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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


Visit Wazdan at ICE London at the N7-420 stand

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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

Andrzej Hyla: Let’s break the ICE at booth N7-420!

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Andrzej Hyla: Let’s break the ICE at booth N7-420!
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Andrzej Hyla, Chief Commercial Officer at Wazdan, sat down with European Gaming to discuss its plans for the biggest trade show of the year.

Wazdan will be returning to ICE London 2023, what can we look forward to seeing at your stand this year?

We’re very excited about our exhibition at ICE London this year, and we have many things in store for our partners. First and foremost, we look forward to welcoming visitors for a drink at our bar and showcasing our premium offering at our stand, N7-420. Delegates can expect to see both the latest and upcoming titles that are packed with innovative and engagement-boosting features , including: Power of Sun™: Svarog, Hot Slot™: 777 Stars, Hot Slot™: 777 Rubies, Hot Slot™: Great Book of Magic, Mystery Kingdom™: Mystery Bells, Hot Slot™: 777 Cash Out, Hot Slot™: 777 Coins, and 12 Coins™ to name a few.

Wazdan has also prepared a special surprise for our visitors, a Mystery Box Giveaway. Attendees can claim a Mystery Box here and get a special coupon that entitles them to receive some amazing prizes, such as exclusive merchandise, Apple AirPods, fine spirits including Glengoyne 30-Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and even a chance to go on a luxury trip!

We’re very much looking forward to showing off Wazdan to the world and meeting our dear partners.

 

How has Wazdan been preparing for the event?

As always, it’s been a busy time at Wazdan as we always do our best to put on an excellent exhibition for our visitors. We’ve been working hard to enhance the in-game features and to perfect the  games’ design to ensure they’re ready for action on the big day.

Meanwhile, Wazdan team is preparing for the show by scheduling meetings with our partners, as well as getting the gifts ready for the Mystery Box giveaway.

We are also being kept busy with two awards ceremonies. Firstly, our top-performing 9 Coins™ slot has been recognised and shortlisted for the Global Gaming Awards, with the awards ceremony being held on the 6th of February. Additionally, the Online Sports Betting Operator category is being sponsored by Wazdan, and Michał Imiołek, our CEO will be a part of the judging panel for the entire event. Wazdan has been also nominated in two International Gaming Awards (IGA) categories, which results will be announced at a prestigious ceremony during the week of ICE London 2023.

 

Following a string of new games in January, can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming releases you have in store?

We started off this new year with amazing titles that are getting recognised already. The Power of Sun™: Svarog slot, which features the popular Hold the Jackpot bonus round, as well as our flagship engagement-boosting Cash Infinity™ and Sticky to Infinity™ tools, has been shortlisted for the One to Watch Award by SlotsWise. Last week we’ve also released a new retro title, Hot Slot™: 777 Stars, which attracts players with a thrilling 9 Stars Jackpot and sets the path for the new editions of the series.

Since the Hot Slot™ series proved to be a tremendous hit with players when it was released last year, we have prepared a number of new impressive classic slots. These include an easy-to-understand Hot Slot™: 777 Rubies with four Jackpots that are easier to hit thanks to the Magic Respin feature, as well as Hot Slot™: Great Book of Magic with entertaining Free Spins with Expanding Bonus symbols and engaging Collect to Infinity™ and Sticky to Infinity™ mechanics. Coming next will be Hot Slot™ 777 Cash Out and Hot Slot™: 777 Coins, both with a brand-new Cash Out feature.

We’ve also got a surprise in store for players with Mystery Kingdom™: Mystery Bells, which offers some ultra-engaging features like Cash Infinity™, Hold the Jackpot, and the innovative One Click to the Grand Jackpot mechanic. Rounding off our new releases we’ve got a return of Cash Infinity™ in 12 Coins™, as a new addition to our top-performing game series.

 

Wazdan has already outlined its exciting roadmap for the first quarter of this year, what else can we expect in 2023?

This year we really want to focus the operator’s attention on Wazdan’s Cash Drop and Mystery Drop promotional tools which have proven to deliver great results.

During ICE, we will also be inviting operators to join our network promotions which include an eye-catching prize pool of €1,000,000, fully covered by Wazdan, as well as full technical support, all marketing assets and graphic materials, and a free opt-in. The whole setup is in our back office so there’s no effort required on the operator’s end.

With our Mystery Drop promotions, players will be able to win instant cash rewards in our top-performing slots, including 9 Coins™, Burniing Sun™, Magic Spins™, Power of Sun™: Svarog, and Hot Slot™: 777 Crown. As a supplier of premium games, we feel it is important to captivate players with new engaging content and promotional tools and that will remain a priority for us as we tackle 2023.

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Cryptocurrency

Roundtable: The future of cryptocurrency

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Roundtable: The future of cryptocurrency
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Cryptocurrency has really taken off over the past few years within the iGaming industry and has established an important foothold in the world of online casinos.

