We are really excited to launch our Ask an Investigator – Insights into Gaming Licensing and Compliance blog series!
With 15 years as a senior investigator with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Bill Gavigan has seen it and heard it all. Now as the Head of Compliance for OneComply, he’s sharing his experiences and unique insights on gaming licensing and compliance – all from an investigator’s perspective!
In this blog series, we’re tapping into Bill’s brain to take on some of the most interesting and often misunderstood aspects of gaming licensing and compliance – from considerations for your first application, to strategies for keeping the investigator happy throughout the entire key person and entity licensing process and beyond.
Each post will tackle an interesting topic for legal, licensing and compliance professionals in the gaming ecosystem.
In this first of the series, we start from the beginning: Things to know before you start the licensing process.
We’ve compiled some common questions that we’re asked by our clients all the time, so let’s get started!
Question: From a regulatory perspective, what are some of the first things that companies looking to get licensed should keep in mind before they start the licensing process?
Bill Gavigan: After you’ve decided that your company has what it takes to be successful in the North American gaming market and in particular, the state you’re considering entering, you’ll need to prepare yourself for what can be a daunting task of applying for a gaming license. And realize that what you’re embarking on is a long-term commitment which continues well beyond the submission of the application.
When you’re looking at what can seem to be a huge amount of extremely detailed and intrusive questions in a licensing application, remember that strict gaming regulation policies and procedures aren’t there to create additional work or to frustrate you, but exist to protect the integrity of the gaming industry and to avoid the potential for perceived or actual corruption.
Question: Is it a good idea to reach out to a regulator before starting the application process?
Bill Gavigan: It’s completely acceptable to open a dialogue with the regulator’s licensing unit prior to your application, to explain your company’s intent and to inquire about the specific licensing requirements that will impact your submission.
The licensing department staff are there to assist in ensuring that the process runs as smoothly for you as it does for them. And remember, you will be working with the same regulators, licensing analysts and investigators for many years to come and will no doubt form a bond with them. So mutual respect in the beginning goes a long way in making the process run smoothly in your first application and in subsequent applications or renewals.
There are many regulators and compliance officers who I worked with during my 15+ years as an investigator who I have maintained contact with after my retirement from the PGCB and continue to be a resource for me, so think of them as long term partners in the success of your business.
Question: Do regulators or investigators get a lot of pushback from companies saying that the process is too onerous and have a hard time reconciling the time and effort it takes to get licensed?
Bill Gavigan: I’d say that generally the industry supports the rigorous licensing requirements of gaming regulators. And most companies know that it is not only a requirement to do business, but it is also a marketable and highly valuable asset for their company to be recognized as a licensed gaming entity.
Many of those I investigated for gaming licensure informed me that they were comforted by the fact that only responsible and legitimate companies are granted licenses and there was no need to fear that an illegitimate company would be able to enter the market and compete for the same business.
Question: What would you recommend a legal or compliance team do before starting the actual licensing process?
Bill Gavigan: First off, I’d suggest conducting your own due diligence on your company and the leadership team. This often requires some pretty frank and honest conversations. The reason being is that you want to make sure the Key Persons are not only suitable for licensure, but are also aware of the process and are prepared for the commitment.
The last thing you want to do is find yourself hunting for a new CEO or CFO because they have no interest in taking part in what’s going to be a rigorous and in-depth process. I recall more than one individual who chose to step down from a lucrative position with a gaming company after becoming aware of the extensive investigative and due diligence process they would be subjected to.
The next step is to do a deep dive into the history of your company, to make sure that there aren’t any past issues that might become a “red flag” to a regulator or investigator. If anything comes up, figure out how you are going to address them in the application. Non-disclosure is not an option, since in my experience as an investigator, they are going to find out anyway. It’s much better to disclose and explain, than to not disclose and try to give excuses after the fact.
Question: Are there any other key recommendations or best practices to improve the licensing process that you could provide?
Bill Gavigan: Depending on the experience and expertise of your legal and compliance team, you’ll need to determine if you are ready to dive into the process alone or if you need legal, business or regulatory consulting services to guide you through the process.
There’s more to entering a new market than filling out forms and submitting an application. So if you’re new to the game, or are in need of some assistance, consider using a gaming consulting service specializing in the US market to assist in navigating the complex corporate, tax, and regulatory hurdles.
And I don’t want to blow our own horn too much, but it’s hugely important to start using a tool like OneComply to consolidate and centralize all the data you’ll need for licensing and to help manage and automate the entire key person and entity licensing process.
From the perspective of the regulator and investigator, seeing all the applications submitted by multiple key persons and entities, all looking the same, in the same format and style makes it so much easier for them to review and analyze, which assists with the goal of obtaining speedy license approval.
OneComply centralizes and organizes all licensing and compliance data, including key person, corporate entity and occupational licensing, enabling organizations to streamline and automate the application creation process. And since you’re probably not going to go after just one state or jurisdiction, OneComply lets you submit license applications to multiple jurisdictions in almost the same amount of time it takes to submit to one.
In our next episode, we’ll dig deep in the world of corporate entity licensing. What is an investigator looking for in an application, what will cause red flags, and how can you make sure the process goes smoothly?
To learn more about OneComply, schedule a demo or submit a question to our Ask an Investigator series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.