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”When it comes to player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile to those who only bet online”: Exclusive interview with GAMING1’s Sylvain Boniver

George Miller

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”When it comes to player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile to those who only bet online”: Exclusive interview with GAMING1’s Sylvain Boniver
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Casino and sports betting group GAMING1 is by far one of Belgium’s best-known suppliers, with over 42 gaming halls and casinos across Belgium, Switzerland and France – as well as 20 online operations globally.
Offering some excellent insight into how land-based vs. online has played out this year, we caught up with GAMING1’s Co-founder and COO, Sylvain Boniver to hear the latest on Europe’s market developments.

 

First off, for those who don’t know you – can you tell our readers about GAMING1 and what you do?

GAMING1 is a casino and sports betting group, which leads the land-based and online market in its native territory of Belgium and beyond. Leveraging almost three decades of industry experience, our unique business model remains as invaluable as ever.

Combining the network and brand power of a top land-based operator with advanced proprietary technology, we create cutting-edge digital channels for casinos and sportsbooks looking to step up their online operations. In total, we have more than 42 gaming halls and casino resorts in Belgium, Switzerland, and France, as well as managing a portfolio of online operations in regulated markets across the globe.

GAMING1 has a strong track record in Portugal, how has the market performed there this year?

GAMING1 was the first online operator to go live in Portugal with Estoril. The venture has been fruitful, and we’ve enjoyed cultivating such a productive commercial relationship with our valued partners at the company.

Although we’re proud to lead the way in Portugal when it comes to market share, we have no plans to rest on our laurels, and our sights are firmly set on continued growth in the territory. In the first quarter of 2020, we recorded an overall increase in GGR of 19% despite the hiatus on sporting fixtures. With the country’s most popular competitions now back up and running, the future looks promising.

How do you see the current state of the country’s iGaming market? Do you think it differs from other European markets? If so, how? 

Portugal is a market which is becoming increasingly competitive. At its inception, commercial activity was restricted to local companies, but it long since attracted widespread international attention.

From a legal perspective, the tax review conducted earlier this year was welcomed by operators. The previous system stifled competition, driving the market underground to the benefit of illegal actors.

The current regime, however, remains burdensome. The black market still comprises more than half of the Portuguese gambling industry’s total commercial activity. The situation isn’t helped by needlessly restrictive regulations, but I’m optimistic that the situation will be resolved in due course.

How much of a land-based tradition do we have there? Is it harder to convert land-based players than in other markets?

It’s fair to say that Portugal’s land-based market is unique. It differs radically from that found in neighbouring Spain, for example. Casinos are the only place where you’ll find land-based bettors enjoying their favourite games – the slot machines seen in Spanish bars, arcades and even street corners do not exist in Portugal.

The country is currently home to just 10 casinos, three of which belong to our partner, Estoril Sol. That makes it a lot more challenging to create an omnichannel experience for players throughout Portugal, so we’ve chosen to focus on the regions where we are physically present.

When it comes to player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile to those who only bet online. The cultures that exist around both verticals can also be very different, so the idea that it’s easy and effortless to bring land-based players online is fatally flawed.

Regarding player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile than pure online customers and also different ‘cultures’; so, the idea that the conversion from land based to online is natural and easy, is not that simple.

How has COVID-19 affected the online partnerships through and betting and gaming services you offer to land-based operators?

The closure of land-based establishments has underlined the imperative for operators in that vertical to expand their online activities. Our partners have been successful at redirecting land-based customers to their digital operation, thus limiting the financial impact of the outbreak.

The pandemic has also accelerated many of the partnerships that are in our pipeline, but have not yet been finalised. We’re in discussion with a number of operators looking to step up their online offering which, in today’s market, is a matter of survival given the temporarily reduced presence of land-based.

Why are these better for operators in the current climate than a traditional supplier agreement? 

The difference is that we win or lose together. Traditional suppliers often continue to charge for services regardless of the commercial success enjoyed by their operator clients. GAMING1, on the other hand, shares the same interests and objectives as its partners.

With more than 27-years of industry experience under our belt, operators know that GAMING1 is a partner that can always be relied upon. Focusing on a small number of projects means that we can invest more time and resources into a given partnership than traditional suppliers would. Unlike conventional providers, GAMING1 proactively helps operators bring land-based players online.

What does the short-term future hold for Europe’s casino industry, and how can you help your partners during this turbulent time?  

