As we move into a post-pandemic world, European Gaming spoke to Chris Miller Managing Director at Betting Jobs and Mario Zdelican, Co-founder/EVP of Operations at Huddle about the future of recruitment in iGaming and the lessons to be learnt from the last two years.
In-person industry shows like ICE are returning after a hiatus. How important are these for both candidates and recruiters?
CM: Prior to the pandemic I would have said that in-person shows like ICE were essential. They serve as a great time to make introductions to clients who are hiring and candidates who are attending with a goal of employment. We can often be the matchmaker there and then and produce a successful outcome.
Over these last two years both we and our clients have had to adapt without them, of course. In a post-pandemic world, they may not seem as essential as we once felt they were. However, we will be making the most of having everyone in one place at the same time at ICE and other industry shows as it represents an opportunity for Betting Jobs to make things happen instantly.
MZ: Building relationships with talent across other industries, as well as the IT community, locally and globally is of essential importance when recruiting and this was incredibly challenging during pandemic-related lockdowns. There were attempts made in the form of online conferences, but the networking part could never be replicated and struggled to reach pre-pandemic levels.
Going back to in-person shows will help us in further building relationships with candidates. Great talent wants to build relationships with prospective employers and the people who work there, and this is much easier to achieve now that we are able to travel again. It is much easier to explain and demonstrate the Huddle vision and culture, as well as our projects, by actually showcasing it in-person to potential new employees.
Will the hybrid model of working persist in a post-pandemic world and what challenges does it raise?
MZ: We are sure hybrid work is here to stay. Over the course of the pandemic, we have witnessed enormous change within the working world – organisations that were once resistant to employees working from home have undergone a dramatic shift towards being open to work from home and hybrid models.
Since there was no playbook for those scenarios, organisations all over the globe had to try out various ways of dealing with distributed work. We are already seeing new organisational designs around hybrid workplaces, with a multitude of adjustments being made by companies looking to create a model that works for them. In the coming years, we are surely going to experience more and more challenges, but improvements as well. A long time ago we said goodbye to traditional working models, with employee well-being and work-life balance now the focus of the change. We are excited to see what the future brings. Based on what we have learned so far, we will have no problems in adapting to whatever comes our way.
CM: For me there is no doubt that the hybrid model of working will persist. I do expect some pushback from companies who traditionally require candidates to relocate to jurisdictions like Malta, Gibraltar, and Bulgaria to carry out their work. However, candidates are currently more attracted to companies that offer either fully remote working or a hybrid model of employment. There is never enough available iGaming talent to satisfy the entire marketplace at once. Therefore, the companies that are winning on the recruitment front are those who are agile in their approach to hiring and who are willing to embrace current market trends.
In terms of challenges, the building and maintaining a company culture is one of the most topical. Some iGaming businesses have taken to these changes well by being receptive to remote working from the earliest days of the pandemic, or having remote working already established within their business model. Working from home and nurturing their company’s culture simultaneously has become natural to them and their business practices.
Those who have struggled to adapt to this are eager to return to traditional employment. These businesses will find it may take longer to fill positions at large, as candidates have more choice and flexibility available to them currently. The way the working world has changed in the last two years will prove to be an ongoing challenge for those who are eager to return to the Monday to Friday 9-5 model.
What opportunities have been created for businesses being able to hire prospective employees who can work anywhere in the world?
CM: Accessing skillsets and talented employees who would have been out of reach to businesses previously for geographical reasons has created many opportunities. When it is determined that an employee must be based in a set location, the decision for who to hire is based on who is available within a reasonable radius, or who will be willing to relocate. This means that a company may hire the best person they have interviewed, as opposed to hiring who is the best person for the job.
This issue is eliminated for those open to global talent, however, there are sensible factors to consider such as the differences in time zone between employee and employer. However, the world is your oyster, as they say, and this rings true in the present day when it comes to recruitment.
MZ: Remote work helps us to reach the top talents around the globe, and it greatly facilitates the growth and development of both the business and the product. The iGaming industry has so much to offer, as do the start-ups that operate within it. Start-ups like Huddle are becoming more and more of an attractive prospect on the recruitment scene, and now we have the ability to work with talents from anywhere in the world. It feels as if we are just starting to show the potential of opportunities for the top candidate profiles.
Does this allow for the hiring of experienced staff in burgeoning markets such as the US and Latin America?
MZ: The iGaming industry has never been as much in demand for talent as it is now – it is suffering from a lack of industry expertise. This is mostly due to the US and LatAm markets opening up, as well as other, smaller, markets. Demand for talent, new products and services is at its peak. Therefore, we are trying to think outside of the box. As easy as it is to hire people within the industry, there are candidates in many tech companies across various industries that are a perfect fit that have already solved some of the problems we as an industry are facing. Bringing that knowledge under our roof as an industry is a huge plus.
CM: In some cases, yes, although we are finding that many of our US clients maintain office working policies. If that’s the case, this is of course what we work towards, although we do make the realities of the present-day candidate-led recruitment market clear. To a large degree it depends on the role that is available. For example, if it is for a commercial person who is required to meet clients, it is less important for them to be office-based than, say, the person who manages or has oversight of the office.
For the burgeoning market of Latin America, country managers and their teams are a good example, as many will naturally be based remotely. Businesses don’t want to establish many companies across the continent and pay for office rental. It’s commonplace for people in such positions to work remotely and hire teams within their country. However, this is not a new thing as it has been the case since the early days of the sector and remains that way now.
Andrzej Hyla: Let’s break the ICE at booth N7-420!
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.
Roundtable: The future of cryptocurrency
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.
Exclusive ICE Preview Q&A w/ Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay
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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