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Prague Gaming & TECH Summit 2024

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Marcus Honney, AvatarUX MD

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As a rising star of the iGaming industry, could you give us some background on the company?

M.H.: AvatarUX officially launched during SiGMA 2019 and we’ve enjoyed a swift rise in the casino supplier market. As one of the original partner studios of Yggdrasil’s YGS Masters programme, we released our first game, Lilith’s Inferno, and received great reviews from both players and operators, setting us on a steady course to hit the ground running in 2020.

From the very beginning we’ve been incredibly fortunate that the investor interest in our project has afforded us the opportunity to choose partners with whom we can truly collaborate with. We took the approach that we wanted investors that were going to be part of the journey with us.

The partners we have are all from the industry and are passionate about games. With experience in both the operator and design elements, and a proven track record in European and Asian gaming – AvatarUX is a truly global unit.

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AvatarUX is one of the original partner studios of Yggdrasil’s YGS Masters programme, how important a step was it to join forces with such a well-established company?

M.H.: Being an independent studio, it was paramount to align ourselves with partners who had experience in the European markets. Yggdrasil’s connections were a major factor in why we applied for its YGS Masters Programme, and since being accepted our relationship has gone from strength to strength.

As a new casino supplier, there is a lot to focus on promoting our games effectively. Rather than attempt to do that alone we felt it prudent to join forces with an experienced publisher who can get games to operators swiftly. Currently we use Yggdrasil in our Go To Market strategy in Europe, to promote our portfolio of games and help formulate our road map.

The slot designing sector is highly competitive – what makes AvatarUX’s offering stand out from the crowd?

M.H.: At AvatarUX, we are always looking for that balance between art and captivating game play. Today you need an identifiable expression as a studio to get awareness and affection from customers whether they are operating brands or players. As a studio, we’re not afraid of doing something new but we’re also very conscious of the feedback we receive from operators and adjusting to that. Being a smaller team we have the benefit of agility – it’s easier to turn around a speedboat than a yacht, and it’s our ability to react quickly to customer feedback, while utilising the global experience of our partners that helps us stand out in a very competitive market.

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We are also very focused on the game development process and finding the optimal maths model to deliver the perfect gaming experience. As a result, we always invest a lot in R&D prior to starting production. Essentially, we finalise the game as a basic playable math prototype and then add the best-looking art and animations. The result delivers a significantly higher level of quality for the real-money player experience.

You released your first title, Lilith’s Inferno, earlier in the year to very positive feedback. Can you tell us more about the game development process?

M.H.: With the company still relatively small, the development process is all about collaboration. The initial concept is looked at collectively by the team. An early playable maths prototype is then produced and from that point on, everyone gets the opportunity to contribute to how the game is developed. We then discuss the features we want to use, but the prototypes are the key starting point for us.

Our next four releases are going to be based on an exciting new mechanic named Popwins™, but each release will have additional features. The first game with the new mechanic, PopRocks™ will be released in April. With these next titles we are in an ideal position to use the vast experience of our team to add new features to a game mechanic we know will be a hit.

The game’s Asian-influenced art and game mechanics seemed to be a real hit with players – do you plan to continue releasing games in this style going forward?

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M.H.: We were delighted with the feedback we got about our first game, it was also very well received by critics on YouTube and Twitch. The game’s mechanics were especially popular, and we will be introducing more new game mechanics with our next four releases. Going forward, you will see a road map with Asian-influenced art style games based on known classic mechanics with incremental innovations. And while the games may be based on local classic casino art style, our designers in Hong Kong never shy away from adding an exciting new twist.

What are AvatarUX’s aims for 2020?

M.H.: As an independent studio with high ambitions we see the need for very agile publishers that can help us establish ourselves among operators, studios and affiliates. We are launching four more games this year to complete the series and establish our games library. It’s important for us to carry on the momentum we built up after the release of Lilith’s Inferno as we evolve and develop the studio. With ICE just around the corner we will be able to showcase our innovative game mechanics and start 2020 as we mean to go on. We understand fully that there is a lot of competition and that we need to be mindful about our decisions going forward, but we are excited about the future and we will focus on continuing to grow.

