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Exclusive interview with Saverio Castellano, co-founder, research director and CTO at GameArt

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Our latest interviewee is well know in the online gambling industry, especially in the Omni-channel development. Saverio Castellano is the co-founder, research director and CTO at GameArt, a boutique Omni-channel development studio of customised casino applications and slot games to the online, social and land-based casino verticals, with offices in Malta, Slovenia, and Serbia.  Saverio holds a Ph.D. in Particle Physics and is an igaming industry veteran with 12 years of software and mathematics slots development.

I would like to thank you for spending time to answer our questions. You have rich experience in gaming and gambling industries as one can read in your biography, you are “an Igaming industry veteran with 12 years of software and mathematics slots development.” Why did you choose gaming, or may I ask: did the industry choose you? What do you think?

Saverio: From an early age, I was always inquisitive to how everything worked. This led me to study, one of my passions, science and in particular the field of Nuclear Physics. Within Physics, applied mathematics is essential for developing abstract concepts, problem-solving and the practical application of those models.

After completing my Ph.D., I started my career in computer science and software development, gaining extensive experience in design architecture, and an enterprise-level backend for mobile applications. I always had an interest in slots and the iGaming sector which was rapidly growing in Italy, and my first adventure into the world of gaming, was as Head Mathematician of Sogei, the Games and RNG regulator for the Italian state monopoly AAMS, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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

Saverio: My role within the GameArt business, which I co-founded, is I’m the research director and CTO. Overall I’m responsible for the company’s development studios, the management of our engineers, delivery and support teams in Malta, Slovenia and Serbia. This includes the product roadmap, from conception, to prototype to production of slots, for our clients that have Omni-channel businesses across online, social and land-based.

Since the start of GameArt, I have also been the one that invents the concepts of all our slots designs the mathematics, and I have built the foundation of the technologies that the company has been using so far: namely our game server and the game client technology that we rely on to develop our games.

As a business, we are continually striving to be adaptive to fast-changing technologies and part of my remit is to source, and research how the latest tech can be used within our business and more importantly by applied within the regulated iGaming ecosystem.

Will you please tell us about the difficulties and successes you have experienced during your career?

Saverio: In answering this question I will refer to my experience with GameArt only. Otherwise, there’d be too much to say here. What has enabled GameArt to start and become in such a short time a successful business is entirely the ideas, experience, and expertise of me and the other two partners who founded the company.

When we were still in a start-up phase, there were many potential venture capitalists that would be interested in investing in GameArt. Again, we decided to do everything with our own strength. This definitely made things harder and a lot more challenging especially in the initial phase. I have learned that becoming an essential player in the gambling market it is not only about having great games, but you also need to go through the whole process of acquiring licenses, getting the games certified, establishing your name, and deal with a lot of other things.

Despite the significant challenge, we succeeded and had made all of this without a consistent upfront investment, and this is what I consider our most significant success.

GameArt is a leading-provider of high-quality digital gaming. Please speak about this company, its activity and its goals.

Saverio: Since its inception, GameArt has been focusing on producing slot games only. Slot games are what we like, what our expertise is, what we do well.

Our mission derives from the consideration that there is a gap between the quality of the slot games in the online gaming world and one of the best performing slots that you find in the world’s best casinos and more generally in the class III world. In creating our portfolio of slot games, we have been aiming to fill this gap, producing high-quality slots with outstanding graphics and solid mathematics. Because of this, even focusing mainly on online gaming we have been able to expand our business to the landbased world as well.

Which are the most successful, most popular products you offer to your clients?

Saverio: The success of our product stems from the ability to release game titles that appeal to different markets and different player demographics. If we look at our range of slot games, there are games like Money Farm 2 and Dragon Lady that are among the best performers in Europe, and games like Dragon King and King Of Monkeys that are much appreciated by Chinese players and are doing very well in Asian markets.

Our product offering is completed with a cutting-edge gaming platform that offers our clients powerful features and marketing tools to promote games and maximize revenues, such as multi-level and multi-currency jackpots, free spins, tournaments, and campaigns.

Tell us please about the future plans, projects of GameArt.

Saverio: Our current goals are to maximize revenues and get a bigger slice of the markets in Asia and Italy where we are already doing quite well.

Having completed the certification process for some of the most stringent regulated markets, our next goal is to approach big operators and at the same time extend the certification to other countries where we are still not operating. Completing the process of acquiring the UK license is our most important short-term goal at the moment.

We are also looking at blockchain technologies, and we recently made a prototype which consists in having integrated our game server with the Ethereum blockchain so that people can play our slots directly on the blockchain and have all gameplay provably verifiable. This is an exciting topic which we will continue to explore and pioneer during this year.

