Fresh from collecting the Global Gaming Awards’ Land-Based Innovation of the Year Award for SG Universe, Vice President Global Commercial, Interactive at Scientific Games, Bob Hays, sits down with Gambling Insider to spell out the business’ targets for the next 12 months
What have been the biggest challenges in the market place for SG Interactive in the last 12 months?
The base challenge for SG Interactive is continuing to provide a best in class gaming experience for the consumer or the player as we grow so rapidly and distribute our content so broadly across jurisdictions, channels, platforms etc. And in parallel to that it’s providing that service and support to our operating partners as we continue to grow and become a bigger part of their business, there’s a greater dependency on us to be operationally sound and execute well in addition to delivering best in class high quality content.
Is that the same objective for 2017 or are there new challenges that you foresee that are going to make a difference to the business in the next 12 months?
Those factors will continue to be a really important component for us going forward, we’ll always strive to be best in class again not only as a content provider but all the things that come along with it: User experience, flawless execution in support of our operative partners etc. That will be ongoing work that we’ll continue to improve on. As far as hurdles to new growth are concerned, I think there’s a couple, the jurisdictional opportunities for expansion become more and more challenging, there are just less places to go. As jurisdictions shift from a dotcom to dotcountry and the regulatory requirements come into play that poses its challenges as well. And then beyond that you’ve got your competitive set, specifically to what we would call your B2B land-based casino offerings from an online standpoint.
But also I think back to the real money gaming it’s really around the consolidation as well with all the merger and acquisition activity out there. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge to understand that landscape, and how we continue to achieve our objectives in the face of a lot of change taking place in the industry.
How buoyant are you about the market in general? Are you as positive, more positive, or less positive about 2017 as you were this time last year?
Certainly, every bit as much. I think everyone’s seen the recent coverage on what the growth rates are in the marketplace. Online casino overall for real money gaming continues to be a significant growth driver for online gaming overall and we’re very well positioned to participate in that and grow commensurate with the industry.
If you look at the UK, the UK is one of the biggest drivers of that growth, we’re uniquely positioned in the United Kingdom with the fact that we’ve got a retail offering with betting shops on our gaming and of course our online offering and our ability to do omnichannel leases into that very key segment of the gaming industry in the UK.
And if you look beyond that into other channels into which we deliver our content which would be social, again there are currently very attractive industry trends and forecasts of growth rates, so we feel really well positioned to participate in what looks to be very attractive growth opportunities in both real money gaming and social gaming.
Are there any regulation changes that you’re expecting to see or hoping to see that you think will have an impact on SG Interactive business?
Sure. We’ll keep our eye close on what’s happening in Europe, we’ve noticed the recent changes in Spain, Portugal and Romania. We observe those things to make sure we’re ready and able there.
But I think when you look beyond that, some of the most exciting areas for us are the Americas, not just the US, which we know is slow but even there we’re still well positioned as legislation takes places and the market opens.
The Latin American market is exciting for us, and not only markets like Argentina which I expect we’ll enter into by the end of this year. We’re starting to see things in Brazil and we are also looking at Mexico, being in that market would be very exciting for us. Our content is well known there, we think we’ll do very well if that market opens up with a legislative compliant regulatory environment.
Are there any other geographical markets you’re targeting specifically in 2017?
We’ll certainly make sure we’re ready for those that we’ve already covered, and other small markets that emerge like Romania or others. But again Latin America is one that is just a very attractive opportunity for us, and like I said we’ll be ready and hopeful that the United States continues to expand. One area that we’re very close to being in in the Americas is the Canadian province of Ontario. We expect to be allowed in that marketplace early 2017. There is a large population in that market which makes that a great opportunity for us.
It was interesting to us that mobile products including SG Universe swept the board in the Global Gaming Awards’ land-based casino categories. Does that surprise you?
It doesn’t. We’ve taken a thought leadership position for a couple of years now trying to educate the marketplace about the macro trends of mobile and what’s happening. I think we have a unique view of that given that we’re participating actively in real money gaming in Europe, so we see the trends that have taken place there, how the percentage of wagers shifted to mobile from desktop so rapidly in the last three years. So no it doesn’t surprise us, we feel like we’ve done a good job from a product development standpoint to be able to address that and I think that’s been acknowledged by the award we’ve just received so we’re very excited about that.
What is the plan for mobile product development in 2017? Is it to continue developing SG Universe, or are you planning to roll out a new product that will replace SG Universe in time?
Mobile development is woven into essentially every product we’re working on, whether it be real money gaming, whether it be social or SG Universe-related. From a real money gaming standpoint, certainly we’re coming forth with some new games that take advantage of portrait mode from a gameplay standpoint which allows us to take advantage of the top box features that many of our land-based games offer that you could see on the floor today.
From the standpoint of what I would call SG Universe, it’s really about extending the mobile utilisation beyond downloading an app, engaging with the operative brand outside of the casino, having a social game embedded in it, but also back into the casino. So much of the content that our systems provide users or consumers in a casino property through other displays such as a kiosk or the iView display manager on an EGM is now available on the mobile device, so it creates greater engagement between the land-based player that land-based operation and what they’re trying to communicate in the way of incentives and promotions to that consumer.
What are SG Interactive’s key targets for 2017?
In the near term we’re really focused on operational excellence and execution. We’ve been fortunateto benefit from the growth in four short years from when we started through to today through acquisitions etc, but we still have some refinements to do there so that we’re still best in class operationally both in the eyes of the consumers/players as well as our operative partners.
Our other long term vision remains absolutely the same, which is distributing our world class content into online channels globally wherever those may be. So real money gaming, social, B2B social SG Universe etc, that’s what our focus is going to be on. We have a massive library of content that players/consumers value and want to engage with. Whether it’s a new market, whether it’s a new platform, whether it a new partner, that’s what we’re going to be focused on.