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Women at Reflex | Surj Stott Interview

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Women at Reflex | Surj Stott Interview
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Each year, the 8th March marks International Women’s day (IWD). In 2021, let’s pay attention to this year’s bold theme which is, ‘Choose to challenge’.  The time is now to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes with the aim to forge an inclusive world.
It will come as no surprise that the gambling sector is both very white and very male. The lack of women working in senior positions is astounding.  Of the women who do work in the sector, they are more likely to work in retail, HR or administrative functions. The Gambling Commission’s recent annual report has confirmed that women are gambling in similar numbers to men. If we want games to be representative of the players, it’s important that teams creating them offer a diverse and varied perspective. In which case, encouraging more women to work in the sector can only be positive.

We chat to Surj Stott – Head of Sales at Reflex Gaming to discuss her incredible journey from a run-away, wayward teenager to helping build one of the UK’s leading machine producers.  We get her views on what she would choose to challenge on IWD.


1. Hi Surj, tell us about your role at Reflex Gaming

I head up the sales and marketing function, so customer account management is a big part of the job.   Along with Steve Clark, I help manage our customer relationships.  At Reflex, we pride ourselves on great partnerships with pub retailers, operators and our AGC customer base.

Day-to-day, I also manage our production schedule and liaise closely with our production and logistics teams to ensure that our games are delivered to customers on time.

I’m also responsible for planning our events, including major expos, such as ICE, EAG and ACOS. I really enjoy this side of things, due to my love of people and socialising. The cancellations of both EAG and ICE this year have been a blow for Reflex, as both events are important marketing platforms for us to showcase our new product lines.  They also provide a great opportunity to speak to our customers and learn their requirements and find out what is performing well on their estates.

2. How has the global pandemic impacted on Reflex Gaming?
At the start of 2020, the outlook was positive for Reflex, we were acquired by the Dransfield Group in 2019 and we had established ourselves as one of the country’s leading machine suppliers to the pub and club sectors.

The first lockdown resulted in our entire customer base being closed which wiped out our forward-looking orders.  We consequently made strategic decisions to fast track our drive to the online space. We have formed strategic alliances with two major distributors, Yggdrasil and Stakelogic. These give us the opportunity to penetrate the online slot market quickly and get our games in front of more players via their vast distribution networks. This is typical of the Reflex psyche in that, being faced with the biggest negative impact imaginable to our existing business, we have leveraged opportunities that have been unaffected by the pandemic.

However, it is very disappointing that the Government have given very little support to manufacturers and suppliers to the leisure and hospitality industry. Supply chain companies like Reflex have simply slipped through the Government’s support net. Other than the furlough scheme, we’ve had no additional support and it has been a real struggle to operate for 14 months with, effectively, no income.  We have tried to lobby for a business support grant and a rates relief, but with no success to date.

I am a strong character and I’ve managed to remain positive throughout the pandemic.  We need to focus on the future and there is now some light at the end of this long tunnel, through the impressive vaccine rollout which has resulted in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.  Right now, it seems that the leisure and hospitality industry will reopen in April/May as planned, and if people opt for “staycations”, these will be positive steps to ease the recovery of the sector.

3. How did you get into this sector?
I grew up in Leicester in a first-generation Indian family.  At the age of 15, my parents had arranged for my marriage to a goat farmer, based in India.   My instincts told me that it did not feel right, and it certainly wasn’t a life I wanted. I took the drastic step to do a runner, and I haven’t looked back since!

As you can imagine, leaving home at 15 was tough, but I was fortunate to have a good network of friends who helped me through the situation.  I’m thankful that I didn’t end up in the wrong crowd.

I was running a successful Nottingham city centre pub in my early twenties, following which I established my own bar in Newark. This meant working very long and unsociable hours, and with a young child, often proved to be difficult. I decided that more of a 9-5 job would better suit my home / work life balance and I mentioned this in conversation with one of the customers in my bar, who happened to work at a local gaming machine business called BWB.  An opportunity came up there, so I applied. I was interviewed, got the job, and began my career in gaming at BWB. After a while, I moved into a sales role and it was whilst I was working here that I met my husband, Quentin, (these days the MD of Reflex Gaming).

