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Q&A with Phil Parry CEO of Iforium

George Miller

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Q&A with Phil Parry CEO of Iforium
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

As the CEEGC gets underway today, our Lead Stage Sponsor, Phil Parry, CEO of Iforium, sits down with us to talk through his plans for the CEE Gaming scene and the importance of responsible aggregation.

What are you looking forward to at CEEGC?

We’re great fans of the CEEGC – it’s one of the must-attend gaming conferences on the Central and Eastern European calendar – and we’ve been proud attendees since its launch in 2016.

We’re delighted to be a sponsor, and we see it as a great opportunity to catch up with our partners as well as making new friends. We’ve enjoyed every year immensely and are looking forward to progressing with our on-going partnership discussions as well as catching up with the latest in CEE’s fast-developing regulatory environment.

What lies ahead for the CEE Gaming scene?

Central and Eastern Europe is a very exciting growth region for us. We’re already live with several operators here and see it as a great place to be doing business.

Slovakia and the 16 German Länder will likely occupy the headlines in the months ahead as everyone waits for their markets to go live and decide on a sustainable regulatory framework.

We’ve had fantastic success in CEE on behalf of our operator partners; ensuring stringent regulatory compliance while delivering a seamless player experience is always a balancing act; and one which we do best given our experience as one of the industry’s leading aggregators.

Each market has different regulatory requirements, and the challenge for operators is to ensure they can be compliant in each jurisdiction they are active in, while offering games from the industry’s most popular content providers and the best value proposition for players – which we do for them.

What innovation will capture the most attention in 2019?

While there’s plenty of noise around blockchain, aggregated jackpots, and split screen game play to name a few trends – a lot of this risks being window dressing. For us, it’s all about data, the processing of data and the player personalisation and communications that follow – those who master this will be the ones to watch.

At Iforium, we’ve worked hard over the last year on our event driven architecture to provide a real time data stream of player behavior for our operators. Introduce and apply machine learning on top and you’re onto a winner.

What can CEE aggregators do to better improve the process between regulators and content providers?

It goes without saying that today’s environment is a million miles away from the regulatory wild west of the early 2000s. With such a developed environment that we see now, the challenge for today’s operators is to identify the markets that are profitable while finding ways to negotiate the complex web of rules and specifications required of them at every turn.

In Iforium’s case, our Gameflex platform acts as a bridge between multiple content providers. As the middleman, we ensure this is ‘sanitised’ in that all content meets the regulatory demands of whichever market it is required to operate in. Where appropriate, we also overlay our regulatory solution specific to the jurisdiction and local requirements needed to operate. Looking to the future; I believe this will be expected of every aggregator – taking such solutions from ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’ requirement to operate.

Any lessons learned that you’d like to share with others?

For operators, each time they enter a new CEE market or there’s a new regulatory change, the key is having a system – an architecture that can permit that change. What we’ve been doing over several years is trying to take a level of control over all these different elements involved in multiple platforms and content providers who are all trying to solve the same problem.

As an aggregator, our objective and our belief is that we can provide a significant level of control over that process by innovating on our own platform. This is compelling for our suppliers and our operator partners, because Iforium and its systems can deliver in line with the complex network of regulations we see emerging across CEE today.

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Interviews

The value of exclusive content with Andy Sekula and Marcin Kalbarczyk

George Miller

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The value of exclusive content with Andy Sekula and Marcin Kalbarczyk
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Kalamba Games have worked with Kindred on producing new timed-exclusive Ducks Till Dawn.  Ahead of the release we caught up with Andy Sekula, Head of Games at Kalamba, and Marcin Kalbarczyk, Kindred’s Senior Casino Product Manager, to discuss how exclusive titles benefit both supplier and operator, and how the title came to be.

Why did you guys decide to get together to develop exclusive content? What’s the thinking behind making exclusive titles?

AS: It’s great for us, the supplier, because we can leverage operators’ experience and knowledge of the player base when working on the game. It’s a true feedback loop that gives real weight to the design process and puts our developers much closer to our end user, and also gives us insight into the marketing machinery of an operator, which is different to our own.

There are of course also commercial benefits – both in the sharing of development cost and in that we can see two peaks in terms of bets – the exclusive release and later, the release on the network.

MK: For the operator, being able to offer a product that is not available anywhere else, is a very strong, unique selling point. Exclusive games are a great way to differentiate ourselves from competition, especially these days when content saturation in the igaming industry is rapidly increasing.

The second reason, like Andy says, is the commercial reason. Our data from recent years proves that the reduced revenue share makes a massive difference, especially when so many marketing activities are focused on our exclusive releases.

Lastly, we are the experts who know our customer base. Through analysis of features from hundreds released slots, we are able to determine which ones have the highest chance of best performance. By building an exclusive game in collaboration with an experienced studio, we get a chance to implement that knowledge.

What are the benefits for both parties in having suppliers dedicate a game to one single operator?

MK: For both emerging and established suppliers, it’s a great boost for reputation to have their game released exclusively with a big operator. With so much marketing focus being directed at these games, it’s obvious that their reach will be stronger than any regular release.
The financial side is also a strong benefit. Through the upfront fee, suppliers get to partially, or even fully, cover their production cost. In exchange for that, we get a chance to create a game according to our guidelines.

AS: Exactly, there are great benefits for us in working closely with operators when building games, but for the operator having a potential hit on exclusivity will drive more users to the casino and also make the current player base stay engaged for longer in anticipation of content that’s not available elsewhere.

Where does the balance sit in creating a game that is in keeping with the studio’s style yet meets the requirements of the operator?

AS: The most important thing is to find the chemistry between operators’ needs, which are the expression of what makes players excited, and what the supplies feel strong at. In other words there must be a chemistry which I’m pleased to say was in full effect on the production of Ducks Till Dawn! In our experience it’s quite rare to find ‘hard’ requirements as much of the game development process is truly a creative one, but there may be some themes or math models that resonate better than others with a particular operator’s audience, or indeed an operator’s priority list at any given time.

MK: Yes, an open-minded approach is very important here. Sometimes operators want a specific type of game and they look for a supplier that specialises in that particular area, let’s say a cluster slot or a 3×3 one. Then they are comfortable with handing over the production to them because they know this is the kind of game they do best. They don’t have to be included that much.

The situation can be completely the opposite when the operator has unique needs or is trying to introduce innovation in regard to mechanics and features. Then the supplier’s flexibility becomes a priority.
During the Ducks Till Dawn production, the flexibility of Kalamba Games team and some of their already proven mechanics were a perfect mixture.

How did the process of collaboration work between Kalamba and Kindred when creating Ducks Till Dawn?

MK: We worked with a number of suppliers throughout 2018-19 and then in 2020 and Kalamba was very smooth and straightforward to collaborate with. Sometimes suppliers have their set vision of the game and don’t like to implement drastic changes proposed by the operator. Kalamba was very flexible on that point and accommodated all of our feedback on what we thought would resonate with our customers better, which made this a great cooperation.

AS: It went really smoothly, because we all liked the core mechanics of the game which we considered for a while and later decided would be expressed as CASH DUCKS, which we imported from a land based slot. We’ve had regular meetings and a lot of valuable feedback from the Kindred guys, which allowed us to get a better understanding of what might potentially make players feel excited.

Are there any specific features in DtD that you think will particularly appeal to Kindred players?

MK: Definitely the Cash Ducks. This was initially inspired by a slot machine from the  land-based casino segment. The Kalamba team showed it to us on one of the first meetings and together we developed it together into a unique mechanic. We all thought it would work very well if the instant win symbols would move horizontally across the screen and that’s when the amusement park shooting range idea was born. Since the release date was already planned just before Halloween, it made sense to add a bit of spooky atmosphere. A great title completed the theme perfectly.

AS:  For sure, we’re also confident that the SpinBoost feature will be a big hit because it allows players to have a slightly longer target to hit which makes the game more entertaining and more exciting for a longer period.

More generally, are we seeing greater collaboration between operators and suppliers in the game development process? Do you expect we will see more of these types of collaborations?

AS: Definitely, the collaboration with suppliers gives operators an opportunity to cater for the tastes of their player base in a more customised manner.

MK: It’s a very reasonable choice for both operators and suppliers to go that way, because it usually provides a good balance between investment and return in addition to exposure towards industry and boost to the reputation. Content saturation is currently huge and it’s going to get even more congested, presenting a significant challenge to operators who want to differentiate their offering. We can see that most of the big tier one operators have exclusive offers from time to time – some more frequently but it’s definitely something that is growing in the gaming industry.

Should operators play a bigger role in content creation? If so, how?

AS: Cooperating with game studios will ensure that the needs and wants of the players are met. I’m sure that suppliers can learn a lot from them, which would result in more effective collaboration and better entertainment for players!

MK: Operators are exposed to a massive amount of content during their game selection process. That gives them a perfect overview of what is present on the market and what players might still need. I think operators are often capable of providing valuable input, which suppliers may utilize in their productions. Such collaborations are definitely valuable and should happen more often as it’s a good way to come across the next industry-revolutionizing idea.

Any final thoughts about Ducks Till Dawn?

AS: As mentioned, it’s been a great collaboration and we look forward to seeing how this goes. It’s a feature-packed game which we think will resonate really strongly with players.

MK: I’m very pleased with how the game came out. There were many different ideas during the production process. We went through a couple of different themes that we wanted to utilise in this game. But in the end, all the pieces came together perfectly; the theme, the mechanics; the SpinBoost feature and the title, of course. We’ve created a really really attractive product and I have huge hopes for that to blow away our customer base!

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Interviews

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

George Miller

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Interviews

Exclusive Interview with NetShop ISP’s CEO ahead of the Upcoming Betting on Sports Europe – Digital Exhibition

George Miller

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Exclusive Interview with NetShop ISP’s CEO ahead of the Upcoming Betting on Sports Europe – Digital Exhibition
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

NetShop ISP, the leading Data Center Provider is exhibiting in the SBC Betting on Sports Europe – Digital event which will take place online on the 21st and 22nd of October 2020.
Stefano Sordini, CEO at NetShop Internet Services Ltd, spoke to SBC Media in an exclusive interview about the company’s participation and his expectations from the event.

SBC Reporter: What are you looking forward to at Betting on Sports Europe – Digital 2020?

Stefano Sordini: The Betting on Sports Europe – Digital 2020 will be NetShop ISP’s first ever fully virtual conference is exhibiting in. The SBC team has brought into the iGaming industry a fantastic platform for virtual events where in these “special” times the World is going through, our industry is stepping above and finds a way to connect businesses with young entrepreneurs, operators and suppliers.

We, at NetShop ISP, are interested to attend and listen to some great Discussion Panels and catch up with industry peers. Through our virtual booth we will be happy to greet existing clients and demonstrate our portfolio of infrastructure solutions to visitors.

Nothing can compare to physical events, one might say, however it is thrilling what technology can do to help people connect with each other. Kudos to the SBC team for what they have achieved so far!

SBC: What would be your biggest bit of advice for betting and gaming businesses trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?

SS: The key to survive whatever impact COVID-19 has had in your business, are the Partnerships and especially the deals you make with your business’ most crucial Suppliers. It is of vital importance to have honest and transparent Partners & Suppliers with whom you can negotiate flexible terms until your business can be fully restored.
If its payment providers with whom you have target goals in Volume you have to meet each month, make sure that there will be no penalties or consequences for not meeting the agreement’s goals due to your business impact from COVID-19.

Technology suppliers can also play a very important role in helping clients and affected businesses like yours. Having acquired a large capacity of bandwidth during the pre-COVID months, means that your monthly bill may not be sustainable after the COVID-19 impact. A good partnership should be both ends. Not only when you pay your bills upfront, but in case of Crisis you should make sure that your Hosting Provider will stand next to you and provide whatever flexibility is possible until your business overcomes this situation.

SBC: What are you promoting at Betting on Sports Europe – Digital 2020?

SS: During the event we will be announcing the launch of 3 new Data Centers which, alongside our existing locations of Cyprus, Malta, United Kingdom and Los Angeles, will help NetShop ISP to reach regions across the globe. Moreover, we will be showcasing our [email protected] Bundle to the attendees of the event. It’s our most recent product launch to relief businesses that had been impacted by COVID-19 and are in the process of shifting to Home working.

SBC: Which operator has impressed you the most in 2020?

SS: Which operator has shone a positive light on the industry? This might be through a product launch, commitment to responsible gambling, innovative marketing campaign, or for taking a certain stance in debates concerning the industry. As a Technology/Hosting Supplier of many iGaming Operators i wouldn’t like to naming any specific ones. I admire though all Operators who managed to diversify their portfolio of products and enhance their Customer Service given the impact of COVID-19 in our industry.

SBC: What partnership has stood out in the past 12 months?

SS: I was amazed when i heard about the acquisition deal between BtoBet and Aspire Global. The guys at BtoBet are in business for quite some time and, in my humble opinion, they grew to be among the top suppliers of the industry in Europe. This acquisition as said will help them to reach new markets which i am sure they will succeed.

SBC: What industry innovation will capture the most attention in 2020?

SS: I believe that 2020 and, going forward in 2020, there will be more focus and research on player-oriented products and features. Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already being studied, developed and tested by Software Vendors and Development companies. The competition is so much bigger noawadays, with startups and new businesses entering the igaming market, that the traditional products will not be able to generate those profits to sustain every business in the pie. Therefore, innovation is what will keep this industry moving and allow existing businesses to profit and new ones to enter.

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