Richard Thorp: Business Development Director, FSB What was the most important occurrence for FSB in 2014? As a young company, getting our first significant sportsbook operator up and running with Genting was a major achievement. For an operator of its size and standing in both land-based and online casino to choose us in the first place was a high coup. But to have them recently extend the deal and endorse what we’re trying to achieve by tailoring solutions to individual clients has been very gratifying. We are very confident there will be more of the same to come in 2015. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? It’s been a huge year on a number of fronts. Firstly, the World Cup in Brazil provided a massive opportunity for sportsbooks across the globe. But the need to take advantage was really driven home, for UK-facing operators at least, by the implementation of Point of Consumption tax. There has also been some very significant movement on the mergers and acquisitions front too. And due in no small part to the likes of POC, I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of that yet. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? I think the opportunities that are opening up in newly-regulating jurisdictions are exciting for both suppliers and operators alike. Holland has great potential for companies like FSB and I’m confident we can make some real inroads there in 2015. I think the annual Super Show in Amsterdam early next summer is going to take on added significance, as a result. There are also a number of other territories in Europe (and beyond) that will create exciting new market opportunities sooner rather than later. What are you most excited about for FSB in 2015? We’re very excited by a host of new partnerships that we’re due to announce in the New Year. Having spent much of 2014 showcasing our services we will see that hard work behind the scenes bear fruit very shortly. We also took time to finesse our product and our recent integration with Sporting Solutions is going to significantly bolster our in-play content. Lastly, I’m very keen to see how our native app for iOS goes down both for existing customers and those who’ll be coming on board shortly.
Fredrik Elmqvist: Founder, Director and CEO, Yggdrasil Gaming What was the most exciting occurrence for your company in 2014? It has to be the reception we’ve had from the industry. We did a great deal of business at ICE and it hasn’t really stopped all year. We have signed a number of the world’s leading operators and have launched a plethora of new games, so it’s been an exciting year to say the least. There is obviously room for innovation, both in terms of game development and platform, which is why we’ve managed to drum up so much interest. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? The increasing dominance of mobile; as a channel it is becoming more important every day and we have only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to its potential. Mobile is certainly a key area of focus for Yggdrasil and we will be launching a number of new mobile slots in January. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? The regulatory situation is very interesting so I’m looking forward to seeing the developments and how they impact the industry. What are you most excited about for Yggdrasil in 2015? Our Infinite API™ for gamification is what I’m most excited about. Gamification is going to be huge in 2015 and in such a crowded marketplace operators are going to have to find new ways to attract and retain players. We’re already helping our partners boost engagement with their customers by creative promotions and we’re going to be taking that to a new level in 2015.
John Cahill: CEO and Founder, OpenWager What was the most exciting occurrence for OpenWager in 2014? We had quite a successful year here at OpenWager. In 2014, our team delivered on multiple promises, including first product shipments, first deals and the expansion of our slots portfolio. OpenWager hit the market with buzz-worthy games, such as USA Today Bingo Cruise and Spintopia. We are proud of partnership agreements with a number of entertainment giants across casino and media industries. You will hear about new exciting product launches at the beginning of the next year. We significantly expanded our highly curated content portfolio of fan-favorite casino-style games. Last but not the least, OpenWager team grows exponentially, and we are in a search of a top talent to continue raising the bar on social gaming. What do you think was the most interesting/important occurrence for the industry in 2014? In the last two or three months we have become the observers of two dramatic shifts caused by social gaming in a number of industries. First, casino operators have started gravitating back from real money gaming toward social casino offering. Indeed, the attractiveness of social casino sector is hard to ignore: $4.1 billion in revenue and growing. The trend is vividly reflected in recent M&A deals among casino operators and suppliers. This transition can be explained by the fact that social casino delivers a sustainable revenue model along with brand new ways to retain the current player base and attract the generation of millennials to the casino floor. Another trend is a shift toward community play. The multiscreen lifestyle and explosive social connectivity dictates a deeper level of engagement with the audience. Today it is vital to enhance the players’ relationships within the brand community. We live mobile first. Mobile games are expected to generate $25 billion in revenue in 2014 and overtake console game revenues in 2015. Moreover, social casino games are one of the top-grossing categories in mobile gaming. As a result, the phenomenal growth of social casino attracts non-traditional operators from media and video games industries to enter the market. I see these trends vigorously developing in 2015 and beyond. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? Innovation in social casino offering will continue to affect the overall dynamics of the casino floor, from money spending to the mechanics of the slot games. Players will be looking for more immersive and social experience that will be flawlessly integrated with their mobile devices. What are you most excited about for your company in 2015? At OpenWager we’re excited about the business growth complemented by sound partnerships with entertainment and media market leaders all around the world. As always, we will continue to deliver on our promise of impeccable execution and to pioneer the innovation in social casino platform and product development.
