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Exclusive Interview with Chris Armes – Group Chief Technology Officer at SG Digital



Reading Time: 5 minutes

I am thankful to have the opportunity to take this interview with a professional such as Chris Armes, who has over 25 years’ experience of managing high performing global teams, covering the full delivery experience for large-scale international projects, across both hardware and software.

Chris was appointed as Group Chief Technology Officer at NYX Gaming Group in October 2017, and following its acquisition by Scientific Games, is now taking the newly-created division SG Digital to the next level..

I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to and I will happily get back to you!

We are grateful for your generosity to answer our questions. First, I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself and tell us when and why you started working in this industry.

Chris: It’s a pleasure to speak with European Gaming Magazine. My name’s Chris Armes, and I’m the Chief Technology Officer at SG Digital, the newly created division of Scientific Games following its acquisition of NYX Gaming Group at the beginning of 2018. At SG Digital, I oversee the support and development of our products and services across digital gaming, iLottery and sports betting.

This is my first role in the betting and gaming industry, having previously worked for computer software and hardware companies Oracle and Sun Microsystems and one that I’m enjoying greatly since joining the company in September last year. It’s a really exciting industry with lots happening, but there’s also so much more that can be done to capitalise on new technologies and improve both back-end operations and the user experience.

Before joining SG Digital you worked at Oracle and held the position of Vice President, Engineering for Systems. What are those experiences, key-values that you gained at your past workplace and can use in this new role?

Chris: I have more than 25 years’ experience in working and managing global teams for the delivery of both hardware and software products. Oracle and Sun were both worldwide organisations that gave me the experience to take the Digital division forward with a product-led strategy that focuses on innovation backed by new technology. Global engineering in particular is hard to get right, and to make it successful requires a huge time investment. The digital gaming industry today reminds me a lot of the “.com” era with growth opportunities and time-to-market pressures. I plan to bring those learnings to this industry so we can capitalize quickly on the massive opportunity ahead of us.

What role do you undertake in the company’s life? What are your tasks and responsibilities?

Chris: Now that the acquisition is complete and the SG Digital division created, the focus for us now is to implement a strategy that accelerates product innovation and delivery across all our verticals.

Central to our plans is the opening of our new Technology Development Centre in Krakow, Poland. We aim to staff the office with over 100 new product-focused employees by the end of 2018, forming our fourth development centre in Europe. Poland has an established reputation for housing high-quality tech hubs, and we’re thrilled to establish a presence in the region.

It is my responsibility to oversee all our global technology teams and to bring together our different product development teams under one cohesive delivery model.

A big part of that responsibility is helping build an employer brand that attracts the top talent to SG Digital. We aim to attract talent from across the technology spectrum–not just people who have worked in gaming. A lot of our business is about high transaction rates, low latency and a seamless user experience, things you see in many other sectors such as financial services and telecoms. Expertise from various industries is crucial. We need to welcome new ideas and techniques to maximize our potential.

Which have been the most difficult periods in your career so far and what do you consider your greatest personal success?

Chris: The most difficult periods are those two extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to resourcing: significant growth and significant reductions. Both are challenging times for very different reasons. Growing and scaling a business brings with it the most basic challenge of finding the right talent. From there, though, you also have to retain the best talent. This is not just about compensation, it is also about the importance of building the brand and proving that you are really a great place to work. Hiring momentum is key, but it’s also important to understand that finding the best employees can take time. Employees should feel good about coming to work, even during times of growth. The other challenge with growth is scaling in an efficient and effective manner and having business processes that will scale at the same time. Churning out product is one thing; releasing a polished, quality product is another.

There have been so many things I’ve been proud to be a part of—I’m sure I’d leave many off by accident if I tried to list them. Building technology teams in new locations such as Prague and Bangalore is greatly satisfying, but so is watching talent grow during a career, as junior engineers become engineering thought leaders on my team. Then you see those engineering leaders come up with new and innovative ways to do things, helping to build a world-class, industry leading product.

What can you tell us about the services SG Digital provides?

