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IN-DEPTH 5 July 2016
New security and compliance consultancy Extrayard
Is there a more reliable person to count on in the industry when it comes to security and compliance than a former Met head honcho? Paul Sculpher meets Extrayard Security Managing Director Roy Ramm to find out
By Paul Sculpher

There’s a new provider offering compliance and security consultancy services to gaming operators. The man behind the firm, Extrayard, is Roy Ramm, a familiar name to many in the industry and a man aiming to address the very real concerns apparent at present.

Anyone who knows Ramm will have heard one of the colourful stories from his past, which are always incredibly entertaining and insightful in equal measure, as they shine a light on a vast array of professional experiences from a varied, glittering career.

Ramm was previously a senior Metropolitan Police Detective, leading some of Scotland Yard’s most iconic and demanding departments. By the end of his career in London’s Metropolitan Police he had commanded the Serious and Organised Crimes Branch, The Fraud Squad, the Undercover Policing Unit, the world famous Flying Squad, led hostage rescue operations in six countries and run serious crime investigations in London. Next came decades with casinos operator London Clubs (later Caesars Entertainment UK) as governance and public affairs director, looking after security, compliance and regulatory relations for the group’s casino operations in the UK, Africa and the Middle East. Now, with Extrayard, Ramm is aiming to lean on that experience to deliver a unique support package to the wider gambling sector.

Extrayard’s mission is to help operators in any sector and of any size proactively formulate policies and procedures to protect their businesses, to give them continuing confidence that they are safe and compliant, and to help minimising harm when things do go wrong. “It’s about starting it right, keeping it right and putting it right,” Ramm explains.

The operational imperative is to build a successful business, offering customers great experiences. However, sometimes businesses can become so absorbed in commercial challenges that other issues like regulatory compliance and asset protection suffer.

From a regulatory and compliance perspective, Ramm believes there are only two things that really matter to regulators right now; money laundering and social responsibility. Recent events with Paddy Power, Rank and other operators would tend to underline that this is where the regulatory focus lies.

“Operators who don’t acknowledge the measures necessary to be compliant from both an AML and from a responsible gambling perspective are putting their licences and their businesses in jeopardy. You only have to look at the public statements the UK regulator has demanded from UK licensed operators to see the regulator’s direction of travel. There is an increasingly strict AML requirement to know who we are doing business with and where their funds come from. This will be extended by the 4th EU Directive”.

Ramm is also aware of the responsible gambling onus operators are under. “However customers fund their gambling, operators are now expected to monitor how customers are behaving to minimise the risks associated with gambling excessively. This puts enormous pressure on operators, large and small, both in the real world and online,” he explains.

Adapting to this modern age of new compliance is where Ramm believes Extrayard has a role in the industry. For smaller operators who can’t support in-house service, Extrayard offers bespoke compliance plans and support. For larger companies with in-house compliance functions, Extrayard offers probing and exacting audits that challenge the procedures mirroring the way a regulator might investigate such a business.

According to Ramm, there’s a real risk in larger operations, with their own in-house teams, that familiarity can lead to some softening of the rigour required to ensure compliance, and the commercial imperative can challenge any department’s commitment to focus on non-revenue earning matters. An independent third party engaged in a one-off or ongoing audit process can “reset” the mindset of organisations in this context.

The other speciality where an outside agency can help operators is in revenue protection, because as gambling operations become more complicated, there are more and more ways for dishonest individuals to prosper. Ramm leans on his time in the police force when facing these issues.

“Loyalty schemes, on a big enough scale, become opportunities for theft of significant amounts of value. The take-up of the scheme in one operation we investigated seemed almost too good to be true, and it was.”

An enquiry revealed that a trusted and respected member of staff was discovered by management to have loaded a player’s reward account with points unjustified by the level of play. At the time the discrepancy was accepted as an “honest mistake”, and that might have been the end of it, except that years of policing experience and a detailed knowledge of the industry led Ramm and his team to look deeper, revealing that a systemic failure had been exploited by a corrupt network involving trusted staff and several friends and family members posing as customers, all of whom were benefitting from the criminal misappropriation of valuable points. The enquiry led to criminal convictions, asset recovery and revised procedures.

