Igaming testing, Nevada and Interstate Compacts: Interview with Salim Adatia, CEO of GLI Interactive

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The most recent word on the street is that the only thing standing in the way of real money online poker going live in Nevada is testing. But how exactly does this testing work, who’s doing it, and how long before it’s over and we can start playing?

Gaming Laboratories International, better known as GLI, is a leader in the field of electronic gaming equipment testing. The company’s igaming arm, GLI Interactive, has been retained to perform all igaming testing in Nevada, and will be active in other parts of the nation as new igaming jurisdictions emerge.

In this interview recorded during a recent GLI Regulators’ conference in Las Vegas, the CEO of GLI Interactive, Salim Adatia, gives us a view into igaming technology, the testing process, and what needs to happen before real money igaming platforms can go live, in Nevada and in other states.

Does GLI do a lot of work here in Nevada?

Absolutely. We’re very privileged to have done all the igaming work in Nevada to date. A large part of that is the result of GLI’s ongoing commitment to our clients. In many cases we are already testing non-restricted license holder’s land-based products, so they want to extend that relationship into the online space. In other cases we have worked with the Nevada licensed igaming software manufacturer in other markets who know and trust the good work we do for them already. They are opting to extend that relationship into the burgeoning Nevada market.

What can you tell me about the role that compliance and testing are playing here in Nevada ahead of the eventual launch of the igaming platforms?

It is a key, instrumental phase. All eyes are on the newly emerging US igaming jurisdictions. Regulators in any jurisdiction want to make sure that the gaming occurring within their boundaries is marked by the highest levels of integrity.

There is a group of standards and practices that we ensure anybody who is going to be operating in Nevada will adhere to. We work very closely with the Nevada Gaming Control Board to make sure that whatever we test is along the lines of what’s expected of us. The regulators have a key role as well. They’re very intertwined with the process, making sure that they know from A to Z what is happening, what the lab is testing, and that they approve of what the lab and the operator and the software supplier are doing.

It’s a very rigorous process, and in order to even go live, you need to have that recommendation for approval from the testing lab, which the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Gaming Commission  will then take into account when making the ultimate decision on whether or not an operator can go live.

I get the feeling that sometimes, when the operators are asked when online poker will be live, they tend  to give the most optimistic estimate possible. Could you give us a more sober view on what the timeline is for these testing processes and when we might feasibly begin to see some of the platforms go live?

That’s a good question. I’m sort of in the same spot as you are. Nevada’s going to make sure they do it right. As I said, there are a lot of eyes on them, as there were a lot of eyes on European jurisdictions when they first launched. This is not something new that you want to rush into. It’s something you want to make sure you get right, rather than something you move fast on only to have to explain later why it wasn’t done properly.

I think a cautionary speed is what everyone is working towards. But you’re right, there is probably a much higher level of optimism on the operators’ part, and I don’t blame them. It’s exciting to hear, it’s a good teaser, but I think they truly feel there is no exaggeration on their part. But then they sometimes get pushed out, by either unexpected factors or an expanded process by one or more parties in the mix.

If I had to wager a guess, I’d probably say spring or summer of this year. But that again would just be a guess.

Are you looking at new regulatory prospects such as in Delaware and New Jersey, and can you give us an idea of how your involvement in those jurisdictions might be different from Nevada?

Sure. Jurisdictions such as Delaware have been in discussions with us for quite some time. We recently updated GLI’s Interactive Gaming Standard GLI-19 which was adopted by Delaware.  While updating GLI-19 we’ve  purposefully taken into account, for example, the requirements of other states, so that there’s ease of portability and transferability of things that have already been tested. The last thing you want is somebody to be tested in one market only to face an obstacle that you know the standards will present in another. We are still working with Delaware.

In New Jersey we’ve been in discussions with the Division of Gaming Enforcement, a really great team. We reached out to them again following the recent announcement of the signing of their igaming bill. We’re really looking forward to those developments and aspire to be able to help them with standards and best practices, building on the good work that they’ve done to date.  Hopefully also the specialized igaming testing necessary for inherently complex systems associated with iGaming.

There’s a lot of talk interstate compacts these days. Some people point out the political obstacles. From a regulatory and technological standpoint, do you think they’re feasible?

Absolutely. The analogy I will draw upon is the Canadian market. The Canadian provinces are all conducted and managed independently by their own gaming regulatory agencies. They have found a way to allow cross border gambling on certain games, like poker. That just shows that liquidity agreements can be made.

There has been some discussion about a consolidation of tribes that could go online. It would not be different from a group of provinces or states going online. The technology is there. Poker is a game that requires liquidity. The technology providers have accounted for that, and so have the independent test labs. There are other jurisdictions that have already done it and done it well. So there’s absolutely no technical reason why a consolidation of tribes or states couldn’t band together and go online. I think their hurdles would be more from a legislative or political viewpoint, as you pointed out.

From GLI’s perspective, we’ve never had an interest in advocating who should operate igaming. Not only because we need to remain independent, but also because we have no vested interest. If tribes or states or provinces want to go online, bless them. We just want to make sure that we can have a seat at the table to ensure that their igaming operations are fair, secure, and there are adequate controls in place.

Those are our concerns, not who should be running the games.

- Marco is a contributor to OnlinePokerReport. You can read more of his writing - and catch his epic interviews with a who's who of poker - at a variety of iGaming publications, including TwoPlusTwo, GlobalGamingBusiness and Agentmarco.com.
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