I would like to ask you a more personal question. In what ways does work influence your personal life, your personal growth and what does success mean to you?

Saverio: Work and personal life in my case are entirely entwined. I like it to be this way since I chose to be part of this industry because I understood that it enables you to have a very dynamic life and keep yourself busy doing exciting things.

The influence that my work has had on my personal life is enormous, and it is not limited to the economic side as it allowed me to travel the world, to meet great people and to do fantastic, challenging experiences.

The meaning of success is comprehensive, in my case; it has to do with the amount of freedom and control of my own time.

 

ABOUT GAMEART

GameArt is a premium developer of slot games to the online and land-based gaming industry, including leading online operators, video-lottery suppliers, and casino game machine manufacturers.

New licensees include established operators looking to expand or diversify their games offering, fast-growing challenger-brands looking to increase market-share, and start-up operators, including those targeting newly-regulated markets.

GameArt’s core technology provides a true multiplatform capability and its game management system provides licensees extensive integration options, high-level bonus, and CRM capabilities, plus predictive business intelligence tools to help maximize game-player retention and improve ROI.

For more details, visit www.gameart.net

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Dr Aruna Sharma, Practitioner Development Economist & Retd Secretary GoI

 

Could you provide insights into the current market potential for iGaming in India, and what key challenges do you anticipate the industry facing in the near future?

The popularity of online gaming as a form of entertainment in India has surged with the widespread availability of inexpensive smartphones and affordable internet access. Global investors, developers, and other industry stakeholders are keenly watching the growth story of the Indian online gaming industry which has witnessed a 28% CAGR between FY20-23 and holds a market valuation of ₹16,428 crores.

However, instead of direct contribution in the economic growth story of India the online gaming industry is contributing in terms of increasing revenue (direct and indirect tax) collection (year-on-year). Additionally, the sector has attracted budding tech developers and entrepreneurs by providing them employment opportunities and fueling innovation to keep up with the rising demand for AI and other such immersive gaming experiences.

After some crucial and elucidative changes in the regulatory and taxation policies by the government in 2023, one can hope that 2024 for iGaming will thin the clouds that are shadowing accelerated growth of iGaming in India. 2024 holds promise for iGaming in India. While full regulation may take time, positive court ruling and increased focus on non-RMG segments could cause a casual gaming boom, potentially unlocking a multi-billion dollar market. However, regulatory uncertainty and potentially high tax rates remain a hurdle for attracting investments and interest of other stakeholders in this growing market and industry.

 

What are the main challenges facing Indian iGaming and how different are these challenges within the different regions of India?

  • The government is focusing on reducing threats like false information, mental health problems, money laundering, and financial losses for users by bringing rules and regulations such as the IT Rules, establishing SROs and SRBs.
  • Adequate regulation, that is conducive to doing business, is needed, first of all, to protect the Indian players. Because in the current situation, Indians are being abused by countless nefarious parties. Checking and curbing the illegal gaming platforms and enhancing mechanisms to ensure increased user awareness and behaviour while indulging in online gaming.
  • A pressing concern that requires governments urgent attention is to put in place parameters that differentiate between games of skill and chance for taxation.
  • As a fallout of high and retrospective taxation the industry is facing job losses, advertising and spending cuts and reduced investments in research and innovations.

Additionally, policy and regulatory compliance for the platforms have become increasingly complex with both center and state governments legislating on the same subjects and multiple ministries regulating the industry.

 

Delve into the necessity for a regulatory framework that is both balanced and adaptable.

Unregulated framework where user base is large leads to spread of iGaming in gray market with all its vices. By regulating the iGaming industry, the government can unlock other positive outcomes, such as increased tax revenues, economic growth via attracting more foreign investment, job creation, and better consumer protection. A thorough regulatory framework will enable transparent parameters to distinguish and license the game of skill accordingly and rest will fall under game of chance.

Regulations always bring in transparency and ensure there is no misleading advertising or non-payment of legal taxes. Additionally, regulations such as the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 have ascertained a robust grievance redressal mechanism by setting up of the SRBs and SROs.

Further a balanced and stable regulatory framework could provide assurance and confidence to the international iGaming companies in paying taxes while doing business in a regulated and transparent market, create jobs, and invest in the country and its people. Thus, comprehensive regulations, that are conducive to doing business and protect the Indian players, who are being abused by countless nefarious parties are necessary in the current iGaming landscape.

Consequently, foreign iGaming companies operating legally have consistently demanded that the Indian government establish an adequate and stable regulation and taxation regime. Instead, the government has consistently chosen to unwisely prohibit it, thus pushing this whole industry underground. Furthermore, iGaming companies face unfair persecution and baseless lawsuits from India.

