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NEWS 8 August 2019

32Red has given anti-gambling media another field day with Wayne Rooney stunt

By Nathan Joyes

Wayne Rooney is on his way to back to the UK, where he will be signing for Derby County on 1 January as a player/coach.

Many have questioned how Derby has even been able to secure the former Manchester United star, with his weekly wage rumoured to be around £100,000. But this isn’t the major talking point at present.

Despite the lucrative deal taking place, his move has been tarnished by the fact he will be wearing number 32 due to Derby’s sponsorship deal with operator 32Red.

The gambling industry is constantly under scrutiny, but this is now the case more than ever. The government has already clamped down on fixed-odds betting terminal maximum stakes (FOBTs), while credit card gambling is also under the spotlight.

To make matters worse for the industry, a documentary has recently aired on the BBC called “Can you beat the bookies?” where comedian Lloyd Griffith speaks to people suffering from gambling addictions.

Ross Kemp has also released a documentary speaking to gambling addicts, airing on ITV. The topic is very much in the public eye at present.

Elsewhere, Paddy Power announced its #SaveOurShirt campaign this season, un-sponsoring shirts for football clubs it has signed deals with this season, proving to be a popular stunt among football fans who are against the gambling industry.

So at a time when the gambling industry is being hammered more than usual, was it wise of 32Red to allow this to take place? I’m not so sure.

Derby’s owner, Mel Morris, has been surprisingly open about the club’s record-breaking deal with the operator, due to securing the services of Rooney.

He said: “The commercial opportunities this creates are widespread and significant. On the back of Wayne joining the club, we have been offered a record-breaking sponsorship deal with 32Red.”

Getting Rooney to sign for the club should bring in a sizeable profit gain through merchandise and attendance alone, and the need to exploit the transfer and involve 32Red so heavily has been truly baffling.

Rooney himself brushed off wearing number 32 as a big deal – but of course he would.

The 33-year-old said: “The number isn’t a big deal. I’ve worn many numbers through my career – 18, 8, 9, 10, 23 and now 32. The important thing was to come and help the team.”

Anyone would think Rooney had been well prepped before the unveiling. To be fair, he’s hardly going to complain, as it certainly won’t be him who is ridiculed for the sponsorship deal.

Let’s not forget, Rooney is perceived as a cult hero to many all over the world, and no doubt his shirts will be a huge hit with Derby  fans.

It is worth remembering although children cannot purchase a shirt with a gambling sponsor, there’s nothing stopping them from having “Rooney 32” on the back of their shirt.

Now I’m not suggesting this is going to start forcing children to bet, but it is a publicity stunt that could cause more harm to the industry than good.

I for one, believe Derby should have been wiser and avoided the negative backlash which will inevitably come from this.

This signing has caught everyone off guard, much to the delight of some of those in the East Midlands. But for Derby and 32Red to use this as an opportunity to promote gambling, it seems like a poor decision in my eyes.  Either way, the media and the government are going to have a field day with this one.

 

RELATED TAGS: Online | Industry | Sports Betting | Marketing | Legal & Regulatory | Financial
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IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.

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