Changes in player habits, coupled with Covid-induced restrictions, are likely to create challenges for operators without an online outlet. Those who have a synergised land-based and digital offering, on the other hand, will be much better equipped to weather the storm that is sweeping the global economy. For those in the former category, GAMING1 stands ready to help deliver an omnichannel experience to their players.

Which new European markets are on your radar? Are there any we should be keeping a close eye on?

We have our sites firmly set on French expansion, and are creating a land-based network in the country with our exciting new brand, ‘Circus’. We currently operate 6 casinos there, including a Club in Paris, and have undertaken a joint venture with valued partners JOA, who run 33 French-based casinos.
Of course, we are also eagerly awaiting online casino regulation and expect that the covid crisis will accelerate that process.

The Netherlands market also offers interesting prospects. Its authorities have just adopted a law to regulate the gambling industry, and we are preparing to enter the country with a top tier partner, so stay tuned for more info soon enough!

 

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How has 2021 begun for NetGame Entertainment?

We’re incredibly pleased with how the year has begun as it’s seen us deliver on our key growth targets in Q1. Against the backdrop of an unforgettable 2020 for the industry, we worked tirelessly to set the perfect foundation and it’s allowed us to seamlessly focus on new jurisdictions, promotions, aggregator and platform partnerships.

Our creative games studio has been busy with several hugely popular releases that included the latest in our Book of Nile series and Fruit Cash Hold ‘N’ Link. Another milestone for the business since the turn of the year was the launch of crypto currency and it means we now work with all world currencies.

NetGame Entertainment’s creative studio continues to release a wave of successful slots, what makes these titles standout from the crowd?

Our creative team and studio is second-to-none and deserves all the plaudits for the positive reception of NetGame’s titles. The team has been curated over time and is perfectly positioned to drive the business forward through designing exceptional iGaming experiences.

Supporting the innovative thinking are outstanding graphics, fair and trusted math and a combination of interesting features that each help deliver the best experience to players. Particular attention is paid to our bonus games and multiplayer elements that both have positive impacts on player engagement and retention.

Engaging bonuses feature heavily within NetGame Entertainment’s slots, what impact do these have?

Bonuses add to the fun for players and make games more exciting as we constantly strive to make every user’s experience interesting and enjoyable. NetGame’s bonus games are synonymous with our brand and there are various levels to the in-game features. One component that players love that’s present in some of our titles is the option to buy different starting levels within the bonus game to give a greater chance of success.

We are proud of our Progressive Jackpot Series Game and these have really added to player engagement and therefore life-tme-value. Other NetGame features include Free Spins, Buy bonus feature, Gamble feature, Tumbling reels, Hold N’ Link, Pick’em Game, Fortune Wheel, Super Laser, Multiplayer Mode, Totalizer, Pay-any Symbol and Quick cash.

The Fishing Kingdom slot has a multiplayer element, is this something that NetGame Entertainment will introduce more?

Fishing Kingdom has been incredibly well received and the results have been beyond encouraging. The game has been beautifully designed, but the standout feature is the multiplayer element. Given the results thus far, we plan to develop these styles of games and there will be another three launched during the remainder of the year.

How do slot series, such as Book of Nile, perform when compared to standalone titles?

We’ve been thrilled with how warmly the public has taken to the Book of Nile series. Magic Choice launched in February as the third installment following Revenge and the Lost Chapter. The Egyptian series is packed full of fun features and builds a narrative across the three games that players have really engaged with. Book of Nile is one of our most volatile games and that really adds to the breathtaking experience on the reels. Our series games and standalone titles perform equally well with our partners and that’s thanks to the creative team’s commitment to fun, thrilling and rewarding experiences. The key for us is having a diverse library of games to suit all our partners’ demands.

What are your business expectations over the next 12 months?

The next 12 months promise plenty for NetGame Entertainment and we have high expectations on delivering on our action-packed roadmap. One core element of that strategy is that we’re close to obtaining our MGA license and you are the first publication we have shared this information with.

Later in the year we’ll also be revealing some more details on some major arrangements with big aggregators and operators. These significant deals will allow us to expand NetGame’s reach in the market and give more players the opportunity to fall in love with our proprietary titles.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at the mobile-first casino game developer OneTouch, to discuss how suppliers should adapt their products to the geographic regions which they are targeting.

Is content localisation a myth?