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GOAL Premier

Exclusive ICE 2024 Q&A w/ Leticia Palacios, Director of Sales at Kiron Interactive

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The virtual sports provider Kiron Interactive had a strong presence at ICE London 2024, the last ICE gaming trade show held in London before it moves to Barcelona. In this Q&A, Letitia Palacios, Director of Sales at Kiron Interactive, discusses the importance of ICE for networking and lead generation, trends spotted at the event, and new Kiron products unveiled such as the flagship football game GOAL Premier. Palacios notes that ICE provides an invaluable opportunity to showcase Kiron’s innovations to operators and that the event generated exciting potential new business partnerships. She highlights how Kiron stays ahead of competition by constantly developing fresh content and technology like its new photo-realistic football game.

 

Hello, Leticia! Let’s start by talking about this year’s ICE – the last one in London. How important was it for Kiron in terms of networking, and how will Kiron’s presence at the event influence future work?

For anyone who is a prominent stakeholder in iGaming, ICE London is and has always been a must-attend event as it is still the premier gathering of its kind in the gambling industry.

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ICE provides us with the perfect stage where Kiron Interactive can enjoy mixing with a truly international crowd of key decision-makers. With our array of products both existing and new for the event, we’ve got everything we need to put in front of the industry and showcase our innovations that we’re confident will set trends in both our existing markets and those we’re poised to enter.

2024 also saw a significant number of attendees from Latin America and it was a great experience to be able to share more about our products, content and service with them, and they can drive revenue and efficiencies for their brands.

As we know, this will be the last edition of the event in London before it makes the journey to its new headquarters in Barcelona, ​and we believe it will be an appropriate base for the gaming industry. We had a fantastic final event in London.

 

As a representative of Kiron, how successful was ICE for you? Was it promising in terms of new business?

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It was very important to be present at ICE because it gave us the opportunity to show the new products we have and those we are about to launch on the market very soon.

For me, like every year, it was an incredible experience to be able to share facetime with colleagues in the sector, review trends and share with attendees the products that set Kiron apart as cutting-edge pioneers of virtual sports. We had a great show where we were able to present to operators from Latin America and the rest of the world and the feedback we gained was really positive, setting up several potential new business partnerships on the back of our product portfolio.

It was an incredibly busy three days, but a most rewarding and definitely an event that has delivered in terms of networking and lead generation.

 

Did you notice any specific trends at the event? Will they influence future Kiron projects going forward?

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There is intense competition across global markets and this drives our creative processes resulting in the development of innovative products to present to the industry. It is important to continue renewing ourselves and creating content that transcends expectations while providing value propositions to operators and players.

Kiron differentiates by always being at the forefront of new trends and during ICE we presented the latest developments we have created using all the technology and know-how at our disposal. This makes us stand out in a crowded market and marks everything we do with a distinctive seal of high quality that puts us at the vanguard of the verticals we cater for.

Embodying this, we unveiled our latest flagship football product, GOAL Premier, which is set to revolutionise Virtual Sports products.

GOAL Premier delivers unmatched game visuals, incorporating cutting-edge photo-realistic player movement, flawless animation and next-gen CGI, offering players unprecedented realism and immersive action with a match every three minutes.

Our Instant Win portfolio is also received a significant boost, with three distinctive next-generation gaming experiences that are set to deliver fresh new gameplay to the genre with new themes and features that offer true diversity. Penguin Plunge, Crab Roulette and Roach Roulette all enjoyed a launch at ICE and bring a sense of fun, with exceptional visuals and character design that marry together with ease of play to raise the engagement bar for pick-up and-play betting entertainment.

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We rounded off a comprehensive and significant array of major new product reveals with our entry into the hugely popular Crash game sector with an exclusive preview of Rodeo and Arm Wrestling. These hybrid sports titles feature side bets for additional engagement and are the first of their kind in the industry.

As you can see, our entire team has really pulled out the stops to ensure we had a product line-up that really shines and the reaction we received at ICE was incredible. It is this kind of opportunity that events like ICE deliver and Kiron will continue to bring its best to impress visitors wherever the venue is in future. Roll on Barcelona!

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Conferences in Europe

Viktoria Soltesz: the Online Payments Pro Teaching Us How Money Moves

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

Viktoria Soltesz is a Payment Consultant, BusinessWoman of the Year 2023, and now an Author, with her book “Moving Money – How Banks Think”, being published on all Amazon stores since early January 2024.

Viktoria is the founder and CEO of PSP Angels Group – an independent payment consulting firm with a vast understanding of the payment market, and an extended network of banks and financial providers, offering personalized payment consulting services, helping clients operate their business globally.

In her book, “Moving Money – How Banks Think”, she walks the reader through the history of transactions and financial systems, offers a detailed explanation of basic banking principles, and delves deep into payment solutions, requirements, risk policies, and compliance limitations associated with online payments.

