A standard is a set of requirements that specify in detail how a thing is to be developed. That thing could be a product, a component, a piece of computer code or system. It can be anything. Standards are important because they ensure compatibility and interoperability. Standards benefit consumers, industries and regulatory authorities by reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and supporting innovation. Standards achieve these objectives partially by reducing barriers to entry and fostering more competition.
The International Gaming Standards Association (IGSA) has existed for more than twenty-two years. Over that time, IGSA has delivered fifteen standards, many of which have been adopted by suppliers, and in some cases mandated by regulators, across the globe. As an international, non-profit trade association, IGSA bridges the gap between the Industry Domain, operators and suppliers, and the Policy Domain, regulators and legislatures, to create standards. IGSA seeks input from those two Domains to help identify areas where standards can help improve the gaming industry overall.
By way of structure, IGSA is comprised of members representing a broad swath of the gaming industry across countries, continents, and gaming verticals. The standards work is done within Technical Committees and follows a well-established Trade Association process to ensure participation, impartiality and consensus building. Oversight is provided by the Board of Directors overseeing the activities of IGSA North America and of GSA Europe, GSA Japan and GSA Macau.
Since IGSA focuses primarily on technical standards, some tend to think of it as being comprised of engineers and developers, working on detailed programming language specifications that may only excite other technocrats. While it is true that most IGSA standards are in fact computer-based solutions, they address real business and regulatory needs, are practical in nature, and leverage existing, proven technologies. This is what has allowed them to be widely adopted.
Use cases are helpful in explaining issues the standards were developed to solve and the benefits they provide. There are three IGSA standards that deliver specific benefits for regulatory authorities. They are the Game-to-System (G2S), Certification Database Interface (CDI) and Regulatory Reporting Interface (RRI). This article focuses on the benefits that regulatory authorities can expect to enjoy from use of the G2S standard.
The Game-to-System (G2S) communication protocol standard.
Before IGSA existed, there were more than twenty different communication protocols used to connect electronic gaming devices to casino systems. This lack of standardization created interoperability and compatibility issues for operators purchasing gaming devices and systems. IGSA saw the need for a standard communication protocol using modern technology, one that could be extended to support new functionality, and that improved on critical areas like data security. The result was the G2S communication protocol.
Using off-the-shelf standard computer industry technology, G2S is future-proof, and supports data encryption right out of the gaming device. The same data encryption used to conduct banking and e-commerce transactions online. Designed to run over ethernet networks either in a wired or wireless format, G2S allows a gaming device to be connected to multiple systems, much like a printer is connected to multiple computers in an office network.
This is important because G2S uses the publish and subscribe data model. So G2S allows systems to choose what data to subscribe to from all the data a gaming device can transmit, not just a subset, which is the case with legacy non-extensible communication protocols. Therefore, a marketing system may only subscribe to data related to player transactions used for marketing purposes, or an analytical system may only subscribe to performance related meters.
G2S provides regulators with three key benefits. Full EGM software inventory, remote software authentication and independent meter and event monitoring. Below are some examples of how these three benefits have practical applications.
Periodically regulators obsolete or revoke previously approved gaming software versions. That gaming software could be a game theme, gaming device operating system or note acceptor and printer firmware. Operators are given a period of time to replace the affected version; replacing them with a new approved one. The process that operators use to track the replacement of the affected software, or firmware, is mostly manual. Likewise, the regulators rely on a manual process to verify that the obsolete or revoked software had been replaced. G2S eliminates the manual processes and ensures complete compliance. It does this by providing a full inventory of the software and firmware versions within each gaming device.
Over the years, a number of applications and tools have been developed to help regulators ensure that the version of software in a gaming device is an exact copy of the one they approved for use. These applications and tools all had one thing in common. They needed a regulatory agent to be at the gaming device to authenticate the software. In some cases, the software media has to be removed from the gaming device and put into a tool for authentication. In other cases, a cable has to be connected to a port within the gaming device. IGSA developed the Networked Game Authentication Terminal (GAT), allowing regulatory agents to perform the same authentication task over a network, from within the casino or even from their own offices. Networked GAT has also been imbedded into G2S which further enhances the value the communication protocol provides.
Most regulatory authorities today rely on reports or data provided by operators for oversight and in some cases for tax calculation or verification purposes. A growing number of regulators are looking for a separate and independent source of data which they control and which they can then compare to the data provided by the operator. While possible using legacy communication protocols, obtaining the data, which would again be a subset of what the gaming device can truly communicate, is a cumbersome process and could be costly. Using G2S, a Regulatory Monitoring system could connect directly to each gaming device using a wired or wireless network. That simple system could provide the regulators with the functionality described in these three use cases. It could provide a full software inventory ensuring only approved software and firmware is being used. It could allow for remote software authentication using G2S GAT, eliminating the need for Regulatory Agents to be on site at casinos, pubs and parlours. It could also subscribe to meter and event data providing information in real-time. Meter data such as Total Money-in and Total Money-out, and Event data such as RAM Clear and CPU Compartment Access, can be provided to regulators.
This article touches on just some of the benefits that G2S delivers. Implementation of G2S within existing gaming devices and casino, parlours and pubs, can be achieved without displacing existing communication protocols and systems. G2S was designed to coexist with those legacy products since it was expected that a transition to full G2S use would take time.
More information on G2S can be found on the IGSA website. Please contact IGSA for specific questions.
Managing Director / International Gaming Standards Association Europe