“I’m hoping people will come to IAGR and hear difficult questions debated”

IAGR vice president Ben Haden.
IAGR vice president Ben Haden.

IAGR vice president Ben Haden tells Focus Gaming News what’s in store for the IAGR Conference 2022, and why he hopes regulators will hear some difficult questions.

Exclusive interview.- The IAGR Conference 2022 is around the corner, bringing people back together face-to-face for four days of gambling regulatory talk and debate. IAGR vice president, Ben Haden, who is also director of research and statistics at the British Gambling Commission took time out to tell Focus Gaming News what’s in store.

Haden put this year’s programme together with the aim to provide “something for everyone”. There will be a mix of subjects, including tech, safer gambling, data, policy, innovations and legal matters. And, of course, there will also be the second IAGR awards – an opportunity for regulators around the world to highlight their best practice and innovation.

This year’s event is being billing as a kickstart for collaboration, sparking innovation in regulatory practice. 

“We’ve tried to build on our conversations from Boston last year,” Haden says. “And I think you can’t ignore the fact that we’ve been living through this pandemic that’s been the greatest disruptive event for our generation.

“During times of disruption, you often get the most innovation, so I’m really looking forward to hearing from colleagues and from people outside the industry as well as those who are watching the industry to see what’s been done. What’s different? What’s been working? What hasn’t worked? What could we change? And that’s really driven how I’ve tried to put the programme together.”

Difficult questions

The main aim is to promote discussion – including difficult discussions about the challenges that regulators face today.

“I’m hoping that people will come to IAGR and hear difficult questions debated,” Haden says. “For example, the very first panel of the conference is really going to be a challenge to say whether regulators face mission impossible at the moment.

“I think we really need to stretch the boundaries a little bit in terms of trying to understand how we can do our job as well as we can, so provocation and debate,” he adds.

Haden sees plenty of room for alignment in regulations, noting that there are certain challenges all regulators face in terms of emerging tech, identifying harm and the best way of approaching the black market. Most of all he noted that regulators face the challenge of rapidly changing business models.

“I think what most regulators are looking at now when they’re looking two or three years hence is to try and understand how they can best respond to the changing business models of the operators they regulate, so, for example, now there is probably far more resource spent on content and data than there was.

“When you add that to adjacent sectors that have gambling-like aspects or products and you have certain operators that are becoming more global than perhaps they were, you’ve got some really difficult things to try to unlock and put back together so that as a regulator you can be as much as you can be ahead of the curve.”

Haden sees IAGR as well placed to engineer the collaborations that are needed to help address those challenges. And while young jurisdictions can learn from the vast experience of regulators who have years of gaming regulation under their belts, Haden says it works the other way around, too.

“I think it’s the different perspectives that other jurisdictions have that make it far more interesting and worthy for those conversations. It’s only by listening to people who are doing things slightly differently that you can look at your own jurisdiction and ask, would that work here? Why do we do it that way?

“I’m as interested in what the new jurisdictions are doing as they come online and how they’re approaching it.”

As director of research and statistics at the British Gambling Commission, Haden has a particular interest in data, and is keen to highlight the work of IAGR’s statistics working group. He says data can help see how regulation sits in the global context, and he wants to see more progress on exploring how to get datasets “out there, shared and even preferably linked” so people can start to mine them for the information they hold and start to regulate more effectively as a result.

Check out the full interview with Ben Haden on the Focus Gaming News YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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