Lucien van Linden Q1: At the start of the IGSA in 1997, the initial goal was to increase gaming device interoperability by creating a Standard communication protocol, making it easier for manufacturers, operators and legislators to develop and use tools, equipment and software for the international Gaming Industry, all in all, did IGSA succeed in doing this?
Mark Pace: IGSA created two Standards that delivered on the promise of reducing the number of proprietary communication protocols whilst increasing the level of interoperability between gaming devices and systems. The Game To System or G2S protocol was developed using high-speed Ethernet network IT standard technology rather than the antiquated Serial communications used by other protocols like SAS.
Unlike most of the other protocols, G2S is encrypts the data right from the Gaming Device and does not require the use of a Slot Machine Interface Board or SMIB. Since it uses Ethernet, G2S-based Gaming Devices can be connected to a standard network using DHCP addressing to connect to any casino utilized system.
Also unlike most other protocols, G2S has multi-system support built into it. This means that a Gaming Device may be communicating to multiple different systems simultaneously each independent of the other. For example, one Gaming Device can be connected to a Casino Management System, a Regulatory Monitoring System, a Player Marketing system and Business Intelligence system. Each one of those systems can take advantage of the G2S Publish and Subscribe capabilities, meaning that each system can communicate which data it is interested in and the G2S protocol will only send that data to them.
G2S also makes available all of the data that a Gaming Device can communicate, and can be extended to support new data elements as Gaming Devices evolve. This is in sharp contrast with other protocols, such as SAS, which has a limited amount of data elements it can support and cannot be extended to support new ones. From a regulatory and operational point of view, this full data transparency provided by G2S is critical. For example, a Regulatory Monitoring System using G2S can get a full list of the software versions running inside the Gaming Device, including the firmware being used by Note Acceptors and Printers. This greatly facilitates ensuring that Gaming Devices are being operated using approved versions of software. Another significant regulatory benefit is the availability of G2S GAT. GAT or Game Authentication Terminal, allows the regulator to remotely over a network, verify the hashed signature of critical software running in a Gaming Device. No more needing to go to each Gaming Device, opening it, connecting a laptop or proprietary tool to a communication port and waiting for the Gaming Device to calculate the hash. All of this can be done from the regulator’s offices and depending on how the G2S GAT is implemented within their application, this task can occur automatically, on a pre-set schedule for a random number of Gaming Devices in a Casino or Slot Hall.
The other Standard which has provided incredible value to Operators is the System to System or S2S protocol. It was designed using the same methodology as G2S, however, as its name implies, S2S is focused on increasing interoperability, security and data transparency when systems need to communicate to other systems. These systems may include ones such as Centrally Determinate Systems, TiTo Redemption Systems, Player Marketing Systems, etc. S2S has solved significant operational issues by providing a single Ethernet-based, Publish and Subscribe open protocol to enable disparate systems from different vendors to share information. S2S shares many of the same characteristics as G2S in terms of security, extensibility, and interoperability.
Lucien van Linden Q2: While providing cutting edge solutions for the Gaming Industry; IGSA’s Mission is to facilitate the implementation of solutions that empower suppliers, operators and regulators with the highest level of excellence, performance and innovation through collaboration and education. Can you give an example of the solutions?
Mark Pace: IGSA seeks to identify areas in the Gaming Industry that could benefit from Standards. These could be technical Standards, operational Standards, reporting Standards, technical requirement Standards or policy Standards. First and foremost IGSA’s mission is to act as an unbiased, independent resource for operators, policy makers, regulators and suppliers, sharing best practices from around the world and explaining how existing Standards can be implemented for the betterment of the Gaming Industry in their particular jurisdiction. Secondly, IGSA seeks input from those groups to identify areas that may benefit from standardization. For example, IGSA’s GSA Europe led the workgroup within the European Committee for Standardization’s TC/456 to create a pan-European online gaming data reporting Standard. The issue was identified by the European Commission’s Expert Group on Gambling and GSA Europe provided examples of solutions that ultimately formed the basis for the European approved Online Gambling Reporting Standard.
G2S was developed because at the time, there were upwards of 20 proprietary communication protocols which Gaming Device manufacturers had to support and operators were facing significant interoperability, operational and stability issues because of that. G2S also added capabilities that were not available in other protocols such as Remote Configuration and Download, and HTML5/Browser-based Picture-in-Picture secondary windows or what IGSA calls the Player User Interface. S2S was developed specifically because of interoperability issues that were having a devastating impact on operators using Centrally Determinate Systems and the suppliers providing them. S2S not only solved the problem but propelled the revenues generated by the operators and suppliers. CDI or the Certification Database Interface was developed because suppliers and independent test laboratories wanted an automated networked solution to handle product submissions, communicating testing progress, identifying additional requirements, and then communicating the final results amongst the three groups, regulators, suppliers and test laboratory.