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Viktoria, congratulations on the publication of your book, and thank you for joining us to share more information about it with our readers! In the Foreword of the book, you introduce yourself, detailing your professional background and your fascinating journey into the world of online payments. Can you please give us a short introduction here as well?

My adventure began in England, where I worked for a well-known accounting software company, witnessing firsthand the globalization of financial practices. My move to Cyprus coincided with the adoption of the Euro, offering me unique insights into the island’s financial dynamics. In Cyprus, I started working in accounting and finance, offering tax planning and managing complex global transactions. When I faced various payment and banking compliance challenges, I determined to understand the payment industry and founded PSP Angels, an independent payment consultancy. My goal with the book is to simplify the payment and banking industry, educate businesses about the importance of compliance, and foster understanding between clients and payment service providers.

Blending personal anecdotes, real time stories and my professional experiences, I describe the challenges businesses face in navigating the evolving landscape of online payments. The book aspires to contribute to making online payments more efficient, secure, and understandable, while encouraging open discussions within the industry.

 

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In the book, you speak of “Financial Literacy” and “Payments Literacy”, and how this fundamental knowledge is not taught in schools. Can you give us a brief summary of the key points that businesses should be aware of and take into consideration when setting up their financial operations? What are the basics of “Financial Literacy” and “Payments Literacy”?

Finance is the language of business and understanding the basics of accounting, taxes, and financial expressions is a must for every business. Financial Literacy is the knowledge to manage money effectively, and plan for future financial goals. Knowing the financial terms and concepts helps businesses to make informed decisions regarding savings, investments, and debt. On the other hand, Payments Literacy is often neglected and misunderstood. The concept of “how money moves” globally is not taught in schools, however today all businesses need to understand how to navigate various payment methods, systems, and processes. Payments Literacy encompasses a range of topics related to financial transactions, including online payments, electronic transfers, and traditional banking methods. It is essential for businesses to understand cybersecurity, the various compliance and regulatory environments, plan banking and payments ahead and source and select the relevant providers for these transactions. All international companies need to be aware of diverse payment methods to align with local customer preferences. Payments Literacy is complementing Financial Literacy and they are both vital for effective business operations.

 

As you describe your journey into payments and how the problems you encountered lead to understanding, you share instances of complicated structures, early financial compliance attempts and rigid bank processes around the mid ‘00s to 2010s. How has the landscape evolved by now? Would you say that compliance has found its footing, have the banking and payments processes become more clear and friendly to businesses and consumers alike?

I believe that challenges in payment and banking have become more complex and will continue to evolve. With the increasing shift of businesses to online platforms and their expansion into international markets, complexities in payment and banking processes are on the rise for everyone involved. Maintaining transparency, ensuring compliance, and managing the risks associated with uncertain territories and service providers has become a challenging task. The emergence of new technologies, such as crypto payments, and the variety of currency and asset management options add an extra layer of complexity to these challenges. Not to mention the various cybersecurity and data protection requirements, too. Businesses today not only need to be experts in the traditional financial structures but also have to adapt to the dynamic landscape of digital payments, banking, and payment methods. Successfully addressing these multifaceted challenges requires heightened awareness, strategic planning, and a commitment to staying informed about evolving technologies and about the ever-changing regulatory landscapes.

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How has Fintech played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of the payment market, and what key contributions or innovations has it introduced over the course of its history?

Fintech became a powerful force reshaping the traditional banking and payment market. Innovations in such a conventional industry was much needed and have significantly improve the efficiency and accessibility of financial transactions. One noteworthy contribution is the introduction of mobile payments, enabling individuals and businesses to seamlessly conduct transactions through their smartphones. This shift to mobile-centric solutions not only simplifies the payment process but also promotes financial inclusivity, reaching individuals who may not have had access to traditional banking services. This has opened up new markets for global trade.

Fintech also brought us the digital wallets and peer-to-peer payment platforms, facilitating fast and secure fund transfers. These innovations have transformed consumer expectations, placing emphasis on speed, convenience, and heightened security in financial transactions. Fintech has driven progress in data analytics, enabling more sophisticated risk assessment and fraud prevention measures. The integration of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) has played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between financial institutions and Fintech entities. This interconnected ecosystem has resulted in the creation of diverse financial solutions, ranging from automated budgeting tools to advanced investment platforms.

 

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Speaking of Fintech, in practical terms, how are Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies currently being utilized in everyday applications within the payments system, and what impact are they having on traditional payment methods?

