Isabella Aslam speaks with Dinos Stranomitis, Director & COO of Altenar, on the software provider’s plans to further expand its global footprint, the regulated market and how banks are incorporating cryptocurrencies into the new digital world.
Founded in 2011, iGaming software provider Altenar has been on the rise since its inception. The company has cemented itself in Latin American and African businesses; however, Altenar also has several licences in nearly every country in Europe.
“We are at a level at the moment where we have a Gambling Commission licence for suppliers,” Stranomitis told Gambling Insider. “We have a B2B licence in Malta and Romania and also have certification in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania. Alongside this, we have been integrated with the regulator in Italy and supporting regulated businesses in Belgium. We are fully certified.”
It’s an extensive list. Do you have any plans to further it into, say Australia or Canada?
We are also in the process of obtaining a Greek provider licence as well. It's a small country, it might not be significant for business but it’s good to expand our portfolio. Greece is requiring an ISO 27001, the technical security standards, so it will help us, and to my information that will be the requirement also for a German licence as well.
I don’t see any particular rush to expand further in Eastern Europe. Canada is extremely interesting for us, we are curious in understanding the Canadian environment; so far, we know there are certain regions in Canada that allow licences. Once a Canadian national licence exists, we will go for that. We think Canada is most likely the best territory before entering the US. In terms of Australia, if a business case comes across, we will definitely obtain that. We have also discussed an opportunity for South Africa, and we are in the process of getting a licence there as a provider. It is early stages but before you start on the actual application it is good to work on the mindset of the company.
And the US?
For Altenar the US is, as some say, “a way to go”. It is in our interest given the right opportunity and the right timing.
When will you apply for a licence in the Netherlands?
We are still waiting for the Dutch law and regulation to be published, to understand exactly what a supplier needs for the Netherlands.
In terms of evolution, what do you feel about regulation toward NFTs and cryptocurrencies? For example, recently NFT football website Sorare.com was under investigation by The Gambling Commission?
Well, where to start with cryptocurrency really! The crypto world is a parallel universe; there are some black holes where one universe is connected to the other. As long as the banks are happy that some of the income comes through crypto, we are very open to going through with that option. Nowadays, in modern days and especially post-Covid days, banking dictates more or less the money flow. And any kind of wealth that comes into your pockets or the company, the source has to be proven. When it comes to crypto, if you can't prove where this came from and the origin is a legitimate party, then it can be a big issue.
A lot more banks are incorporating crypto as we speak!
Yes, that is correct. That’s why I am saying there is a way to go; you just need to be very careful how you handle the situation. We are very open on that, we are positive. It is just another currency. We would just like to be regulated properly. And have the right documentation to provide the origin of this crypto. If you make a normal contract with an operator and you get paid in crypto, the banks will be okay.
Users can still be uneasy about crypto, so, you’ve got to have faith and trust and show you are positive about it as a supplier, and inevitably it gives users confidence too…
Correct. We are positive about it. Regardless, if you are regulated you should never become rigid. Flexibility should still be the case but in a way where you are not disturbing the environment around you. It is all about how you approach the community.
You are an established company but haven’t really promoted your European footprint. What’s the reason for this?
You need to be extremely careful when it comes to regulation. So many fines, penalties or bad publicity can come. Regulators can turn against operators and the like. So we would like to have a proven footprint first. We start with certain small operators in each country, make sure everything is fine, and then push forward. The European situation at the moment is a little bit of a mosaic. Every single country, Isabella, has different rules that you have to satisfy. There are too many regulations and regulators, too many countries all with so many differences with no harmonisation.
Every country and government have their ideas. It’s a nightmare. So, we don’t have to promote what we don’t have in concrete. But we are at the stage now where we not only have all of those certifications I mentioned, and licences, but we have retained them and have a department that takes care of that. When I go to exhibitions, many people complain saying ‘European regulation is a mission impossible’ – well it’s a mission possible! If you do things right.
You sound like you have a plan…
We keep a very good track of all these certifications and licences so we don’t get in trouble. We have certain ways to cross-check internally; it helps us to do things properly. We also decided to buy a database of the dates of birth of players. We have the approach that when we have a date of birth confirmed and it’s an adult, only then do we offer our services for specific countries that require such a rule. If there are any players without their date of birth confirmed, we don’t offer.
We decided to play safe because we want to protect our customers, the operators. So, we play a bit safer with a very simple idea. On the other hand, there is a rule in Spain that in live betting, you can only use how much money you have in your wallet the moment the game starts. After that point, if the consumer deposits money, they cannot use this excessive amount for that particular game. Someone thought about it, those ministers and regulators have crazy ideas. Every country is unique, unfortunately, or fortunately. In Italy, the moment you accept a bet, no resettlement is allowed – you have to pay. No mistakes.
Well, if you are doing something that one place says you can’t do, but one says you can, inevitably you’ll end up doing it all at some point in different jurisdictions?
That is correct. The EU promotes itself as a free movement of people, goods and ideas. But that is very far from happening! In a way, it is still the free movement of people if you exclude the Covid case. But the movement of goods – it’s far from being there.
I don’t think anything is free movement at the moment.
Yes, if there was a country in the EU that was successful in gambling, it’s the UK. The UK has years of experience in the gambling sector; in my opinion, they have regulated very early. This makes me wonder why the EU doesn’t trust the most successful member to harmonise law across Europe.
Every single state has to come up with the most strange and irrational ideas of how gambling should be, but what is the reason for this? Obviously, each one wants to make money but why not harmonisation? This is trouble for suppliers and operators in managing and getting opportunities. We are gaining the opportunity because we manage quite well. And maybe it is a time to promote without being irrational, too. Let’s play the ball the right way.