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Exclusive CEE interview with Evoplay Entertainment 

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Exclusive CEE interview with Evoplay Entertainment 
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

With the CEE region no doubt set to be one of Europe’s biggest growth stories this year, we caught up with Evoplay Entertainment’s CBDO, Vladimir Malakchi, to talk through the region’s demographics, opportunities and hottest markets through 2021 and beyond.

The CEE region has become an increasingly important factor for growth on the continent, which markets do you see being the main drivers?

It’s all about the big-hitters that have an established framework in place, whether that be Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Croatia or any of the other regulated markets. What we’ve seen in the last few years has been exponential in terms of growth, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. Solid, concise frameworks that allow a safe and level playing field for both player and operator has created a wide berth of entry for multiple international brands across the region. Given the windfall on revenue for governments, rather than seeing GGR go offshore, will undoubtedly prove to be a good thing for local economies, and has already proven to be a significant contributor to national budgets.

In hand with that development comes a surge in the quality of gaming available – as well as a more advanced menu of entertainment experiences – whether that be table games, instant games or slots. I’m fully confident that the advantages of a safe, regulated market will continue to be felt by countries that have established a steady GGR growth rate and a favourable environment for doing business.

In general, how would you define the typical CEE player’s profile towards slots, instant and table games? What kind of entertainment are players looking for?

The typical CEE player mainly shares characteristics with those you’d find elsewhere in Europe. Having said that, the transition to online has indeed come later than in the West, so it is inevitable that we see games that have a lot in common with the land-base sector to appeal to players. We’re also seeing plenty of interest in instant games (especially when it comes to our stable of titles), which I believe to be a massive growth area. Why? The clue’s in the name – they give players a chance to enjoy instant entertainment, lighting-fast game rounds and a quickfire result.

Are there any particular territories that stand out for you as having a unique player demographic?

While we’re certainly not a brand that believes in a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to global delivery, from personal experience I can say that the extent that one sees unique player demographics vary from country to country is relatively minimal. A greater factor that shapes delivery of product, and in effect defining the demographics of the players you deliver to in each market – is the infrastructure and accessibility. For example, with rural or highland areas, slower internet speeds are inevitable and therefore require more adaptable content that can either be leveraged via game engines to enhance the download speed, or alternatively through the application of light technical requirements for the game itself.

Having said that, CEE is digitising at an impressively fast pace. Heavy investment in high-speed broadband coverage can be observed throughout Europe, with 86% of the Czech Republic’s rural locations now connected to the internet, for instance, while Romania (as I’m sure any citizen there will be fast to tell you), has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world!

How should operators in the region be looking to tailor / customise their content to further drive retention and engagement?

There’s really no substitute for analysing the market in depth. That means closely studying the preferences of local players and the state-of-play for any potential competitors. Operators who get that process right can adapt their offering accordingly, thus driving revenue in the long-term.

We know that while session durations are relatively consistent across Europe, the average stake value is not. This is especially the case in the CEE region, where arguably the economic fallout from COVID-19 can be felt harder than most, which requires a gaming experience that can provide extended entertainment without draining player’s bank balances in minutes. This is especially the case for what is a hugely tech-savvy demographic – who are far more discerning than many outsiders would assume – and therefore require a solid product with the maths to back it up. Success here is all about authenticity, and players will recognise a lack of it from a mile off.

Gamification’s going to be a hot topic in the months ahead given the need for entertainment – as a market expert, what types of features do you believe will be key in 2021?

Tournaments are very strong right now – and formats that allow players to compete against each other in real time are going to be a mainstay in gaming development this year. I see this as being indicative that providing players with an additional sense of competition, such as pitting players against players through formats like multiplayer gameplay, is a whole new level of gamification in itself that can do wonders for making your products more interesting for your audience locked down at home.

I’m particularly excited about what multiplayer can offer, and we’re taking this area very seriously. They’re going to be a serious asset when it comes to providing an additional dimension of gameplay. Combine that with faster rounds with instant games (which are very hot right now), as well as the opportunity for more varied stakes – and you have a lightning-fast experience that can create a hugely exciting betting environment and really drive engagement and retention.

Ukraine of course is going to be very closely watched – how would you rate the regulation process so far and do you believe we’re on track to go live by mid-next year?

We’ve seen good progress in Ukraine since July last year when online gambling was officially made legal – and the government has been working hard to get a regulatory framework in place, with a commission already formed to monitor the issuing of licenses to casino operators.

It is also expected that the number of licences that the authorities choose to grant will be limited – this, just like we’ve recently seen in Argentina, means that we have a queue of foreign operators waiting for certification, and I predict will start seeing the results show in around six months. I look forward to contributing towards the creation of a safe and regulated gaming environment for all, as well as seeing the benefits that gaming revenue will bring to our national economy – just as it has for other regulated CEE territories. The future is certainly looking bright!

