You were recently appointed VP of sales Europe for Suzo Happ. What attracted you to the role and what kind of experience do you bring?
I’ve got very extensive experience, as you can see from my age! It spans gaming, amusement and betting. For a long time, Suzo Happ has supplied a number of OEMs in a number of markets including sports betting, but recently extended its reach to offering retail sports betting solutions. Really, what enticed me into the role was that Suzo Happ has a vision for the future of being much more than just a component supplier and more of an end-to-end solutions provider. Coupled with the opportunity in various markets including the US, it seemed like a good time to be part of that growth plan.
Off the back of that, is it fair to say it’s a new phase for both you and Suzo Happ?
Absolutely. As I said, in the past Suzo Happ was very much known for supplying components to OEMs or for operators that wanted a range of spare parts. We’re looking now to add much more value to our customers’ relationship by being the sourcing and design service for any new solution. That’s particularly important right now for sports betting, where there’s lots of interest around retail, but not a great deal of knowledge about how to actually get something into the market. So I think that’s where Suzo Happ really adds value.
It won’t be news to our viewers that the US is a much-talked about market for sports betting. But from your point of view, how much of an opportunity does US retail sports betting really represent for the market as a whole?
Obviously, there’s a lot of focus on sports betting opportunities online because it’s a new area. But hand in hand with onlineis the essential element of retail. In the US, there are a lot of sports fans who really do like to go down to a venue and experience the buzz of getting together. That’s the ideal opportunity to offer them sports betting. We’re talking to a number of customers who are looking to expand sports betting into sports bar operations, and we see that as an increasing part of the market. At the moment, it’s limited to racetracks and casinos. But I think in the future you’re going to see it expand into much broader environments, including sports bars. So I think that’s where the volume of the market really does start to take off.
It’s interesting you mention properties other than casinos, particularly sports bars. That’s something different to what you might get in the UK and Europe. What are the key overall differences between retail sports betting in a typical US state and European markets?
Traditionally, sports betting was always done over the counter, so a punter would go to a betting shop or in Europe a betting corner. There would be a teller or member of staff behind and they would either fill out a form or type the bet into a terminal and give the consumer a receipt. I think increasingly that’s moved to much more of a self-service betting terminal operation. In the UK and across many European markets, there are a number of terminals where the player can casually walk up, place the bet via cash or a cashless mechanism and choose some bet selections. Perhaps they can chase a certain objective, like a €100 ($121.24) win or €1,000 win and then get a receipt.
Increasingly, those retail betting solutions are integrated with online solutions. So, for example, the player can have an online wallet, and be able to play online on their phone or walk into a shop and play with the same funds. That’s the kind of panacea of solutions and, as the US rolls out, many sportsbook providers are offering that type of functionality. It’s the ability to have a similar betting experience right across all platforms. But the way the information is presented is slightly different: in a bar it might be on a single-screen device that looks like a tablet; in a casino, it might be on a twin screen stand-up terminal; in a race track, it might be over the counter. All of those solutions are available.
While we’re talking about retail, we can’t help but talk about online at the same time. The big emerging marketin the US is certainly online gaming. Do you still feel, even though online is rising at this speed, there’s room for a strong retail offering, and that retail will always be a key part of the offering in the US?
I think it will. If you think about your own personal habits and the way you shop, depending on the environment you’re in, you may flick between placing a bet or buying something online to actually experiencing things first hand in a retail environment. So I think it’s not one set of players that will play retail versus online. Depending on the situation, you might play at different times of the day or in different environments. So I think for the majority of casino customers, you can imagine parts of their experience will be to go and play on slot and tables, and part of that visit will be to go to a sportsbook when there’s a big event on. Depending on the graphic or how you’re feeling, you can bet via a terminal or a mobile phone. Equally it could be sitting at a table having a nice drink with friends, having a much more immersive experience, and having a terminal in front of you. You’ve got to offer the full range of solutions to capture the maximum opportunity of the market.
Given this omni-channel type of approach we’re talking about, what are Suzo Happ’s plans for the retail space more specifically?
We’ve been working very closely with a number of sports betting platform providers, because we feel they really hold the key to the market. These providers essentially have a platform that meets all of the legislative requirements for each of the states, and they have a technical solution that stitches everything together. It handles all of the betting information, the payment platforms and they can be deployed on a number of technical platforms. Then we basically take everything from there and provide all of the hardware solutions. We source all the components, design the terminals, certify the terminals, manufacture them and deliver them to site. So we take care of everything on the hardware side.