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Interviews

Riding the winds of change

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With the iGaming industry currently experiencing a perfect storm of evolving technology, progressive regulation and increased internet penetration, we sat down with BETBAZAR’s Chief Operating Officer, Max Sevostianov, to get his take on the latest emerging trends for operators to keep an eye on and how they could potentially alter the gambling landscape in the next few years.

 

You’ve previously spoken about the increased adoption of AI being one of the most notable recent developments in iGaming, but outside of this technology are there any other notable emerging trends that you think will play a major role in shaping the future of the industry?

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From my perspective the growing prevalence of mobile gaming continues to have a major impact on how the iGaming industry is evolving. Driven by the increased availability of smartphones/tablets and greater internet penetration, mobile gaming offers unparalleled accessibility and convenience, which in turn enables users to enjoy their favourite games anytime, anywhere. Somewhat related to that, I think we’re also seeing live streaming platforms become much more popular and channels like Twitch – which is now the go-to medium for esports coverage – are becoming an essential part of operators’ toolkits. Finally on a more personal note, I’m a big believer in the potential of VR and AR technology. With recent games like No Man’s Sky providing immersive VR experiences where players can really feel the emotion of what it might be like to command their own spaceship, I really think the entertainment they provide will be key to the future of iGaming.

 

Looking specifically at the changing gaming preferences of customers, it seems that player interaction and community involvement are becoming increasingly important to operators looking to generate sustained user engagement. Do you expect products like crash games and bet-behind slots that offer these social aspects to become even more popular in future?

Definitely. Whether it’s having multi-player compatibility or providing social aspects that allow users to engage with each other and share the betting experience, any product feature that promotes unity will play an important role in increasing audience engagement. You only need to look at recent high-quality titles like Helldivers 2 to see how effective these gameplay elements can be. Here, the developers have created a co-operative third-person shooter where players compete in teams, invite their friends and socialise with one another to create a more immersive experience. I think when analysing this type of game, you have to make a distinction between the gambling side of things and the entertainment aspect – and I’m a big believer in the value of the latter, as this is what will ultimately provide the user experience that keeps players coming back.

 

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Likewise, when it comes to sportsbooks, live streaming and in-play betting – especially micro-betting – seem to be major focus areas for operators these days. Does the availability of better technology for higher-quality streams, more accurate live data and real time interaction now make it even easier for operators to provide a more immersive experience?

I believe at this moment in time, having the capability to supply fast gaming and fast betting is one of the biggest priorities for sportsbook operators. Advances in technology have made it possible to provide better quality live streams and more accurate live data feeds, which in turn enable bettors to make more informed decisions in real time. This of course goes hand-in-hand with live betting and micro betting, as having this up-to-the-second information available gives bettors more confidence in what they’re doing and empowers them to make quick bets on the fly. I think from the operators’ side of things, having access to official data providers has also made a big difference, as they are now able to work with reliable data that not only helps them provide a fairer and more enjoyable experience to users, but also assists them in analysing their business as well.

 

Finally, in terms of how new iGaming trends are formed, what is it that you think drives change in the industry? Is it shifting regulations, the emergence of new technologies or evolving player preferences/demographics that mainly informs how operators will respond?

The formation of new iGaming trends is driven by a combination of factors – and while in the long term I think the three you’ve mentioned are pretty much parallel, at this precise moment in time I’d put regulation in first place. All countries are trying to provide a healthy environment in which iGaming businesses can grow while also ensuring that player safety remains a key consideration. This is great, because it means that in regulated markets there are clear and understandable rules about what businesses can and can’t do, so they’re all starting from a level playing field. This obviously has a knock-on effect on how technology develops, as once these parameters have been set, your aim is to provide the best product you can within the constraints of that framework. Of course, player preferences also play an big part and regulators are often slow to cotton on to things like the popularity of esports, but over time they’re usually able to adapt to public demand.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Richard Mifsud, Chief Vision Officer at XPRIZO

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Would you tell us about the idea behind the Xprizo fintech platform?

