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  • Videoslots recruits Marco Trucco as CMO as Ali Atam departs

Malta-headquartered casino operator Videoslots has welcomed Marco Trucco as its new chief marketing officer (CMO).  

Trucco’s appointment follows the departure of Ali Atam, who has left the business to pursue other opportunities.

Atam had been with the company for nearly seven years. He initially joined Videoslots as head of acquisition and was promoted to the position of CMO in November 2017.

Deputy Videoslots CEO Ulle Skottling wished Atam well with his next appointment in comments provided to iGaming NEXT: “In the meantime, we’re really excited to replace him with someone of Marco’s calibre and experience,” he added.

Trucco officially assumed his role on 10 July and boasts 16 years of experience in the iGaming industry.

His most recent position was as managing director of GGPoker, where he established the European hub in Malta and oversaw the expansion of the poker operator into multiple EU markets.

Prior to that, he served as associate director of international marketing at The Stars Group, where he played a key role in the acquisition efforts for PokerStars and PokerStars Casino.

He initially joined the gaming industry in 2007, holding various management positions in Italy, including the role of gaming director at Eurobet.

Two decades of experience

“The role of CMO is a vital part of any business, especially for us at Videoslots, and we believe we are in good hands with Marco at the helm,” Skottling explained.

“Marco has nearly two decades worth of experience, working in various parts of Europe and his understanding of the sector fits in perfectly with our ambitions,” he continued.  

Trucco added: “It is an honour to be appointed CMO at one of the industry’s best operators. My role is to raise Videoslots’ exposure to the growing number of online casino players who demand a superior product and great customer service.  

“I’ll make the best use of my experience and creativity, with the intention of bolstering Videoslots across many markets globally.” 

The operator described Trucco as a “valuable asset” due to his familiarity with the working environment in Malta as the company aims to strengthen its operations in Spain, Italy and LatAm.

Moreover, the operator recently entered the Canadian province of Ontario.

Videoslots was founded in 2011 by ex-poker player Alexander Stevendahl and holds licences in Malta, the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Ontario.

The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has suggested that more fines against unlicensed operators will be forthcoming this year.

In a H1 2023 update provided by the regulator, it said that almost €30m in fines had been issued to unlicensed operators at the end of 2022, which were made public in the spring.

“Various fine reports are currently being prepared,” it added, suggesting that more penalties are still to come this year.

A busy year for the KSA

Among the fines already issued to offshore operators was a demand for €900,000 from Malta-based operator Shark77 in January, and a further €900,000 in fines issued to each of two operators behind the Orient Xpress Casino brand in February.

In March, it issued a €4.4m penalty to MGA-licensed Gammix for failing to comply with an order to cease offering its services in the Netherlands.

Then, Videoslots was hit with a whopping €10m fine (among the largest ever issued by the KSA) for allegedly offering its services to Dutch customers without a licence.

The operator denied the allegations and vowed to contest the fine, after describing the regulator’s investigatory actions as “unlawful”.

And it’s not just operators bearing the brunt of the regulatory action. Affiliate group Red Ridge Marketing was also slapped with a €675,000 fine in March, after it was found to be promoting unlicensed operators to Dutch customers.

Advertising clampdown

In addition to issuing fines to operators for offering services in the Netherlands without a licence, the KSA has also been focused on preventing this at source by clamping down on the ability of offshore operators to advertise in the country.

“In many cases,” it said, “this advertisement targets vulnerable players, for example by providing information about how to circumvent Cruks, the exclusion register.”

At the end of 2022, the KSA began an investigation into “the eight most visited websites that, aimed at the Dutch market, advertised unlicensed online casinos and commented on the circumvention of Cruks.”

The investigation remains in progress, it added, but violations have been found at four of the eight websites, and the regulator will take enforcement action against them as a result.

Further, the KSA said it conducted 32 investigations into social media advertising during the first half of 2023, with any violations reported to Instagram and Facebook owner Meta, after which the relevant pages or accounts were immediately closed.

Keeping an eye on crypto

Finally, the regulator explained that unlicensed operators “are increasingly accepting cryptocurrency as a payment method online.”

As a result, the KSA’s investigators have now added crypto to the list of payment methods available to help them determine whether unlicensed operators are offering services in the Netherlands.

During H1 2023, the regulator carried out six separate investigations using Bitcoin, and said that in all cases a sanction was imposed, and the operators in question subsequently discontinued offering services in the Netherlands.

Malta-headquartered iGaming operator Videoslots is set to launch two brands in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The operator will launch its sister brand, Mr Vegas, in addition to its flagship Videoslots.com brand in the market.

The brands will offer customers online casino games from a variety of studios including Evolution, Play’n GO, Pragmatic Play and Light & Wonder, among others.

Videoslots intends to use bonuses and other customer engagement features including tournaments and jackpots to help it secure a share of the market among Ontarians.

“Launching in Ontario is another milestone for the Videoslots team, and we are excited at the prospect of entertaining players in the region,” said Ulle Skottling, deputy CEO at Videoslots.

“We have always enjoyed great success in Canada and it makes business sense to join the regulated market now that it is up and running and proving to work for both players and operators alike.” 

Ontario becomes the seventh international market where Videoslots holds a local licence, after Malta, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Since launching online sports betting and iGaming in April last year, Ontario has quickly become one of North America’s most lucrative and competitive online gambling markets.

According to figures released recently by regulatory body iGaming Ontario, in the market’s first year the local iGaming sector sustained more than 12,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the province, while contributing nearly C$1.6bn to Ontario’s GDP.

“Over the past year, Ontario’s iGaming market has been internationally recognised for creating a safe, legal and competitive landscape while supporting the province’s economy and displacing the existing unregulated market,” said Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey. 

“By driving innovation, creating exciting new opportunities for workers and providing protection and choice for players, this made-in-Ontario market will remain a global leader in this sector.” 

Speaking at iGaming NEXT Valletta 23 yesterday (21 June), Videoslots CEO Alexander Stevendahl suggested that overregulation in some European markets had led to a booming offshore market, of which crypto-led operators were the main beneficiaries.

Alexander Stevendahl believes regulation in some European markets has gone too far and is inadvertently fuelling black market growth.

The Videoslots CEO took part in a lively discussion on regulation on the main stage at iGaming NEXT Valletta 23.  

On the topic of regulation, he said that regulators in some countries seem more interested in stopping gambling altogether, rather than in making it safe for consumers.

This no-nonsense approach to enforcement has left players with no alternative but to seek out less restrictive options offshore, according to Stevendahl.

He believes that crypto casinos are the biggest winners in this scenario, especially those that do not possess a local licence but are instead regulated by jurisdictions such as Curaçao.  

“The fact is that crypto casinos are exploding,” said Stevendahl, who is an active browser on online casino user forums.

He said the hottest topic on forums right now is players asking how they can access crypto casinos – even in markets such as the UK, where channelisation rates are high.

“I haven’t seen this in the UK before, but the UK in the last few weeks has been insane,” he added. “People had been playing on the black markets, but now it’s just exploding.”

“The fact is that crypto casinos are exploding.”
Videoslots CEO Alexander Stevendahl

Stevendahl said players were using VPNs and creating fake profiles with other people’s documents to circumvent KYC rules and play outside of the regulated market.

“I really think it is a big challenge and it will be hard to stop,” he said. “Right now, we are on a really bad path.”

As well as the UK, Stevendahl pointed to Germany, where the German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) has sounded the alarm over the black market already this year.

In February, the DSWV conducted a market study and discovered a 65% increase in active illegal gambling and sports betting offers compared to the previous year, for example.

When asked if regulators were to blame for the current situation, Stevendahl said that “everyone involved” was behind the problem. He believes the demands placed on regulated operators are too high, which incentivises the industry to go grey in some areas.

Finally, Stevendahl said the marketing activity of the world’s biggest crypto casinos gives them an air of acceptability and drives trust, regardless of whether they are locally regulated.

“I also have a problem with the sponsorships of the crypto casinos,” he said. “If you look at the Argentina national team, they are sponsored by BC.GAME. They have Messi on their homepage which brings acceptance.

“Stake.com, which is both regulated and unregulated, sponsors these massive teams so people go out looking for them. Even at this conference, if we look around, it is mostly crypto,” he added.

Videoslots has been ordered to pay £2m by the Gambling Commission (UKGC) for AML and social responsibility failures.

According to the UKGC, the operator – which runs both the Videoslots and Mr Vegas brands in the UK – failed to comply with several of its licence conditions between October 2019 and February 2022.

Videoslots has been ordered to make a payment of £1.5m in lieu of a financial penalty, and to divest a further £494,842 from the business.

A further payment of £11,308 will be made towards the Gambling Commission’s investigative costs.

AML failings

First, the regulator found failings in Videoslots’ implementation of AML policies, procedures and controls.

The operator’s own risk-based processes were not implemented appropriately due to significant delays in carrying out AML checks following predetermined triggers.

For example, one customer was allowed to deposit over £112,000 without AML analysts properly implementing all of the actions required by Videoslots’ internal policies and procedures.

The UKGC added that “similar failings were demonstrated with other customers.”

Further, Videoslots had not fulfilled elements of its customer due diligence procedures as early as intended, and did not have sufficient AML analysts to process the volumes of data or undertake the number of AML reviews required by its AML policies, the regulator said.

There were also examples of analysts not properly implementing the operator’s policies and procedures, it added, “which allowed a number of high-risk customers to continue to gamble significant amounts.”

RG failings

The operator also failed in its duty to “interact with customers in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling,” the UKGC said.

As a result, in some instances, Videoslots did not identify customers displaying risky behaviour as potentially experiencing harm, because gambling reviews were not undertaken as early or as effectively as they should have been.

For example one customer, having a self-declared income between £60,000 and £80,000, and savings between £20,000 and £50,000, was allowed to deposit and lose £98,000 within six months.

The Gambling Commission said the reviews and interactions with that customer did not take into account the disproportionate nature of the deposits when compared to the customer’s salary.

Other customers showing indicators of harm, and those considered to be medium and high risk, were allowed to continue gambling significant amounts after interactions with the operator, despite their risky behaviours continuing.

Delays to account reviews for at-risk customers also meant the operator’s “approach to interactions set out in their responsible gambling policy and procedures was not implemented as it should have been.”

The UKGC added that following interactions with the operator, “the customer not amending their behaviour demonstrates that the interactions, as a result, were not effective in minimising the risk of harm.”

In other cases, interactions were simply not carried out, while Videoslots’ process for escalating interactions or intervening were considered ineffective.

UKGC conclusion

The UKGC judged that there were several aggravating factors in this case, including that “the breach arose in circumstances that were similar to previous cases the Commission has dealt with which resulted in the publication of lessons to be learned for the wider industry.”

It added that the nature of the breaches meant that other customers not reviewed by the regulator could have been affected, while the extended time frame of one year and nine months was also considered an aggravating factor.

Finally, the settlement is the result of the second regulatory review Videoslots has been subjected to, with the first already having resulted in a £1m settlement.

Still, there were also mitigating factors in this case, including that Videoslots has accepted its failings, taken steps to rectify the breaches and been cooperative with the regulator’s investigation.

The operator was “transparent” during the review, the UKGC added, “and outlined that operational effectiveness was severely impacted during the relevant period by the Covid pandemic.”

The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has requested legislative amendments from the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, to grant its officers expanded rights for the use and creation of false IDs during investigations.

In a letter addressed to Weerwind (pictured), who is currently responsible for evaluating the Dutch gambling laws, the KSA has requested modifications to the law to allow access to “false identity documents for enforcement and supervision purposes”.

Currently, the National Identity Agency handles the processing of fake IDs, while the KSA requires legal authorisation to utilise them.

The KSA argued that the IDs must be replaced regularly to prevent online gambling providers from recognising their staff members.

Therefore, the KSA demanded a change in the law so that the KSA “can obtain the identity data required to access the websites of providers” to monitor the legal supply more effectively and efficiently.

The KSA’s actions have recently been at the centre of attention after its officers allegedly gained access to a Videoslots website by posing as a German consumer.

As a result, the Malta-based company has been hit with a penalty of nearly €10m, which it stated it will appeal.

Other proposed changes

Additionally, the KSA has suggested that it would be given direct access to the Control Database of online gambling licence holders for market analysis.

Currently, the KSA can only use this data for supervision and enforcement, not for analysis and research.

By amending the law, the KSA said it aims to establish a factual basis for setting priorities, enforcement and policy-making.

Moreover, the KSA has highlighted that the “involuntary registration” option of the Central Register of Exclusion from Games of Chance (Cruks) is currently underutilised.

This option allows third-parties such as family members, co-workers and even operators, to exclude players once they notice indicators of gambling-related harm and can provide proof.

However, the KSA said only a small number of individuals are currently involuntarily registered. As a result, its effectiveness in combating gambling addiction is questionable.

The regulator also stated that the procedure for the involuntary registration of players is overly complex and that the six-month period for players to deregister is too short.

Lastly, the KSA has pointed out that the legislation governing slot machines is outdated and no longer aligned with current regulations and technological advancements.

The regulator recommends revising this legislation to bring it in line with the regulations for online games of chance.

Online casino operator Videoslots has inked a new sponsorship deal with Malta-based environmental NGO Coast is Clear.

Coast is Clear exists to help clear plastic pollution from the seas and coastlines of Malta and Gozo, in addition to planting and maintaining more trees throughout the islands.

The NGO was founded in 2021 by fitness instructor Mark Galea Pace, who was born and raised in Gozo.

The organisation uses Pace’s personal boat and a specially bought cleaning truck to conduct clean-up operations across Malta, helping remove plastic pollution and litter from the country’s environment.

According to Malta Today, the initiative has already planted 200 indigenous Maltese trees and collected over 60 tonnes of waste from both the island and the seas surrounding Malta and Gozo.

Videoslots deputy CEO Ulle Skottling: “We love living and working in Malta and are lucky to do so, so we need to look after it for generations to come.”

Videoslots and its more than 250 staff are now dedicated to supporting the organisation in its mission, by hosting various clean-ups and tree planting activities for employees to participate in.

“We are grateful for the support offered by Videoslots and its employees, who share our commitment to keeping our islands and the seas around them clean,” said Coast is Clear founder Pace.

“There is much more we can all do as individuals to maintain that pledge, but the generosity of successful companies provides an additional and much welcome boost.”

Ulle Skottling, deputy CEO at Videoslots, added: “The work that Coast is Clear does is of great benefit for the environment in Malta. It is important for companies like Videoslots to support them.

“We love living and working in Malta and are lucky to do so, so we need to look after it for generations to come. Here at Videoslots, we are happy that we can do something concrete to help make Malta a cleaner and greener place for everyone.”

Videoslots CEO Alexander Stevendahl with Coast is Clear founder Mark Galea Pace

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than 14 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

Marine species can be injured and killed by ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris, while plastic pollution also threatens food and safety quality, human health and coastal tourism, as well as contributing to climate change.

According to the World Wildlife Federation, the amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to double in the next 15 years, and projections show that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight.

A staggering 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs and half of all marine turtles have eaten plastic, according to the organisation.

In addition to its work in Malta, Coast is Clear recently expanded internationally as the organisation took on the world’s highest clean-up expedition at Mount Everest base camp,

The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has imposed fines totalling more than €26m across five different operators.

Which operators have been fined?

The penalties were handed down to each operator for allowing consumers in the Netherlands to gamble online with their services despite not being licensed in the country.

N1 Interactive was on the receiving end of the biggest fine at €12.64m for a repeated violation, after a fine had already been imposed by the KSA previously.

N1 said it categorically disagrees with the KSA’s considerations that led to the alleged violation as it had taken several measures to prevent participation from the Netherlands.

“Moreover, N1 feels the KSA has adopted an incorrect and baseless calculation to determine the amount of the fine, making it disproportionately high, which contradicts the legal basis for levying and calculating a fine under Dutch law,” said the operator in a statement.

N1 has objected to the ruling and has activated both administrative and judicial proceedings.

Then came the much-disputed and much-discussed penalty of €9.87m for Videoslots, which the operator has labelled “unlawful” and vowed to challenge in the courts.

In its case file, the KSA insisted Videoslots’ online gaming services were available to Dutch consumers, while the operator claims the KSA was only able to access the site after “mystery shopping” as a German consumer.

Why have the fines been described as unfair?

This method of investigation has been described as “absurd” and “a joke” by industry insiders on LinkedIn, while some have even called the process “entrapment”.

Videoslots bore the badge of a Dutch-licensed operator despite not being licensed, which despite not being ruled as a violation, was still considered an aggravating factor by the KSA, although the operator said the mistake was rectified swiftly.

The KSA, which was able to register an account and deposit with a Dutch IP address that was created from the Netherlands, has claimed that no technical measures were taken by Videoslots to prevent participants from the Netherlands from accessing its site.

By the KSA’s own admission, however, Videoslots had removed the sign-up option for Dutch phone numbers, so the regulator’s mystery consumer instead used a German one:

Videoslots will contest the ruling and CEO Alexander Stevendahl said it was “important to stand up for what’s right” in a LinkedIn post of his own.

The early reaction online suggests that Videoslots will have many industry allies by its side.

The letter Videoslots sent in response to the KSA said: “The report was drawn up carelessly, is not objective and is unclear in a general sense. There is no actual assessment of the factual findings against the legal and policy framework; scary.”

The KSA uses annual turnover from the Netherlands to determine the scale of its fines. It is unclear which number was used for Videoslots, which is privately owned and unlicensed in the Netherlands.

According to Videoslots, their turnover figure was determined “incorrectly and carelessly” by the regulator.

Will the fines be challenged?

BP Group Limited, which trades as PressEnter Group, also received a fine of €1.79m, while Probe Investments (€1.13m) and Fairload Limited (€900k) completed the set.

In the case of PressEnter, the KSA said it was able to make a deposit of €10 from a Dutch bank account and that “Netherlands” was offered as a drop-down option at several stages during the sign-up process.

In a statement provided to iGaming NEXT, PressEnter said it disputes the basis of the fine as well as the KSA’s investigation.

KSA chair René Jansen: “We mean business. Player safety is paramount. A fine is to hit where it hurts, so in the wallet.”

“As soon as the company received notification from the KSA of a possible breach, the company took immediate action and adopted a strict interpretation,” said a spokesperson.

PressEnter has also pledged to challenge the decision and will pursue legal action to obtain clarity if necessary.

The KSA reiterated that offering online gambling to players in the Netherlands is only permitted with a licence, and that strict rules apply to ensure there is a safe legal offer where players are assured of a fair game and are protected against gambling addiction.

KSA chair René Jansen said: “We mean business. Player safety is paramount. A fine is to hit where it hurts, so in the wallet.”

Videoslots has vowed to contest the largest fine issued in the history of the Dutch regulator as the KSA prepares to enforce a €9.87m penalty on the operator.

The KSA claims Videoslots violated the Dutch Gaming Act for several reasons as outlined below. The fine was made more severe after the regulator’s logo briefly appeared on its website in April 2022 while the firm was preparing to apply for a licence. This was deemed an aggravating factor, by the KSA.

After spotting the logo, the KSA tried to sign up to the site as a Dutch customer.

This attempt failed, Videoslots alleges, before the regulator eventually gained access by acting as a German consumer instead.

The KSA was able to make a deposit and reportedly placed a single bet of €0.20.

The regulator, which has significantly ramped up enforcement action this year, has now issued a fine of nearly €10m, the largest sanction in its history and by some distance.

The fine has not yet been officially communicated by the KSA, but iGaming NEXT has reached out for comment.

Videoslots deputy CEO Ulle Skottling: “It is simply not possible to protect fully against unauthorised access, and the KSA has no guidelines on what measures are sufficient.”

iGaming NEXT understands the decision is likely to be announced at around 10am CET.

Videoslots denies the allegations and has objected to the fine, describing the regulator’s actions as “unlawful” in the process.

Further, Videoslots insists it is not bound by the Dutch Gaming Act because it does not target Dutch customers and restricted access to consumers in the country after implementing further prevention measures.

Videoslots, which is based in Malta, does not have a Dutch licence, but it licensed in several European markets including Malta, Sweden, Italy and the UK.

Ulle Skottling, deputy CEO at Videoslots, was adamant that no Dutch players were able to access the website and that there was no violation as a result.

“It is absurd that the KSA should fine us after gaining unauthorised access,” he said. “It is simply not possible to protect fully against unauthorised access, and the KSA has no guidelines on what measures are sufficient.

“Furthermore, there was no demonstrable damage, and the interests of Dutch consumers were never compromised at any point.”

Skottling went on to suggest the fine had no sense of proportionality.

He added: “Videoslots takes its legal and regulatory obligations extremely seriously, but we dispute the KSA’s actions and conclusions, which we believe are unlawful.

“We are confident of a positive outcome in this case.”

More to follow…

Casino operator Videoslots has promoted from within and named Matthew Muscat as its new chief financial officer.

Muscat has been with the company for almost four years, starting as head of finance and rising through the ranks to become finance director in 2021 before taking on his new role.

During his time with the company, he has helped develop processes and oversee the finance function as the business has grown and faced new regulations, licences and products.

Ulle Skottling, Videoslots deputy CEO, said: “Matthew has been a huge asset to the finance team at Videoslots and his dedication made him a stand-out candidate for the role of CFO.

“With him at the helm we have someone who has the company’s best interests at heart. We look forward to watching this area of the business develop and grow in the coming months.”

Videoslots’ deputy CEO Ulle Skottling: “Matthew has been a huge asset to the finance team at Videoslots and his dedication made him a stand-out candidate for the role of CFO.”

Prior to joining Videoslots, Muscat was the senior finance manager at Bethard Group for three years.

He has extensive experience in accounting and auditing, having held roles at CommBank Europe and KPMG Malta.

Muscat said: “Having been at the company for almost four years, I am indebted to the trust shown in me to become Videoslots’ new CFO. I am delighted for this opportunity to keep driving the company as a financial success.

“The finance team here is a hugely important part of how the company operates and my job will be to ensure that we make things as smooth as possible for all our partners and customers,” he added.

Videoslots was founded in 2011 by CEO Alexander Stevendahl. The company holds licences in Malta, the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden and operates the flagship Videoslots.com site.