Chris: The combination of NYX and SG Interactive means we now provide the broadest portfolio of products and services to iGaming brands across the globe. From nine in-house game studios and a network of third-party suppliers, SG Digital offers over 2000 game titles across our platforms. In addition, OpenBet™, the #1 sportsbook platform, used and trusted by the world’s leading sports betting operators.

We’re focused on improving all aspects of our products and services, which is why we have opened a new tech hub in Poland to find people who can drive innovation within our product portfolio.

I am sure that you have experience and knowledge about the European gambling industry, especially the Eastern European one. I would like to ask you to share your opinion about the gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?

Chris: Europe has and will remain a key focus for us as we look to expand into established territories and emerging markets, which of course includes those in Eastern Europe. Online gaming continues to gain popularity in the central and eastern regions, particularly as regulation becomes more robust.

Another region that is exciting for us is the U.S., where the potential expansion of sports betting will present us with significant opportunities. Although sports betting is currently limited to Nevada, proposals to amend existing laws are gathering momentum, and we could soon see a flurry of states allow punters to place wagers on sporting events for the first time. From a technology perspective, we have to ensure our products are ready and compliant to meet the standards of these new markets, which is a major focus for us right now.

Which are the future plans of the company that you can talk about to our readers?

Chris: We’re undertaking a major recruitment drive following the opening of our new development centre in Poland. We’re hiring for new people in quality assurance, core software development and product innovation. We’re also keen on continual recruitment across the globe, especially as the gaming landscape evolves. To prepare for potential sports regulation in the U.S., for example, we aim to expand our employee base in the region with talented individuals who can ensure our success in a new territory.

Crucial to making ourselves an attractive company to work for is the promise of a career opportunity, which is exciting and provides them with a platform to be creative. We’re looking into many areas of technology right now, such as video streaming and voice recognition software, as well as looking into how we can provide a more personalised user experience through a deeper understanding of consumer habits.

What upcoming events are the company focusing on nowadays and how prepared is the company for these events?

Chris: For the short-term at least, much of our focus will be on hiring skilled technology leaders to drive growth and innovation.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of SG Digital with so much going on across the many verticals we operate and among the talented teams we have all around the world, all pulling in the same direction.

Reka is an Experienced English second language teacher with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in Microsoft Excel, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Translation, Foreign Languages, and Lecturing. Strong education professional with a Bachelor’s Degree majored in English Language and Literature/Letters. Reka is in charge of conducting the exclusive interviews on European Gaming and our printed magazine

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Exclusive Interview with Milena Tsankarska, Sales and Marketing Manager of BEGE EXPO



Reading Time: 4 minutes

It is my great pleasure to introduce my latest interview with a respected women of the gambling industry. Milena Tsankarska is the Sales and Marketing Manager of BEGE EXPO has graduated the University of National and World Economy, Sofia. Milena holds a Master degree in Marketing and Management. With certificates for PR, Marketing, Brand Management and reputation, Milena is also a valued member of Bulgarian Public Relations Society. During the period 1997–2008 she has occupied positions as Marketing Manager in major companies from various fields. In 2008 Milena was appointed as a Marketing Manager of Balkan Entertainment and Gaming Expo (BEGE) – the leading gaming and entertainment exhibition in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Since 2015 she is responsible for the Marketing & Sales department of BEGE. For the past 10 years she is also working closely for the online magazine e-Game Spectrum, which covers various aspects of the gaming and entertainment industry in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

With this occasion, I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to and I will happily get back to you!

First of all thank you very much for accepting this interview. I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself to our readers and tell us when and why you started working in this industry.

Milena: Thank you for the kind invitation and greetings to all of your readers. I am Milena and for the past ten years I have been part of the team behind the leading gaming event in Eastern Europe – BEGE Expo. The organization of such important exhibition has been one of the biggest challenges in my professional career and still provokes me everyday – to learn new things and discover the potential of technologies, as part of one of the fastest developing industries worldwide – the gaming industry.

As Sales and Marketing Manager of BEGE EXPO you have been taking part in the whole process of organizing this important event for many years now. Please speak about this event and your role, your tasks and responsibilities.