4. What would you tell your younger self?
It would be to trust your instincts.  At 15, my decision to leave home was very much a “Sliding doors” moment.  Although it was the risky choice, I went with my instincts. Fortunately, I have no regrets.
Also understand that sometimes you may have to work harder and apply more attention to detail than some male colleagues.  Enjoy the journey and don’t be afraid to be yourself!

5. What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
When I first started my career in this sector, sadly, I did experience both racial and sexual discrimination.   I don’t get easily intimidated and the discrimination ultimately made me a stronger person. I have proved myself with great determination irrespective of other people’s prejudices.

However, I have witnessed much progression in the industry since I started. I am seeing an increasing number of women in senior positions who have progressed from junior roles and long may this continue.

6. The International Women’s day theme is, “Choose to Challenge”, what would you choose to challenge?
I passionately believe that there is no place in the world for bullies. Whether this happens in school, at work or your community. We need to take a collective stand against it. I cannot bare people who belittle others to make themselves look superior! Call them out for what they are. I’ve met a few bullies during my career and behaviour like that should be confined to the Skip of history.

7. What message do you want to send out to young women who are considering a career in this industry?
The i-Gaming sector has opened a huge host of career possibilities.  There are jobs ranging from game design, graphic design, software development, marketing, etc. You will be able to unleash your creativity and let’s face it, the end-product is fun. There is never a dull moment in gaming.

It’s changed a lot since I started in 1996.  It’s more politically correct without being woke.  This is an exciting vibrant industry with a lot of great people in it.  Although the gambling sector might not be everyone’s first choice of industry as a career, for me, it’s been a blast and I’ve made a lot of friends from it. I met my husband, and I’ve had opportunities to meet some very interesting and successful people along the way.

Interviews

Crypto Millions Lotto’s Sulim Malook on What Happens When Lotto Meets Bitcoin

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The proposition of Bitcoin lotteries is simple. If you go to a casino, you have to buy chips from the cashier to play. When you finish playing, you can cash your chips in for money, or keep them for next time. With a digital lottery, you play with a digital currency. In the case of Crypto Millions Lotto it’s Bitcoin. Think of bitcoin as the chips you have to buy to play Crypto Millions Lotto. Players deposit bitcoin to play, and if they win, they get paid in bitcoin. One exception is that if you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot, this innovative digital lotto gives you the option to take your winnings in bitcoin or a local currency of your choice.

There are some really strong arguments for considering bitcoin lotteries vs traditional ones. There are two major reasons. The first is that if you play games across borders using a credit card or any other traditional form of payment, then there are complications and frustrations around whether the payment can be made or if it will be blocked, the exchange rate, and payment periods. Using bitcoin removes all of that because it knows no borders. 

The second reason is that by operating digitally using bitcoin companies like Crypto Millions Lotto can avoid a lot of infrastructure costs, including payment processing charges. According to Sulim Malook “Having a low cost base allows us to offer bigger jackpots. Our jackpots are bigger than the majority of state-run lotteries and bigger than any of our online competitors.”

 

How Does a Digital Lottery like Sulim’s work? 

“We allow people to play the numbers of eight of the world’s biggest lotteries on our website. Although they choose the numbers on our site, they’re actually betting on the numbers of a state lottery, so numbers are drawn by each of the underlying lotteries. That way we remain completely independent.

This means people can play every time one of those eight lotteries has a draw, in total 14 times a week.

In case people don’t see the live draw, we announce all of the winning numbers on our website, and we notify all winners by email immediately. Payment of winnings is made within minutes of the lottery ending.”

 

Bitcoin lotteries are the natural progression from digital lotteries

The first big shift was from offline to online, but all that really changed was how we bought and received tickets for a single lottery.

The next shift was allowing people to play many different lotteries online, and for that people needed a better way to buy tickets and to receive winnings. Sulim says “That’s where bitcoin came in. So, we haven’t adopted bitcoin just because it’s a digital currency. We’ve done it because it’s the best currency for the job.”

 

Covid’s Effect on The Lottery

Contrary to what you might imagine, historically, the lottery performs well in downturns and recessions, as people try to generate fast money for themselves. Covid, of course, has put a lot of the world into recession, so the lotto industry as a whole as well as the gaming sector has performed well. 

But more significant than that, Covid has exposed the flaws and tensions in the traditional lottery model. Specifically, that it relies on a network of small retailers to sell tickets, most of which have now been closed and certainly were not contactless anyway.

The result, according to Sulim, is that people have gone online. “So not just us, the whole online lottery industry has seen a big uplift, while the traditional lotteries have seen a negative impact.”

And yet the lifting of COVID restrictions has not impacted this sector negatively. Sulim was clear that “On the contrary, the effect has been positive. With some state lotteries closing down for months, playing online was the only option. In our view, this is a good thing for an industry that has been living in the dark ages.

I’d liken it to working from home. Covid has opened many people’s eyes to the benefits of home working. Some people might go back to the office after Covid restrictions are lifted. But for many others, they’ve discovered a new way of doing things and will stick with it. It’s the same with the digital lottery. We introduced it to many people who now prefer it and who won’t go back to the old way.”

Business is booming at Crypto Millions Lotto and the team has a lot in the pipeline. So what comes next for a business of this ilk? 

“We have lots of exciting things in our pipeline. We’ve recently added six new lotteries, and we’re planning to add more. We also plan to add more games, as well as offering players the ability to get bitcoin using their credit cards directly on our site.

As our user base expands into more countries, we want to offer Crypto Millions Lotto in multiple languages.

We have also just launched an affiliate program, which we believe offers a more attractive proposition than other affiliate programs already out there.”

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby

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Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Are big summer events the most important part of the year, or just an added benefit to day-to-day activity?

Summer sporting events are a big deal for global sportsbook suppliers as they present endless opportunities to boost engagement and deliver unique promotions, but I see it as a bit of both.

After a prolonged period without any major football tournaments and over a season’s worth of fixtures being played behind closed doors, the European Championships and the Copa America have arrived at the perfect time for sport lovers around the world.

The spike of growth in the number of users around these events is very much influenced by the market and depends on many factors, like whether a local team is playing in the tournament and what sources the operator gets its traffic through.

We see a similar number of bets placed on a given day of the European Championships as we do on the night of the Champions League final, with the latter stages of the tournament only attracting more users. This is a testament to the popularity and appeal of summer sporting competitions.

 

How can sportsbook suppliers prepare for these huge events, which should see significantly increased traffic?

Betby prides itself on the flexibility of its products and ability to pivot its platform to suit specific requirements. Preparation for tournaments of this size is key due to the huge spike in user activity during the games.

Work schedules around the time of major events are changed to facilitate the increased number of bets being placed before games, as well as requests from clients to run campaigns in the build up to the tournament.  We also tend to increase the number of markets of bets ahead of these competitions to set it apart from regular sporting events.

 

Are regional sporting events, such as the European Championships or Copa America, popular globally or only within those regions where the games are being played?

For the most part, there is little interest in the Copa America in Europe, and the same can be said for interest in the European Championships in Latin America, but there are always sport enthusiasts and other outliers that must be catered to.

For example, the Argentina-Brazil clash will undoubtedly see some interest around the globe thanks to the prominence of superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar. That said, when you consider the time difference and abundance of smaller ties, global figures will always be smaller in comparison.

This problem is not specific to football; we see the same issue in the NBA where European followers are expected to sacrifice sleep and brave the early hours of the morning just to watch their team play.

 

Can the Olympics ever become a major betting event?

This is a very complex question. There’s a feeling that the Olympics is slowly losing relevance in the sporting community.

Perhaps we should not talk about the Olympics as a whole, and rather focus on the separate events that make up the competition. The tennis is always interesting to watch from the start due to the ‘knock-out’ nature of the ties, whereas football in the Olympics only becomes a knock-out once teams pass the group stages.

The dedicated following that we see at club and international level in football, rugby and other global sports audiences is just incomparable to the following that Olympic sports like rowing or fencing get throughout the year.

