This week, conference producer of the upcoming Sports Betting East Africa Summit; Jordan Crossley interviewed Jeff Halloran, the managing director of Sahara Games. Crossley and Halloran discussed how Sahara Games is both an operator and software provider to the African iGaming industry, what Halloran is looking for in the Business Startup Competition contestants and Halloran’s advice for operators who seek to create their own sportsbook software.
Halloran has over 30 years of experience in the fields of emerging digital technologies and telecommunications. His previous positions include being the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of MT Dynamics a company specializing in advanced wireless enablement which is experiencing rapid growth mostly in the financial, lottery and gaming sectors. CEO of Mobile Tapestry specializing in digital lotteries, CEO of MT Exchange an international payment processing company and Managing Director of Halloran Investments a small cap investment firm focused mostly on real estate.
Prior to that, he was the founder, Chairman, and CEO of Phantom Fiber Corporation (NASDAQ), a publicly traded company. It was the first company to produce a fully integrated mobile casino, the first fully integrated mobile poker application, the first live currency trading application, along with producing the first full pari-mutual and sport wagering applications.
Crossley: Jeff, you have years of experience in multiple sectors, what excites you about the gambling sector?
Halloran: I have worked in a number of sectors but to be blunt the gambling sector is fun. It has great clients and the ability to stretch your imagination as far is it can go in every aspect of the business. Technology, marketing, client services, financial, geographical – there are simply no boundaries or limits. Your only limit is your imagination. That non-restricted environment is what makes it so exciting for me. Also, my background is technology and this market can allow you to really push the technology making it your key market differentiator.
Crossley: Sahara games are quite a unique company in that it operates both as an operator and as a service provider, do you find that by Sahara games having its own sportsbook software (Sahara Game Technology) that you are open to more innovation?
Halloran: Well to give credit where credit is due, a number of components are provided by very qualified 3rd parties, we just do our best to integrate them into an omni-channel player experience. But odds or sports feeds or payment gateways are always best left to experts in those fields in my opinion. We do entirely manage the user experience, marketing, and all game play. So the experience and anything the player’s touch is wholly managed by us to protect our brand. But owning that experience does give us the ability to be extremely innovative and we hope to provide players with a unique and pleasant experience.
Crossley: You will be judging the contestants of the SBEA Business Startup Competition, what innovations would you like to invest in?
Halloran: Well I believe innovation is the key word. The market is fairly mature so coming up with a different version of the same thing is hard to raise interest. What we would be looking for is innovation that can satisfy the regulatory bodies and is easy to monetize, that is key. A recurring revenue model is always important to us and although the product can be innovative and complex it needs to be presented simply. You must be able to take it to potential customers and simply say it does this, the commercial terms and your return is this and here is why we believe the regulatory markets won’t object. I personally come from technology so I tend to steer towards online and mobile products but that is not saying we don’t have interest in products outside of pure technology.
Crossley: Would you encourage more operators to develop their own sports book software?
Halloran: That is a tough question because there are so many components to a quality sportsbook. What I would say is if you have a strength in a specific area such as affiliates or marketing or odds management or CRM technology or virtual games or in-play etc. you might consider building out your core competency and outsourcing the other components. This approach allows you to begin realizing revenue and paying some of the bills before having to complete an entirely fully functional product. Then that money you are making can help fund further development. Also, it forces you at the onset to properly architect your product by developing sound blueprint or framework with published API’s between the components. This way you always have clear delineated functional areas and understand how they communicate out of the gate making future enhancements much simpler.
Crossley: What do you look forward to by being a part of the 4th Annual Sports Betting East Africa Summit?
Halloran: I find the entire African market incredibly interesting and still a new frontier. My main objective is to learn and speak to colleagues, suppliers, and regulators and continue to improve my understanding of the market. Also in the time, we have been in the African market we have met friends and colleagues and it is always great so see them and socialize with them.