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Enabling multi-state operations

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As the US market continues to expand and develop at a rapid pace, agility and speed to market continue to be critical.

However, the emerging regulatory landscape across the states poses challenges for new entrants and existing companies alike. Addressing all of the various requirements from state to state means managing and maintaining multiple contracts with the necessary infrastructure providers.

To provide igaming businesses with the reliability, connectivity and security that they are accustomed to from suppliers across regulated markets in the US, Continent 8 Technologies, an igaming data center and global network solutions provider, is preparing to open their newest data center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on June 1.

We spoke with Nick Nally, chief development officer and Graeme Price, commercial development director at Continent 8 to learn more about the development and the challenges their clients are facing in the market.

Continent 8 began working in New Jersey in 2013 when online gaming was legalised, however regulations meant that hosting for online gaming providers had to be placed within brick and mortar casinos. Nally explains: “We started working with the regulator, with operators and other various lobbyists and groups to see whether there was a way whereby an independent data centre which had all of the accreditations and standards could be implemented in Atlantic City and would still meet the regulatory requirements of the state.”

In order to offer their services, Continent 8 became the only non-gaming company to acquire a Casino Service Industry Enterprise (CSIE) license, with Nally saying: “In any building that we either lease or buy in Atlantic City, we are able to use the license to bring online gaming companies into it. It’s the first time that operators will not need to be in a licensed casino.”

This allows the company to act like casino but without the business, and is fully regulated under DGE regulation, via Bill (S185 / A1903), which allows and enable online gaming equipment to be located at a secure facility other than a casino, so long as it lies in Atlantic City.

Price continues, saying that having the license ensures that customers’ servers and infrastructure are managed and protected around the clock.

 DDoS defenses

With recent reports showing that the igaming industry is the second most attacked vertical in the world, DDoS defense solutions are another brick in the foundations of setting up in a new market.

This is especially prevalent in the US, with cybersecurity and anti-virus provider Kapersky reporting the country as the second most attacked in the world behind China.

Continent 8 has been offering a global DDoS solution to the igaming industry for many years, utilising detection and mitigation technology to monitor and track online threats and alert clients.

Price says this is a consistently challenging space: “Attacks change all of the time, and you have to be on top of the knowledge and what’s going on in the industry. If you go to sleep here for a short while, things will catch up with you very quickly.”

With the rise of new technologies such as AI, hackers have access to increasingly sophisticated tools to knock sites offline. We’re putting in measures to support that, but it’s a week-by-week process.

This same technology will be a core part of their US offering, with Price saying “We wrap this solution in to all of our connectivity, so we’ll be connecting the data center up to a range of local partners to offer dual and even tri-resilience for operators.”

Nally continues: “We have two large scrubbing centers situated in the US, one in NJ itself, and in terms of the data center, all of our customers will be directly connected to this facility, which offers a better level of service.”

 State of connectivity

Since arriving in Atlantic City in 2013, Continent 8 has been working to re-design the network topology serving the city. With the advent of sports betting last year, demand for bandwidth has increased considerably.

He continues: “We are working with each local connectivity provider in Atlantic City, blending their services and putting in a number of additional links. This means we can offer connectivity up to 10GB from the new site. What that offers is resilience in terms of the different connectivity routes going out of the site, and resilience in terms of the single provider.”

In terms of back-ups, the DGE is asking for all operators equipment to be based in Atlantic City, which the duo say can create “a little bit of a headache” when creating an efficient backup solution like those typically deployed, which would sometimes be multi-region, multi-city, etc.

“Here, we’re limited by geography to keeping the DR in Atlantic city. So, what we’re offering is a direct link to our present data center provider in Ocean Resort and putting links between that facility and the new Atlantic City data center thus providing adherence to a regulatory backup and data recovery solution.”

 Patchwork regulations

As they look forward to further regulation in the US market, Nally says the company anticipates the need for continued agility and preparation: “Some states are asking that service providers to gaming companies or operators are accredited or licensed in some way or another.

“Every state looks at this slightly differently – in the case of Pennsylvania, you have to become a gaming service provider in order to supply services to operators and licensees. In Mississippi, there are no requirements for hosting providers to be accredited or licensed, but this may change in the future if they bring in state-wide sports betting and online casino offerings.”

Nally explains that Continent 8 is able to have a close working relationship with regulators as a result of their positioning: “We’re sometimes viewed as independent in this industry – of course we want to further aid its growth but we’re not necessarily in it, so we can forge close relationships with regulatory bodies.

“For example, in New Jersey, we’re going into the DGE on a regular basis talking about new offerings and new opportunities in the marketplace. We’ve also had these conversations in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia and Mississippi. In a way, we’re here as well to help regulators work through this incredibly complex landscape.”

This has been important when it came to engaging with regulations around leveraging cloud technologies in the US marketplace, says Price, explaining that as a result of their cloud services across the world, Continent 8 is able to leverage other regulators acceptance of the technology to hopefully encourage the US market to take it up as well.

“This is a big requirement for new entrants coming into the US market, who don’t always have the infrastructure that current regulations require. We’re talking with the regulators on how this can drive down costs to operators and reduce barriers to entry,” Price explains.

 Contract overload

Nally anticipates that as the market develops and matures, companies will have to adhere to standards-based operations, meaning the challenge for operators is to be able to try to avoid becoming inundated with service provider contracts.

He says: “If you imagine 10 states come online, and as an IT person you have to find infrastructure in every single one of those states. Ideally you’d look at at least four different data centers in each state. That’s 40 different data centers. From there, you might look at a few different IP providers, so you’ve got another range of contracts, then of course there’s cyber security offerings.”

With speed to market being so crucial in the US, Price explains that Continent 8 prepares to enter regulating states before the official announcements by completing due diligence ahead of time so that they can identify the best-of-breed service providers and develop business intelligence.

Price says this ensures that when the market does regulate, the company can ensure they are working with the best possible partners as quickly as possible: “We’re able to offer one contract across the US under one master services agreement with service-level agreements sitting underneath all of that.”

As the market continues to develop and there remains high importance of agility and flexibility, Continent 8 aims to ensure operators can easily move from location to location without implications to their contract. Price says: “We’ve already shown benefit to operators by doing that in light of the recent DoJ news. We have one single network connecting all of these regulated states, so it’s quite seamless for us to push through and move people from site to site.”

Looking to the future, Nally says for him, the company’s objectives are clear – to follow through on their commitment to enter into every significant regulated online gaming market across the United States.