Mark Bell: Global Head of Gaming, Secure Trading What was the most important occurrence for your company in 2014? Finalising our US Platform ST-1, as it’s the only payments Platform to hold class A licences in NJ, Delaware and Nevada, and was purpose-built for online gaming to offer player registration and deposit/payout service with maximum acceptance and transparency in compliance to all regulations – that and our partnership with OTP LLC to serve Indian Country Gaming across the entire USA excites us a lot. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? In Europe it has to be UK Regulation, very quickly deployed and apparently well adopted. I think that UK traffic will be much easier to police due to its own currency (as opposed to many EU states having EURO) Elsewhere, to finally see Gaming Licences awarded in the US after so long will still be looked back upon as a significant milestone and 2014 saw the acceptance of Bitcoin by many as a serious commodity. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? All eyes on California and what happens when a number of key players enter the US Market – the poker market certainly needs a liquidity boost but when that happens, I think we will see more states open up. Elsewhere, there is always an interest in the Asian market and I think that we will start to see some yield from recent acquisitions by Amaya and Scientific Games and I don’t think the market will stand still at all. Significant to payments will be the mass-adoption of Crypto Currencies (such as Bitcoin) – there is no avoiding this, it looks like it is here to stay and those adopting it stand chance to do well. What are you most excited about for Secure Trading in 2015? We are poised for significant growth due to the expertise we have hired from the industry this year and the way that we have slowly built out an incredible degree of capability and reach for our merchants and with our own card acquiring institution we will launch a number of gaming specific payment solutions in early 2015. We have a number of key announcements due out over the next couple months and are engaged in some amazing projects – watch this space.
Andy Harris: Commercial Director, Realistic Games What was the most important occurrence for your company in 2014? As a company we’ve had a fantastic year and it’s hard to pin-point one particular occurrence. The granting of our licenses in both Gibraltar and the UK took a lot of time and effort, but will reap the benefits for years to come. To be licensed by the world’s two leading regulatory bodies is invaluable. Our development expertise has also been recognised, this time by the industry, with two EGR B2B awards for innovation – the first in slots provision and the second in Mobile. That follows the impressive performance of not only our existing suite of games, but the new ones we’ve added in 2014, many of which have gone straight to the top of the list of best revenue generators. Lastly, and on an internal level, we moved offices this year to give us the opportunity to recruit more and better staff. To that end, we’ve doubled our head count and have capacity for many more which will help us grow as a business, create better games, and provide an even better service. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? The onset of new regulation and, in the case of the UK in particular, the onset of Point of Consumption Tax has been by far and away the most significant event. That is predominantly financial, obviously, with a further 15% of tax on revenues for many of our customers. I’m not convinced everyone in the industry has really grasped the meaning of that and the profound effect it will have on many businesses, small to medium-sized in particular. Businesses cannot change overnight and many will not be able to absorb that kind of blow, leading to many more of the types of mergers and acquisitions we’ve seen in recent months. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? The exciting thing for me is seeing how the industry responds in terms of creativity and innovation given the fundamental changes imposed on it in 2014. Companies really need to start delivering in order to plug the gap caused by POC otherwise we won’t be talking or writing about them in 2016. Many will look to new territories and different verticals to survive and prosper. The smarter operators and businesses, have already implemented changes to make the most of regulation and side-step it’s more problematic aspects. It could be a momentous year of opportunity and, in some cases, insurmountable obstacles. What are you most excited about for Realistic Games in 2015? We have a host of exciting plans for 2015 and can’t wait to get stuck in. We have conversations with potential new customers that should come to fruition early in the New Year, and a host of innovative proprietary table content and unique games which are going to excite them and our existing customers. We also have opportunities in a number of new territories. Some of these are likely to see us working in new verticals too, such as lotteries and land-based machines. It might also be a year of reinvention, in some areas, with us exploring areas of the industry we have yet to look into. It is time for us to up the ante!
Heath Samples: CEO, Betdigital What was the most exciting occurrence for Betdigital in 2014? Releasing more of our FOBT style games into the online and mobile space was widely anticipated, not just by us but by our customers. Could we get these games to perform to the same standard online as we did in the high street – the answer was a resounding yes – and then some. What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? The movement finally to H5 gained the most momentum this year. But there is still some way to go. Legacy systems seem to be the biggest hurdle but we’ve also seen great gains there this year too. It’s the future, there’s no two ways about it. It’s good for the developer, good for the player and that means it’s good for business and good for the industry. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? The new contracts we have signed in 2014 will reap the rewards in 2015 – and we are still signing more. Seeing our games in the ‘Premier League’ of online operators is the biggest buzz I’ll personally get. And coupled with the fact we are giving some of the biggest names and games in the business a bloody nose in terms of performance, it’s not “All About That Base, it’s all about that winning! What are you most excited about for your company in 2015? Seeing our high street FOBT games continue their No 1 performance spot and break more performance records is what I’m excited about for 2015. That coupled with continuing to take gaming giants like GTECH, Net Ent, NYX into the FOBT world through our integration platform service and seeing their games go live cements our place in that area too.
Peter Bertilsson: President & CEO, Metric Gaming What was the most exciting occurrence for your company in 2014? Metric Gaming’s first official launch of its real-time mobile betting products occurred in 2014 – just prior to the World Cup – providing the real world commercial validation of our technology and systems that we had previously seen only in test environments. Later in the year we also launched our NFL and golf products, representing another critical company milestone. What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? The continued and explosive growth in mobile sports betting in 2014 was astounding. Indeed, Bet365’s mobile revenues grew over 100%. Similar numbers in 2014 for fantasy sports, especially in the daily formats, also indicate a powerful trend that will likely continue into 2015 and also expand throughout Europe. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? I am excited to see both the fantasy and mobile sports betting markets, particularly real-time betting, continue to grow. Mobile technology will continue to advance and sports betting products will need to keep up as the users demand “fast, adequate and beautiful!”. I am also eager to see what develops for sports betting in the U.S., as we appear to be nearing a tipping point with fantasy sports, New Jersey’s efforts and of course the recent public statements from the NBA Commissioner opening up towards sports betting. What are you most excited about for Metric Gaming in 2015? Our technology and sports wagering competence positions us perfectly to capitalize on the surging global markets for fantasy and real-time mobile sports betting. I believe more and more companies will recognize the importance of scrapping old sports wagering technology and embracing cutting edge systems which will in turn fuel the company’s growth into the future.
Mads Peter Veiby: CEO, Magnet Gaming What was the most exciting occurrence for Magnet Gaming in 2014? The most exciting thing for us was taking the decision to make our games available on the international market. We have a decade’s worth of experience in building and operating social games across Europe and, following deregulation three years ago, have been applying those skills in real money slots in Denmark. But after the success of those ventures, we’ve now taken the decision to offer them in different regulated territories around the world, with the UK in particular a target of ours. We’re very confident the games will go down well with British players, who share a love of our low stakes ‘sociable casino’ approach with their Danish counterparts. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? There has been a lot of change this year, particularly when it comes to regulation and taxation. Coupled with that, there have been a number of significant mergers and acquisitions which will change the landscape. But for us, the most important occurrence has been the opening up of new markets around the world. The trick will be keep up with these, offer a tailored product to different markets, and be able to cope with providing the same quality of content on a wide variety of devices. It is a big challenge – but one we’re confident of meeting. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? The really exciting thing is seeing where deregulation takes us in 2015 and beyond. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, but it is exciting to see how many jurisdictions have opened up to us in 2014 and how many more will follow next year. With new markets come new customers with different requirements. Suppliers who can adapt skilfully and quickly to those needs will be successful. Many of these customers are currently underserved by games that lack creativity and engaging maths models. What are you most excited about for your company in 2015? Our aim is to launch with eight new slots in the beginning of 2015, and roll out an additional 8-10 slots throughout the year. We also have ambitious plans to take the success of tournament features in social into the real money environment. More than that, we’re looking forward to speaking to operators at ICE and elsewhere to offer an innovative new product with a proven track record back home. We’re aware the competition is strong, but we’re confident we have what it takes to serve an untapped market with games that deliver for both players and operator alike.
Peter Greenhill: CEO e-Gaming, Isle of Man Department of Economic Development What was the most important occurrence for your jurisdiction in 2014? 2014 has very much been the year of digital currency for the Isle of Man. In June, after an intensive period of investigations, we announced plans for a regulatory framework for digital currencies. We hosted the inaugural Crypto Valley Summit on the Island in September, attended by over 170 Bitcoin entrepreneurs, enthusiasts and government representatives. As 2014 draws to a close, we have more than 25 crypto currency businesses based on the Island, including currency exchange and payments engine CoinCorner, GoCoin and BankToTheFuture. We even have a number of corporate service providers and accountants and a local pub, The Thirsty Pigeon, which now accept Bitcoin! Our assessment of digital currency is that it’s here to stay and there are likely to be a multitude of coins in the future competing for dominance. The good news is we’ll be able to let our licensees take them, and take advantage of instantaneous and very low cost transfers that Bitcoin and other digital currencies will enable. But we have also set legislation changes in motion in order to bring digital currency payments under our Proceeds of Crime Act and to treat digital currency companies in the same way as any other company that holds customer funds, i.e. a Designated Business. This will therefore mean that they are subject to International Anti-Money Laundering standards in respect of customer due diligence, record keeping and reporting obligations etc. What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? Throughout 2014 Point of Consumption tax (POC) and its definite revenue impact has driven industry agenda, commentary and debate. Eventually imposed on 1st December 2014, the POC is set to challenge all operational mechanisms and values of e-gaming operators who will seek to maintain revenues and margins under differing market conditions. Thankfully, the effect of POC on the Isle of Man online gaming sector will probably be minimal compared to some other jurisdictions. Despite each Isle of Man licence holder having a different operating strategy and very different player profiles geographically, the vast majority of players using Isle of Man operators reside outside the UK. Those, Isle of Man-based licence holders who are UK-facing they will not be forced to move their companies to the UK or process bets on UK servers; they will be able to retain current structures and will not have to take on the vast expense of a UK based Financial Representative to take responsibility and personal liability to pay UK HMRC the duty owed. This represents a major saving over other jurisdictions. In addition, the Isle of Man will allow our licence holders relief against Double Duty for UK players and our own Gambling Supervision Commission have been approved to offer Dispute Resolution Services to those operators holding both UK and Isle of Man licences. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? We are really looking forward to how the industry develops in 2015 now that POC has been enacted in the UK. We will see a number of mergers and acquisitions across the industry, and there will doubtless be a number of companies that will not be able to succeed with the additional tax burden, but out of such difficult circumstances new ideas will emerge. Outside the UK we are excited about new geographic markets opening up and the introduction of digital currencies into the established markets. What are you most excited about for your jurisdiction in 2015? We are most excited about the level of innovation that we are seeing in companies approaching the Isle of Man to discuss setting up operations here. Instead of companies thinking about establishing “just” another sports-book or casino to compete with other established brands, we are talking to a number of well-funded organisations with ground breaking new IP.
Michael Golembo: Sales and Marketing Director, SkillOnNet What was the most important occurrence for SkillOnNet in 2014? The acquisition of our new UK licence alongside those we hold in Denmark and Schleswig Holstein has been massive for us this year. It has streamlined the company and helped us focus on regulated markets. It’s also given us the ability to offer on and offline advertising, including TV campaigns, for our B2C brands. These will be very valuable. The acquisition of Jackpot Party, which is now Slots Magic, is central to that plan, as have been deals with the likes of Net Entertainment, which have significantly boosted our games content. We have also thrown more weight behind our B2B offering and will have a host of new deals to announce in the New Year. What do you think was the most important occurrence for the industry in 2014? Regulation has been the most important thing by far, and the taxation and VAT that has come with it. This is helping to clean up the industry and drive the small-time desperadoes out of the market. The big guys will undoubtedly take advantage of this, but it is an opportunity for all of us to improve the image of gaming and ensure operations run honourably and with full transparency. This can only be good for the player, wherever he or she find themselves, and will hopefully convince governments that we are capable of self-regulation without the need for heavy-handed interference. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? The guessing game of who is going to regulate next is always a good one to play at this time of the year as we all anticipate where and how the next opportunities are going to arise. We had two or three exciting markets open up in 2014 and I’d be very confident many more will follow suit shortly. They will present both obstacles and opportunities as the nitty-gritty of localised compliance has to be worked through before we can access new players. This takes time, money and effort. It will undoubtedly put some people off and others will realise they can’t be in every market. The trick will be choosing the right ones, doing the paperwork, and making the most of the opportunities that lie behind it. Personally, I can’t wait! What are you most excited about for SkillOnNet in 2015? We’re very excited about both the quality and quantity of our new games. We have significantly increased the performance of our own proprietary slot and table content and removed some of the older ones. In addition, we now aggregate some of the best games around from some of the leading independent suppliers. This will give our B2C brands a huge boost, but it will also help our B2B business too as we seek white label opportunities in new and existing markets around the world. So, if you’ve not yet put a note in your diary to meet us at ICE you’d better do so quickly!
Steven Spartinos: joint CEO, Kiron Interactive What was the most exciting occurrence for Kiron Interactive in 2014? In terms of business development, the undoubted highlight was launching our services in Italy. We were the first virtual products supplier to be licensed and then go live in the market, first with Intralot and then Sisal. We were delighted with the reaction as the games performed even better than we’d anticipated. Product-wise, the roll-out and up-take of our proprietary bet management system, BetMan, was very satisfying too, as was the introduction of our keno numbers product and the addition of harness racing to our games portfolio. 2014 was a year in which we really kicked on as a company. What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? To start on a negative note, I’d say that the sluggishness of developments in the United States has been disappointing, particularly after the levels of anticipation in 2013. Fortunately, the pace and scale of regulatory change elsewhere around the world has been far more rapid. So too has been the consolidation of the industry, which has seen the arrival of new players in different verticals. What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? Despite my earlier comments, I’d say that a speeding up of developments in the U.S would be exciting. If we can persuade them that online gaming is both safe and respectable in states like California then it really could turn into the exciting prospect people have been talking about. New Asian markets are gearing up too, despite Singapore’s refusal to join the party. Regulatory change elsewhere on the continent – and in Latin America – is just around the corner. They will present opportunities that are of great value across the industry. Fuelling that, undoubtedly, will be the continued rise of Mobile as the player’s technology of choice. Lastly, much of the consolidation in the industry will open new channels, particularly in the likes of lotteries. Once they wake up to what else they can offer their audiences the opportunities for cross-selling products will be huge. What are you most excited about for your company in 2015? We’ll be introducing a number of upgrades to our existing products and services as well as a number of new products that we’re very excited about. Chief among these will be a much bigger portfolio of games. We’ll also be showcasing an updated version of BetMan, which has now evolved online, as well as new technologies for the land-based industry. These include the introduction of new more cost-effective hardware such as NUC devices, to replace outdated PCs, and our brand new Vision screen solution, which revolutionises the in-venue visual experience for customers. Furthermore, we’ll be unveiling our new mobile betting solutions that can be used both online and for in-shop applications.