It is clear that an in-house team may not always be enough to protect operators from the serious challenges presented by theft, responsible gambling matters and, latterly, the new AML regulations. A fresh pair of eyes with a vast amount of experience could give operators some comfort that their in-house teams will not drop their guard in an environment where inattention can lead to action by the regulator and material loss of assets.
IN-DEPTH 4 September 2019
Virtual reality: Creating next-gen experiences for players

Singular CEO George Shamugia discusses a new revenue stream for casino operators

The competition in online gaming is intensifying, with players becoming more and more demanding. In some markets, single-customer acquisition costs can reach up to €400 ($440) alongside growing churn rates. Furthermore, the online gaming sector struggles to attract one of the most lucrative groups of players – millennials. The experience provided by casinos no longer appeals to the younger generation.

On  the other hand, the video gaming industry perfectly understands the needs of millennials and by introducing elements of luck in their games offers the best of both worlds. With the launch of loot box systems and Grand Theft Auto’s in-game casino, we have seen their first successful steps in targeting the online gaming sector. GTA V online, with 33 million active players, recently opened an in-game casino, where players gamble real money on games such as poker, roulette, slots, etc. As a result, churn users returned and GTA Online reached the highest number of active players since its launch in 2013.

The online gaming industry has almost fully utilised the potential of the mobile medium. The time has come to look for new, innovative ways of delivering a next-gen experience to customers.

The potential of VR

Could the next big thing for online gaming be a fully fledged virtual reality (VR) casino delivering an immersive experience and limitless new opportunities?

Although not widely adopted yet, VR has a sizable number of customers. Analysts predict it’s poised for explosive growth to become mainstream in about five years. According to market intelligence firms, the VR market will be worth $117bn by 2022, and according to Juniper Research bets made through VR will reach $520 billion by 2021. Upcoming 5G mobile network technology will propel VR’s mass adoption by allowing the development of fully portable untethered and affordable VR headsets.

Different level of social interaction

The captivating nature of gambling comes from its social aspect. Unfortunately, personal interaction is widely missing from online gambling sites. VR technology creates multiple opportunities to bring back and even enhance that social moment. The ability to connect with other players is one of the main reasons behind Fortnite’s popularity. This form of co-experience is the next generation of entertainment. Research conducted by Facebook has found participants spend more time on VR compared to any other medium. This directly translates into increased profits for casinos.

Pokerstars has made efforts in this direction by implementing Voice UI. Instead of using hand controllers to make a call, pass, or raise, players give voice commands.

Another opportunity for bringing in the social element are the players’ avatars. They enable players to build their identity reflected in the avatars’ appearance, but also the avatar's social, competitive and community status. For instance, players are willing to pay real money for virtual drinks at the bar. Operators can offer these social touchpoints for free to VIP customers as an act of appreciation.

VR also brings a new dimension to customer support. Customer support can also be represented with avatars to assist the player in person. The social moment increases the LTV of players and contributes towards lower churn rates.

Rethinking game design

VR is a way more capable medium than a 2D mobile or desktop screen. Instead of copying the existing online experience, games must be redesigned from the ground up for a competitive advantage with VR. For example, a VR slot game can become fully immersive by teleporting the user into the slots’ world of Ancient Egypt. Next, enrich the experience with high-fidelity graphics, realistic spatial sounds and animations. When betting on virtual race cars, the user can be teleported inside the car he/she made a bet on and experience the race firsthand.

New revenue streams

VR casino lobbies create new revenue stream opportunities: ad placement of brands on the venue walls, company logos decorating the bar etc. This kind of branding is not intrusive in the VR space and feels natural from the user's perspective. VR also gives users the ability to change venues from a Las Vegas casino today, to Macau or even Mars casino, the very next day. The dynamic and diverse experience increases retention rates.

The majority of profits for online gaming operators come from their high-roller players. Although they represent a small subset of active players, an operator can launch a separate VR casino brand for them. Providing exclusive VR gaming experiences to high rollers/VIPs, the operator can minimise churn and maximise VR efforts for these player demographics.

The catch with VR is to focus on quality, rather than scale. The target audience might be limited yet, once these players experience it, they will become ambassadors for your offering.

Surely, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the VR medium truly exceed anything offered by mobile and desktop. VR is a new frontier not just for gaming but for every industry, and it’s exciting to see where it takes the industry and what kind of innovation it brings upon us.