‘Prevention is better than cure,’ explains Ian Hughes, senior director, Global Engineering and Client Services at Gaming Laboratories International
A dispute arising from a malfunctioning machine in a Vietnam slot club that erroneously displayed a US$55 million jackpot in 2009 is still being contested. The latest court ruling, in January, upheld the player’s claim to the sum, though the judgment—which clearly would set a dangerous precedent for the country’s gaming industry—has been appealed to a higher court.
One of the knock-on effects of the protracted drama has been an increase in demand around the region for the services of gaming testing labs.
“We’re noticing that in Asia— whether it’s a regulated or non-regulated jurisdiction—the reliance on lab results and the credibility of the machine have become ever more important,” explains Ian Hughes, senior director, Global Engineering and Client Services at Gaming Laboratories International, the world’s leading gaming testing laboratory and technical consultancy.
“An operator in a regulated market is relying on the protection afforded to them by that regulator. So if you’re an operator or concession-holder in Macau, the regulator takes the responsibility for making sure the product coming into Macau meets the requirements.
“But when there’s a lack of regulation then you need to have some other mechanism in place to protect both your own interests and your players’ interests. Because an operator, particularly an operator with international interests or of high reputation, wants to ensure the products coming into their markets do what they’re supposed to do.
“So we’re really seeing more of that in Asia—they’re relying on a GLI certification or an approval or something presented by someone of independence saying the product does what it’s supposed to do.”
Mr Hughes adds: “GLI’s series of standards is recognized globally as an international set of standards of very high reputation. Regulators refer to it, operators refer to it, manufacturers refer to it. The GLI Standard Series is seen as the international standard that can be easily adopted in these jurisdictions. The goal of the Standard Series is to help regulators, suppliers and operators avoid any potential issues before they happen.”
Inside Asian Gaming caught up with Mr. Hughes recently and spoke to him further about the current state of gaming testing and standards in Asia.
IAG: Are there any significant regulatory changes that have taken place in Asia recently?
Mr Hughes: From a regulatory standpoint we’ve had a few minor changes in Singapore. We worked with the Singapore [Casino Regulatory Authority] on the changes for some of their technical standards.
We participated in a technology forum they held [at the end of January] with manufacturers and operators. The Singapore CRA holds these forums to keep the industry involved with changes that they want to put forward that would affect manufacturers. It’s an opportunity for the CRA to present those proposed changes to the manufacturers and find out if there are any concerns.
The CRA have made some slight changes to their requirements for the layout of player information displays. There are also some changes relating to card-readers, electronic card shoes and shufflers. Really technical, mechanical-type matters, but nothing that would cause concern. Not like a year ago, when personal information displays were introduced. It’s just maintenance of existing requirements.
There were also some changes to the licensing process for suppliers. We’re still going through the documents and updating test scripts that they relate to. But, again, nothing too challenging for the majority of suppliers.
What else has kept you busy?
Obviously, it’s important to keep standards up to date with technology. Standards maintenance is very important, and that’s one of the things we’ve been doing with our standards, keeping them up to date and releasing them to the industry as technology changes, particularly as we see a lot of systems convergence.
The Macau standards that came out were very specific in some areas, duallanguage being the primary one, which meant some major changes for some manufacturers to support dual language, especially if that wasn’t native to their operating system. And some manufactures found it easier than others. But that was a move all manufacturers were looking to make anyway as their platforms become more international. So multi-language support is certainly something that we’re seeing more of in platforms. Even platforms going into English-speaking countries will have support for multi-language, just to be appealing to the player.
That’s a change we previously saw happening online. When players go to an online site, they always have the option for multi-language. And we’re seeing that same functionality for terrestrial gaming as well.
The most languages I’ve seen on a gaming machine are maybe three: Chinese, Spanish and English. Online we’ve seen 11 to 15 languages. When suppliers are developing a terrestrial platform, they know their target markets, where they’re coming from. Online suppliers are going to the whole world.
It’s a huge investment for a manufacturer to put the multi-language on, and it has to be correct. So we do a lot of multi-language support for manufacturers to make sure that it is correct. Not only if you’re doing a literal translation, but that it actually makes sense.
Regulators want us to make sure that the player is correctly informed of the rules of the play, and so if the game is adequately described in English, then if somebody is reading it in Chinese, it has to adequately described in Chinese, without referring back to the English version. The English version might be the final legal language, but at the end of the day the player has to be correctly informed in the language that they’re being presented to.
Were you testing for Chinese before?
Yes. So if it’s in there, we’ve always tested it. But now there’s a requirement for it to be in the game and accurate.
Is there anything else coming out of the new Macau standards that you’ve had to adapt to?
We always work to what the regulator lays out. So prior to that new standard coming out, manufacturers had the choice to use GLI 11, Australia and New Zealand standards or Nevada standards. So there were always standards in place, just not one specified standard. So now it’s very clear what you need to do in Macau. And there are some specific requirements put in there that they felt were important.
At the ready- GLI has added night shifts at two of its global offices in order to respond more quickly to urgent requests.
What significant changes have been happening at GLI recently?
GLI continues to make sure that we’ve got adequate resources to meet industry requirements. We’ve hired over 120 staff in the last six months and we’re continuing to hire staff and engineers at different skill levels that are required. We’ve added night shifts to two of our global offices so they work through to the early hours of the morning to provide a longer day. The industry wanted us to have better availability, and with the increase in staff and shifts, we’re able to do that. And particularly with our Las Vegas office the night shift that we introduced there supports our Asian and Australian offices because of the time difference. We hit 4 p.m. in Las Vegas, and that’s the start of the day in Asia, so that only gives us an hour overlap. The night shifts give us a full working day overlap. So our Australian offices and our US offices can work throughout the working day with that night shift in place now.
Are the requests you get so time-sensitive that you need night shifts?
If something happens and we need to respond we don’t want to wait until the next day. We want to be able to put people onto it straight away.