Steven Matsell: CEO, Leander Games What was the most exciting/important occurrence for your company in 2014? It’s not easy picking one, but at a push, going live with Full Tilt was the landmark deal for Leander. To be chosen from 12 companies was testament to all the good work we’re doing. Full Tilt’s first adventure into slots was with us in an important step for both companies. We had previously penned a deal with Amaya to distribute in-house and third party games, so when they acquired Full Tilt we were in a unique position of supplying two huge players in the industry. We’ve since followed up with deals with Paddy Power, Vera&John, Spin Genie and Betfair, so it’s been a hectic few months! What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? Top-level consolidation has been a recurrent theme over the past 12 months. Amaya’s acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker was just one of the massive deals to shape the market-place. It was a big moment for the industry as it signified a shift in direction for Amaya and with that a change in how people perceived the industry. I suspect there will be more consolidation at all levels in 2015. NYX have taken Ongame, but we haven’t had a response from Playtech or Net Ent yet! What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? From a delivery perspective, the transition of Flash through dual to solely HTML5 content is going to be fascinating. It’s still a developing technology that has yet to be fully optimised. Markets will continue to regulate and the US will remain a hot topic as we will find out if the process speeds up at all. One to watch is the reaction of Lotteries across the Atlantic to see how they react to companies venturing into various states. Mobile will play an important part next year too as there is still lots of room for growth in that channel. What are you most excited about for Leander Games in 2015? Adding to our mobile portfolio is an aspect we’re concentrating on at Leander. It’s not just about delivering games for the on-the-go audience, but guaranteeing the latest high-quality graphical games with layered sounds and complex features. That’s a challenge in HTML5! Deals with the likes of Full Tilt, Amaya, Betfair and Paddy Power have shown our LeGa platform to be completely reliable and the best available. Maintaining LeGa’s position with innovative content from ourselves and our games partners remains high on our agenda throughout next year. Giving independent companies a voice and getting their games out there to the wider market is what Leander thrives at.
Jason Hardman: Business Development Manager, A Bet A What was the most important occurrence for your company in 2014? We tied up a partnership with a major international casino to deliver virtual keno into their land-based environments across Asia. It is a new venture and a very exciting development for A Bet A. We’re confident it will reap great dividends for everyone in 2015. We’ve also made great strides across Africa with EPOS systems for betting shops, in Uganda and Ghana in particular. Our localised solutions are tailored to individual needs across these markets, as well as more traditional, established ones closer to home. What do you think was the most interesting occurrence for the industry in 2014? For anyone with an interest in the UK market this has to be Point of Consumption tax. But whereas it may be having negative effects on those based in Gibraltar and elsewhere, it is a great opportunity to level the playing field for many of our customers in the independent sector. The advantages their rivals based outside the UK had have now gone and they are more competitive as a result. Many of the calls centres we provide technology and services are better off too – so the new legislation is not universally bad! What are you most excited about for the industry in 2015? Undoubtedly, mobile will continue at a rapid rate of knots and it will be very important to keep up with developments. But it will also be more important than ever for betting shop owners to have effective EPOS and in-shop screen facilities that allow them to maximise opportunities. In a General Election year, gambling is likely to be a political football. It’s to be hoped that whoever gets in realises the betting and gaming industry does more good than harm and should not be harshly treated. What are you most excited about for A Bet A in 2015? We’re very excited about the ultra-mobile EPOS system that we’ll be showcasing at ICE, alongside our new screens solution for betting shops. These will be particularly relevant to operators in emerging markets where there is a great need for reliable, affordable and robust technology. We’ll also be expanding our virtual sports offering which is growing in popularity in markets around the world. All of these things will, I’ve no doubt, continue our international expansion as a company.