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Kevin Smith

IGN Q & A: Cliff Williams

29 November 2001

Cliff Williams has been at his new job for a little over a month now, but the new director of offshore gaming in Antigua has years of valuable experience in dealing with the online gaming business. Williams has spent the first month on the job re-establishing contacts within the jurisdiction and getting the message out that he wants to return Antigua to the top of the gaming business. He talked with IGN this week about his new position and his hopes for continuing the progress he has already made in one short month.

IGN: You're well known within the industry and have had a lot of experience working with online gaming companies both inside and outside of Antigua. How did you get started working in the Division of Offshore Gaming?

Cliff Williams: I used to manage a department with a furniture company that was based here in Antigua. Their head office was in London and I handled the technical part and the computers. They did some consolidating and my position become redundant.

I went to the government for a job and I had computer skills so they were able to put me with the gaming office.

They hired me to actually work with the gaming division in the Free Trade Zone under Mr. (Vere) Murphy. When I was with the Free Trade Zone I dealt a lot with offshore gaming and regulators. I made sure people were applying regulations to Internet gaming.

After a few months in that position they appointed a director of offshore gaming, which was Gyneth McAllister, to handle the Internet gaming companies.

I was transferred to her office at the same time of her appointment, and between the two of us, we created an office from scratch. We rented the office space and brought everything up to par.

I was the director of operations and I was pretty much her right-hand man. I went to all the meetings with her and traveled to conferences.

I gained a lot of experience with her and creating this office from scratch.

IGN: From a public relations standpoint things kind of went south for Antigua after McAllister left the office. There seemed to be little progress made after she had things built up.

CW: The last couple of years were hard on Antigua. It was tough to get the continuity and cohesiveness back that we had.

We had a great reputation as a jurisdiction where regulators were available to licensees, but current and prospective ones, and had a good reputation as being a standup office. I think after Gyneth left those principles were overlooked by some in the government. There were people in key positions that really didn't have the experience in online gaming that they probably needed to effectively manage the office and the companies that were located in Antigua.

IGN: That explains why the majority of the first month you have been on the job then has been spent re-establishing those relationships and contacts with licensees and other key Internet gaming related officials. Was that something that had been lacking recently?

CW: Yes. I had kind of maintained that role in the early days after Gyneth left but then after the new director had enough experience I was given more administrative roles.

I then took a step back within the office to let the new director go about things the way he wanted.

I still maintained a credible and excellent rapport within the industry and it was easy for me to recreate the friendly relationship with this office and companies in the industry.

I think I also have the respect though to effectively regulate the industry as well.

IGN: Sounds like Antigua has gone through quite a transformation then over the last couple of years and that you hope there is another transformation left.

CW: We chose to relegate from the forefront of being the No.1 gaming jurisdiction, into a slightly reduced position, primarily to straighten up all major areas that would affect our jurisdiction that we saw would affect our gaming industry as well.

But now we have acted on all concerned areas, which resulted into highly successful ventures. We now have everything in place to go full force ahead to emerge back at the top to be and remain as the No. 1 gaming jurisdiction in the world.

Antigua became the first fully regulated and best regulated jurisdiction in the world with a 3 percent tax structure, which excludes charge backs and software licensing cost. With all this said, these changes started to attract more major companies to our jurisdiction in addition to some of the world biggest companies, which are already located here.

IGN: What steps have you taken in re-establishing that sense of familiarity with your office and the licensees?

CW: I have been meeting with companies individually to get a feel of where the industry is headed and what areas we should be looking at as regulators.

We have been trying to focus on areas that we have been lacking in over the last couple of years. The response has been good from those companies that I have talked to. For many of them it is the first time they have heard from someone within the office since Gyneth left. I had a phone call the other day that was scheduled to last about 30 minutes and wound up talking more than two hours because he had so much to say and ask. I just listened to what he had to say and we had a very good conversation together.

It is coming off very well. I have gotten some excellent input and they have shown me that I am on the right track. The areas that I am concentrating on are the areas that they want to see improvement.

IGN: A big part of that improvement has included coming in line with standards put in place by the OECD, the FATF and other financial groups to prevent money laundering. What kind of progress have you made on that front?

CW: We have been instrumental in getting guidelines set by the government to comply with the OECD standards. Gyneth was kind of the one that actually had to enforce a lot of those laws, but the office was an important part in getting those standards raised so we could get off the blacklist of a lot of those groups.

The main area we had to focus on was the implementation of a tax on the licensees and of course tighten up on our money laundering laws and prevention.

IGN: What kind of goals do you have for the office?

CW: My first goal is to bring the jurisdiction back up to the standard that we were before. We have some of the best regulations and I want us to be seen as the best regulated jurisdiction in the world.

My aim is to get what we are doing out in the press and let operators know that we are adjusting to the current industry conditions.

Internet gaming is still at the teaching stage at some sense. I have to do a lot of sitting down and explaining to government officials how it all works.

I have my finger directly on some of the problems here, and since I was here in the past, I have the experience of knowing where it was before. I'm aiming to bring it back up to that standard.

For all the changes that we have done, I think that we will surpass any regulated jurisdiction in the world at this time and emerge at the top.

IGN Q & A: Cliff Williams is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith