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Exclusive Interview with Jospeh Borg

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Exclusive interview with Joseph Borg
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Our colleague, Szaló Réka interviewed Joseph Borg who is Vice-President of Bitmalta, and also a senior advisor at WH Partners, a law firm specializing in Gaming, Corporate, IT, Telecoms and Intellectual Property Law. He also lectures Gaming Law at the University of Malta and is the Secretary General of the Malta IT Law Association.

 

Thank you for being available and accepting this interview. First of all will you please introduce yourself and the company you represent?

Borg: Thank you for inviting me to give this interview. It is my pleasure. I am an advocate by profession, and I’m currently a Senior Advisor to WH Partners, practising mainly in the areas of Gaming, Blockchain, Esports, Corporate, IT, Telecoms and Intellectual Property Law. I also lecture Gaming Law at the University of Malta. Currently I’m also the Vice-President of Bitmalta, which is a non-profit organization that I co-founded, with a mission to promoting and stimulating discussion about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in Malta. Before joining WH Partners I occupied the post of Chief Regulatory Officer of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority – Malta (now the Malta Gaming Authority), where I worked for almost 7 years. During my tenure at the MGA, I was elected as a Member on the Board of Trustees of the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR). 

You have rich experience in providing advice to the Gaming industry. Why did you choose gaming, or may I ask: did the industry choose you?

Borg: I believe the industry chose me when I joined the Lotteries and Gaming Authority in Malta in 2017. The MGA (then known as the LGA), was set up in 2004 and became fully operational by 2006. I was one of its first employees and I witnessed the growth of the industry in Malta first hand. I was coming from a telecoms and IT law background after obtaining a Masters degree in the subject and 3 years experience as Legal Counsel to Vodafone Malta. Coming from a vibrant and dynamic industry like the telecoms industry I thought that this is as interesting and exciting as it can get. But when I got into the gaming industry I felt that this is the industry I want to focus on. If the telecoms industry is vibrant, dynamic and exciting, the gaming industry is all of that ten times over.

What is your personal opinion about the European gambling industry and could you make a comparison with the market that you know better and the European situation in terms of gaming and gambling?

Borg: Unfortunately the fragmentation of the European market is bad news for the industry and players. It is next to impossible for the industry to grow across the European market and we have situations where customers from different European Union member states are not able to obtain their services legally from their preferred provider. It has created first class and 2nd class EU citizens where 1st class citizens where some citizens are spoilt for choice in terms of which operator they want to play with while 2nd class citizens are bound to choose from a few operators that have little or no competition and that can take the attitude of ‘take it or leave it’ or worse still that would like to offer a better product but cannot because they are stifled by outrages taxes and irrational limitations. It is a ridiculous situation, where in a common market that is supposed to present equal opportunities to everyone.

What advice would you give for those investors who are planning to set up a business in the gaming and gambling sector in Europe?

Borg: It is difficult to set up a new gaming business and succeed in Europe at the moment, unless you come up with an innovative business model or innovative products that will give you the edge. Currently I see room for growth in the Esports betting sectors, blockchain technology based products, virtual reality and augmented reality products, as well as niche operators. Most successful startups will be taken over by the big boys in the industry. But that’s a lifecycle we have to adapt to.

According to you which are the values of Bitcoin that can make it very effective and due to which it will enhance the gaming industry?

Borg: The technology behind Bitcoin is the real game changer. Blockchain technology brings with it massive advantages to the gaming offerings especially when it comes to security, trust, player protection and cost efficiency.

With this technology everyone is a winner. Operators benefit from security and cost efficiency, customers befit from added security, trust and player protection while the regulator benefits from all of the above as well as a higher degree of monitoring possibilities.

With blockchain technology, everyone is a winner!

Cryptocurrencies are the blood running to the blockchain veins. Cryptocurrencies bring a number of challenges and opportunities. But all the challenges can be overcome with a little bit of effort and common sense from all parties involved.

You are Co-Founder and Vice-President at Bitmalta, a non-profit organisation. What mission does this organisation undertake? Will you please tell us more about this organisation?

Borg: I set up Bitmalta together with Jonathan Galea, who has been actively involved in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies for over 5 years, when very few people had any idea of what this technology entails.

It is a non-profit organization that I co-founded, with a mission to promoting and stimulating discussion about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in Malta. The aim is to lobby in favour of the adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies with the government as well as with regulatory authorities. It also aims at educating people through seminars and other initiatives about this revolutionary technology.

What is your main hobby?

Borg: My passion is football. I am a big Juventus fan, a season ticket holder at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. I was also the President and Co-Founder of the largest Juventus official fan club outside of Italy. Unfortunately, due to work and family commitments (I’m a father of 2 year old twins) I had to resign from the club and I travel to Turin less frequently. However, I would not miss a Juventus match, irrespectively of where I am in the world and on which time zone I am in.

I also try to go to the gym 3 times a week, when possible.

Where would you travel the most in Central Europe?

Borg: My favourite cities are Turin (for obvious reasons), Stockholm and Edinburgh. However, my most memorable travels have been to the wilderness of the countryside of Sweden, Ireland, Scotland and Alaska.

Africa

“Land-based Casinos Should Crisis-proof Their Operations and Diversify Online” – WinPrincess’ Guven Eraslan

George Miller

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“Land-based Casinos Should Crisis-proof Their Operations and Diversify Online” - WinPrincess' Guven Eraslan
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

After announcing its partnership with WinPrincess, whereby the principal retail casino in Tanzania will be diversifying its operations, incorporating the digital channels to its retail business strategy, leading iGaming platform provider BtoBet meets with Guven Eraslan, Executive Coordinator of the WinPrincess Group, to understand key market traits.

Coming from the casino vertical, do you intend to stick to your core brand strategy or diversify and grasp the opportunity that other verticals keep in hold?
Our core business is the operation of land-based casinos. At heart we are a family owned traditional bricks and mortar company with strong values. But like any other company we need to grow in order to continue to remain relevant.

Therefore, we cannot afford to miss any of the opportunities that lie ahead of us, and our focus will be on all verticals within the iGaming industry. Our mid-term strategy is to be online in all the countries where we operate land-based casinos already. With marketing being key to the success of the online business, we believe that we can create a synergy through our already existing physical presence, knowledge of the culture and manpower on the front.

You have targeted Tanzania for your first expansion to online gambling. Why Tanzania?
Tanzania’s betting industry has more than doubled in the last three years. Moreover three of the fastest growing cities in the world are in Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam has a population of 6.7 million people and is projected to grow by 100% to 13.4 million by 2035.

Apart from this it is important to note that all of the fastest growing 15 cities in the world are found in Africa. We believe that Africa is a safe bet if you need a good start. And that is exactly what we need, if we are to tackle and master diversification within a traditional casino company such as ours.

From a global perspective land-based casinos have been slow to shift or expand their operations to the digital channels, and thus providing a more complete betting experience where all the channels are interlinked. Why do you think is there such a reluctance from retail casino operators to transform their business strategies?
I think people are reluctant to change in general. We are talking about two totally different cultures as well, with the online branch of the business considered as the disruptor in our traditional casino world, where until recently people always needed to be physically present in a brick and mortar casino in order to place their money on bets. Thus there always needed to be a live interaction and it was more like a personal experience.

That is not required anymore, with online casino bringing about a clash of cultures, if you will. Well it is quite clear that it is us, the land-based casino operators, the ones that need to change and adapt. Diversification can only be made in the direction of progress. Business diversification is definitely something that all land-based operators need to address in the short term. We are up to the challenge, and with the right vision and the right partners such as BtoBet we will get there.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about never before seen measures requiring social distancing. How has this effected the retail casino business?
All but 12 of our casinos are closed at the moment. So we are talking about 20 closed casinos of which we do not know yet when they will be allowed to reopen. The best business model is a crisis-proof one, and there will be a lot of analysis from all industries on how they can achieve this.
Nonetheless I dare say that if we could have achieved a diversification to online more early, and by doing so hedged our investments, we probably would have not been hit as hard.

Do you think that the pandemic will eventually change the players’ behaviour?
We cannot foresee with certainty what the player behaviour will look like after the crisis. People might be more hesitant to go to a casino but on the other hand once normality returns I believe that social interaction will be a key element that will characterize people’s lives.

My guess is that everything will go back to normal once the pandemic is under control. People have a tendency of wanting to forget bad times. After all social interaction is what makes us human, so we will not easily give up on that.

What elements made you choose BtoBet’s Neuron 3 platform as the technological core of your online business?
When I did my own research for iGaming and sports betting platform providers, which are active in Africa it was amazing that under every stone I turned I found BtoBet. When a company of our size wants to go online there is a lot of demand for working with us. And although we had contact with all the main companies in the online gaming business, our decision in the end was quite easy. Knowledge, expertise and trustworthiness are key elements that distinguish BtoBet, and we look forward to work with them on other similar projects.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Tell us about the history and current status of Gunnars Glasses.

Iustin: The idea for the glasses was born out of one woman’s frustration with her husband’s digitally induced migraines and worry about the eyes of her child who was fascinated by technology. Jenny Michelsen’s husband, Matt, was suffering from headaches after hours sitting in front of six computer screens. The headaches were a symptom of Computer Vision Syndrome, a collection of minor ailments that build up over time.

As the Rancho Santa Fe woman urged her husband to see a doctor, she wondered whether her 3-year-old son, Gunnar, was getting a jump-start on similar problems.  If she and her husband believed the computers were getting to their eyes – and they didn’t start using electronics until they were in their 20s – what would happen to Gunnar’s generation?  Matt and Jenny Michelsen reached out to their close friend, Joe Croft, a former Oakley engineer, about the issues surrounding CVS.  They wanted to learn more about the effects of focusing on a digital image projected on a screen just inches from one’s face for hours at a time and years on end.  The Crofts and the Michelsens began their five-year road to launch by talking to medical experts.  One of those experts was Dr. Jeffrey Anschel, a Carlsbad, California, optometrist who has become an expert in Computer Vision Syndrome and Visual Ergonomics.  He noticed the problem about 17 years ago when employees of a nearby computer company began complaining about dry and tired eyes and difficulty focusing.

They were problems that people generally didn’t experience until they were in their 40s, but these patients were in their early 30s.  It didn’t take him long to make the connection between their work and the required time spent in front of a computer screen.  “You can work, shop, communicate and do just about everything from your computer now, and people just don’t realize how much time they’re spending looking at the screen.  The digital images that computers project are one factor contributing to Computer Vision Syndrome.  The eye focuses on the hard edge of an image, but digital images don’t have a clean edge.  As a result, the focus drifts forward and back, causing eye fatigue.” Anschel also noted, “that when people spend long periods focusing on something close to their face, eye muscles tend to lock into a singular position, which is tiring and can push the eye down the path to becoming farsighted.  Meanwhile, the eye has to deal with light from conflicting sources, such as sunlight, that are much brighter than the computer screen.  There’s also glare from the light shining into the eyes.  And the angle of view for the computer screen, which is straight ahead, isn’t desirable.  People tend to focus better at objects when looking down, such as reading a book.”

Croft and Michelsen set out to create a product that addresses the issues associated with digital eye-strain.  They completed their first prototype in 2006.  In early 2007, they founded the company and in October of 2008 they launched their first product.   Investors included Carl Zeiss Vision, 50 Cent, Peter Thiel and Monster, Inc. Retail customers include Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s, GameStop and Staples. Corporate customers include Facebook, Google, Microsoft.

Gunnar is present in Romania since 2015, when I began experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms after spending hours in front of two screens as a Poker player and began to look for a solution. This is how I’ve learned about Gunnar glasses being the no.1 brand among computer glasses brands and the next step was to become Gunnar representative in Romania and now also in Hungary.

 

Let us talk about the gaming glasses now. Do we really need customized special glasses for gaming?

Iustin: Yes, if we tend to be passionate gamers, we end up spending extended hours in front of our screens and we experience blurred vision, eye strain, and headaches – symptoms of Digital Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome. Some compensate for their blurred vision by leaning forward, or by tipping their head to look through the bottom portion of their glasses. Both actions can result in a sore neck, sore shoulders and a sore back. GUNNAR gaming eyewear can help because is engineered to reduce digital eye strain while increasing contrast, comfort, and focus. And what is different for the gaming styles, compared to the computer styles produced by Gunnar is the shape of the temples that comfortably accommodates headsets.

  

What about gaming developers and others who work in gaming companies. How will they benefit from the gaming glasses?

Iustin: They can benefit too, because Gunnar glasses are made for anyone who works and plays on a digital screen for extended periods of time.  Gunnar also makes glasses without the yellow tint – with CLEAR lenses, for those who work in “true colour”, such as gaming developers, graphic designers, digital artists.

 

What make gaming glasses special? What are the differences, for example, these glasses have with normal common-use glasses?

Iustin: Gaming glasses and computer glasses developed by Gunnar, with their amber-tinted lenses, make images appear clearer and sharper by adding contrast and, very important, filter out blue light. The lenses have an anti-glare filter that allows light from the computer in but keeps out distracting reflected light from other sources.  The lenses are also designed to be fitted close to the face, creating a “micro-climate” that keeps away the dry air currents and prevents dryness of the eyes. GUNNAR GAMING glasses, compared to GUNNAR COMPUTER glasses, have a more ergonomic shape and thin temples that are compatible with wearing headsets.

 

How do you ensure lower weighing frames for these glasses? Does the lower weight affect the durability of the glasses?

Iustin: GUNNAR has many styles to choose from. Some frames are lighter than others. GAMING frames are usually lighter and therefore more comfortable during long gaming sessions. These light frames are good quality ad durable frames – such as RAZER FPS, RAZER RPG, Torpedo, Trooper, Vayper, Heroes of the Storm.

                                                             

I have seen some articles about using wide-angled lenses for gaming glasses. Could you elaborate on this point?

Iustin: Yes, especially for gaming, a wide-angled lens provides a panoramic view, as the frame does not interfere with the viewing field of the gamer “caught in action”.

 

Now on to the business front. How has been the business going during this period of lock down. Some reports suggest that an increasing number of people playing games online. Does it reflect on your business?

Iustin: Yes, this has been a quite good period for our business and as our business is mainly online, we are running at full speed right now as work from home extended the hours we work in front of a digital screen and gamers play more while staying home. People became more conscious of spending long hours in front of digital screens and reached out to us to protect their eyes.

 

What are the best ways to buy the gaming glasses of Gunnars Glasses during the lock down?

Iustin: The best way to buy Gunnar glasses is definitely online. For Romania and Hungary our online shop is www.gunnars.ro. We are offering online advice on our chat and we implemented the “virtual try-on” feature on our site that enables anyone to try-on most of our styles.

 

Finally, what are the new innovations and offers that you have in store for post-COVID-19 situation? The gaming community is eager to hear any such announcements.

Iustin: Gunnar releases new frames each year and this year is no exception. At the beginning there was only the Amber lens that has a 65 BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION FACTOR – BLPF (filters out 65% of the blue light). Then Gunnar added the Clear lens with a 35 BLPF, the Sun lens that has a 90 BLPF and also Amber Max lens with a 98 BLPF, designed to be used before going to sleep or for extremely sensitive eyes. In July, Gunnar will be launching CRUZ for kids from 4 to 8 Year Olds and for kids from 8 to 12 Year Olds, as this was a concern from the beginning: children spend more and more time in front of screens and the parents want to protect their kids as much as they can. Right now, in May a new style was launched: Pendleton. Four new exciting gaming styles will be launched this summer – Lightning Bolt 360, Lightning Bolt 360 RAZER Edition, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and a new design in partnership with Razer: MOBA. For those who are more on the hip and “vintage look” side, there will be a new style called Berkely, in September.

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Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment

George Miller

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Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How much of an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your business plans?

As an agile young company, Evoplay Entertainment has been able to adjust its commercial plans quickly and react to the ongoing situation. While the pandemic may have blunted the industry’s schedule, we’re not letting that dampen our spirit.

With resources freed from a number of ongoing projects, we’re able to embrace the challenge by going all in on our R&D process and continuing to work on pioneering new technologies. Instant games are a particularly interesting area right now; with the current downturn meaning that players are looking for a far more engaging proposition than the usual offering.

 

How has it affected your potential partners? Has it helped focus their mind?

It certainly should. The unwanted change in circumstances gives companies a chance to widen their appeal by reaching a new generation of players looking for entertainment. With a plethora of new products flooding the market, operators are reporting a marked change in player preferences. As gamblers become increasingly tech-savvy and hungry for innovation, traditional ‘spin and win’ slot games no longer have the draw they once did.

However, in order to pioneer the gateway from sportsbook to slots in light of the recent cancellations, it’s essential to develop a tailored cross-channel portfolio that truly stands out for those who want something different. A new generation of player demands an immersive, detailed and aesthetically stunning entertainment experience which can be enjoyed on any device.

Here at Evoplay Entertainment, we’re proud to provide exactly that.  From VR to 3D and every piece of immersive tech in between, now is the time for gaming suppliers to go bold and get creative. The market share is there for the taking for operators who offer a fresh approach.

 

What strategies have you put in place for business development following the cancellation of industry conferences?

Naturally, we’re disappointed to see the cancellation of in-person conferences, such as the MARE BALTICUM Gaming Summit, which no doubt would have been a key regional event. Health and safety, however, have to take priority and we fully support the decision taken by organisers.

We certainly haven’t let the cancellation put a dent in our plans. We’re a tech first company and it’s all about adapting and innovating. As well as making use of our global network for business development – we’re ready to embrace the latest methods available for networking and insight, with virtual conferences such as these likely to prove invaluable during the current downturn. We’re very much looking forward to sharing our experiences as well as hearing from expert voices through the industry.

 

How important do you believe virtual conferences to be? Do you believe online events such as these will become the new normal?

Virtual conferences are a great way to keep abreast of the latest industry trends and exciting new developments in technology. Events such as these also allow us to continue networking with colleagues and sharing our insights amid unprecedented global circumstances.

I think we’re definitely at a point where new technology (i.e. virtual conferencing tools) are certainly coming into the mainstream – however the ‘use case’ for such an approach will remain to be seen once we return to normality.

As an industry innovator looking to bring new technology into the gaming space – whether it be 3D or VR – we welcome the addition of virtual conferencing as a new, fresh approach. However, despite its advantages, especially when it comes to reduced costs and convenience, there’s also no substitution for the face-to-face meeting element. I personally predict that over the longer-term, rather than these events becoming the new normal, I would envision that we’ll see them emerge as a mainstay niche to complement on-the-ground events throughout the calendar year.

 

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