Looking ahead to 2022, which US states are most promising for Evolution?
Entering new states can be challenging – regulation is always adapting. But once you’ve met the criteria, there’s nothing holding you back and there’s always more potential to grow. We’re keeping an eye on several US states, namely Illinois, Indiana and Virginia. Connecticut quickly passed legislation earlier this year and we’re planning for that market to open later this Fall. Several other US states are considering online sports betting, which we can see eventually expanding to iGaming.
But the one new North America jurisdiction that has us very excited isn’t in the US at all, it’s in Canada. The province of Ontario has a population of close to 15 million people, surpassing the size of any US state where iGaming is legal. We’re already working with over a dozen operators who plan to obtain a commercial licence in Ontario. There’s still some uncertainty on the timing for the market opening, but the regulator is targeting to have iGaming launched by December this year.
What has Evolution done differently to carve out such a strong position within the US market?
There are a couple of things that make the US market unique. First, where in Europe slots and live casino are established in online gaming, for US players they remain relatively new additions – and there’s a little hesitancy there. Second, the markets are regulated differently. The frameworks surrounding each state impact how quickly a game can be certified, what that game needs to look and feel like, and so on.
We must also bear in mind that most Americans still look at online gaming as an unlawful activity – it takes time to shake that idea loose and get them comfortable with the technology. So we take a localised approach to the US by keeping the needs of the players front of mind. Players want elements of familiarity, especially when they’re right at the start of their customer journey. We have to get the blend right between innovation and novelty, and getting customers to try something new. We offer players a chance to try new products that don’t feel too far out of their comfort zone. In the US, that has predominantly been slots in land-based forms, so we want to provide similar touchpoints. NetEnt and Red Tiger both have portfolios that contain the same kind of play mechanics that can be found in land-based casinos, and those acquisitions have helped the group in securing a strong foothold in the US market. Both ventured into the US before Evolution, and this means that together there are more opportunities to grow and to put to good use the reputation those brands have already created.
What are your plans for new studios and games moving forward?
We’ve just started to scratch the surface, and the possibilities for the US are huge. Each new state brings enormous amounts of potential customers, and our game releases of the future will look to expand into exciting new genres. We’ve already taken the first steps with recently launched titles such as Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen™ and First Person (RNG) American Roulette.
Many US operators have made massive strategic moves in the acquisition of digital brands. These media brands have a large audience who expect to have a similar experience on Evolution’s platforms. As such, we’re partnering with customers to develop areas within our studios where they have more control over the look and feel of live casino environments. These dedicated areas provide operators with the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Operators can customise the table felt of the game, the background images behind the dealers, and the dealer uniforms – all to align with their brand.
We see this trend continuing throughout 2022 and as more states open iGaming. We’ve already launched our Michigan studio, and as more US players transition from land-based to online, and as individual states start to open and put regulations in place, we’re going to be poised to continue building our momentum; and providing games that will set operators apart from their US competition.