It’s a story that started several years ago when the founder was conducting business on the ground in several emerging markets. Xprizo was founded to respond to the needs of emerging market consumers and merchants, whilst also addressing the limitations of Western banking systems.

This full-service payments platform combines all functionality needed by merchants, with a product tailored to unbanked consumers, bringing this market together in one, seamless ecosystem. What’s more, we drive adoption and consumer education through a network of agents, supporting cash deposit and withdrawal in a way that our target audience is accustomed to.

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Xprizo’s mission statement is to ‘revolutionise the future of fintech’. What gaps in the market is Xprizo working to find solutions for and improve in the fintech space?

We are primarily targeting countries which have substantially large communities which are under served when it comes to fintech or banking. Therefore, we are operating in a challenging environment where we truly believe we can have a life changing impact connecting these people to several national and international services. We are delivering a comprehensive financial service where our clients are usually just served with either mobile money or cash and with the introduction of Xprizo our customers can benefit from p2p payments, card processing and full integration to the local mobile money ecosystem, debit cards, crypto and much much more.

 

How was the development process in building the platform? Were there particular challenges along the way and how long did it take to get the platform ready for market?

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We wanted to build the platform from the ground up using local knowledge and tenants so we are working with people coming from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and also Latin America. To arrive at where we are it took several years actually and it is always developing. Having said that in the last 12 months the platform and the wallet took the shape it has today and we covered a lot of ground. Main challenges were the territory we operate in since we needed to make sure the platform can run smoothly with less than ideal infrastructure. One has to keep in mind that we are operating in a space where lack of electricity is the norm, interrupted internet is an everyday occurrence, regulatory matters are still very complex and more.

 

How does the Xprizo platform set itself apart from other fintech offerings? What can the service provide that others can’t?

As explained earlier, we build the platform from the people to the people. Most other offerings are a one-size fits all where they are adapted versions of what is available in the western world. Moreover, we are offering a truly comprehensive payment orchestration for users and merchants. One just needs to get on our platform and doesn’t need anything further. You can get the local payment methods, our own p2p, cards, etc.. No other service out there has such a complete  offering.

 

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Xprizo’s platform features a number of payment service providers such as M-Pesa, what benefits does this bring customers?

The idea is that our clients don’t need to use several systems to make their life or business. Using or integrating to Xprizo gives you a number of payment methods in one place where for the business side you would integrate one API and you can pick and choose what you wish to use.

 

How is 2024 shaping up for the business and what plans are in place to continue to develop the platform?

2024 is proving to be an incredible year for Xprizo. We are very happy to be overwhelmed with businesses that are recognising the benefits of using our system and we are having internal discussions to be integrated with very well known businesses and also by Tier 1 banks. Our ground reach though the agent network will also keep expanding month on month and the product offering will keep being a one of a kind setting the standard for other Fintech companies to keep up to.

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2024 will also see us expand our reach in Africa launching several other countries and more importantly we will be launching our first operations in South East Asia. We will be beginning with the Philippines in June with the goal of expanding our reach across the following months.

The post Exclusive Q&A w/ Richard Mifsud, Chief Vision Officer at XPRIZO appeared first on European Gaming Industry News.

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“Francisco Leiva: Forging the Future of the Gaming Industry in Chile”

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In the vibrant gaming industry in Chile, Francisco Leiva’s figure emerges as a key reference. A trained industrial civil engineer, his professional journey spans 35 years, from his beginnings in the public sector to his prominent role as Superintendent of Casinos, and more recently as Corporate Manager of Strategic Development at Marina del Sol. His entry into this industry, marked by challenges and significant achievements, reflects his commitment to progress and innovation. In this interview, Francisco shares his vision, experience, and accumulated wisdom over the years.

 

Could you tell us a bit about your career, professional trajectory, and path to where you are today; What motivated you to enter the Gaming industry?

I am an industrial civil engineer, and my career started in the public sector 35 years ago. Initially, I worked at the Ministry of Health and then at the Ministry of Finance, where I was involved in the drafting and legislative processing of various bills, such as the anti-money laundering law and the gaming casinos law.

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Given my work in the legislative process of the gaming casinos bill, after its enactment in February 2005, President Ricardo Lagos appointed me as the first Superintendent of Casinos to implement the law. It was a significant professional and personal challenge as it involved bringing an industry that was far behind similar developed countries as Chile up to date.

 

During your time as Superintendent of Casinos in Chile, what were the most challenging tasks you undertook, and what would you say was your legacy in the gaming industry?

The main challenge was implementing the new gaming casinos law, which involved setting up the Superintendency, hiring staff, and preparing all conditions for private investors to apply for new casino operation permits. This led to 52 projects being submitted for the 18 available casino permits, with investments exceeding US$ 755 million at the time. Foreign investment accounted for 55%, and national investment for 45%.

The result was the construction of 18 new casinos along with complementary facilities such as hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and other leisure facilities that turned these areas into tourist attractions in the cities where they were built.

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Undoubtedly, the main challenge was meeting the tender requirements within a tight timeframe. We managed to have a competitive process with operators from around the world, radically changing Chile’s gaming casinos industry.

The legacy was transforming the gaming casinos industry from seven municipal casinos to a modern industry with 24 top-level casinos and facilities.

 

What significant lessons have you learned throughout your career? And what message would you like to leave for future generations?

One lesson is that ambitious goals can only be achieved through dedication and by building motivated teams with clear objectives. It’s impossible to do it alone in tasks like these.

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I believe the message is to work with honesty, dedication, and without losing sight of the task entrusted to you.

 

Knowing you personally, not just professionally, what activity inspires you or helps you achieve balance in your life?

Since I was a child, I have been passionate about playing tennis, and I have tried to maintain this passion even as a senior player. In this sense, I think engaging in sports helps maintain a healthy mind and body, which is essential to counter the stress that comes with demanding and complex work.

Similarly, one cannot neglect family life, as they are the ones who will ultimately support you in difficult times.

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In summary, the only way, although not easy, is to harmonize work demands with a balanced life.

 

Finally, what is your opinion on hosting such an important international event in your country? And in a way, being one of the hosts to such important international personalities.

It is very important for the country to host such events that allow interaction among different actors in the gaming industry. It facilitates the exchange of experiences and networking, allowing the industry to continue developing. It is also important for public authorities, especially regulatory ones, to participate so they can understand the industry’s reality and see where the industry is heading given technological and cultural changes.

Francisco Leiva’s story in the gaming industry in Chile is an inspiring testimony of determination and success. From his crucial role in implementing the gaming casinos law to his contribution to the industry’s growth and modernization, his legacy endures as a beacon of positive change. Beyond his professional achievements, Francisco reminds us of the importance of balancing work and personal life, as well as the need to stay focused on values such as honesty and dedication. His optimism and commitment to the future of the gaming industry in Chile are a reminder that success is achieved through effort, teamwork, and a clear vision.

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Holly Fairweather Head of Account Management at House of Brands provider White Hat Studios

Women in iGaming Interview: White Hat Studios’ Holly Fairweather

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Holly Fairweather, Head of Account Management at House of Brands provider White Hat Studios, sits down with Gaming Americas to discuss the growing influence of women in the iGaming industry, and highlights how more can be done to improve the overall gender imbalance

 

Gaming Americas: Since joining the industry in 2018, have you noticed a change in how women are represented within iGaming companies, as well as general attitudes?

