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Vicky Nolan

Q & A: Paul Barnes, Access Gaming Systems

18 October 2001

Internet gambling software developer Access Gaming Systems has chalked up a long list of firsts in the Internet gambling business. The company refers to itself as the world's first government-certified Internet gaming platform; the first to offer SET credit card payments for gaming purposes; the first to offer cash gaming over the Internet; and the first to offer an independent game developers platform. It also claims that one of its licensees launched the world's first lottery to offer instant gaming over the Internet.

In accomplishing all this, the company has set very high standards for itself--standards which have paid off through the achieving of partnerships with some of the most respected groups in the gambling business. Top-name clients include Lasseters Online; the French lottery, La Fran├žaise des Jeux; Australian gaming company Tattersall's; and Holland Casino in the Netherlands.

IGN takes a glimpse behind Access' doors in this week's Q & A with Paul Barnes, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.

IGN: What is Access' Game Development Kit? It seems rather unusual for a software developer to be working with other software companies to develop games for clients.

Paul Barnes: Unusual, but a great strategy, and beneficial to the operator and the player. The GDK is the tool which allows operators to leverage on the "open content strategy" of our company. Big games developers (e.g. slots manufacturers) can port their most popular games to our platform. This is happening right now with some of the big names in the industry; watch this space.

In addition, third-party creative companies can license their content and intellectual property to help operators build competitive advantages. Last but not least, the operators themselves can build and modify games to allow product differentiation from the myriad of competing Internet casinos. If you look at the main suppliers here, all their casinos look the same. How boring.

IGN: What is the particular benefit for Access and its clients in doing this?

PB: Creative freedom, brand leverage, flexibility, cost, time-to-market, addressing player needs.

IGN: How is Access different from other I-gaming software companies?

PB: No.1, we don't run our own casinos and therefore we're not in competition with our own licensees.

No. 2, we only operate in fully regulated jurisdictions. We only sell to state lotteries and fully government-licensed casinos.

In terms of products, we can do both lottery and casino games separately or at the same time.

We also support the open content strategy whereby the customers can source the games from wherever they want.

IGN: Access counts some pretty big names among its clients. One of them, Holland Casino, has some regulatory issues that many of your other clients don't have. Will Holland Casino ever begin offering their Internet games to players outside their country?

PB: Holland Casino has had to wait longer than expected for their license but are set to go live for cash on Jan. 1, 2002. They do not intend to offer their games to players outside Holland at this time. We will not sign any contracts with operators who take bets from jurisdictions where e-gaming is illegal. AGS believes in intra-border gaming or mutually agreed inter-state gaming in legislative cooperation with the respective regulatory authorities.

IGN: What about your Australian clients? How much upgrading or development of new games can you offer them now that the federal government has passed its ban on offering Internet casino games to Australian players? Does this ban change your relationship and the kinds of services that can be provided?

PB: The ban changes the business model somewhat. We would have preferred if this ill-advised politically motivated ban had not happened, however, we continue to provide services to our Australian customers. In fact, Lasseters are launching a re-vamped Web site and games on Oct. 24.

IGN: Did you have to help the Australian companies adapt their games in any way so that they could better comply with the new law?

PB: The certification process in the four states where our customer systems are certified (Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, ACT) was very demanding and involved software changes to our system in several areas, games included. These additions can now be passed on to all customers of our system offering them a parameter-driven flexibility unmatched in the industry.

IGN: In the last few months, the United Kingdom has completed its review of gaming laws, which suggested that there should be substantial changes in that nation's laws to better license or permit various types of online gambling and wagering. Plus, Nevada passed enabling legislation for Internet casinos to eventually be licensed from there, and the Isle of Man has also begun issuing online gaming licenses. How do you see the changes in perception, as well as legislation, around the world affecting your business?

PB: Big question! There will be a change in "center of gravity" from Asia-Pacific to Europe and the U.S. We are building our operations effort from our Dublin base to serve these markets and will soon establish offices in the U.S. We retain a major operation in Sydney with the focus on software development and local customer support.

We welcome the regulatory moves in the U.K. and IOM. However, the industry is still in flux and everyone is waiting for Nevada's next move. In the mid- to long-term, the current non-regulated offshore locations in the Caribbean etc. will not survive. The market will become highly regulated with the focus on intra-country rather than cross-border gaming. AGS is well prepared for this move.

IGN: Does Access have a particular business focus? Do you target particular areas of the world or particular types of companies?

PB: We target all licensed operators of casinos, lotteries, betting and fun-gaming in fully regulated jurisdictions.

IGN: How is Access working to grow its business. Do you have some short and long term strategies to accomplish this?

PB: Yes we do--some I can tell you about and some which I cannot. Some are obvious, e.g. open content strategy. However, we have a new state-of-the-art e-gaming product, set for release soon, which will set new standards in the industry. We can thank our long-standing customers for their input to this, as well as our own experience gained since 1995.

IGN: Are there any plans to turn Access into a publicly traded company?

PB: Not right now. It may happen at some time in the future.

IGN: What are the toughest issues your company faces and how do you plan to overcome them?

PB: I guess the main issue for any high-tech company in a growing but unpredictable market is second guessing the governments and regulators at the same time as making sure the operators and players are getting what they want. Sometimes these are opposing forces; sometimes they are not. However, we have not budged from our business policy of only selling to the regulated market and we will strive to listen to and respect both sides.

IGN: What are the differences you notice when working with an online casino client versus a lottery client? Do they have different security concerns, for example?

PB: Security concerns are exactly the same: Keep out the hackers, watch the employees and deliver quality systems on time. However, both markets differ greatly. In general, lotteries have big IT departments and take over more of the implementation work. They also have more demands on the technology--e.g. some lotteries must generate results on a pre-determined basis--and demand draw lottery support with complex backend interfaces to legacy systems. Casinos on the other hand tend to have smaller IT departments and want more of an all-in service. Casino games tend to be less divergent than lotto games.

Q & A: Paul Barnes, Access Gaming Systems is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan