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Emily D. Swoboda
 

Q & A: Rick Smith

16 April 2007

After seven years helming the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), Rick Smith announced in March his resignation from the Internet gaming trade association to begin a new position as Head of Government Affairs, Policy and Regulation for U.K.-based UC Group, a privately owned firm specializing in payment processing, financing and logistics in support of e-commerce.

IGN sat down with Smith, who reflected candidly on his time with the IGC.

IGN: What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment at the IGC ?

Smith: That's a simple question, but it's a very difficult question, I guess. It's a matter of your perception of what you did versus reality, and how others perceive what you've done. So, from my perspective, being in my position for seven years with the internal and external politics and lasting for the duration, I guess essentially leaving on my terms was an achievement in its own right.

But, I think the IGC was always headed in the right direction in the sense of being an advocate for the industry. I just think over time the positioning of the IGC enhanced to the point to where we were invited in September to attend a meeting to discuss possible agenda items for the ministerial summit to be held in the United Kingdom. So, the recognition of the IGC just increasingly grew over time, both as a contact point for media and recognition by various regulators/legislators also. I think increasingly we were accepted as a genuine association representing a credible industry by some. Obviously, you'll always have the anti-gambling zealots.

I guess to summarize, I just think growing the IGC in terms of its reputation credibility over time--cementing the IGC as a genuine thing. I think it touches on the professionalism of the IGC also. When I started there were at least five different associations out there and some of them just had the 1-800 phone number and the info-at-e-mail address, which, to me, doesn't really lend itself to being to credible in terms of having a face and having a name and having a real existence.

IGN: What was your greatest disappointment?

Smith: Cooperation. I'm talking about cooperation on an international platform, not just cooperation within IGC, by any stretch. I'm talking about cooperation amongst associations, the industry in general and the different service industries on the periphery. I tried for years to get a bit more cooperation--a bit more unity, a more unified voice--obviously at a higher level, because at the micro level, you always have differences between associations. But I think at a macro level there are a lot of common points where you could work together, but I just think the internal politics of some of the associations with trying to enhance the return on the investment dollar for their members ... they were, perhaps, protecting their own turf a little too much instead of working cooperatively. I did notice, however, toward the end--when I was finishing up at the IGC--there was a move in the direction of greater cooperation, which raised my hopes a bit. But it was always a bit of a disappointment trying to work cooperatively and work outside the four walls when the nature of the industry was global. There are global issues and I think global issues need global solutions, not just insular thinking and trying to address issues within the confines of one particular jurisdiction.

IGN: Is there anything you wish you'd accomplished, but didn't get the chance to?

Smith: I'm a firm believer in the responsible gambling initiatives of the industry. There's a lot that's being done out there, but it's just not being brought to the public light. There's a lot of education that can be done in that regard and I wanted to hold a responsible gambling awareness week, not to be confused with the other 51 weeks being seen as irresponsible. I think [we need] a basic responsible gambling awareness week in terms of education rather than cure and international cooperation again--trying to get all the association in bed, doing it at the same time, and also, the various service providers in the industry, the GamCares, the National Council on Problem Gambling. There's a lot of good stuff out there.

Some [land-based regulators] require licensed staff to have completed x-number of hours per year in training in responsible gambling initiatives. It's never going to make them experts in the field, but it's just that first step in educating the unwashed.

One of the problems there with the frustrations, not disappointments, is some of the service providers in the responsible gambling area couldn't actually work with industry too closely. They couldn't receive money from the industry. Also, if some of them did receive it, would they use it against the industry, politically? Also, they couldn't really work outside of their own jurisdiction. So, they're hamstrung by their own bylaw or statute, not necessarily by a lack of wanting to work together, just by the nature of its own beast.

IGN: How has the Industry changed over the last seven years?

Smith: I guess it's gone from the individual operations to corporatized big business. The industry was quite fun in the early days and there was your share of enjoyment on the social side, whereas now it has increasingly became more focused and more corporatized. I think from a business sense it has moved forward. It's not just a hobby to tinker around with. So, in that sense, it has grown for the better. I think there is still a ways to go in terms of responsible gambling, as I said.

Early days I guess it was a bit of a towing the water-type of business. People just didn't believe how well it would do. Entrepreneurial approaches, I guess, in the early days ... whereas now you actually need a business plan. So, I guess it's changed in that way. Well, it's become more professional and more corporatized.

Q & A: Rick Smith is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda