Head of Partnerships, Mark Rehorst-Smith, gives his take on this year’s SiGMA.
SiGMA, “Summit of iGaming Malta”, now in its third year, was bigger this year than ever before, with the show being a focal point for the flourishing iGaming business out there. It was great for Bede to attend and catch up with a number of our existing suppliers, along with exploring some new opportunities both B2B and B2C.
The variety of products available on the content side was encouraging, with a mix of both innovation on existing verticals and also the evolution of streaming content. It’s proving to be a good place to see developments in gaming content and to keep in touch with suppliers at the forefront of the industry.
This conference is definitely one, where we’ll be looking to put in a regular appearance. 2018 will see us pushing Bede PLAY – our content aggregator platform, which offers operators industry-leading marketing tools with which to achieve their digital ambitions, rapidly – and as we continually grow the quality of our content, both in terms of suppliers and innovation, it’s important that we’re making the right partnerships and SiGMA is a fantastic platform to do that.
So we’ll see you in Malta next year for sure, but in the meantime, feel free to contact us to talk content, products and partnerships. We’ll definitely be able to help.
For those in the gambling industry who only want to work in regulated markets, Germany has been a frustrating country. There have been several regulatory false dawns and I shudder to think how much lawyers and consultants have made out of the shenanigans around the various on/off licensing sagas. Meanwhile operators like Star Games and Bwin have been making a fortune from German customers.
On the legal front it only gets messier. While it looked like the 16 Länder had finally agreed a workable interstate treaty on sports betting, which would have come into force on 1 January 2018, Schleswig-Holstein blocked it on the basis it does not incorporate legislation for casino and poker. They instead said they would prefer to reintroduce the legislation that saw them licence 23 online casino and 25 sportsbooks in 2012.
Meanwhile, the German tax authorities have written to all the big operators, reminding them to make sure they are paying VAT at 19% on their gross gaming revenues since 1 January 2015. According to my market sources, almost everyone has complied, which means that the vast majority of the German online gambling market is now effectively paying tax on their not entirely legal revenues. When the tax authorities of Frankfurt am Main III (online sports betting) and Berlin Neukölln (online casino) bank those payments, is that a tacit admission that the federal government is effectively giving permission for European operators to take money from German customers?
At the same time financial markets’ appetites for light grey revenues seems to be growing, with revenues from countries like Germany and Sweden only moderately discounted to fully regulated markets and even profits from places like Japan and Norway attracting decent multiples.
Speaking to chief executives of some big operators and software companies who have until now stayed out of Germany, it appears that their patience may finally be cracking. Earlier this month (Oct 3) Scientific Games took Germany off its banned list, although that perhaps was more a reflection of the fact that once they acquire NYX OpenBet it will have some fairly substantial revenues from what must now be Europe’s second largest online market. I am expecting several other big companies to open up Germany as an acceptable market over the next 12 months.
What are the consequences of this? For Germany’s tax authorities it should mean a decent payday. Likewise for their media companies, who also seem to be a lot happier about the risks of taking advertising from gambling companies.
But what will the politicians and legal authorities make of it? It feels like the gaming operators are hoping that Germany goes the same way as Sweden where, slowly but surely, a very light grey market becomes taxed and regulated. But this is by no means a certainty. A large number of the states are extremely conservative in their outlook and are particularly opposed to any increase in access to slots and table games. Sports is less of a problem, not least because thanks to the likes of Tipico, there are betting shops on most high streets and footballers, like Oliver Kahn, advertise sports betting on national television. Casino and poker are definitely not certainties to make it through the licensing process.
For the next couple of years, it doesn’t look likely there will be huge changes from the current situation. But as more operators enter the market, the push for a fully taxed and regulated market – by both operators who want to fully legitimise their revenues and by politicians who don’t like companies operating outside the law – can only become greater.
Written by Joe Saumarez-Smith, Chairman Bede Gaming, for EGR Intel. The original can be found on their site at http://egr.global/intel/opinion/playing-the-long-game-in-germany/.
This article is printed with permission from EGR.
Operators have long struggled with the question of whether it is best to buy or build their technology, but perhaps this is the wrong question to ask. There is an alternative.
How an operator accesses the best products and technology to deliver a great user experience has changed in recent years. Around six or seven years ago, the vast majority of operators opted to licence their technology from third party suppliers, recognising the need to outsource due to lack of internal expertise. However, as many operators selected the same technology partners, many ended up looking like clones of one another and lacked the ability to differentiate.
Providing tailored solutions for individual operators was neither cost-effective nor technically viable for many platform providers. Instead, they provided a one-size-fits-all option to each brand, placing the onus on them to ensure their marketing and not their product proposition was what made them stand out from the crowd.
With costs rising, some operators decided to take their technology in-house. These projects have produced somewhat mixed results to date. Some have seen success, but the majority of these have been private businesses who can commit significant budget and have focused on a particular vertical, like sports, for example.