 

How has Betby approached the bumper sporting summer of 2021?

Without going into too much detail on our plans for the upcoming summer, I can confirm that we have changed our priorities to assist the launch of a host of additional football markets for the European Championships.

We recently reimagined the ‘classic’ sportsbook in the design of our site’s new layout, so it now boasts a fully responsive user interface, easy site navigation and swift betting placement, which addresses feedback we received from our users.

With a brand-new sidebar, high-quality widgets and more markets than ever before, we have done everything in our power to make this summer as enjoyable as possible for our audiences. After all, there has been so little to celebrate over the past 18 months that a touch excitement is long overdue.

 

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Interviews

Spiffbet – Rhino Gaming’s next-level gaming experience

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Spiffbet - Rhino Gaming's next-level gaming experience
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Spiffbet’s Head of Game Development Riaan du Randt shares his thoughts about Rhino Gaming’s re-launch, new focus, and opportunities ahead. 

Riaan, please tell us about your background

I started working in the igaming industry in 2005. During this period, the industry was tiny yet innovative. After many years in igaming, I started focusing on R&D for mobile gaming in the casual gaming market for a period of time instead. It was exciting, and I learned a lot, but it never really motivated me as much as igaming. The next chapter of my career was the most exciting, as the entire online casino industry started moving towards HTML 5. This prompted me to move back to igaming which has always been my passion. I joined Spiffbet in 2018, and it has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences to date.

Spiffbet recently rebranded parts of their game portfolio to Rhino Gaming. What is the rationale behind the rebranding?

We see Rhino Gaming as the next chapter in our game production journey. When we started the studio, our priority was to balance quality with quantity since we needed to grow our portfolio as fast as possible. Now that we have established ourselves as a solid gaming studio, we are switching gears to start producing games that stand out from the crowd, emphasizing innovative games with robust features. We have a talented and creative team that I am proud to be part of.

Can you describe the concept and the type of games that are produced under Rhino Gaming? How does it differ from Spiffbet’s other portfolio STHLM Gaming?

In this competitive market, it is essential to offer the operators something special. We believe the best way to achieve this is by developing unique game mechanics combined with high production quality. Our STHLM Gaming products cater to a specific market that likes fun games with easy to relate themes. With Rhino Gaming, we aim to appeal more to players looking for edgy games and players in growth markets.

Do you have a particular target group for your games?

Yes, I believe our main target will be the plus 20-something to middle age that likes fresh, innovative games. A great example would be to look at Metal Casino. Niche operators like these will give us an audience that is seeking an edgy content.

Game development is a sector where the competition is fierce. How do you relate to your competition, and do you have clear-cut competitors?

Our goal is not to compete with the top-tier studios head-on, but to target niches with unique games and stand out by creating a next level experience and meeting the preferences in new growth markets.

Today Spiffbet has completely changed its character and is now perceived as a B2C player. What is your comment on this change?

The recent year with high growth within the B2C casino business will strengthen the overall operations. However, people tend to forget that we, Spiffbet, comes from game development. Last year’s acquisitions have certainly overshadowed that part of the company. Many have not picked up all the positive changes that have taken place within the game development. The relaunch under Rhino Gaming will hopefully put the spotlight back onto our games. We welcome that other studios of similar size have taken the step out in the spotlight by becoming publicly traded companies. Good examples are Fantasma Games and LL Lucky Games (Lady Luck). Fantasma Games has as a similar operating model as STHLM Gaming but is somewhat larger. Lady Luck is similar to Rhino Gaming. Currenty, Lady Luck games is supplied along side our games on our platform. These companies are both interesting benchmarks when we evaluate our development and future steps.

What benefits do you see working within a larger group like Spiffbet with one foot in casino operations and the other in game development?

It puts us in a unique position that presents many opportunities to take advantage of. It all played a big part in our decision to push the production value up a notch. We also get valuable feedback from Spiffbet’s online gaming branch on the games we produce.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from Rhino Gaming?

We got plenty of exciting stuff in our pipeline. Check out the teaser for our upcoming release of Dragons of Asgard. Stay tuned!

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