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, although holding significant promise, currently face challenges in practical application within everyday payment systems. Unfortunately, these technologies have become vulnerable to misuse and scams due to the absence of regulation, undermining their positive potential. Despite their increasing adoption, the tarnished reputation blocks widespread acceptance. In every country, authorities worry that unmonitored transactions may facilitate tax evasion or criminal activities. Although efforts are underway to implement regulations and bring order to the landscape, the current situation remains complex, still providing opportunities for creative individuals to exploit gray areas. The potential benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, such as enhanced security and transparency, are unfortunately still overshadowed by instances of misuse. Achieving widespread adoption necessitates not only technological advancements but also a coordinated effort to address regulatory ambiguities. It is crucial to educate users about the legitimate and responsible use of these innovations. Until a balanced and well-regulated approach is established, the transformative potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies may be hindered by their association with illicit activities. This underscores the critical need for a comprehensive and carefully regulated integration into mainstream payment systems.

 

Readers will have the opportunity to meet you and get their book copies signed at the Prague Gaming & TECH Summit, on 26-27 March 2024; you will be participating as an expert speaker in two panels: “Navigating the Future: Integrating iGaming, AI, Fintech, and Advertising with Compliance and Data Privacy”, and “Capital Navigation: Expert Strategies for Securing Investment”. Can you give us a sneak-peek of the key points you will be discussing?

In the upcoming discussion, I’ll be sharing practical tips to help the audience navigate common challenges with banking and payment pproviders and their products, digital assets, and other payment methods, mainly present for the iGaming sector. My focus is on providing valuable insights into more cost-effective and secure banking and payment providers. Unfortunately, the iGaming sector is still facing serious payment and banking challenges, and complexities of global fund transfers. I’ll offer advice on executing these transactions in a safer and more economical manner. The aim is to deliver substantial content value to the audience by offering real-life tips and conducting workshops that empower individuals to navigate the intricacies of financial transactions with confidence.

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In ‘Moving Money – How Banks Think, you mention that your goal is to introduce a new approach in both payment planning and execution. What are the key insights that businesspeople and everyday individuals can gain from your book, and in what areas can they seek your professional consultation?

In the book, I’ve distilled years of experience into a practical method outlined in the Strategy section, serving as a step-by-step guide to minimize risk and optimize costs for any online business. My consultancy work aims to bridge knowledge gaps by providing a detailed explanation of basic banking principles and fundamental economic concepts. I assist businesses by offering insights on staying updated about emerging payment and banking trends. My work helps clarifying various aspects and benefits of online payment solutions, positioning for innovation, seizing growth opportunities, exploring global payment methods and their impact on customer satisfaction, acquisition, and retention. I also provide guidance on understanding various regulations and compliance for navigating legal landscapes, ensuring data security and protecting consumer rights. My 20+ years payment and financial experience helps businesses creating effective payment plans for their complex online payment and banking flows. This comprehensive approach is designed to empower businesses with the necessary knowledge and strategic insights to successfully navigate the intricate world of payments.

 

Thank you for your time and this riveting interview, Viktoria! We look forward to seeing you at the Prague Gaming & TECH Summit this March, learn more about the exciting updates in the ever-evolving world of payments, and get our books signed!

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Callum Broxton Head of Operations at Checkd

Super Bowl – how have providers approached the 2024 edition?

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Super Bowl LVIII is upon us and will undoubtedly be one of the biggest betting events of the year. Operators and their third party vendors are sure to have been busy preparing for the Big Game, so we caught up with Callum Broxton, Head of Operations at Checkd Group, Kevin Nunn, Head of Trading – Americas at OpenBet and Mark Nerenberg, COO at Simplebet, to find out how they’ve approached the 2024 edition.

 

How does the Super Bowl differ from other US sports betting events?

Callum Broxton: There is no event quite like the Super Bowl in the US. Over half of the country will be tuned in to watch the game. Every other sporting fixture pales in comparison and not only does betting on the game attract great interest, but it is the only event in the US where novelty props can catch attention from bettors.

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Only during the Super Bowl will fans be betting on whether the national anthem will go over or under a certain length, or on what song Usher will be performing first during his half-time performance. The 49ers are favorites with the spread currently sat at -1.5. The Super Bowl is such a unique event compared to any other due to the intersection it causes between the dedicated and casual sporting fan, many of whom will be placing a bet for the first time.