In most cases, however, operators cannot make the sort of commitment required to construct a platform equivalent to that produced by a dedicated third party supplier. Operators have more pressing priorities and focus their expertise in other areas, on which their businesses rely.
At Bede, for instance, the last 6 years has been dedicated to building the most flexible solution in the industry. It’s hard to shortcut this, especially if you’re looking for a quality product as opposed to a quick fix.
However, this isn’t to say that operators shouldn’t look at building a platform as an option. Indeed, it is crucial that suppliers do not ignore the compelling reasons for operators to build their own technology, particularly in Europe’s mature markets where thin margins put additional, and sometimes heavy, pressure on internal efficiencies.
And this is where we’re saying there is an alternative route. One that allows operators to build their own functionality on top of a flexible and open platform. That delivers a differentiated proposition without sacrificing quality or refocusing critical business resource towards lengthy in-house projects.
It is vital that operators look at the technology that is now available and understand that they can use it to take back the control they’re looking for to deliver their own digital objectives.
Delivering a future-proof alternative to an existing legacy platform is perceived as a risk, particularly among major PLCs whose board and shareholders are under a lot of pressure to maintain growth. In this case, it’s almost always easier to go for the safe choice but that doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice.
And with aggressive challenger brands making their presence felt, operators that prevaricate could find themselves at risk of losing market share.
This alternative approach allows operators to license a high functioning platform and also have the power to build upon it, making the technology act as the enabler to differentiation, choice and control.
All this is to say that the divide is no longer as black and white as it was those six or seven years ago.The technology is now available, and accessible, for future-proof alternatives to the static legacy platform options.
Some Tier 1 operators have taken the plunge and immediately reaped the benefits. It’s no secret that the likes of the Rank Group, who switched to Bede in 2016, has seen digital revenues soar since.
This example shows the importance of ensuring that technology does not act as a roadblock for delivering a stronger product and experience to customers. With an open, agile and proven platform upon which operators can build, they are free to focus on what they are good at.
So, if you are struggling with the buy or build conundrum, it might be worth considering that you really can have your cake and eat it. To create a truly differentiated unique offering, the question should not be not whether to buy OR build but where you can buy AND build.
Bede Gaming, the award-winning supplier of software to the online gaming industry, is continuing to build on its partnership-led approach by holding a client and key supplier day.
Bede Gaming is building an alternative route for operators, that gives them the flexibility to build their own differentiated offering on top of an established and high performing platform. This approach has been at the core of its business and appeals to a whole range of clients; from those looking to migrate platforms to those looking for a full white label.
The provider’s commitment to pursuing true partnerships with its operating partners is reflected in its approach to holding regular dialogue with its clients about its platform and how its use and are now going a step further with an upcoming VIP client day. The latest initiative in its quest to offer the highest levels of service and responsiveness.
To be held from 27-28 September, Bede will be hosting a forum and feedback session for its clients at its headquarters in the heart of the North East, Newcastle, before treating them to a fine dining experience and the British Masters golf tournament at nearby Close House.
Michael Brady, CEO of Bede Gaming, said: “At Bede we have built our success on a foundation of treating our clients and suppliers as true partners, and ensuring that we take their feedback into account is a core part of our long-term growth strategy.
“This is the first, in what we hope will become a regular date in the calendar for all our partners.
“Hosting an event like this is reflective of our open approach to the thoughts and needs of our partners. We recognise speaking to our operators and suppliers on a regular basis is a key part in ensuring we continue to deliver products of the highest quality and shows our commitment to offering a first class service.”
Founded in 2012, Bede Gaming employs the latest in modern technology to provide secure, high-quality products to create a world class gaming experience.
Totally Gaming interview CEO, Michael Brady on his thoughts on the online bingo sector, where he urges the industry to adapt.
While the online bingo sector is at something of a crossroads, there are some interesting new developments on the horizon.
Totally Gaming: How would you assess the state of the online bingo sector in 2017?
Michael Brady: I think it’s at a bit of a crossroads. The days of doing what has always been done are over, and those that stand still will continue to lose market share. There are obviously regulatory and taxation headwinds which we need to battle, but there are some good things happening and some promising developments on the horizon.
There is plenty of potential for growth not only in the world of bingo and slots, but in adjacent sectors like lottery, which has been a missed opportunity to date.
TG: What were some of the key issues that arose during your panel at the Online Bingo & Slots summit?
MB: I think one of the main takeaways was the pressing need for choice. Choice for players and choice for operators in order that they can provide it. So much of what has gone before has been ‘one size fits all’, rigid and inflexible. But players aren’t all the same and the technology that serves them has to be adaptable to their different requirements.
It’s something that the industry is really starting to think about: the power to differentiate is so important now and having access to platforms – like Bede’s Hub and Play – that give that control back to operators is an essential part of any digital offering and will be even more so in the future.
TG: What are the main challenges currently facing the online bingo sector, and how is Bede Gaming working to overcome those hurdles?
MB: I think regulation is biting and will continue to bite for some time to come. Advertising and the way that is changing is also a challenge for everyone involved on the player-facing side, with knock-on effects for suppliers like us as well. These are things that need to be met head on, with innovative solutions being found to protect not only the vulnerable, but the viability of the industry too.
There have also been big changes in player attitudes and demands in recent times. That is bringing about new market realities, including the need for better player data acquisition and the better implementation of that data. This, in particular, is where operators with cumbersome, outmoded legacy technology are struggling.
TG: What would you say to those operators who still believe online and land-based bingo are rival – and not complementary – sectors?
MB: It’s probably not for me to tell them anything, as their customers will do the talking for me. In fairness, there aren’t that many around who still have these very defined sectors, but those that do are missing out on a whole lot of opportunities. Those that have got an omni-channel solution can still do an awful lot more.
The challenge for all of us is to harness the technology available to drive innovation and find better ways to leverage some of the great brands we have in this industry.
TG: More generally, was the Online Bingo & Slots Summit a successful event?
MB: Yes, I thought so. There was a good mix of people there from both within the sector and external to it, which always brings about lively debates. It’s always good to get different perspectives on the same issues and challenges. I think there’s a recognition that with the right mindset, technology, and desire to innovate, we can all move forward and provide a far more satisfying user experience for the players.
CEO, Michael Brady, is quizzed by SBC News on forming one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK and how out of the box thinking is fuelling the company’s rapid rise in the gaming industry.
Having formed one of the fastest growing technology companies within the betting and gaming sector, Michael Brady, CEO, of Bede Gaming tells SBC how his firm’s growth has been driven by thinking outside the box and working on new industry dynamics with its growing portfolio of clients
SBC: Hi Michael, Bede Gaming is one of the newer industry platform providers. How and why has your team gained noticeable and significant industry partnerships in a short space of time?
Michael Brady: Primarily because we have taken a far more flexible and open approach to platform provision, particularly when compared to legacy providers. Bede was born out of our own frustrations with other providers not being flexible or fast enough to fit with companies’ digital objectives. We identified an opportunity to offer a platform in partnership with operators, rather than simply rolling out a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone. This means sharing APIs with operators and allowing them to personalise and differentiate their offering to players. We aren’t restricting clients to only follow our path, they can follow their own direction and Bede’s APIs mean integration is lightning fast. We integrated the Kambi Sportsbook in 10 weeks for Rank, for instance. Through a single integration, operators can get access to nearly 2000 games across multiple providers. The result is a platform that gives operators the control to react swiftly to the challenges of the industry, whether they be adapting to new legislation or entering emerging markets.
SBC: How does the development and planning of your operations and services differ from industry legacy platform providers?
MB: I would say there is a fundamental difference in the way we develop. We are far more collaborative than legacy providers, many of which have achieved scale to an extent where they have lost touch with what operators want. We heard many operators telling us that they’d love to leave their legacy provider, but there was no viable alternative. Bede proves there is another way; we plan our offering around the demands of our clients, so that means building strong relationships. We’ve done exactly that with the likes of Rank Group, and it has been mutually beneficial for both sides. Feedback on our platform allows us to improve immeasurably and because we build on a single code base, all operators benefit from all updates. This open approach results in a scalable model rather than the silos created by some legacy providers.
SBC: As an industry tech stakeholder, Bede is unique in offering three integrated services (platform, white-label and games content), how do you maintain an effective balance between each provision?
MB: Increasingly, operators are looking for ways to bring these different components together without sacrificing quality, and that is at the heart of what we do at Bede. Having a truly open platform, like ours, allows customers to choose the suppliers they want to work with, as well as knowing they have access to the best-in-class providers already integrated with Bede. The three different services we offer gives operators the flexibility to pick the option that is right for them. As integration is such a straightforward procedure, we are able to build relationships across the board with suppliers and content providers, and in many cases offer a greater depth of integration than an operator could achieve if they went the direct route.
SBC: Your team has placed a significant emphasis on client security and data protection? Why is this a core dynamic for your firm’s development and strategy?
MB: Security is a critical issue for operators today, and this will only increase when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes law in May 2018. The GDPR places a greater level of accountability on data processors on issues such as information security breaches. It means that if an operator is not completely confident in the security of its data, it is playing a potentially catastrophic game. This was the motivation behind Bede applying for and achieving ISO 27001 certification, which verifies our platform to the highest security standards in the industry. Only a handful of providers have the certification, so it places us much higher than our competitors in that it marks us out as taking the right measures to protect our partners. With Bede, they are in safe hands.