No – for those who get it right, it’s an invaluable acquisition and retention strategy. What do we mean when we talk about localised games? Put simply, it’s a title that’s tailored to a specific geographic audience.

And it takes a lot more than just changing the language to do that. From both a visual and technical perspective, adapting your content to individual target markets can do wonders for engagement.

For example, there are obviously still places lacking in internet coverage, particularly in growth regions such as Latin America. For suppliers trying to enter those territories, that makes it all the more important to ensure that your games don’t take up too much storage, and can be easily downloaded by those with an older smartphone model or a slower internet connection.

Do you localise your games? If so, how? And which regions are they tailored to?

Here at OneTouch, we think it’s all about striking the right balance between creating international hits with cross-cultural appeal, while also producing content for specific local audiences.

Our recent release, Ganbaruto Battle, draws inspiration from the great Japanese tradition of sumo-wrestling. It features a renowned Estonian wrestler called Baruto Kaito, so its appeal is likely to include, without being limited to, players from that country.

Equally, classic casino themes such as Ancient Egypt and Vegas-style fruit symbols often generate global popularity. Our timeless slot title, Forgotten Pharaoh, has achieved tremendous and widespread success by drawing on the former theme.

One might expect that our basketball-based slot MVP Hoops performs especially well in markets where that sport is popular, but it’s actually proved a hit in regions where basketball is not generally followed by the wider population.
Finally, we expect our upcoming title Live Crash to reach a transnational audience, because it is a crash-style title similar to those enjoyed in the crypto-gambling space – which is rapidly gaining followers from around the world.

We research every market diligently to understand what its players want in precise detail. Localisation has proved a successful strategy for OneTouch!

Are there any aspects of game development which are internationally uniform, and do not vary based on where you are in the world?

Some aspects of content development require more localisation than others. Failing to geographically adapt your game from a visual perspective might mean that customers might not want to play it. Failing to do so from a technical perspective, meanwhile, could mean that they are not able to play it.

However, there are other stages of the game development process which are not subject to regional variation. With the exception of a game’s volatility, mechanics do not tend to vary all that much on the basis of geography, unlike technical and visual effects.

Similarly, sometimes localisation isn’t just about adapting to cultural or infrastructural differences, it’s simply a case of knowing the ratio of land-based to online players within the market you are targeting. It’s all about creating an enjoyable entertainment experience for the end user by paying heed to their specific cultural context. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

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Cryptocurrency

‘What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?’

George Miller

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'What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?'
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Tom Leadbetter, Head of Marketing at multiplayer casino game developer FunFair Games, to discuss the increasingly important role played by social media within the modern-day gambling industry.

The casino industry’s use of social media is fundamentally outdated. Specifically, the world of iGaming has yet to understand the true value of community engagement.

The crypto space, by contrast, has long been ahead of the curve. That includes crypto-gambling, which places community at the heart of its acquisition strategy. Yes, many in the real-money gaming sector post about their activity, but that’s rarely followed up with a conversation.

That’s why FunFair Games uses social media to start a two-way dialogue with its community, stimulating discussions on platforms such as Discord, Reddit and Telegram, as well as more conventional social channels like Twitter, where we’ve got more than 35,000 followers.

I doubt there are many companies in the real-money space who use Reddit, but we’re proud to call ourselves pioneers in the gambling industry’s use of social media. And with a current membership count of nearly 17,000, as well as 72,000 page views in January alone, we’ve found the platform to be a fantastic engagement tool.

Keeping your community engaged takes more than just emailing a newsletter without response. We live stream our games at the prototype stage, and ask for community feedback on the names of the characters found in our titles.

In that regard, social media is a great way to garner instant feedback on your content. The crypto index is much younger, boasting a higher level of popularity among Gen Y and Z players than the mainstream casino sector.

Crypto is therefore a useful predictor of things to come. If the emerging generation of player wants more community-driven experiences, it’s likely that social media will prove key to the gambling industry’s future.

There’s a tendency for the real-money sector to fear community engagement. In some ways, that’s understandable: scroll through Twitter these days, and most of the stories you find about gambling tend to be negative.

That negativity, though, stems from a lack of trust. That’s a word you wouldn’t normally associate with the world of gambling, but social engagement allows you to cultivate it. Most of the feedback we get is positive, but our community often flags potential problems too. We don’t shy away from spirited discussions and debates with them – it’s not that everyone agrees, but that everyone cares.

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