Milena: Actually, taking the step in becoming the Marketing Manager of BEGE in 2008 and Marketing & Sales Manager later in 2015, it has opened a whole new world of opportunities to me. I am grateful to be able to work with so many professionals everyday and meet with the leaders in the gaming and entertainment field. I am engaged with finding new clients and introducing to them the opportunities of the Eastern European market and not only – a job truly inspiring and responsible as well.

The 11th edition of this exhibition is scheduled for 21-22 November. In what will this year’s exhibition differ, are there novelties you would like to speak about?

Milena: We always try to listen to our exhibitors and work together on the success of the expo. In the last few years we have been trying to introduce new things regularly and keep on track with the advances in the industry. In 2017 we launched a Startup zone, an Innovation zone and the Sales Pitch zone – projects, which we intend to continue developing further in 2018, too. We want to make the Online gaming business another strong part of the event and this is what we will work for this year.

Which were the most difficult periods in your career so far and what do you consider your personal success?

Milena: Everyone experiences hard periods and challenges sometimes. However, when you work with a team, which believes in the idea and the project, when your team is positive about it, every challenge becomes an opportunity. We, at BEGE Expo accept the challenges with a smile and always look for a way to cope with them. As part of the team behind these two successful events, I accept every achievement as my personal. Every accomplishment is part of the mutual success, because we value teamwork.

I am sure that you have experience and knowledge about the European gambling industry especially the Eastern European one. I would like to ask you to share your opinion about gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?

Milena: Currently, the gaming industry in Eastern Europe and more specifically Bulgaria is enjoying a very stable growth. According to the Annual report on the Bulgarian gaming industry by BTAMOGI (the Bulgarian Trade Association of Manufacturers and Operators in the Gaming Industry) there are 26 casinos and 847 gaming halls – nearly 80 new halls were opened in Bulgaria in 2017. The total number of gaming machines has reached 26877 by September 2017, which is with 1756 more than in 2016. The online game licenses reached 25 in just 3 years (in 2013 there were only 3 licenses). All this data I can summarize in two words – steady rise. In Romania the industry is also well-developing, in Serbia and Macedonia, as well. The predictions for the future development of the region are good and hopefully more providers will see the potential in Eastern Europe.

Tell us please about your future plans, projects regarding your professional life.

Milena: I have concentrated on the future edition of BEGE Expo and EEGS in 2018. Me and my team we are working hard on improving the events and surprising the visitors every year. This November we would like to introduce a new conference format and better opportunities for networking and business to our guests. My work is totally devoted to discovering new ideas and implementing them in everything I do.

What does success mean to you and do you consider your career a successful one?

Milena: Success for me is seeing people enjoy what they do and the results of a hard work. The material aspect of success is having BEGE Expo grow every year – exhibition space is expanding and number of exhibitors and visitors are constantly rising. However, more important is that this event managed to become an essential part of the industry – an engine driving innovation and transformation for a whole decade. It has been 11 years already!

You must have participated at several conferences, professional meetings so far. What are your experiences regarding these events and which are the most important ones you would like to talk about?

Milena: In such dynamic industry you have to be always aware of what the competition is up to. I have visited all major events for the industry – ICE London, G2E in Las Vegas, VIGE in Austria, the iGaming Super Show in Amsterdam, as well as the regional conferences and exhibitions. You can always learn something new and get inspired by such events.


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Interview with Dario Arruda, the CEO XCaliber

Niji Ng




Reading Time: 5 minutes

Dario Arruda, the CEO of XCaliber, Malta, is a hands-on leader driven by a passion to meet the challenges and to realise the goals. Under his leadership, the company has made great strides in the last one and a half years. In this exclusive interview, Dario Arruda opens up about the company’s growth and its vision for the future. He provides detailed and lucid answers to a wide range of questions about the changing phases of technology, the new projects his company is into, and future trends in the gaming industry. Meet the man behind one of the most talked-about companies in the gaming technology sector.

I would first like to ask you to begin with a few words about yourself. It’s always nice to hear top-class professionals say a few words about themselves for our audience.