And last but not least, are there any leading figures or businesses you can recommend to our readers for 2021 inspiration?   

The biggest source of inspiration to me personally continues to be the fantastic team of staff we’ve got right here at Evoplay Entertainment. The tremendous success we’ve enjoyed as a company drives me to strive for more, and I genuinely believe that when we work together as a company, there is almost nothing we can’t achieve.

Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from your own accomplishments, no matter how large or small. It’s a reminder that your greatest days lie ahead – something that’s particularly important to remember in the current circumstances!

Interviews

“Our Product is Young, Flexible, and Dynamic” – Anhelina Stasiuk on the Future of the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator

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“Our Product is Young, Flexible, and Dynamic” - Anhelina Stasiuk on the Future of the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

European Gaming met with Anhelina Stasiuk after her appointment as Head of Business Line at the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator to learn about her plans for the product. In this interview, Anhelina shares her vision for expanding the client base, enhancing player engagement, and maintaining top-notch service and technological innovation.

 

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Head of Business Line at SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator! Can you share your immediate priorities with us in this new role?

Thank you for your congratulations.

I am pleased to have this opportunity because the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator, being one of the newest products in the SOFTSWISS ecosystem, presents vast opportunities for development. Its technological advancements and timeless appeal make it a top-notch engagement tool in high demand among our clients.

Our meticulous approach focuses on technology to ensure we deliver high-quality solutions. As the new Head of Business Line at SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator, my priority is to expand our client base by tapping into the clients of the SOFTSWISS Game Aggregator. I believe this tool is a ‘must-have’ for them. They can seamlessly launch the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator and join the Network Jackpot, offering their players a thrilling experience and the chance for significant wins.

Expanding our Network Jackpots is another priority in our strategy. Our research shows that network jackpots increase player engagement and enhance performance metrics for participating casinos. The shared pool mechanic is particularly attractive to players, offering more substantial rewards than individual branded jackpots.

 

Can you explain how the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator differentiates itself from other jackpot solutions in the market from your point of view?

We continuously study our competitors, and our Network Jackpot consistently delivers excellent results, giving us a significant market advantage.

A key strength is our collaboration with game providers. For example, we have launched network jackpots with providers like Evolution and currently have a campaign running with Apparat Gaming. These collaborative jackpots highlight their portfolios and open new initiatives for SOFTSWISS Game Aggregator’s clients. The Jackpot Aggregator’s unique mechanics and the Game Aggregator’s user-friendly settings make these launches seamless and fast.

Additionally, we allow other platforms to organise their own jackpot networks. We can integrate with third-party platforms, enabling them to launch and manage their networks effortlessly.

Our Jackpot Aggregator is versatile and compatible with sportsbooks, which is rare in the market. Betting jackpots are especially exciting during major sports events. For example, we launched jackpots for several SOFTSWISS Sportsbook’s clients during the European Football Championship. With flexible settings, brands can create different jackpots to meet the heightened interest in sports betting.

Moreover, we can run joint campaigns for both casino and sports betting, which is another unique feature. This versatility allows our clients to maximise engagement across different types of gaming activities.

 

How do you envision the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator evolving, and what impact do you expect these changes to have on SOFTSWISS’s market position?

The SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator is a universal and modern tool that can be implemented not only in casino games but also across the entire iGaming system. All SOFTSWISS products integrate seamlessly, and the Jackpot Aggregator is no exception. It enables unified campaigns combining casino games and sportsbooks, enriching the user experience and allowing casinos to customise launches quickly and easily.

 

Customer satisfaction is crucial for any product’s success. What strategies will you implement to ensure that the Jackpot Aggregator continues to meet and exceed your clients’ expectations?

A partner recently emphasised that while a product may be perfect, service is equally crucial. They emphasised that they would always choose the option with excellent service. At SOFTSWISS, we are committed to excelling in both areas – ensuring our product is stable and our service outstanding.

Our technical team is dedicated to maintaining top performance, ensuring the product can handle any load, regardless of the client’s size, supporting existing functionality, and developing new features. We pride ourselves on our technology.

Equally, we prioritise excellent communication and a solid client-oriented approach in our hiring process, supporting our managers’ qualifications through ongoing training.

Our account managers focus on providing quick responses. We have established minimum response time standards to ensure clients receive timely assistance, even on weekends. We understand that time is money, and our clients trust that their requests will always be processed promptly, with the necessary support and advice for effective operations.

 

What are the main challenges for you in this new position?