 

The new 28% GST on online gaming has produced divided opinions about the industry’s future in India. How has the industry reacted to it?

Industry initially panicked at the 28% tax, fearing slow growth and reduced investments. The partial relief, clarification on the regulatory compliances have brought cautious optimism. Smaller firms remain anxious, fearing the high rate still discourages players and favors larger businesses. Long-term impact depends on pending Supreme Court judgment on game classification and potential tweaks to the tax structure.

The applicability of a flat 28% tax on the total value of bets placed in online gaming, irrespective of whether they are games of skill or chance has upset the applecart that was moving smoothly with the evolution of agreed principles among SROs and the oversight by SRB with clear distinction of the regulatory body between Games of Skill (permissible games) with that of Games of Chance.

The matter is now being reviewed by a Group of Ministers (GoMs) comprising of officials from ministries such as the Home, Finance, MeitY, etc. to reconsider the GST and how to counter episodes of money laundering and other such scams and frauds.

 

Finally, what can we expect from Indian iGaming as a whole this year, if you were to sum it up in three key points?

It is expected that 2024 will set pace by bringing in clarity in rule making, consistency of rules, inculcating a more stable policy environment that enables India to not miss the bus of becoming a hub for developers. The iGaming industry is expected to tighten its grip for filling the digital divide, enabling learning of cognitive skills and enhance conscious citizen messaging to further tap into the positive side of iGaming.

Additionally, iGaming industry should leverage technologies like blockchain to further the purpose of transparency and tracking of digital payment as a technical solution and for permanent storage of records to curb money laundering. Alongside formulation of regulatory policies, a stricter implementation of policies such as IT Rules (establishing SRBs), mandatory KYC, and compliance with Advertisement Standard Council in India (ASCI) norms for iGaming industry need to be inculcated in ensuring safe and secure gaming platforms.

The future of the gaming industry holds promise of growth, however, there is still a hazard that due to absent market regulation and destructive policies, international iGaming companies shun India, sending an unwelcoming signal to many other potential foreign investors.

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Interviews

Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology

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Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Online gambling operators continually engage with different software projects but the rate of failure remains incredibly high. This is usually due to time pressures placed on the project. To learn more about software development, and some of the pitfalls operators need to be aware of, we spoke to Max Francis, founder of Black Cow Technology and 25 year veteran of software development. Max also talks about Agile and Rapid Application Development, and how by adopting these approaches, and working with a specialist software developer, operators can hugely increase the chances of success of any software project.

 

What are some of the main challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software development?

Software development is about solving a problem and the very nature of this means that we don’t know how long it will take. This is one of the biggest challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software projects. They struggle to understand that software development is a creative process and that we are trying to solve a problem we haven’t tackled before and we simply don’t know how long it will take to do this. This doesn’t reconcile with the date-based mentality of most organisations when it comes to deadlines and completion. This often sees projects rushed and hurried to meet an arbitrary deadline and this usually results in the project falling short of the mark or failing completely. It’s much less painful for all involved if there is a universal, upfront understanding that we can never know how long a software project will actually take.

 

What do companies need to consider if they are to complete software projects successfully – on time, on budget and in a way that effectively solves the issue?

Operators and suppliers need to make business commitments of their own and they need to be able to rely on the software provider they are working with on the project. To be able to do that, both sides need to accept the project is going to vary and evolve over time, and that they will have to trade off three crucial dimensions if it is to be delivered successfully:  features, quality and timescales. It is impossible to secure all three and at least one will have to give. So, if a project needs to go live by a certain date, that might be fine, but functionality can’t be fixed for that date. If the project needs certain functionality, then you can’t set timescales. If certain functionality is absolutely required by a certain date then the quality will have to give. Most projects try for all three – features, timescales and quality; and this is why they fail.

 

It seems that being realistic about what can be achieved is key.

It is indeed. When it comes to it, a software development project ends up in one of three places. Good with all the features but not quick; good and quick but not with all the features; or all the features and quick, but not good. The latter approach, perhaps surprisingly, can be useful for prototyping and proof-of-concept projects but care must be taken when developing without quality. All too often, trial projects end up seeping into mainstream production and people wonder why the quality is so poor. In my experience, it’s much better to be realistic about what can actually be achieved rather than trying to run a project with blindly perceived “needs” that just can’t be met. This doesn’t mean scaling back ambitions, it just means understanding the compromises. That said, to be able to predict what can be done, we need to understand and deliver small useful chunks of what we know rather than failing to deliver based on what we want. It’s always best to be realistic, and Agile and Rapid Application Development principles help us to do this.

 

Can you tell us more about Agile and Rapid Application Development principles?