Lucien van Linden Q3: As an operator, which standards apply to me?
Mark Pace: G2S is a communication protocol that unlocks the power of networked gaming and revolutionises the way information is exchanged between Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) and back-of-house systems (hosts). The protocol enables many advanced features such as software download, remote configuration, remote software verification, and a native embedded Player User Interface (PUI), which are completely new features for most protocols, as well as for many EGMs. It also provides multi-system support which enables you as the Operator to connect different systems performing different tasks but connected to the same Gaming Device.
S2S helps untangle the jumbled web of back-of-house network interfaces. S2S allows manufacturers to develop a single peer-to-peer communications interface for gaming and non-gaming systems, simplifying connectivity with business partners over wide-area and local-area networks. S2S standardises information communication and improves consistency to increase operational efficiency.
Lucien van Linden Q3: As a regulator, which standards apply to me?
Mark Pace: You as a regulator will benefit from the GAT (Game Authentication Terminal) standards, GAT is GSA’s protocol used for identifying and authenticating gaming software and firmware in the field. With the usage of the CDI (Certification Database Interface) standard, The Certification Database Interface can be utilised to access the certification databases of testing laboratories, vendors, and regulatory agencies. It is intended to be used by testing laboratories, vendors, and regulators to exchange information related to the testing and approval of gaming products including EGM hardware, EGM software, and iGaming software. Additionally since G2S has multi-system support, you as the regulator could have your own monitoring system connected to each Gaming Device collecting meter and event information, supporting the GAT functionality, and providing an oversight mechanism that is outside of the operator’s control and the Casino Management System.
Lucien van Linden: Who are IGSA’s members?
Mark Pace: IGSA has been in operation for over 23 years and over that time its members have changed reflecting the needs of the Gaming Industry. Initially IGSA was formed as a gaming device manufacturer’s association and called GAMMA. As operators wanted more of a voice to address their issues, they joined and the association became the GSA. As it grew internationally and started creating Standards across both land-based and online gaming, GSA changed its name to IGSA. Reflecting that international flavour and the fact that IGSA works across all gaming verticals, its members today are from four continents and include large multi-national gaming companies that provide land-based, lottery and online products. Amongst them are companies such as Aristocrat, IGT, EGT, Light and Wonder (formerly Scientific Games), Microgaming, Novomatic and Playtech.
Lucien van Linden: What are the main benefits of becoming a member of IGSA?
Mark Pace: IGSA has a number of different membership levels allowing the prospective member to select the membership privileges level that makes sense to them.
At the Platinum Level, members get a seat on IGSA’s Board of Directors and can influence the direction the association takes and the strategic objectives it seeks to complete. This comes with full access to all Standards and the ability to participate in each Committee with full voting rights.
At the Gold Level, members may have an opportunity for a seat at the Board of Directors, it provides access to all Standards and the ability to participate in each Committee with full voting rights.
At the Silver Level, members have access to all Standards and the ability to participate in each Committee but without voting rights.
At the Bronze Level, members have access to some Standards and can license other Standards.
Lucien van Linden: What are the key benefits of using the IGSA’s standards?
Mark Pace: There are obviously specific benefits which each Standard provides. General IGSA Standard benefits:
- IGSA Standards are not proprietary, are open Standards that can be obtained via Membership or License if you’re a for-profit company or free of charge if you’re a regulator.
- No single company can dictate the direction of a Standard or the functionality that may be within it or omitted. The work is done by Committees and every company working in a Committee has a single vote.
- IGSA Standards represent the collective thinking of the individuals, from various companies, working within each Committee, therefore the best ideas and synthesized into a final solution.
- IGSA Standards are developed to solve real problems by individuals from various companies experiencing those problems. Therefore the solutions are vetted by a variety of companies to ensure real-world applicability.
- IGSA is a non-profit organization seeking to develop Standards to benefit the Gaming Industry. Therefore all Standards are developed with that goal in mind and not to benefit any single company or jurisdiction.
- You can develop or buy an existing simple communication application to gather data elements that older protocols such as SAS do not and therefore your CMS does not receive. This will allow you to send that data to off-the-shelf Business Intelligence, Visualization and other data analytical applications.
- You can choose to subscribe to data elements which are needed by each System, such as specific meters and events needed by your marketing system, making data gathering much more efficient then just sending everything to each System.