The challenge is to demonstrate that I can achieve everything I have planned. I have a proven track record of success and am eager to lead us forward in this new role. With the team, we will explore new opportunities and continue to develop the product.

We are prepared to enter new markets and work with clients to consider new markets at their request. Our young, flexible, and dynamic product makes it well-suited for expansion and adaptation.

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Interviews

A mix of skill and chance: Bitblox on the potential for crypto prediction games

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A mix of skill and chance: Bitblox on the potential for crypto prediction games
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

The rise of cryptocurrency over the last few years has been inescapable. From the launch of new tokens to Bitcoin reaching record highs, the world of crypto is slowly becoming much more popular – and the iGaming space has been no exception to its influence.

Making its debut earlier this year, Bitblox has already made its mark on the iGaming industry with a new vertical: crypto prediction games. With games such as Up or Down, Up or Down Turbo and BitSlap making up its portfolio, Bitblox prides itself on blending games of skill with games of chance, thereby offering something completely new for players.

Brandt Page, Chief Executive Officer of Bitblox, walks us through the company’s journey so far and how crypto prediction games can help operators to tap into the elusive Millennial and Gen Z player bases.

 

Can you start by giving us a very quick elevator pitch – who is Bitblox, and how are you bringing something new to the industry?

Bitblox is really bringing something new to the market that players haven’t seen before. We don’t build slots, or crash games. We are creating games that are a genuine combination of games of skill, and games of chance. Our first games are centred around players making a prediction on the price of Bitcoin – one game runs in 60 second intervals, while the other is much quicker at 20 seconds.

What we have done is really quite bold for the industry. If you walk around the expo floor of any conference now, you’ll see so many different slot titles or crash games. It’s the same in casino lobbies online too. These types of games are fantastic, but our mission was to create something unique for the players.

We also wanted to find a way that would allow us to introduce the iGaming industry to cryptocurrency in a way that is easy to understand. After some internal discussions, and chats with people at industry events, we settled on the idea of cryptocurrency prediction games – they are straightforward, engaging and can act as a platform to introduce players to the world of crypto without overwhelming them.

 

You describe yourself as offering a blend between games of skill and games of chance. Can you tell us what you mean by that? 

You could look at this from two different angles. Firstly, if you are making a prediction on the price of Bitcoin over a set time period, theoretically speaking, you could actually build a model to look at fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin over the last six months or year. If you were smart enough, you could then build a model that might allow you to extrapolate some of that data and offer some sort of prediction on what might happen in the future, based on particular market conditions.

There will be players that try to do this, especially those that are really interested in the trading element. Our odds provider uses an on-chain probability protocol that helps power the odds for our fixed odds games.

On the pools side of things, the probability protocol also ensures that every pool has sufficient funds to pay out winnings.

The other angle that you could look at this blend is that if you look at some of our future games, such as BitSlap, players are still making a prediction on the Bitcoin price, but others may be more interested in which character will win the slap fighting bout.

In that case, we’ve almost flipped the Bitcoin price to become a random number generator in itself. Players are cheering on a fighter, and becoming invested in an individual character, rather than simply just looking at the fluctuations in price.

You can almost think of our games as the perfect mix between trading and gambling. The reality is, we wanted to create an enjoyable experience for players that delivers something new and unique; players have the opportunity to win, unlike in other verticals where the RTP is unbeatable over time.

 

How will this blend of games of skill and games of chance enable Bitblox, and its operator partners, to engage with both sports bettors and casino players? Does UX play a role here, or is it more about the game itself?

I think it’s hard to say just yet because we are still in the early stages of launching. But based on the discussions we’ve been having at industry events, our games offer operators a way to reach, and engage with, a younger audience that tends to be much more technological and crypto savvy.  This is a generation of bettors who are more likely to be comfortable using a Web3 wallet and trading different cryptocurrencies.

If operators can tap into that player base, they can then start to cross-sell much more traditional content – whether that’s sports betting or casino. Engaging with this audience has been notoriously difficult; this is a topic that has dominated industry discussions for years now, and we believe that it is content such as ours that can help bridge that gap.

On the flip side, you then have the more traditional bettors who haven’t had much exposure to the crypto world. We are bringing crypto to players in a way that is easy to understand and engage with. This can then open the doors to introduce those more ‘traditional’ players to newer content that they may have not tried before.

From the conversations that we’ve been having with operators that we’re working with, a clear pattern that we’ve seen is that games such as ours seem to be getting a lot of traction in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Of course, we are aiming for our games to be popular right across the world.

We’ve seen a growth in popularity for crash games, for slots, and now is the time for crypto prediction games. Players like to feel like they are in control of the outcome – by adding cash out features, we are giving players that sense of control that they might not get with other types of games. But I’m very excited to see how our games are received in different markets around the world.

