Bangor, North Wales, is not the obvious location for many companies, but it’s where NMi is thriving. But why Bangor? Julian explains, “Traditionally, that’s where our directors in the UK came from.
“Also, Bangor University has a wealth of expertise flowing through it that we take advantage of. There is no shortage of highly-qualified people coming out of the university; when we put out a job vacancy, we get people applying from all over North Wales, there is a wealth of skilled people in the country. We do however look locally before we go further afield but that’s not an official policy. We want to support the local community and are constantly doing charitable work too.”
It’s an approach that seems to be working; the gaming division has grown from five people to 70 as the company works to stay on top of the lightning-fast pace of iGaming – and that’s no simple task, as Julian explained to Casino International.
Casino International: What are the company’s origins, and what are you doing now?
Julian Borg-Barthet: As a test lab, we have been in the industry for over 40 years; we started type-testing roulette wheels back in 1972. We’ve done quite well in terms of the Dutch market and in fact we gained a reputation over the years consulting for regulators in Australia, the US, Latin America, all across the world. We weren’t really interested in the casino market outside of Europe, so we don’t really compete in that industry. However we are improving on that as customers looking for our brand of expertise and customer service are pushing us into more areas. When it comes to iGaming however, we are at the top of our game when it comes to emerging markets; we are almost synonymous with iGaming regulation. When someone says you need to do testing in a particular jurisdiction, you have to be looking to NMi, GLI and BMM. We are very proud of our position in the online gambling sphere. That’s not only online gambling in terms of the technical slots and online table games, but in live gaming, for example we partner with Evolution Games; they look at us as a compliance partner in new markets. Scientific Games have turned to us and trust us with their online certifications as well. When DraftKings wanted to come to Europe, we had a few conversations, they liked what they heard and trusted us, and are partnering with us for the markets they want to enter for as long as they want to stick with us. We don’t tie customers to contracts, we believe our works speaks for itself.
Regarding street markets in the UK, although a highly competitive market, we hold 80 to 90% of the Cat B market; we are proud of that market share, which is obviously something we can work on globally having extensive expertise in it, we want to cover more markets.
Our strength in terms of the gambling market as a whole is primarily within iGaming and professional services; I would hate to be pigeonholed, but those are our core strengths.
CI: Some of your expertise is in areas of rapid growth; if you were a traditional casino supplier, you might be seen as more of a static company, rather than the dynamic one NMi is. iGaming moves so very fast…
JB-B: You say it moves fast, but a lot of people – particularly from the land-based side of things – don’t fully appreciate just how fast. I’ve been in certification (test houses and associated services) for about six years now; I hear stories from back in the day, 10, 20 years ago where having a slot certified would take months if not years in some cases. But in iGaming, that’s unheard of. We move fast. Romania has opened up and we started doing work in that area within days, not weeks, but the industry has already moved on to the next big thing in conversation – people are talking about Poland, Hungary, Latin America, etc.
CI: Is growth for NMi about new jurisdictions opening up? Does a new market mean a new office, or is it easier to centralise with iGaming?
JB-B: We work globally from the UK office, it’s the headquarters of the gambling division of NMi. NMi is a vast company, our division are less than 15% of its overall business; NMi does calibration work on metering for the oil and gas industries, for example. Opening an office for each market is detrimental for growth, because we find that dividing our efforts can be more of a hindrance than keeping things centralised. Also mitigating risk in regards to control of our clients data is paramount to the integrity of our organisation as a whole.
We do have an Italian office, and a Dutch office, and we opened in Vancouver because of our work with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation; we will venture across the world, but only where it makes sense for our customers.
We have teams over here in the UK that, although are highly experienced, don’t specialise in any one given jurisdiction because our customers don’t specialise in single markets – our customers want to be everywhere, and they want to talk to someone that has worked in multiple jurisdictions, they want to talk to the same person that has been running their project for Portugal as will be running their project for Romania – because that person knows their systems and their people. We try and keep our project managers with our clients so they are not working with three or four different people just because of where they happen to be focussed. We treat our customers like colleagues, like partners; they put a lot of trust in us in terms of being able to not only take them across the world and serve them in the jurisdictions they want to be in now, but in the future. That’s why we are always moving fast – a new jurisdiction opens up and we are already on top of it.
CI: There is a lot of interesting technology out there – and that’s where a company like NMi comes into the equation, right? You are ahead of the legislative curve – because you have to be – and are one of the key influencers to legislation surely.
JB-B: We talk to regulators and keep the lines of communication open, our clients and regulators want the same thing mitigated risk and conformity.
Legislation dictates what can and can’t be put on the market, but you find that the only way to succeed in this business is to innovate, which is adapting your product to the law and interpreting it in a way that means you can innovate. Whether that’s putting a side bet on a roulette product that’s more like bingo or a slot machine that’s more like a scratchcard, finding common ground is important to us and our clients and the regulator.
CI: What in the gaming world is exciting you at the moment?
JB-B: eSports is incredibly exciting; I was in Miami for the Daily Fantasy Sports summit which attracted delegates from all over the world. Esports quickly took over the topic of conversation, it really is exciting to see and the technology behind it is outstanding. I joined an Esports webinar recently that was talking about the numbers behind that industry and the potential is absolute outstanding. The buzz is really behind eSports now, but you see how these things move on; mobile was all the talk four years ago, then fantasy, and now … you know where I’m going with this!