- Using IGSA standards, your IT team can manage, maintain the security and integrity of the slot network using the same tools that they use to manage their existing back-of-house local and wide-area networks
- You can use the same simple communication application to understand; in real-time what each of your slot machines is comprised of, both hardware and software, including such details as vendor, product model, release version, and serial numbers.
- Your EGMs can provide you with full information on the personality and configuration of every connected EGM, making identifying incorrect configurations or revoked software much more efficient and accurate
These and many other benefits are delivered via IGSA Standards such as the Game to System (G2S) Standard for land-based operations, the Third-party Interface (TPI) for online operations and the Regulatory Reporting Interface (RRI) that supports all types of gaming activity.
Lucien van Linden: Where can we see al this in action?
Mark Pace: All of this functionality is already available and has been in use for many years. Where? In the United States; Illinois – upwards of 30,000 gaming devices; Nevada – upwards of 3,000 gaming devices; Oregon – upwards of 20,000 gaming device; , In Canada (New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia) – upwards of 35,000 gaming devices. Outside of North America,Australia (New South Wales), Europe (Austria, Finland, Greece, Poland), gaming devices using the G2S protocol. The gaming devices in these locations are provided by major manufacturers, such as IGT, Light & Wonder (formerly Scientific Games), Novomatic, etc.. You too can have this!
Lucien van Linden: This can be overwhelming, how can I transition to G2S?
Mark Pace: The implementation of G2S based gaming devices need not be a full replacement of existing devices and systems. There are ways by which an operator can slowly take advantage of the G2S benefits and prove the Return on Investment it will take to move completely to a G2S environment.
One way of starting this transition is to identify a System such as a Monitoring System, a Marketing System or a Business Intelligence System that will add value to your operation when connected to G2S capable devices. The next step is to identify which of your existing gaming devices, from the manufacturers that have implemented G2S, can operate in both a SAS and G2S mode simultaneously. To accomplish this, a new version of the gaming device Operating System, one which supports both SAS and G2S may be needed. This coexistence of SAS and G2S can occur because SAS uses Serial communication from a COM port whilst G2S uses Ethernet communication from an Ethernet (RJ45) port. Therefore the existing Casino Management System SMIB connected to the primary Serial port inside the gaming device can continue to operate normally. However, the gaming device, also configured to operate via G2S will be able to Publish data to a different System.
To help developers looking to implement G2S, IGSA offers in-depth, online, self-paced training. For operators looking to understand how to go about taking these steps, IGSA staff is happy to answer questions.
IGSA is available to provide as much information as possible to help support implementation and use of not only G2S, but of all its Standards.
Lucien van Linden: What do regulators think of IGSA Standards?
Mark Pace: Regulators for the most part do not prescribe which communication protocol must be used within their jurisdiction.
Most if not all regulators have Technical Requirements that specify the functionality that must be provided, the ‘what’, and leave ‘how’ it is provided to operators and suppliers to determine.
Those ‘how’ solutions are then vetted by the regulators, either directly or via certified independent testing laboratories, and then approved.
However, regulators appreciate the value that IGSA Standards such as G2S, GAT, TPI and RRI provide them as they seek to provide the required oversight.
G2S provides access to all available gaming device data, not a subset only, in an encrypted secure manner that can be delivered to a regulatory system independent of any the operator is using.
G2S provides regulators the ability to remotely disable a gaming device that can only then be re-enabled via a corresponding message from their system and not simply by inserting and turning a ‘reset key’ at the device.
G2S GAT provides regulators the ability to ensure that only approved and authentic copies of the critical gaming software is being used, without needing a large staff to physically test each gaming device individually.
TPI is an open Application Programming Interface (API) that allows integrations between Game Service Providers and Aggregation Platforms or Game Service Providers and iGaming Platforms, rather than the myriad of proprietary APIs that exist today all of which do basically the same thing but differently.
RRI provides regulators with the ability to Pick & Choose from the ‘menu’ of Data Elements that systems and games produce. Their customized ‘menu’ of Data Elements can be set in any order and delivered in real-time, near real-time or periodically. Regulators appreciate also that using RRI means that they can change their data formatting without impacting operators or suppliers. Suppliers appreciate that implementing RRI means that one data reporting solution will work for any gaming jurisdiction, regardless of which Data Elements they want, in what order and at what frequency.
Ultimately, regulators benefit from IGSA Standards because they provide a level of data transparency that enables better regulatory oversight for the detection of money laundering, protection of vulnerable players and ensuring gaming is occurring fairly.
For more information on these topics see:
https://www.gamingstandards.com and https://www.igsa.org