Holly Fairweather (HF): When I reflect on the past six years, it feels great to say I have seen a lot of positive changes in our industry and more importantly, an ever-increasing drive to address gender diversity. There is still work to do, and I am reminded of this attending our industry events, where it’s very evident we still lack female presence in C-level roles and on expert panels. It’s also not hard to see walking around conferences the overall gender imbalance that exists. With that being said, I do feel it’s moving in the right direction and I am regularly inspired by women around me being promoted to senior management roles, providing great mentors and role models. Awareness of gender diversity and celebrating success is continually being pushed via various channels, and for me plays a big part in why we are seeing more women have the confidence to progress in their careers and more women enter the industry. It’s also important to say, and why I think change is happening more, that the want of women to succeed and to increase female presence in our industry, is indeed backed by a strong support network of women supporting women, but also of the men in our industry.

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Gaming Americas: How important are groups like Global Gaming Women? What kind of initiatives have they offered to help your own career development?

HF: I’ll be honest, I’m still learning about all that Global Gaming Women offers. Working in the US market I see GGW as a substantial network which offers reams of support from training courses, lean in circles and mentorship and networking events just to name a few. I have taken part in a few of the industry wide networking events, and really enjoyed them, connecting with some amazing people, learning more about the industry. One of my objectives this year is to participate in more events, adding value where I can whether that’s within the GGW network or through other avenues.

 

Gaming Americas: What more can the industry do to make it more appealing to women and ensure they are better represented within organizations?

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HF: It’s got to start within each individual company taking responsibility for equal representation. This is not a tick box exercise to achieve a target on a gender split % by x date but must be about promotions and roles being rewarded to the best candidate for the role, regardless of gender, ethnic background, or sexual orientation. We need to shout about the success stories of DEI within the industry, creating an inclusive work environment will attract not just more women but more candidates overall, increasing the talent pool.

There is also a piece around exposure and shining the light on the fantastic women we have leading the way. Sharing their career paths, the good, and the challenges, to provide relatable examples of success. To make women in gaming not about the stats or portray the headline as a negative but more around showcasing the women that are successful and why, helping more women relate and pursue a similar path if this is what they wish to do.

 

Gaming Americas: What advice would you give to the next generation of women that are looking to make a breakthrough in the industry?

HF: This is a good one! First and foremost, you lead your own progression. Be proactive in building your network, push yourself out of your comfort zone to attend networking events. Reach out to other women in the industry for support and mentorship. That is on you to drive.

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Immerse yourself in a team with values that align with yours, a team that welcomes and promotes diversity of all types and supports and rewards on merit are key.

Build your knowledge, for me knowledge is confidence. Quickly realise it is ok not to know everything, ask the questions and find out. Be solution-oriented, supporting your superiors will get you noticed for going over and above and adding value to your team and company.

I was told ‘people do business with people,’ which I stand by and could not be truer in the igaming industry. Always treat everyone with respect, be kind, be yourself, but don’t forget to back yourself! Relationship building is so key in this industry and has helped me progress to where I am today.

Lastly, take risks. And by this, I mean sometimes you must step out your comfort zone and push yourself to try something different to progress to the next stage. So far, the most pivotable moment in my career and biggest risk I have taken, and I’m sure Andy Whitworth (CEO) and the White Hat Studios (WHS) team won’t mind me saying, was accepting the job at WHS. A brand-new supplier to the US, no content live alongside the fact I had never worked in the US market, so of course there was an element of risk. It was, however, a calculated risk as I was joining a team of experts, senior level management I had worked for previously, in an ever-growing US market. A no brainer now when I look back.

 

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Gaming Americas: From a White Hat Studios perspective, what DEI initiatives does the company put in place?

HF: DEI of all types is something I believe increases the performance of a team, and is something we are extremely passionate about at WHS. As we grow and expand, maintaining a strong culture has never been more important. We recently held a WHS workshop in Prague, with one section of our day spent holistically agreeing and locking down our values as a team, ‘Who we are, what we stand for ‘and ‘treating everyone equally’ is now embedded in our company culture as one of our five core values.

I have been lucky in the fact I have never felt that my gender has held me back in my current role and previous igaming companies. Although I understand this has not been everyone’s experience, I truly believe the more we celebrate success, drive awareness, embed inclusion within our companies, and work together across DEI as a whole, we will continue to see women progress and take on careers in igaming.

 

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