Dario: Together with Cherry, I co-founded XCaliber in December 2016, having previously spent more than five years as Chief Technology Officer for Cherry Malta. Much of my background is in technology – I spent a number of years working on product and technical development for Allied Newspapers, Malta’s leading news and publishing company.

This experience translated effectively into the role of CTO with Cherry Malta, and I have not looked back since. I was delighted that Cherry accepted my proposal to create the B2B Technology business area, XCaliber, and am very proud of what we have achieved since the company was founded.

It has been just over a year since XCaliber was launched. How do you look back at the journey so far?

Dario: It is fair to say, this has been a 15 months packed with progress to tell you about. We signed a number of important third-party deals, notably including the first partner for Omarsys, our affiliate-marketing platform. FSport is one of the world’s leading fantasy sports platforms, and we were delighted to partner with them in increasing our foothold in the Swedish iGaming market.

The launch of our new Responsive Framework technology at the beginning of February marked a major milestone in our efforts to deliver innovative solutions that bring clarity and ease-of-use for both player and operator.

In financial terms, 2017 was a year in which we have built solid momentum, reporting revenue figures of MSEK 38.6, while we are also now ISO 27001 certified, reflecting how seriously we take, and the importance we place on maintaining full and robust levels of data security.

More than that, we have built a tightly knit team of experienced iGaming professionals, committed to our path of pushing the boundaries of business excellence. Put simply, I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far, and with plenty of new developments on the horizon, the future looks very bright.

XCaliber’s LinkedIn page talks about “child-like curiosity and an insatiable appetite for creating novelty. We are all curious to know how you actually manage to retain the “child-like curiosity and an insatiable appetite for creating novelty” even when developing software for the fiercely competitive betting industry?

Dario: What we look to get across in all our dealings with fellow providers and operators is our passion for delivering innovation. This is reflected in the groundbreaking nature of our recently unveiled Omarsys and Responsive Framework, and our nominations in the “Software Rising Star” and “Affiliate Software” at the 2017 EGR B2B Awards underline the value in our growth strategy.

We have an exceptionally motivated team, and the innovation-driven nature of our approach is something that delegates really responded to at the recent ICE Totally Gaming Conference in London.

XCaliber has won two awards at the prestigious Malta’s Best in Business Awards 2017: 1. Startup of the Year and 2. Best Online Web and Design. How do you reflect on the achievement?

Dario: We were humbled and delighted to receive those awards, as we are with any awards that recognise the effort and achievements of the hard-working team of experienced professionals that we have built at XCaliber.

It is great to see the speed of our growth acknowledged with the “Start-Up of the Year” award, and we are carving out a real reputation as one of iGaming’s foremost suppliers on a technological and design level.

From the outside, it looks like XCaliber is mainly into two broad activities: 1. Rebranding the existing products, as in the case of CherryCasino and Game Lounge, and 2. Developing your own innovative products.

Let us talk about the rebranding first. What are the main things that XCaliber usually brings into a successful existing brand?

Dario: Speed to market, a slick and sophisticated experience for the end user, performance and quality of our products and a proactive approach to entering new jurisdictions are all vital aspects that our technology promotes, and this is reflected in the growth experienced by Cherry brands including CherryCasino and Sunmaker. As one of the industry’s fastest-growing providers of premium systems and software, we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver best-in-breed solutions to all of our partners, and we are proud to do so as a core part of and provider to the Cherry Group.

Question 6

Following from the previous question, you have your own innovative products as well – like Omarsys and Paypi. There are other products with the same or similar functionality. What makes your products special, or what makes them take the gaming world by storm – even if “a very quiet storm”, as your website says?

We are quietly bringing great advancements to the industry through products like Omarsys and Paypi. Taking our performance-marketing framework Omarsys as an example, it goes far beyond traditional tracking platforms. We recognise that adaptability is key to marketing efforts in the iGaming industry, and as such, we have fitted Omarsys with real-time reporting and analytics tools, allowing our partners to react swiftly and decisively to emerging trends. It is this desire to go above and beyond for our clients that elevates our offering above the competition.

The latest news from XCaliber is about a new solution, called Responsive Framework. Could you tell more about it to our readers?

Dario: Absolutely. XCaliber’s Responsive Framework, codenamed XCAF, is an industry-first solution that enhances the ability of our operating partners to deliver a truly Omnichannel experience through the intuitive and intelligent use of data. The solution promotes a seamless customer journey, via a one-page structure built into the operator’s existing back-end, making streamlined use of collected customer data to ensure that players are always being promoted with offers perfectly synced to their preferences.

Instant gratification and a discovery-based experience drive so much of modern multimedia entertainment as we know it, and the data-led approach that our Responsive Framework facilitates puts all of the required functionality in the palm of an operator’s hand.

How do you see the gaming industry and the software development for the industry evolving in 2018? Do you see a paradigm shift in the near future, especially with reference to artificial intelligence, robotics and all that?

Dario: I think there is certainly scope for evolution this year in light of the potential, that rapidly developing technology is bringing with it. Machine learning certainly has a role to play here, as part of the wider picture presented by iGaming providers that are making increasingly intelligent use of data in their solutions. I wouldn’t say this necessarily equates to a complete “paradigm shift”, but you can expect to see a lot of developments when it comes to making better use of customer data and preferences to deliver an experience tailored to the individual user.

While I will not give away what we have in the pipeline at XCaliber, I will say that you should definitely watch this space!



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Conferences in Europe

Exclusive Interview with Jan Řehola (Partner at PS Legal) and speaker at Prague Gaming Summit 2018

Zoltan Tundik



Jan Rehola speaking about Czechia's gambling laws at CEEGC Budapest 2017. In the picture are Iryna Sergienko(CEO of the All–Ukrainian Union on Bookmaking Development), Dan Iliovici (President of the Romanian National Office for Gambling), Dr. Robert Skalina (Partner at WH Partners). Photo credits: European Gaming Media and Events
Reading Time: 5 minutes

This week it’s all about the Czech Republic and our latest interviewee is a highly respected expert who shares his expertise at gaming events. Jan Řehola is a frequent speaker at our events and always bring quality information about the market’s updates. You can meet Jan in person by attending the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague. You can find more details here.

Hello Jan, thank you accepting this interview, please tell us little bit about yourself, with now over 7 years of experience in the gaming industry, how did you continuously venture to the industry, I mean what was the main reason and what are your key activities, now within the niche?

Jan: As a gambling lawyer I found myself the most beneficial in helping operators, suppliers, testing labs and all other stakeholders involved in gambling industry to be still fully updated and fully complaint with constantly changing regulation. As gambling is highly controversial topic often in spotlight of politicians – regulation is changing very quickly so legal, and especially compliance, plays still more and more important role. What I really like the most on my work is helping my clients to develop and successfully introduce new products on market. By being part of client’s development team, I have priceless opportunity to learn new competences what helps me go every day to my office with joy and enthusiasm.

Working for 4 years for the Ministry of Finance – Czech Gambling regulator, firstly as a Head of the Legal Unit and later as a Director of Gambling Department, what do you consider you could share with us and with the readers as updates on the Czech Gaming Market?

Jan: Czech gambling market is currently undergoing the biggest restructuring from the velvet revolution in 1989. We have new Gambling Act fully in force from 2017. This Gambling Act for the first time in history introduces specific regulation for online gambling and opens whole Czech gambling market for companies established anywhere within EEA. With gambling tax based on GGR and reasonable license conditions, because new regulatory framework on paper looks very good. Unfortunately, in fact application of new Gambling Act caused some difficulties. Considering some recently issued secondary regulation (e.g. guidelines on Bonuses) and transposition of 4th AML Directive unfortunately it can be concluded that to some extent those things spoil idea of regulated, modern and highly competitive market. Currently it is very hard especially for foreign operators to meet specific requirements of Czech regulator and therefore we still have just one foreign operator with licence based on new Gambling Act (Pokerstars holds licence for sport betting, poker and so called “live game”). With new government in place some changes are expected to happen in near future. It can be presumed that some requirements which form obstacles could be potentially removed. Ministry is still working on pack of secondary regulations dealing with technical standards and also preparing big public tender for control monitoring system. Potential stakeholders on Czech market should therefore follow and supervise this preparatory works with due diligence.