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Interviews

Amplifying horse racing: An inside look at how Altenar is diversifying its platform in partnership with SIS

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Amplifying horse racing: An inside look at how Altenar is diversifying its platform in partnership with SIS
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Industry heavyweights SIS and Altenar are both well-respected suppliers in the industry, known for delivering memorable sports betting experiences. After penning a new deal to boost its horse racing offering, Antonis Karakousis, Director of Operations at Altenar, is joined by Andy Kelly, Head of Commercial Partnerships at SIS to discuss the huge benefits in play.

 

How did the partnership come about?

Andy Kelly: One of the biggest goals for SIS this year is continued geographic expansion. Having signed a host of international deals, we are looking to enhance our reach, a key strategy to support this ambition is to partner with leading platform providers that have big networks worldwide. Altenar has an impressive client base and being able to collaborate will only serve to benefit both brands. Our extensive product range appeals to operators in search of added value, with 24/7 betting content to drive new operator revenue streams across racing, competitive gaming (esports), and live number draws.

We have hit the ground running with Altenar, with our teams demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and implement strategies in providing products to operators efficiently, with no disruption to existing offerings.

Antonis Karakousis: The collaboration with SIS is a significant milestone for us.. The decision to add a racing provider to our in-house sportsbook stemmed from our commitment to offering a diverse and engaging sports betting experience to the users. Recognising the popularity and global appeal of racing products, we sought a reputable partner who could deliver high-quality content and a seamless integration process.

 

What excites you the most about the partnership?

Karakousis: The breadth of SIS’ offering, including its extensive portfolio of horse racing services, real-time data, and streaming solutions, aligns seamlessly with our commitment to providing diverse and engaging content to users. We look forward to the positive impact this partnership will have on our platform and the satisfaction it will bring to our operators.

Kelly: Our partnership with Altenar provides us with the opportunity to offer the full SIS product range to a host of new operators across the world through a single integration. The deal means we can get more eyes on our products. We are launching with over 74,000 racing events every year, with our range of live fixed odds numbers draws to follow, with Competitive Gaming events-based sports simulation product completing the product offering. It’s about providing Altenar with a range of premium, highly engaging content that creates fresh revenue opportunities around the clock, through exciting short-form events.

It has been great to see both sides sharing insights to ensure smooth and seamless processes in delivering content to a wide range of operators.

 

How has the integration worked so far?

Kelly: The integration process has all been smooth so far, aided by the experienced and very capable technical teams on both sides. Together we will be able to offer bettors more round-the-clock opportunities across the product range, initially starting with our live racing content. Having worked with platform providers in the past, we are confident that we can continue to get our products to market through Altenar quickly and seamlessly.

Karakousis: Working closely with the SIS team, our technical experts have engaged in a concerted effort to ensure a smooth incorporation of their products into the Altenar sportsbook. We are pleased to share that the integration has exceeded our expectations on several fronts.

 

Are there any more products in the pipeline?

Karakousis: Our collaboration with SIS goes beyond the launch of the horse racing product. We have exciting plans in the pipeline, with both greyhound racing and lottery games set to be introduced in the near future. There is no doubt that SIS’ product base is one of the most respected  in the industry and has elevated our offering to a wider audience. Additionally, as 2024 progresses, we expect the horse racing product to expand further, bolstering odds on some of the world’s premier race meetings.

Kelly: We are constantly looking at enhancing our existing product range to serve the evolving needs of operators. This has previously been demonstrated by our expanded range of live fixed odds numbers draws, with high-frequency Fast 15’s designed to keep bettors engaged with a new draw every three minutes.

We will also continue to grow our live racing content offering across the world. We have the rights to some of the biggest and most prestigious international races in the world including all contests at Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup, to name a couple. Having rolled out fixed-odds betting in Colorado with bet365 recently, we are hopeful that other US states will follow suit.

There is also the possibility of adding a wider array of sports simulations to our SIS Competitive Gaming offering to ensure localised appeal.

 

How do you foresee 2024 going in terms of this partnership?

Kelly: We believe the rest of the year will bring mutual success and growth for both SIS and Altenar. We are already seeing the positive impact of our partnership, with collaborations across multiple departments, working together cohesively to meet the challenges of the market together by delivering a product range that engages bettors and provides additional revenues for operators globally. With our combined efforts this is certainly achievable.

Karakousis: As we look ahead to the rest of the year, we are highly optimistic about the trajectory of our partnership with SIS and the impact it will have on the Altenar sportsbook. The collaboration has already laid a strong foundation with the successful launch of the horse racing product, and we anticipate several key developments and milestones in the coming year.

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