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Case Study – eCOGRA

The breadth of what UKAS accreditation encompasses is growing all the time. The digital sphere is one of the most dynamic sectors as standards and protection work to keep up with new technology as it emerges and evolves.

Gambling is an area that is under strict regulation, however online gambling is a market that has exploded in the last 20 years, meaning regulators have had to work hard to protect customers using the myriad of online gambling platforms available.

Digital pioneers

The first organisation to turn their attention to the online gambling marketplace was eCOGRA, established in 2003. Founded by the people that actually created the gaming software it was, in its infancy, a self-regulatory body. The business aimed to put together a benchmark of best practice, providing the unregulated marketplace with their Generally Accepted Practices (eGAP), that could provide safety and confidence to users of online gambling software the world over.

During this time, regulated markets began to emerge in various regions, and in 2010 eCOGRA underwent a management buyout. The buyout enabled them to ensure they could demonstrate the necessary independence required of a test house for these emerging markets. In the aftermath of this restructure, eCOGRA made the transition from a self-regulatory body to a regulatory partner for their clients.

Challenge and opportunity

Europe recognised the need for proper regulation of online gambling, for the dual purpose of raising revenue through taxation from the market, and protecting the consumers using these services.

When gambling as a service was removed from the EU Services Directive, this presented a big challenge to eCOGRA because each country now had the right to set their own gambling regulations. Whilst recognising the challenge that this lack of harmonisation presented to the industry, eCOGRA identified an opportunity to reposition itself as a regulatory partner for clients seeking entry into each newly emerging jurisdiction.

When a new jurisdiction emerges, eCOGRA applies to be recognised as an approved test house, capable of testing their clients gambling software against the individual regulatory requirements of that jurisdiction. At time of writing, eCOGRA actively operates in 31 regulatory markets around the globe.

Accreditation underpinning confidence in test results

To operate this service in a way that is recognised by the various regional regulators, it is necessary for eCOGRA to gain and maintain accreditation for a number of conformity assessment activities (testing, inspection and certification).

eCOGRA Quality Director, Tex Rees, recognises that when they first realised they would need to apply for accreditation, it was seen as ‘just something else they needed to do.’ However, Tex goes on to share how their experience with UKAS has changed this view.

“As we have progressed with our various accreditations, we recognise that this process far exceeds a box-ticking exercise, and the Management System has certainly helped us to grow as a business and move forward efficiently.”

Chad Shering, Quality Manager, also commented on the benefits of the accreditation in regard to quality management: “Because the system controls the journey of eCOGRA’s staff as they progress through their tasks, they can only move on the next step in the process when the previous step is correctly completed. This means we have complete confidence is their workflows and all files are always easily accessed by anyone that needs them.”

Chad has also found accreditation has helped with their project management: “The systems accreditation has helped us to put in place processes and controls, from a project management perspective, allowing us to manage multiple projects simultaneously whilst retaining full awareness of the current status of any project.”

Beyond testing.

The first accreditation eCOGRA obtained was under ISO/IEC 17025 as a test laboratory for online gambling. However, it soon became apparent that, due to the variations in approach between different regional regulators, accreditation would be required for other conformity assessment activities (i.e. inspection and certification). By extending their accreditation to cover these additional disciplines, eCOGRA continued to satisfy the requirements of the various regulatory bodies in each region they operate within.

Talking about the assessment process, Tex is very positive about their Assessment Manager.

“Alastair Hunter is an absolute joy to work with. Because he is qualified across all the standards we are accredited to, the assessment process is much smoother, more joined-up and consistent. Alastair’s holistic understanding allows for a more pragmatic assessment, which fits what our business is trying to achieve perfectly.”

The Quest for Continuous Improvement

Talking to Chad and Tex about the way accreditation has impacted their business, they are keen to emphasise how it fits, their culture of continual improvement. Tex comments “Our role is that of an auditor, so we understand where UKAS is coming from. If an improvement action is highlighted, we don’t view this as something negative, but as an opportunity to improve and become even better. Our culture has developed alongside our relationship with UKAS. What was first seen as ‘something else to do’ is now viewed as a vital element in our quest for continual improvement, and we embrace that.”

Describing eCOGRA’s culture of continuous improvement, UKAS Senior Assessment Manager, Alastair Hunter commented:

“Over the past several years, it has been great seeing eCOGRA embrace the quality-centric approach offered by the accreditation standards to realise operational efficiencies and drive process improvements across the business to further enhance the customer experience and broaden their service portfolio to serve regulatory markets worldwide.”