Q&A with Rightlander’s Ian Sims on UK Compliance Tools & Services (Part 1)

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Over the last few years, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has increased its scrutiny on the area of responsible gambling and player protection. As a result, operators looking to establish themselves as industry leaders are required to be more vigilant than ever in their study of evolving industry standards.

Since 2018, Rightlander, a UK-based supplier of monitoring tools and services for advertising campaigns, has provided its clients with automated tools to review content to help meet and maintain regulatory standards in various regions. In this two part-blog, company founder Ian Sims discusses the Rightlander product, its solutions to common compliance issues and market reactions to these developments.

Income Access (IA): Do most operators have their compliance obligations under control?

Ian Sims (IS): The majority of UK-facing Tier 1 operators were quick off the mark to ensure affiliate compliance was part of their routine – the risk of losing access to a market was simply not an option for them. Now that the UKGC is concentrating more on Tier 2 operators, in the UK we're being approached more regularly to identify compliance issues and help clients create action logs for obligatory regulatory audits.

We still get last-minute requests from time to time, usually following a notice from the regulator, which I find a tad surprising. I'd have thought that by now most business owners would realise that affiliate compliance isn't something that can be pushed aside. A few hundred Google searches barely scratch the surface when it comes to finding compliance issues.

IA: How are operators and affiliates coping with industry regulatory requirements

IS: The affiliate compliance landscape has changed significantly over the past year. In some countries, like the UK, we've seen increasing clarity with regards to what operators need to look out for. That clarity has also helped affiliates stay equally informed, so the reaction has generally been positive. Despite this, we still find a lot of misleading marketing content out there that operators should be very concerned about.

There’s always a danger of becoming complacent when fines aren't being levied out, or in between regulatory audits, but that's the beauty of having an automated compliance monitor working for you behind the scenes. We just need to make sure it's doing the right things and we’ve built up a pretty good understanding of top priorities, such as UKGC audits, a regular fixture for many of our clients.

IA: How does the work conducted by industry compliance experts influence Rightlander’s product evolution?

IS: An observation that’s helping shape Rightlander's evolution is the differences in requests between affiliate managers tasked with affiliate compliance and those from compliance officers. We're seeing a trend develop where the former tends to focus more on terms and conditions (T&Cs), expired bonuses, and images used by affiliates, while the latter focus more on content deliberately designed to mislead punters.

A lot of misleading content can't be found through Google searches, so Rightlander's crawler has evolved over the past few months to branch out as it crawls. When we find links to other sites, social media or streaming pages on gambling-related sites, our system now has the ability to scan these channels as well. No crawler will ever find everything, in part because of how frequently affiliates rotate content, but our technology assists our clients in discovering a lot of otherwise hard-to-find content.

IA: What other key factors have guided how Rightlander prioritises the introduction of new features?

IS: When we first started down the compliance path in early 2018, the most common report we were asked to provide was the "Non-Compliant Terms in Anchor Text to Brand" report. The report compiled potentially misleading phrases and words that affiliates used to link to an operator. This functionality was upgraded into a search tool for terms and sentiments designed to indicate that gambling could improve someone's lifestyle, now considered a very high priority by compliance officers we deal with.

As 2018 progressed, a requirement to monitor expired offers and promotions, as well as inaccuracies in affiliate representations of significant terms and conditions, also became a priority. The "Significant Terms Matching" report was created for the latter and is still among our most popular reports. The report shows operators to what degree an affiliate is misrepresenting these terms where applicable.

Once the UKGC audits started occurring more frequently, both Rightlander and its clients gained clarity over the process expected of them, shaping the focus of our technological improvements. Our top observations have been the importance of operators maintaining a clear audit trail of issues and how they are being dealt with, as well as guidance on the most problematic issues for regulators.Currently, Rightlander monitors more than 8 million affiliate and social media pages a month for over 100 products. Keep an eye out for part two, which will highlight the most valuable tools and reports available on Rightlander’s platform and the state of play in emerging markets.

For more information on Rightlander, please reach out to Ian.