23 March, 2023

Evolution Europe CEO Gionata La Torre: The Italian job

Evolution Group’s new CEO Europe, sits down with Gambling Insider over Zoom to discuss his new role, his goals moving forward and the wise words his grandparents left him with.

As the CEO Europe of Evolution, can you share your experience so far and your goals for the company?

It feels great. I have been at this company since 2011, almost since the inception. As the CEO of Europe, I believe there are two things that are fundamentally important, at least for me. First of all, our people and our customers are closely linked together. If our people are determined and know what they have to do to accomplish our goals in Europe, it means our customers are also happy. Therefore, I think that as a CEO, the most important thing is to continue developing this organisation. We have historically been good at recognising talent and we must not lose that now we are a big corporation. Talent is everywhere within our organisation. For example, many key account managers were former dealers in Europe. We also have at least a couple of colleagues in our management team who were former dealers. It’s really all about meritocracy. Even now, as a 17-18,000-person organisation, we must create an environment where we recognise, cultivate and reward talent. If we can do that, people will be happy and our customers will be happy. It’s as simple as that.

How does the structure work between you as Europe CEO and the Group CEO of Evolution?

Martin Carlesund is the Group CEO, and he has got all the regions and all the fun action that comes with that. And I’m responsible for the P&L of Europe. So it works, like in every organisation that is geographically based. I was here before Martin because Martin, if I’m not mistaken, arrived in 2015.  But it is now 2023 and we have had a fantastic relationship. We share a lot of things. We are pretty similar, super determined, super focused and we absolutely have good work ethics. But you know, there are some professional values that are true in every region, whether it’s Europe, the US or wherever else. When there is integrity, when you plan in advance for the future, and you can give good direction to the team that surrounds you, there will be long-term evolution.

Tell me, what have the last couple of years been like for you?  

This is a very good question. If I think about the last couple of years and we think about the organisation, first of all, we have to talk about numbers. In 2021 versus 2020, there was an incredible growth of 90%, and in 2022 versus 2021, we are talking about around 36%. So we have become a company with revenues in excess of €1.4bn ($1.5bn). When it comes to numbers, everyone is proud of what we have accomplished.

And on the other side, everyone has to understand that we have not done everything right, even if we are now a €1.4bn-revenue company in Europe. This doesn’t mean the future is just waiting for us or that we can relax. We have to continue to be focused and execute our work; we have a big responsibility. As I said, almost 18,000 people are with us, which to me means they are like family. We have to protect and develop the future of every one of us. It doesn’t mean that because we are a big company now, we can just sit down and relax, or that we become fat and happy.

As my grandfather and grandmother used to say, you also have to help your luck. The only possibility you have to help your luck is to work hard.

What about the future, where is Evolution heading?

Besides numbers, it’s all about the product. This is our mission. This is what we are focused on; what we are obsessed with. We have to give the best experience to our players and the best service to our customers. It’s as simple as that. And I think that, in a way, this is what I kept saying to all my team and also to my peers. First of all, we are super lucky. Every one of us working in this industry, directly or indirectly, is in an industry which is growing and has the possibility to grow even further. Just think about the possibility of growth that every one of us working in this industry has. Secondly, as long as we keep executing on product and on service, we are fine. And, it’s a fun industry – everyone has to recognise humbly that, first of all, we are lucky. As my grandfather and grandmother used to say, you also have to help your luck.

The only possibility you have to help your luck is to work hard. That’s it. When I think about our products within the last two years, for sure we have continued to focus on our core live casino business, notwithstanding the slots acquisition we have made. All the variations of Baccarat, the Lightning concept, Blackjack variations, Crazy Coin Flip, are continuing on in our game shows, and this is something that is not trivial to me. Usually, when we do a merger or acquisition, we go into another vertical, but it’s another space. There was a possibility that we could have lost focus on our core, which didn’t happen at all. We are still obsessed and focused on delivering what we are well known for.

When it comes to slots, if I have to think about the last two years, I remember the last acquisition we have done in No limit  City (NLC). First of all, I can say that it’s always about people. I met every one of our new colleagues and they are great. We clicked. Then they have unique content, which is not trivial again in the slot business. There is a USP when we talk about Nolimit City and the fact they have this kind of content, which can be considered controversial by some, makes it something new.

When you add fantastic graphics to mechanics to feed your feature, I think this is the perfect combination. But we are still not happy with our performance in slots. This doesn’t mean we are not happy at all. First of all, recognising a problem is always the start and, second, we have to be better at content for sure. We need to improve the quality of what we do and the quantity as well. We have to be more efficient. There is no other possibility. We have to do more slots more frequently, and our content has to be distributed simply. Obviously, there is no possibility for us to go forward without any focus. We have to do better.

Finally, how was ICE London for you this year?

I was there in 2020 when Covid-19 started. I then missed 2021 but was there this year. So what we said here was, okay, now we have to make a splash. The message we wanted to convey was about Evolution and being a game factory, an idea and game factory. If you saw some of our installations and proposals for new games, you would have seen that there is a lot of crossover. Everything is hybrid and fluid. I truly believe we don’t have to work in silos. There is Big Time Gaming, NetEnt, Red Tiger, NLC, etc. We have to ensure one plus one has to equal three, because otherwise, it’s not a successful merger and acquisition. We have to make sure there is a melting pot, and the result of this melting pot should be all four brands performing better together than they would if they were divided.