Sandra Douglass Morgan, former Chairwoman at the Nevada Gaming Control Board and current director at Caesars Entertainment Inc, will present as core program faculty at Regulating the Game – a prestigious 5-day regulatory education program to be held in Sydney from 7 to 11 March 2022. Morgan spoke with IAG ahead of this year’s event.
Ben Blaschke: We head into 2022 with the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting the world but with hope that better days wait in the year ahead. What challenges do you expect this period to present for regulators, not just in Nevada but globally?
Sandra Douglass Morgan: Over the past two years, regulators had to shift their roles to incorporate significant responsibilities surrounding COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, regulators were primarily focused on more traditional gaming matters. Now, more gaming regulators across the world have had to shift their focus and attention to health and safety issues.
For example, while I was Chairwoman at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, we were responsible for enforcing facial coverings and masks on gaming employees and patrons on casino properties. As new variants of COVID-19 emerge, gaming regulators should be prepared to anticipate continued requests for regulatory recommendations that concern patrons’ health and safety while on casino properties.
BB: You were at the helm of the Nevada Gaming Control Board when it regulated for cashless wagering during the pandemic. How significant is this for the industry?
SDM: Regulating cashless wagering is simply a matter of meeting consumer expectations. Although the regulation permitting cashless wagering was enacted prior to the pandemic, the requests for approval of new cashless technology certainly increased due to the pandemic. In nearly every industry, consumers are offered more than one way to engage. This omni-channel operation means that digital and physical entities are in constant development, and this is true for sports betting, too.
This movement to cashless is important for the consumer, but it’s also a significant shift for vendors, operators and regulators. Our industry must be able to provide reliable and efficient technologies, and operators must learn how to integrate them into its existing infrastructure in a way that works for both the operator and the consumer. Additionally, gaming regulators will need to continue to embrace innovation in the way we consider and respect digital integrations while still upholding their roles as custodians for consumer protection and general oversight and stability of the industry.
BB: Some jurisdictions in Asia have shown to be somewhat resistant to new technologies. From a regulatory standpoint, what are the key considerations around if, when and how to introduce such technologies?
SDM: The staggering rate at which we see new technologies in our industry is impressive and the innovation is incredible. It’s exciting to watch an industry change, and new technologies provide an opportunity to look at our policies and procedures in new ways.
There are safeguards that are in place to make sure we are being thorough in our consideration of any new technology. For instance, new technologies must come from a licensed provider within a jurisdiction. The technology must be tested, meet industry and regulatory standards, and have proper patron protection measures in place.
With the rate that gaming is changing, innovation and technology will be critical in moving the industry forward and remaining relevant to the younger generation. Our veteran consumers will also be encouraged to find new ways to enjoy gaming and adopt the technologies that emerge.
BB: AML has been a hot topic in Australia with Crown Resorts and in Macau with Suncity Group in recent times. What was the Gaming Control Board’s role and involvement with anti-money laundering matters related to casino operators during your time and what are the key risks you think gambling regulators ought to be attentive to regarding AML?
SDM: The Gaming Control Board’s role is to ensure that gaming properties are submitting and following their compliance plans and minimum internal control standards within their jurisdictions. These compliance plans must include acknowledgements of the growing international flow of currency and an increasing need to “know your customer”. This concept is critical in anti-money laundering policies and procedures.
It’s essential for each casino to then train and empower their employees to take ownership over AML policies and procedures based on customer profiles and awareness of its specific areas of risk. Regulators must work with these operators to ensure they are following correct procedures and best practices when it comes to anti-money laundering. Compliance plans should be routinely reviewed and updated to account for transformations in the larger gaming ecosystem as well as location-specific technological innovations and changes.
BB: How would you distinguish the US environment from the UK and Australia where there is strong gambling participation but also an underlying anti-gambling sentiment that surfaces through intense media scrutiny and public policy activism by some stakeholders?
SDM: There is an important and very relevant difference between responsible gaming and problem gambling. It’s important that the general public knows and appreciates this as well as those of us who work directly within the industry. Collaboration is going to be key to create advertising and marketing standards that will work across jurisdictions as well as across industries. For instance, addressing mental health concerns is essential in promoting responsible gaming, and this message should be consistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
As the industry changes, regulators and advocates for the industry must strive to innovate and encourage engagement when it comes to identifying and supporting responsible gaming. Operators are a critical part of this. Their transparency about the programs and services they offer to individuals who are experiencing problems with gaming is a necessity to ensure that we create a gaming environment that is fun, entertaining and safe for consumers.
To register for Regulating the Game 2022, visit www.regulatingthegame.com.