At Black Cow we have the mantra “something useful to someone, sooner”. It’s essentially about partnership-oriented iterative delivery. Satya Nadella of Microsoft put it quite nicely: “set and repeatedly meet short-term goals”. The central idea of any Agile development practice is that we don’t know what we’re going to eventually need, so expect change and collaborate to deliver for the biggest difference to the business now. Think vertical slices rather than layers: do some of it fully rather than lots of it partially. Everything flows much more easily in our projects once our partners understand that it’s ultimately about delivering to their imminent business need. For me, the most important aspect is the partnership – all parties are delivering this project. We’re not trying to ruin your day by telling you that it can’t all be done; we’re trying to help you plan! Choose the compromises before they choose themselves.

 

Can you give a few real-world examples of what these approaches look like?

So, it’s good to have a plan but make every effort to base your plans on what can actually be achieved now rather than what you ultimately want to achieve. Then you need to recognise that plans always change. It’s important to tackle small enough chunks to allow yourself a better chance of success by predictably delivering, then delivering to the imminent business need. And be sensible about what that need is. To determine this, look to solve today’s problems and not the problems you might have tomorrow (unless that is in itself today’s problem). Recognise that there will always be compromises.

Think progress and not perfection. Success comes from delivering as consistently as both sides can manage and seeking to optimise at all times. Adjust the process based on the progress you are making. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they will deliver on time – they are only saying this and can’t guarantee it. This includes the customer providing material to the software developer such as specifications and responses – this is also a form of delivery.

Finally, always treat timescale requirements with suspicion. You must ask if time really is of the essence or whether it is just a desire to get something done as quickly as possible. A real deadline means the project fails completely if it’s missed. This is usually not the case.

 

What do operators and suppliers need to look for in a software development partner? And what should the working relationship between both parties look like?

Working effectively and with the right software provider is mission-critical. The supplier and the customer need to deliver, support and commit to each other. There are no sides here, this is a partnership of equals. It’s a relationship that works best when the customer keeps the supplier focused on the requirements and the supplier keeps the customer focused on what’s technically possible. In this way both parties converge on a solution and are equally committed to the shared goal. “I’m the customer and this is what I want” doesn’t get software delivered. A more intelligent approach is needed.

Software projects are highly complex interactions between several parties with requirements that change on the fly. Projects also continue well after delivery – it’s never about providing a fixed bunch of requirements as a package and then you’re done. That’s why we ensure we take the customer on the journey with us, acting as a true partnership. This is why non-software businesses should engage good software experts for their software projects, allowing both sides to get on with what they do best and allowing the project to succeed.

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How has 3 Oaks Gaming’s Flip to Win promotional tool set the market alight

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How has 3 Oaks Gaming’s Flip to Win promotional tool set the market alight
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

In 2023, 3 Oaks Gaming enjoyed a breakthrough year, with its powerful portfolio of slots and promotional tools resonating with players worldwide. With 2024 still in its infancy, 3 Oaks’ Flip to Win tool has proven to be one of its most successful released, with impressive stats showcased across a number of facets. We caught up with 3 Oaks Gaming’s Promo Marketing Lead, Maria Osyka, about how the tool has put the distributor on the map.

 

Promotional tools still have a hugely important place within the market. Much like a new slot game, a successful promo tool needs to be unique and stand out in a saturated environment. Numerous tools will keep being churned out with no outstanding differentiator, and this is what makes Flip to Win so distinctive – an emblem of how a tool can entice players by keeping it relevant and fast-paced.

How Flip to Win works

Flip to Win is a proprietary in-game bonus engine, guaranteeing randomly generated prizes to reward players throughout a gaming session.

A trio of cycles takes players on a rapid adventure, returning to the main game after the initial flip, repeating the sequence twice more, with the ability to enhance player retention and acquisition. This provides the ultimate gaming experience. Since being introduced to the market, the tool itself has gone from strength to strength, enjoying spectacular results since launch.

Positive results across multiple indicators

Within two hours of the campaign going live, the Average Bets and Average Rounds indicators of the promo winners showed an increase of 127% and 143% respectively.

When we compare a player’s session to the following week,   with the same number of hours by the Average Rounds indicator, we can conclude that participation in the Flip to Win campaign has a positive effect on the length of the spin session, exhibiting a 45% increase.

With the Flip to Win tool to the fore, the average session duration indicator shows that the length of time participants play for is extended by approximately 25%, ensuring that retention dramatically increases.

Thanks to these results, the effect of the Flip to Win promo tool has reached its goal in terms of retention, extension of sessions, and bets placed.

It has shown that it primarily affects important KPI indicators as short, three-hour campaigns can influence these parameters, which means a win-win situation for both the operator and us at 3 Oaks Gaming.

The quality and unique nature of promotional tools has never been more important!

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