Going further, You were responsible for all gambling policy issues, including drafting of new legislation, issuing of gambling licences and cooperation with other European regulators as a member of European Commission Expert Group on Online Gambling, what can you tell us about this year’s updates(in 2018), can we expect major changes on the Czech Gambling Market as we know were some tensions between governments, regulators and the gambling industry.

Jan: As mentioning before we can presume that with new, more business-oriented government in place, regulator can to some extent be more reasonable in licensing procedure. Those operators, suppliers and testing labs having experiences with licensing process in the Czech Republic can provide a testimony that hitherto regulator was more focus on formal requirements than on real substance of licenced product. Some requirements are Czech specific and therefore hardly understandable for foreign licence seekers. This could be changed. As regulator is expected to be more open, I see big room for suppliers and testing labs delivering products in many regulated market to open dialogue with regulator and help him to rebuilt licence process to be more substance oriented.

Due to your background and well versed in all aspects of gambling operations, please tell us more about how PS Legal works, as PS Legal has a rich experience in gambling field and provide professional and high quality legal and compliance consultancy to key players on Czech gambling market.

Jan: I am really enjoying our teamwork at PS Legal. This law firm has long history but when me and my colleagues joined its teams it becomes leading company in gambling field in the Czech Republic. We are focusing not only on gambling but trying to offer expertise in all new emerging industries and technologies where clients can suffer in finding professional legal help with knowledge of this specific industry. Currently we are for instance building division focusing on legal help in field of cryptocurrency or rather blockchain technology in general. We strongly believe that this rapidly developing market can play huge role in upcoming years. What I really like the most is that we are young but highly educated bunch of friends having fun in helping our clients to meet regulatory requirements in versatile areas. By doing this we are still learning and therefore our work is far from being routine.

What are your main responsibilities at PS Legal, as it is a Prague based law firm specialized in providing legal services to all sectors of the gaming industry?

Jan: In PS Legal I am heading its gambling department. This takes currently more than 70 % of my work capacity. As mentioned before we are currently building also department dealing with cryptocurrency and data protections issues. For this I am helping with head hunting process as our team is growing at a fast pace. This type of work I found very fulfilling. I am trying to use experience I got from Ministry of Finance where I was responsible for team of 35 people. I really like see how young people grow in front of your eyes as you gave them room and responsibility.

Do you have a personal opinion regarding the Gambling Market focusing on Czech Republic and the Czech Gambling-related Market? What are the PS Legal company’s future plans  in the gaming sector and what are your personal next steps and projects regarding your professional life and achieving your personal goals?

Jan:I am sure that Czech market would become more competitive in year 2018. With many applicants seeking to get licence and with licensees seeking to get new product on market we can see rapidly evolving market. Currently we see huge restructuring and M&A in land-based market that undergoing huge changes and some M&A could be expected in online world too. I believe, PS legal would play still important role in this process. Whit our expertise and experience I also hope we can help to establish dialog among all stakeholders and regulator to work together on common goal – functioning regulated market where player is protected, and operators can offer them attractive product.

To meet Jan in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.

Interviewee profile:

Jan Řehola has over 7 years of experiences in gambling field, both from the public and private sector. He is a master of Law from the Charles University in Prague.

Jan has been working for 4 years for the Ministry of Finance – Czech Gambling regulator, firstly as a Head of the Legal Unit and later as a Director of Gambling Department. In his work for the Czech Gambling regulator Jan was responsible for all gambling policy issues, including drafting of new legislation, issuing of gambling licences and cooperation with other European regulators as a member of European Commission Expert Group on Online Gambling.

Due to his background, he is well versed in all aspects of gambling operations.

PS Legal is Prague based law firm specialized in providing legal services to all sectors of the gaming industry. PS Legal has rich experience in gambling field and provide professional and high quality legal and compliance consultancy to key players on Czech gambling market.

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