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Nicole Abbott

Nicole Abbott

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12th September
A minor problem?
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Amaya hires William Hill’s Robin Chhabra
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ASA bans Bear Group ad for objectifying women
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Media Relations Director of Ladbrokes steps down
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Q1 sees LeoVegas returning to profit
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Ladbrokes Coral announces Q1 results
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Failure of Florida bill quashes hopes for the legalisation of DFS
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MGM Resorts partners with GVC to launch playMGM brand
2nd May
Paradise Park approved by Wynn Resorts
28th April
STS completes acquisition of Greep Ltd.
27th April
Andy Duncan steps down as Camelot UK's CEO
27th April
UK Government scraps free play tax in Finance Bill ahead of the general election
26th April
US casinos experience 2% revenue decrease in February
25th April
Merger talks end between Margaritaville Casino and Alabama Indian tribe
24th April
Melco and Hard Rock set to open casino in Cyprus
21st April
Casino cheating laws: Is clarity being lost?
13th April
Federal appeals court overturns ruling blocking gambling facility in Massachusetts
13th April
Scientific Games completes acquisition of Spicerack Media
12th April
888 Holdings may consider moving to Malta after Brexit
11th April
2017 Grand National was officially the busiest day of the year for NYX
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Sky Betting & Gaming prepares to enter German market
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Nevada's table games and slots takings down 4.48% in February
29th March
39 arrested in Malaysia following gambling crackdown
29th March
Galaxy teams up with SBM to bid on Japanese casino licence
28th March
Habanero revels in revenue growth ahead of European expansion
27th March
New Hampshire considers bill allowing construction of two casinos
27th March
Kindred consider using AI to prevent problem gambling
24th March
Consortium propose casino and shopping complex in Malta
22nd March
Florida’s bill to freeze casino expansion passes through House committee
21st March
Adelson tops Forbes' rich list again
20th March
MGM Grand introduce skill-based interactive golf suite
17th March
West Virginia introduces first online gambling bill
17th March
Pennsylvania table games revenue drops 3% during February
17th March
Two casinos rejected by Mississippi Gaming Commission
17th March
‘Political risks’ expected to delay Cebu casino
16th March
Gambling Commission urges parents to be wary of video game gambling
16th March
Connecticut’s Public Safety Committee approves two casino expansion bills
15th March
Lottoland hopes to be the first private lottery operator in Germany
15th March
Norway threatens to crackdown on skin betting
14th March
Bwin confirmed as title sponsor of Grand Slam of Darts 2017
14th March
Mississippi governor approves Daily Fantasy Sports legislation
14th March
Industry financiers tap into eSports betting market with Blinkpool investment
13th March
Tabcorp switch regulatory supervisor of Tatts Group merger
10th March
Sky Racing World Expands Partnership with TVG
9th March
GambleAware appoints four new trustees
8th March
GVC extends agreement with Leap Gaming
6th March
Illinois Senate approves plan for six new casinos

IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.