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Exclusive interview with Yiannis Gangas, Chief Product Officer at Vermantia

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Yiannis Gangas, Chief Product Officer at Vermantia
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Vermantia’s round the clock live racing service has been turning heads in the industry for some time now. European Gaming caught up with Chief Product Officer Yiannis Gangas to get the low down.

 

Tell us more about the live racing channels and what they offer.

In short, it’s the most comprehensive source of live horse and greyhound racing that any retail or online operator could require. We deliver more than 70,000 premium live events a year from the best tracks in the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and USA. These feature highly-competitive racing that are proven to attract high-levels of customer engagement and ensure good margins as well as profitability. Crucially, they are available 24/7, so that wherever operators are in the world they can rest assured that they have a high-quality live product on tap for their customers. It is an end-to-end solution too, with a complete odds service, adaptable data feed, automated channel production platform and the latest in broadcasting and streaming technologies.

What makes the Vermantia service different to what else is currently available?

Our live racing content is round the clock, suitable for any time zone, and the most extensive available. Its presentation is also bespoke to each operator. We appreciate that there are local requirements in every territory, so we localise the service by customising the design and content, as well as offering an adaptive data feed for faster deployment. We’re very careful to make sure we don’t bundle content together which operators don’t want. It’s very much about listening to what they require and adapting accordingly. We can provide professional live commentary and race cards in any language required and can provide sales and marketing support too. We appreciate not every market has the horse and greyhound racing in its DNA, so there is an educatory requirement on occasion. But we have found that operators who take the plunge even in these markets are not disappointed.

What role does virtual sports have to play in all this?

Virtuals is a really important product and very popular with players. Our service is among the best out there with 20 virtual channels delivered to customers internationally. I’m also delighted our unique baseball game was also recognised at the SBC Awards in London earlier this month. Virtuals has an army of fans around the globe who enjoy it in its own right, as well as those who are happy to get involved in between live sports coverage. But for the latter group, who I think are the majority of customers, it is all about live. I am very pleased to say that Vermantia broadcasts 40 per cent more live racing action than any other provider in the industry. That is particularly important in some countries who do not allow virtuals, of course. But for the others, any operator will tell you that the real sweet spot for customer engagement, whether that’s in retail or online, is good quality data, readily available betting markets, and live pictures. That is the holy trinity.

How is this live content distributed?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to distribution and it is important to be flexible. A retail operator in Africa is going to have different requirements and infrastructure to an online brand servicing the Nordics. As a result, we can use either satellite broadcast or streaming to deliver our live race channels. The former covers the globe and offers 24/7 playout monitoring, SLA, and high efficiency video coding for maximum quality at minimum bandwidth. Our streaming solution is ultra-low latency. It’s less than a second, in fact, which is as fast as anything in the industry, and much faster than some of the options available to operators.

Which markets do you service at the moment and which operators currently take live racing from Vermantia?

Our live racing channels are deployed in Europe, CIS, and Africa with operators as large as OPAP and Intralot Group who are among our long-standing partners. We are also rolling out as we speak to new clients from Central and Southern Europe to the Caribbean, proving that this type of content delivered in such a user-friendly fashion has universal appeal wherever operators and their customers find themselves in the world.

George Miller started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.

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Interviews

Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay: UltraPlay delivers betting entertainment over the top

George Miller

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Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay: UltraPlay delivers betting entertainment over the top
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

First, we would like to read a few words about yourself. Our readers love to hear top-class professionals describing themselves.

Mario Ovcharov: I have been involved in the online gambling industry for over 5 years delivering innovative betting products and contributing to UltraPlay’s firm positioning on the global gaming market as the leading eSports betting data and platform provider.

It has been just over a year since you took over as CEO of UltraPlay. What would be your biggest achievement during this period?

Mario Ovcharov: I wouldn’t say I have personally achieved anything. It is a team effort that achieves success, and leads to solid partnerships, big customers, and a number of awards.

Tell us more about eGold.gg. How is it different from the other cryptocurrencies in the market? What’s its USP?

Mario Ovcharov: The eGold project started with a mission to unify gamers worldwide and offer them a next level of entertainment through specially designed betting cryptocurrency. By its nature, eGold is a pure utility token where players can get cash back on every bet. It basically uses the numerous advantages of the Blockchain technology to speed up and make betting faster and more attractive than before.

The project was received extraordinary by the crypto and betting community. Foundations were laid for what can be called crypto betting revolution. Now, we see many betting brands offering altcoins to their players. We are working to offer the best for our customers and users, and great things are ahead of the project.

We would also like to hear more about UltraPlay’s award-winning product – ODDS.GG? How is it going to revolutionize the betting scenario?

Mario Ovcharov: It was a fantastic year for our eSports betting suite and ODDS.GG in particular, which was reflected in several international accolades from both betting and IT perspective. We started offering betting on eSports 5 years ago and we were the first to provide such product on the online gambling market. Actually, UltraPlay was the first company to offer live betting on CS:GO. Since then, ODDS.GG doubled the number of competitive game titles reaching almost 30 games at that moment, including the eSports sensations PUBG, Fortnite, NBA 2k League and many more. The popularity and usage of ODDS.GG increases exponentially. Moreover, if we look at the landscape now, eSports has a much higher growth pattern than any other gambling vertical in the last few years.

