gaming industry and regulated markets, Focus Gaming News interviewed Francesco Alocchi, Legal & Compliance Manager at The Mill Adventure.
The Mill Adventure has recently secured a licence to operate in the German market. What does this achievement mean for the company?
While every licence we are granted represents the crowning of thorough planning and robust teamwork, ultimately each newly regulated market we manage to access has a different meaning.
Germany always had a particular appeal for operators and, in general, for all the industry’s stakeholders.
The GlüStV2021 coming into force on the 1st of July 2021 and culminating in the opening of the regulated market marks only the latest step in a process that proved to be lengthy and not always straightforward.
The stance traditionally taken by the different German states and their tendencies — both protective and restrictive — resulted in four different attempts at enacting a uniform framework, fully aligned with the TFEU and hence compliant with the principles established at the internal market level and, further, free from any European and Europeanist criticism.
The new version of the Interstate Treaty still appears to suffer from such a complex genesis, and the provision, as for a significant transitional apparatus, may be read as a sign that the process is not close to being over.
As such, our attainment of the German permit, one of the first ever issued since July last year, makes our entry into the market a groundbreaking step and possibly gives us a paradigmatic role, hardly repeatable in the foreseeable future.
What is your current outlook on the iGaming industry in Germany?
I think it’s definitely too early to draw an adequate picture of the industry concerning the prospectives of the German market. Surely it is not without challenges, as operations are to be conducted under several restrictions, some of which are, so far, unique to this jurisdiction, such as the cross-provider deposit limit, and the prohibition of simultaneous gameplay.
Specific conditions may be attached to each individual licence and that may easily translate into an additional burden put on the operators. Additional limitations stem from certain marketing-specific provisions, primarily the prohibition of sales or revenue-based remuneration schemes for affiliates and the ban on the use of influencers, which are likely to adversely affect the most common and effective advertising practices.
Furthermore, the current year is expected to be entirely transitional; the State Administration Office of Saxony-Anhalt itself is due to pass its role as the regulatory authority upon completion of the transition period.
“I would say that the coming months will still be characterized by a significant degree of uncertainty as to the physiognomy of the German regulated market.”Francesco Alocchi, legal & compliance manager at The Mill Adventure.
The market will likely see disputes and litigations arising, with the various stakeholders running in the framework, starting to settle down, and further planning ahead.
Just recently, the company also had its platform certified in the newly regulated Dutch iGaming market. How did TMA quickly adapt to the requirements of this new jurisdiction and other newly regulated markets, considering how challenging the regulations and requirements are?
As a group of die-hard iGaming professionals, I would say that adaptability lies in TMA’s DNA.
Notoriously, the industry has always been hyper-dynamic and fast-changing; the capability to promptly understand and address legislative and regulatory changes while keeping the operations sustainable has been principally acquired and refined across years of engagement in the field.
A synthetic mindset, to the interpretation of the relevant requirements, and a strong comparative approach to the design and implementation of the various controls, also significantly facilitate our responsiveness to changes.
Since you mentioned the certification for the Dutch market that we obtained a few months ago, I cannot abstain from mentioning that the high versatility of our Player Account Management (PAM) is another factor that makes our lives easier when addressing changes or facing new challenges.
What main similarities and differences have you found in each new market the company enters?
In principle, the various iGaming frameworks are inspired by analogous principles, which, in turn, are quite homogenously transposed in the respective licensing objectives.
For instance, the channelization of the players in the regulated segment of the market, and therefore the fight to illegal and unregulated gambling; the promotion of integrity as a core value of a sustainable gambling environment; the prevention of financial crimes; the protection of the youngest and more vulnerable categories of players; and the consideration that is given to customers in their capacity as consumers.
From this perspective, the relevant, different regulatory bodies appear to be well aligned, especially in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility, which is becoming increasingly crucial as to sustainable gaming and responsible marketing.
Other similarities are recognizable in certain trends, such as anticipating the full verification of the players’ details in the opening of a gaming account, expecting more automation in the various controls, and demanding information systems close to ISO/IEC standards.
Dissimilarities may, in principle, arise from the transposition of the licensing objectives and their guiding principles into operational regulations and, ultimately, requirements that the operators must meet.
However, I tend to believe that the main differences depend on the perception that the relevant regulatory bodies have as to their own role in the market and hence whether they focus on providing guidance, facilitating the establishment of direct channels with their licensee, or rather on enforcing the rules — whether they are more inclined to punish or to educate the operators.
Regulators such as the Malta Gaming Authority, for example, are extremely open to dialogue and generous with their guidance; other authorities, such as the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen), are less open to providing individual assistance to licensees.
The Dutch Authority (Kansspelautoriteit) provides applicants and prospective operators with a very structured and comprehensive set of information while also mitigating the possible language barriers that foreign applicants may experience, through the availability of forms both in Dutch and in English, whereas in other jurisdictions, such as Germany, interested parties must retrieve and compile themselves the necessary resources.
What are the company’s plans with regard to entering more regulated markets this year?
As we are fresh from acquiring our German licence and are expecting the Dutch permit to be issued in the coming months, the attention, from a compliance perspective, will be necessarily focused on these frameworks. However, The Mill Adventure is always very attentive to new opportunities as they may arise from developing markets, and the organization is certainly planning the next steps, therefore you just need to stay tuned for upcoming announcements.