Aspire Global CEO exclusive: Online gaming growth will not slow down after the pandemic

By Tim Poole

Aspire Global CEO Tsachi Maimon speaks exclusively to Gambling Insider following the publication of the supplier’s Q1 results, which saw the company report a 43% year-on-year revenue rise, to €48.1m ($57.7m).

How much of your revenue growth was due to lockdowns and players staying at home to play?

It was a question we asked ourselves in Q2 last year. It was an unknown answer back then – we saw the boom. But then we thought it would normalise in Q3 or maybe Q4. It not only stayed, it grew from that perspective; so I believe a lot of players that experienced online with different products decided to stay. This is why I think our products succeeded to grow after normalisation in many countries we are working in.

Do you see growth eventually slowing down once lockdowns start to end worldwide?

I think it won’t slow. There are two factors that are now accelerating as we see it in Aspire. We have several products we are offering operators. One thing we see is land-based companies are going online in a much faster way than before. Before, they thought about going online; now they see there is no other way than doing so.

The second reason is it’s like bringing a kid something tasty – he doesn’t want to get rid of it. It’s the same for players when they experience better, faster products online with a better return to player. They enjoy more from the same $10 they spent offline, so the player will probably remain online. Those two reasons will make online grow even faster than before.

How would you summarise progress since the acquisition of BtoBet and the synergies you’ve tried to achieve so far?

We see benefits from two aspects here. Firstly, we’re taking the great BtoBet product and putting it under the Aspire ecosystem. The operators that are already on our platform, we’ll shift them to BtoBet, which will achieve synergies and growth for both BtoBet and Aspire. From the second perspective, which is not less important, Aspire is a strong, known brand in Europe and BtoBet was less-known in Europe. So with the push of Aspire behind, there is a great opportunity for BtoBet to win European sport deals that, before, we were not able to compete for.

What percentage of the business does BtoBet account for and will that percentage grow long term?

Right now, it’s around 5% and we believe that, with the shift of our current operator portfolio and the additional plans we have for it, it will be much higher in the medium and long term.

How would you rate your progress in the US given the heavy competition for market share in states like New Jersey?

We see it from a few perspectives. One, there aren’t a lot of companies like Aspire that can sell more than one product. If you take Evolution, they can sell live dealer and slots. If you take Kambi, they sell only sport. If you take any other, they can sell one or two products. Aspire has the ability to offer more than one product: its gaming platform, sport, games, aggregation and managed services. So we really have high potential for all of them in the US.

More than that, we believe the tier-one operators in the US will own their own technology. So we’re not intending to aggressively approach the tier one, more with the tier two, three and four operators to drive long-term relationships.

That’s an interesting point – I’d like to ask you about operators owning their own technology, as Penn National and LeoVegas launched their own studios this week. Do you think that’s a trend we’re seeing more – and I don’t know if this is the right term – operators becoming suppliers?

I don’t know if they will become suppliers because it’s a long journey from a B2C operator to become a B2B supplier. But I believe operators, their main idea by owning some of the technology is to save the costs they are paying to third parties. So I think this is their main agenda. They can also differentiate themselves with unique content, but this is something that we can offer too through our games studio.

What LeoVegas did is not new, also Betsson are doing it, Unibet and others are doing it already. In the US, I’m talking more about owning the gaming platform and sport – it’s something we see with DraftKings acquiring SBTech, 888 acquiring BetBright. We see more and more companies acquiring. We want to engage with operators for the long term, without thinking if they are going to acquire their own technology the day after. We think our strategy will win in the end.

How much of your future revenue do you see coming from the US – can it end up taking over the majority share of the business?

What’s nice in Aspire is more than 90% of our income comes from Europe. Now with BtoBet and the many possibilities we have, we opened up Africa, Latin America and the US. So I believe those three will be the main contributors and the US will lead growth in the coming three, four, five years, for sure. But let’s not forget Latin America – it’s a huge continent and we already have Betfair and William Hill there; we have also signed Grupo Televisa, the biggest media house in Mexico. So we think this market has big growth opportunities.

Finally, what are your immediate goals and targets for Q2?

We cannot, as a public company, guide revenue. But if I talk about achievements, in Q2 we want to roll out more of the operators we have signed and are planning to go live with. Secondly, one of the most important goals we have this year is to go live with our own operators on our own sports solution. Those are the two main things we are addressing in Q2.

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