Podcast Review: Ismail Vali – Industry Veteran On Combating Illegal Markets in a Legal Way

Ismail Vali, Founder and CEO of Yield Sec, obtained his degree in Law from the University of Oxford. With over two decades of experience in the iGaming industry, he has witnessed significant changes since he first entered the field. In 1997-98, after leaving Oxford, he joined Salomon Smith Barney as their first Internet analyst. 

Mr. Vali authored a report stating that the Internet should be viewed as a distribution channel, rather than a novel entity. He also predicted that gambling would benefit from anonymity and suggested that it would be worth exploring. Several gambling companies expressed interest in his report, and shortly Mr. Vali joined Ladbrokes and started their Internet division with a small team of tech- and strategy personnel. 

He later moved to the world’s first online company Paradise Poker, where he focused on creative ideas and promotions. “I found my niche there, that’s really what set up my marketing work, I really focused on how to bring customers, let them play for free, and let them adjust to whatever they want to do in their own time.” 

In the latest episode of Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show, Mr. Vali, besides his early career, talked about the illegal gambling market, regulatory and government interference, as well as how Yield Sec can make the gambling sector a safer environment.

Unlicensed online gaming operations have experienced rapid growth over the past few years, driven by an increasingly strict regulatory environment in many markets. Players receive no assurances of fair play, operators face no scrutiny from regulators, and not a penny flows to the taxmen. However, Mr. Vali believes that by treating customers well and providing quality service, you can still make a profit within legal boundaries. 

“I saw less capable, less able, less talented people doing really well and making tons of money in the illegal market. 

“However, I was always successful working for other people who were always able to make money and always able to keep them on the right side of the law. You can still make money, treat your customers the right way, and they’ll keep coming back to you.” 

Mr. Vali added that his goal is to make a positive impact in his career and lifetime by reforming the gambling industry. He aims to create opportunities for legal operators to earn revenue and contribute to a safer and fairer ecosystem. Society permits legal gambling in exchange for the industry’s compliance with regulations and safety standards, but iGaming is still far from achieving this objective.

Yield Sec was created to solve this problem and make the gambling sector a safer environment. The company’s technical intelligence platform, machine learning, and AI are based on a proven military counterinsurgency stack. This technology helps identify, track, and combat terrorism and political violence, which forms the basis of their solution to combat illegal black-market gambling operators.

Another important topic that Mr. Vali raised in the podcast was the government’s lack of understanding of how the industry works and its intervention in the business. 

Highlighting an example from Germany, which witnessed the regulated market introduce 10-second spin delays on slot machines with no prior warning or explanation to players. 

From that, customers were fed misinformation via forums and social media platforms that said machines were rigged or fixed. This resulted in legal slot machine site sales “going through the floor” and its illegal counterpart’s sales “going through the roof”.

“There has to be coordination and dialog between government, regulator, industry, and other self-help bodies and kind of the people who want to do good with the gambling ecosystem, but they don’t necessarily understand all of the dynamics that work in that place.

“So you need to understand when you start changing this dynamic, these are the impacts you can expect. This is what we see globally, and this is not one blowback piece that you do not want to happen because when you introduce something like that spin delay, it led to wholesale movement towards the black market by customers because they saw the legal market as unfair.”

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