Kevin Nunn: The Super Bowl is the single largest and most wagered-on betting event in the United States.  It combines the pinnacle matchup of the most popular sport with a plethora of side bets that keep fans of all interests engaged.  It is not just a football game – it is a massive entertainment event.

This year, we’re elevating our content with 500+ markets, which appeal to existing bettors and those who simply want to enjoy the fun of Super Bowl wagering with limited knowledge of the game.

Compared to other US sports betting events, the Super Bowl means planning year-round to ensure we can guarantee a robust, scalable product that withstands the huge increase in load. Last year, we processed 65,000 bets per second, marking 145% growth in volumes.

Mark Nerenberg: The Super Bowl is far and away the biggest betting event of the year in the U.S. It is an American tradition to go to a Super Bowl party and most likely gamble on squares or prop sheets, so while betting volume is substantial, the larger opportunity is user acquisition and activation.

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The Super Bowl presents a chance to attract and engage a large portion of the U.S. population that otherwise is more difficult to reach. Sportsbooks not only look to maximize exposure leading up to the Super Bowl, they also want to maximize the value of these new users by converting them to engage more often.

Similar to the Sportsbooks as a whole, the Super Bowl is a chance for Simplebet to expose a wider audience to micro betting.

 

Have betting trends evolved from last year’s event and over the course of the regular season? What are the most popular bet types right now?

KN: Betting trends have evolved over the years. In the past, bets were overwhelmingly on the main outcomes of the game, but we have seen a marked increase on player-based markets. Super Bowl will be no exception to this trend.

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The main game lines for the outcome of the game are still the most popular, but there is a large uptick in betting on touchdowns, scorers and other player statistical categories, such as how many passing yards.

MN: I think we are still in the early stages here with new states opening up each year, so the trends that are somewhat unique to the U.S. have continued to accelerate. Specifically, Same Game Parlays (SGPs) continue to be the primary focus for operators and thus continue to grow faster than any other form of sports betting.

The majority of SGPs include player props as predicting and following individual athlete performance has been a significant aspect of sports consumption in the U.S. for decades. Unsurprisingly, player prop micro markets have seen the most growth in the micro betting category over the past year.

CB: One trend we will be keying in on during this year’s game is the advancement of in-play betting. While in-play betting has been a staple during the Super Bowl for the past decade, with improved technology and more available betting markets, this is an area that will see great growth this year.

Those bets might be focused on a team that is down making a comeback to win, whether an exact drive for a team will result in a touchdown, or even if a player will catch a pass on a certain drive. We have also seen the rapid growth of same-game parlays and this is a trend that will continue for this year’s game for casual bettors. Despite the margin being weighted more favorably towards the operator, these bets add an extra incentive to watch for the neutral and often younger bettor, who sees an opportunity to win big from a small stake as being particularly attractive.

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What markets are you providing for your own operator partners to help differentiate their offering?

MN: In addition to the micro player props mentioned earlier, “Same Drive Parlays” are a unique offering where we see big potential. This combines the SGP experience with micro timeframes, allowing users to predict multiple outcomes in a singular drive. For example, “Purdy will get sacked, Kittle will catch a pass and McCaffrey will score a Touchdown” is a bet that fans can make for any 49ers drive this Super Bowl.

CB: Our SmartPicks technology, found on both the FlashPicks website and app, provides bettors with a reason to place a bet at a partner site. It’s based on the highly successful Smart Acca product we have both rolled out within our own Betting Hub app and licensed to operators in the UK. SmartPicks uses historical statistics and betting data to indicate which teams have been performing well – or poorly – allowing users to make more informed betting decisions across moneyline, spread and total markets.

It is a product that has developed quickly since launch and we have big plans to increase its scope in the coming months and years, providing further value for operators by engaging with a demographic of bettor that understands sport while not necessarily being familiar with online betting. Smart Picks makes the process of betting simple, empowering the end user to use their own judgment. The benefit to the operator is clear, too. 11,000 SmartPicks searches were made during December with users then able to click out directly to their favorite sportsbook, with the margin on these bets compounded with every additional leg a customer includes in their selection.

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KN: We provide our operators with as much content as possible to appease a bettor of any interest. Whether they demand a bet that has instant gratification, player-based bets, novelties, or game outcome bets, we will make them available. One element that differentiates the Super Bowl from other events is that we will also offer large odds on outcomes that are difficult to achieve. This way, if history is made in the game, bettors have a chance to claim they bet on that certain historic moment and won, providing even more satisfaction.

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