SBC: Looking ahead what new services and provisions does Bede want to bring to market in the coming months, what should industry stakeholders keep an eye out for?
MB: We are always developing our core platform and also expanding our content aggregation service, Bede PLAY, with additional titles from the best games developers around the world. Operators are looking for this combination of flexible platform and world-class content provision to compete in the fast-changing gaming landscape of today. Bede PLAY brings together the best land-based and digital content and provides operators with Bede’s powerful marketing tools, all from a single integration. Legacy platforms simply don’t offer the level of control and speed to market operators are after but we are showing there is another way. It will only be those who can adapt to the challenges of newly-regulating markets that will succeed.
The right platform can provide a strategic and competitive advantage for those operators brave enough to modernise.
We are seeing a new breed of agile platform provider challenge gaming’s legacy suppliers and offer a range of solutions that hand power back to operators.
In recent years, several young and agile operators, particularly on the mobile channel, have successfully grabbed market share from more established rivals by tearing up the rulebook and offering a product that reacts to their customers.
Invariably, these products have sat on modern platforms rather than the bloated, industry-standard technology that tends to stunt innovation, personalisation and creativity.
Today’s modern platforms offer all the upsides of more established technology, but with greater agility and choice, and those who have made the switch are already reaping the rewards.
Content is king
We are increasingly seeing operators demanding a platform that can offer a broad choice of content without having to compromise on which suppliers operators can integrate. This is of important to those operators offering an omni-channel proposition which requires matching major land-based content with its online equivalent.
Traditionally, the choice facing operators was to either endure the lengthy process of direct integrations with different suppliers or compromise with a pre-packaged content aggregator that was missing many of the biggest names.
These are no longer the only options. Not only are some operators now using multiple platforms to broaden their offer to consumers, but modern content platforms, such as BedePLAY, can offer a range of content from major suppliers which was not previously available in one place.
Additionally, the right platform can also allow for integrations that can even go deeper than if an operator directly integrates with the content supplier. This might include additional personalisation and functionality that taps into the underlying infrastructure, and the ability to fine tune the player experience or enable more intelligent marketing.
Operators no longer subscribe to the notion that a standardised turnkey offering will suffice; instead they demand a one stop shop that offers best-in-class products and content across the verticals, while still allowing for localisation and customisation.
Security is another critical issue when it comes to customer data. Operators are now demanding peace of mind via the highest possible levels of security, and they understand that an information security breach would have a catastrophic impact.
This is even more vital when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enters law in May 2018. The GDPR places a greater level of accountability on data processors on issues such as information security breaches, and operators are looking at their platform providers to ensure compliance.
It was with this in mind that Bede recently completed ISO 27001 certification, which is the international standard for information security and is only awarded following a comprehensive audit. Bede is one of just a handful of suppliers to have gained the certification, but we believe it will soon become a central demand of all operators.
The meaning of agility
Combining security, compliance, content and functionality within a single, flexible platform remains the primary challenge for all suppliers, and it is at the heart of everything we do.
While our industry has talked at length about the importance of an agile platform, it is less common to see precise use-cases outlined for exactly how such a platform enables operators to move faster than their competitors and achieve a tangible edge that is felt on the bottom line.
One such example is in emerging and newly-regulating markets, where operators must move quickly to personalise their offering in a manner which remains compliant with local legislation.
Speed is of the essence in these newly-regulated markets; operators who want to make an impact need to be thinking of integrations in terms of weeks rather than months. Otherwise, marketing costs soon spiral as incumbents secure their position.
A second example is adapting to new regulation in an existing market. We will likely see operators facing such a challenge in the UK in 2018, with a potential ban on daytime advertising and new taxes on free spins both on the cards.
Such changes completely transform the way operators need to market their proposition to customers, with the bingo vertical set to be particularly hard hit.
Operators are now demanding a platform provider they can work closely alongside with, to identify, develop and implement effective strategies to mitigate the full effects of the changes.
This could include all manner of new and innovative approaches to bonusing and broader marketing, be those new promotional mechanics or even new gaming products. The only thing that is certain is that those who are stuck on immobile, legacy platforms will not be able to alter their offering quickly enough to capitalise on the opportunity.
Buy or build
Operators are now clear on what it is they need to succeed in the modern gaming environment. The question most face is whether the best way to achieve this is by buying or building the technology themselves.
The arguments against engaging a third-party supplier have weakened considerably in recent years. Provided platforms are no longer one-size-fits-all propositions, and the best are flexible enough to hand true control to the operator anyway.
While switching from a legacy platform is undoubtedly a risky undertaking, we have seen some major players in our industry come unstuck while trying to build new components in-house that paper over the cracks of their existing technology.
And as we are already seeing, those who think the safest option is to do nothing are quickly finding that they can no longer hold ground against more agile competitors.