You have introduced some innovative features in the eSports front-end. How do they fare with the customers? And what are your new plans on the eSports segment?

Mario Ovcharov: We believe that User Experience and User Interface play a significant role in today’s product development. Having been on the cutting-edge of technology for over 9 years now, we strive for highest quality and best entertainment for the end-users. Thus, our product is constantly upgraded so that our partners can positively experience the change with a strong boost in terms of players’ satisfaction. In UltraPlay, we love new technologies, and throughout the years, we have established ourselves as pioneers in emerging sectors, where new audiences are brought together. UltraPlay’s eSports dedicated front-end solution is specifically built to answer the wide variety of requirements those new audiences have, such as Millennials, favoring easy-to-use layout, intuitive tools and functionalities. BUFF.bet is a perfect example that our efforts are going in the right direction with the recorded boost in terms of betting brand recognition and players’ acquisition, conversion and retention. To offer eSports now is not enough. You need to go over the top. Impressive eSports betting entertainment is what we aim and successfully deliver for over 5 years now.

The multi-game module of UltraPlay’s casino software has been in the news. Are the customers loving it? Tell us more about the feature.

Mario Ovcharov: It’s been decision backed by solid research and analysis of player’s casino behaviour accumulated from leading online gambling brands. Our advanced multi-view module enables up to four games to be played simultaneously – something that many players turned out to request and use on a daily basis.

UltraPlay’s affiliate platform is known to be pretty comprehensive? What makes it unique? We will surely have some wannabe affiliate marketers reading this. What is your advice to them?

Mario Ovcharov: We use a top-notch affiliate software that manages our clients’ affiliates, connecting all aspects of the affiliate marketing cycle for the betting brand. It’s intriguing how affiliate marketers can benefit from eSports and penetrate in this challenging sector professionally. They have to understand and manage this new gambling vertical that has specific audience and mechanisms.

UltraPlay is one of the early adopters of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, having started using them since 2011. Do you think the company managed to leverage the early bird advantage? Finally, do you foresee any disruptive new technologies in the near future?

Mario Ovcharov: UltraPlay’s early adoption of Bitcoin positioned the company among the crypto leaders in the iGaming market and expanded the business partnership network even further. Not only our direct business results are positively affected by our visionary decision back in the days, but also our thought-leadership is further strengthen and shared during the large-scale international gambling exhibitions we usually attend.

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Industry News

Parimatch’s people first approach is recipe for sustainable success

Zoltan Tundik

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Employment in the 21st century is no longer about simply finding a job for life and as the desire for work to engage, educate and enhance employee’s lives increases, companies who can foster talent are akin to bottling lightning. With more than 1,600 employees operating in multiple territories across the globe, Parimatch’s decision to seek out and develop tomorrow’s industry leaders has proven a winning tactic as the company’s expansion strategy continues apace.

The universal language of business has opened the door for more and more forward-thinking companies to embrace and grow their teams internationally as the industry continues to expand into new markets. However, to ensure employee engagement remains a core focus, it’s key to invest in both your employees through a blend of stability and adventure according to Parimatch Head of Corporate Development Katerina Belorusskaya. “Despite the turbulence of the markets in which we operate we are a stable, reliable and honest company with constant growth over the past 25 years. On the other hand, we are ambitious and risk-taking which attracts genius people who are looking for an unusual approach and bold decisions. Parimatch is a big international family where our staff has the opportunity for constant development.”

She continued: “As with every company nowadays we understand that the key to success is talent. Our people are at the heart of the organization. Their ambitions, knowledge, and skills helped us to become who we are today. Our employees are our future.”

With their employee numbers have grown by about 15 – 20% annually since 2016 amid larger recruitment bursts as the company develops in new markets, the need for motivation has naturally grown too. “Engaged employees see their importance, which is the biggest motivation,” continued Belorusskaya. “Here, in Parimatch we realized this fact a long time ago, and now we’re trying to do our best to grow our unique corporate culture where employees are engaged, devoted and feel that they drive the business. Employee engagement can become one of the most significant workplace problems, indeed. Also, vice versa: an engaged employee can form a positive attitude towards the organization and its values which makes them go above and beyond to contribute a lot more.”

Following up on its goal to invest in its people, throughout 2018 the Cyprus-based company delivered 1,300 hours of education across 53 unique pieces of training through its Corporate University of Parimatch initiative, including specialized courses on bookmaking, sports, software and language classes. Discussing its inception, Katerina explained: “Our in-house university has been established to develop employees not only professionally but also mentally helping them to find a balance between work and life. Also, our CSR activities are significant. Philanthropy is a powerful HR tool that strengthens the team, inspires employees, forms parallel connections and shared values among them. So, all the time we try to make social projects truly beneficial for employees for them to want to be a part of this.”

For Parimatch, new markets are key to the recruitment strategy with the company significantly strengthening the local and partner teams in Kazakhstan and Russia recently preparing both territories for some ambitious goals in the coming years. “We are open to new horizons and opportunities,” stated CHRO Tatyana Davydova, who recently joined the company after more than five years at Playtech, where she has taken the role of Head of Global HR. “So there is much more to be done to achieve the ambitious goals of the company for example adopting cultures across our brand is the primary challenge for the HR team in relation to global mobility. In one hand organizations across industries are embracing the benefits of a diverse workforce. However, with benefits come the challenges of working across borders, cultures, and languages.”

To achieve its seamless overcoming of cultural barriers across multiple offices whilst maintaining happy and productive teams, Parimatch has instilled English as its official corporate language for the back office and circulates a holistic environment of common values and corporate unity through consistent, integrated sharing of information. Davydova explained: “It is crucial, and at the same time not easy to create a comfortable environment for everyone regardless of cultural background and location. We have been working on this a lot over the past five years and only today we can say that we feel the ground under our feet for all our employees.

“At some stage, we realized it can be complicated to unite people from different cultural mindsets and places in one, productive team without principles and values that would join them all. Therefore, we have created an integrated information space or flow. We believe it is essential that each employee is aware of what is happening in the life of a group in another country so the flow was developed across multiple information channels to create a monthly digest, video or blog to keep everyone in touch.”

Corporate unity also forms a major aspect of Parimatch’s people first approach exemplified by their bi-annual strategic sessions where the company or its partners hold operations and host employee representatives from all countries at large-scale gatherings. “These strategic sessions are an excellent platform for the exchange of experience, ideas, specific (local) cases between employees from different countries,” Belorusskaya added. “In such an atmosphere, cultural affiliation is replaced by association with the culture that is formed within the company. As for the relocation of employees and their adaptation in another country, in a team with other cultural values – this is a separate and fascinating topic. In short, our people are what drives our business and a unique corporate culture that is one for all, regardless of race, creed or language is key.”

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Interviews

Q&A with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games

George Miller

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Q&A with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week we had a quick chat with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games.

What makes you different to other providers/to what else is available?

Kalamba Games was founded in 2016 by myself and Alex Cohen, two industry experts with experience in both real money gambling and social casino. We identified a gap in the market for a supplier who brought the best of social casino to RMG along with a focus on introducing revenue drivers that help improve operators’ KPIs. Our game design strategy has always been driven by integrating engagement and retention features, as well as world-class promotional mechanics. Our games are proven to increase player engagement and retention by up to six times, as well as having a far slower game degradation and a much higher earning tail than the industry standard. We release one game a month and we now have a portfolio of over 16 high-performing titles.

How are you brining your social gaming experience into the business?

Alex and I between us have over six years’ experience in social gaming and casino and thus, we had a few tricks up our sleeves when we founded Kalamba. We knew what helps drive session length and long-term engagement. A lot of that involves offering features with saved progress and collection mechanics to encourage longer and multiple sessions. With ever-increasing competition, it is less about acquisition but more about retaining the player for a longer time. Our games help ensure this.

What exactly is Kalamba doing to increase player engagement and retention?

Our games have a number of unique and improved in-game features. Among other things these include progressive jackpots and our HyperBet and HyperBonus features, enabling players to adjust game volatility. We know they have different experiences of slots and by allowing the flexibility to set different game modes, you can attract different types of players and also ensure they stay for longer as their skills and comfortability levels increase. This way, the same game can appeal to beginners as well as VIPs. Newcomers with a lower taste for volatility won’t be put off while the game still remains interesting to those who desire higher volatility.

You recently hired a UX expert from the video games industry, could you tell us a bit about the reasoning behind this?

The first two years at Kalamba have been primarily focused on delivering games that get better and better with a highly competitive velocity of one game per month. Most importantly, we coupled this with a legacy-free framework that delivers for all markets and operator requirements. We are now, taking our games to the highest level by bringing on board a pair of highly experienced and talented game UX professionals. Graham McAllsiter joined us from Player Research, a company he founded to provide UX research and playtesting services to the video games industry worldwide, including major studios such as EA, Sony and NaturalMotion. He helped studios deliver successful games by applying scientific methods for objectively evaluating key assumptions about the way a game will be played and experienced. Working with the new Senior UX Product Lead, Andrzej Sekula, who joins at the same time from Huuuge and Vivid Games, he will now do the same for the games we develop at Kalamba and help shape the mindset of the company to create games that deliver the greatest user experience to the players. We are excited that we are now in a very good position to be a highly competitive company within the industry.

What can we expect from Kalamba in 2019?

We will expect to release more than 12 great games with our various engaging in-game features over the year. We received investment from venture capital funds Vereeni and RB Capital at the end of last year and this investment has given us the ability to speed up the time to some of our key business, games and platform goals. There are exciting times ahead

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