We spoke to Andrey Starovoitov – Co-CEO at SOFTSWISS, Daniel Heywood – Co-founder of NuxGame, and Matt Sahakian – CSO at Technamin, to talk about what the future holds for cryptocurrency and why it is now a hugely vital part of the industry.

 

How widespread is the use of cryptocurrency in online casino and sportsbook and does it have mass appeal?

Andrey Starovoitov (AS): The use of cryptocurrencies in gambling is a sustained trend that is only getting stronger from year to year. Today, we can see a certain segment of crypto casinos getting a strong foothold and taking over a considerable market share. Crypto casinos are certainly a flagship of our client portfolio along with major fiat casinos. In terms of figures, cryptocurrencies have grown 10% year-on-year to make around 35% of the SOFTSWISS turnover. This is an evident growth indicator on the back of the major coin price volatility, which shows a gradual progressive increase of player interest in this type of deposits.

Daniel Heywood (DH): There has been significant uptake in cryptocurrency adoption in various industries in recent times, including finance, IT, e-commerce and more. Additionally, outside of its use in the corporate world, it has been championed by thousands of private citizens who regularly use cryptocurrencies. This is a far cry from the image crypto had only a few years ago and serves as a testament to its growth.

Matt Sahakian (MS): I think that at this point, crypto is inseparable from our industry. Most reputable online casinos are now offering crypto payment methods and the ones that are not doing so, surely have it in their short-term roadmaps. Online sportsbooks jumped in on the trend a bit later than online casinos, but are certainly catching up as we see the rise of crypto sports betting in the industry.

 

What are the biggest advantages of using crypto for operators and players when placing wagers online?

AS: First of all, operators gain access to a whole new younger audience which generally does not overlap with the traditional fiat casino segment. The use of cryptocurrencies often gives a certain level of anonymity, which, in turn, attracts VIP players and high rollers.

On the level of operations, all crypto casino metrics such as acceptance rate, conversion rate and others are much higher compared to those of fiat casinos. For instance, the SOFTSWISS acceptance rate (successful to attempted deposits ratio) is 99% for cryptocurrencies.

All of the above is just a smidgen of the benefits from using crypto in iGaming. The main advantage is that crypto is an ever-growing trend we’ve been observing over the last five years.

DH: There are lots of benefits for both players and operators, with the speed of transaction being the most obvious. Because there is no intermediary involved in the transaction process things can be completed far quicker and with fewer steps involved, in comparison to traditional payment methods. The added – and significant – spin-off from the removal of that intermediary is the subsequent lowering of fees, making the process more streamlined and cost-effective.

MS: The foremost advantage is the added layer of security that these currencies bring, thanks to the blockchain technology they are based on. Security is always of paramount concern to both operators and players, and crypto puts both minds at ease. The decentralised nature of these currencies also amounts to higher degrees of anonymity which players prefer when it comes to their information and transaction history.

 

In which markets are a cryptocurrency solution particularly relevant?

AS: In fact, when asked which is the most popular market for cryptocurrencies in gambling, at SOFTSWISS we highlight that crypto falls into a separate new market. And it makes sense, as the differences between the crypto and fiat audiences are quite significant – the demand for transaction processing speed, availability of provably fair technology games, high game limits and even top game lists are totally different in these two segments. In general, the geography of crypto gamblers is pretty vast – Canada, Germany, LatAm (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina), and Asia.

DH: Cryptocurrencies are relevant across the world. There is no market in which they’re not playing an increasingly important role. However, they are aiding in the expansion of the iGaming industry in developing countries in particular. This is mostly due to the strict banking rules and restrictions within these jurisdictions that cryptocurrencies remedy.

MS: We’re seeing the Asian market as well as certain areas of the LatAm market embracing crypto, along with Africa and the USA. Mexico is also big on blockchain, being included in the top 50 countries where crypto is most popular. Countries like Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, and the UK are also joining in on the trend.

 

Is it all about Bitcoin, or are other cryptocurrencies commercially viable?

AS: Indeed, we are observing new coins ascending against a gradual Bitcoin decline in the crypto basket, but this does not mean that it is the Bitcoin that is losing its appeal but rather that other cryptocurrencies are gaining momentum as a gambling deposit method. According to our partners’ research, customer interests are shifting towards “stable coins”. Facing the crypto winter, most crypto traders have already sold the most volatile cryptocurrency as we are living in the “cash is king” times. USDT is the leader amongst stable coins, followed by BUSD. As a result, in 2022 we saw that Bitcoin was not the ultimate GO-TO choice for payments. But don’t get me wrong, it is still huge as only Bitcoin offers indisputable decentralisation and freedom of payment. It fell from 65% to 49% in transaction count on average, but marks much lower levels for new casinos with a younger player base.

DH: Bitcoin is of course the obvious leader within cryptocurrency, but there are an increasing number of options for both players and operators. Clients are using an increasingly diverse range, featuring projects such as Ethereum, Solana and Tether and others in order to offer the widest range of payment choices available.

MS: There was a time when Bitcoin was stealing the thunder in the world of crypto. However, that’s not the case today. There are nearly 10,000 active cryptocurrencies out there. Granted that not all of them are as popular or even used, many of them like Ethereum, Binance USD, Dogecoin, Tether and XRP are just as popular with bettors as Bitcoin. That’s the thing with these currencies. You never know which one is going to take the lead.

 

What does the future hold for using сrypto in online gaming? Is it a passing trend or here to stay?

AS: Overall, despite the volatility we are observing, the crypto gambling segment and its audience will continue to grow, as it is the speed, simplicity, and a certain level of anonymity that players value most in cryptocurrencies. We can clearly see an increasing interest in this niche, and a growing number of operators, including top tier ones, are adding crypto to their payment methods.

DH: Cryptocurrencies are categorically here to stay; by now I’m certain most can agree on that. As the crypto industry evolves, new and more innovative solutions are emerging and are competing for their “15 minutes of fame.” This in turn drives more innovation. A few of these are no doubt just a passing trend, yet some will stay with us long-term and become part of the furniture in the industry.

MS: When Bitcoin was released as the first open-source software and blockchain currency back in 2009, many people thought it would be a passing trend. It has been more than a decade now, and look where we are with these currencies today. Much like any other phenomenon, it is impossible to tell where crypto is going, but a decade-long popularity and expansion are clear indicators that this is a journey which we must follow closely.

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Interviews

Exclusive ICE Preview Q&A w/ Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay

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Exclusive ICE Preview Q&A w/ Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Before we get started, congrats to Evoplay on an absolutely fantastic 2022 with high-profile deals with the likes of Relax Gaming, Bragg and Novibet! Can you talk us through the deals and how much it means to you as a company?

2022 was definitely a success for Evoplay! Even though it was still one of the most challenging calendar years, given the war in Ukraine. Our fantastic product creation and business development trajectory allowed us to reach new heights and enhance our position as a leading iGaming developer, so much so – we won multiple awards for our work.

Meanwhile, partnerships with top-tier companies proved once again that Evoplay titles are welcomed by the industry’s biggest and best. It truly motivates us to continue impressing our peers with innovative high-tech entertainment that inspires and engages a remarkably broad audience.

 

Looking to ICE in a few weeks – we’re sure your team must be excited to attend, what have you got in store for delegates, and what can visitors to your stand look forward to?

ICE London is one of our favourite meeting points, we enjoy liaising with industry leaders and like-minded associates. It’s always a great pleasure for the Evoplay team to visit London and catch up with both current and potential partners.

This year, we’ve upgraded our stand to make it in-sync with our next-generation vision. It perfectly complements our finest titles and solutions, so make sure you drop by our N6-150 stand when you arrive – especially if you’re on the lookout for exclusive and cutting-edge products to enhance your offering, we’ve got it all!

 

Looking back at recent years, Evoplay has really made a name for itself as a standout supplier with next-gen titles such as Star Guardians and Dungeon: Immortal Evil, what’s in the pipeline for 2023, and what kind of titles can we soon see?

We’re well known for our world-class games, and we’re set to continue establishing our brand towards this direction. We’re already working on a new flagship game and a variety of other exciting gaming products that will no doubt shake up the industry even more than we have done so already.

In 2023, we’ll be focusing on both instant games and slots, making sure we reinvent these verticals with gamification layers and even more exciting mechanics. In addition, we’re pleased with the response our Penalty Shoot-out, Penalty Series and Football Bet titles have received, therefore, we’re also looking forward to continuing with the world of football.

 

Onto game development – given your extensive experience in the industry – how much do you see trends changing in the year ahead, and what are next-gen players looking for right now?

With a new generation of the audience arriving into the world of gambling, it’s our task as a game developer to meet the demands of this emerging demographic. It’s also important to bear in mind that these younger players are quite familiar with digital entertainment, as they consume so much already through Netflix, video games, TikTok and Youtube. As a leading supplier, you really need to place importance on targeting the difference between generations.

Next-generation players have proven to be quite picky and often choose state-of-the-art games that offer supreme quality. At Evoplay, we’re constantly diving into player research and analysis to find out what more we can do and how we can please a new audience, and we’re passionate about what we do.

 

Last but not least, prediction time for our European Gaming readers! Which key markets on the continent should we be looking at this year, and which regions hold the most potential?

Speaking about our development strategy, it includes Switzerland, Mexico, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, Canada, and the Nordic countries, with a primary focus on Finland. LatAm is another region to continue establishing our presence, as we saw a remarkable 560% Bet Sum increase in 2022. So, be ready to find Evoplay’s outstanding products on many platforms worldwide!

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