The domino effect of regulation will only continue, says Playtech CEO Mor Weizer, and in each case, omni-channel capabilities will determine which firms drive the market forward.
For Playtech’s CEO, Mor Weizer, one process is shaping the gaming landscape more than anything else: the ongoing and inevitable transition towards regulated markets.
And as more jurisdictions become regulated, the convergence of retail and online will only intensify, he says, rewarding operators that are able to leverage their retail presence and offer their customers a full suite of on and offline gaming products, “accessible anywhere and anytime.”
It’s a world where Playtech feels uniquely at home.
“There is a theme, that is an extremely important one to us here at Playtech – it’s an ever-evolving and ever-developing change. It is the transition from unregulated to regulated markets,” said Weizer.
“A lot of people now realise that being too focused on regulated markets actually comes with a lot of risk, not just rewards,” he added.
“And I think there is a balance that companies, particularly the pan-European ones, need to maintain between regulated and unregulated income streams.
“It is extremely important to enjoy the benefits of operating in certain unregulated markets, and generating income that can then be deployed into the same markets as they then become regulated.”
It is this process that is changing and shaping the operator landscape above anything else, he said. As markets become regulated, regionally dominant firms emerge from those that are able to capture loyal consumers by expanding on their embedded, often retail, presence, in the hitherto pre-regulated online space.
“They are what we call the ‘local heroes’,” said Weizer.
Whether it’s firm’s like William Hill and Ladbrokes in the UK, Winamax, Betclic and others in France, Lottomatica, Easy Lotto and so on in Italy, or Cliente in Mexico – “this is a theme that will continue in each and every regulated market. The local heroes become the largest operators in each regulated market and they drive the industry forward in each case.”
At the centre of the this transition is omni-channel. As these local heroes tend to be retail companies “leveraging their retail presence for the benefit of their business and creating more choices for the customers themselves,” he said, “Omni-channel is extremely important.”
Yet despite this integral role in the industry’s future, omni-channel is still widely misunderstood.
“Most people miss the point of omni-channel. It’s not enough to simply have the same content available on web and mobile; it’s not enough even to have it available in retail. omni-channel goes far beyond that – it’s about creating an environment, a kind of ecosystem, within operators, to ensure that the customers remain loyal. It is in each and every feature – and goes to the level of the platform and of the infrastructure.
Within this context as Weizer described, Playtech is “uniquely positioned”.
“Playtech established itself in the early days through the platform,” Weizer said.
“We realised a new game is not sufficient, so we focused on the infrastructure, the back-end system, the IMS – which is now the backbone of our omni-channel solution. It provides us with the capabilities to support every part of every operator.”
A spread of industry competitive verticals is of course vital to the omni-channel solution. In the last 18 months Playtech has been bolstering its sports arm – an area where he concedes Playtech’s presence is still “limited”.
The company has grouped all its sporting capabilities under one organisation, Playtech BGT Sports (PBS) which comprises “one the best mobile solution for sports, a solid and sophisticated web-based sports solution, and which was extended a couple of years ago into retail […] Today we are signing up local heroes that want to revolutionise their environment.”
In Live Casino Playtech installed the largest live studio anywhere, in Riga. And in virtual reality, which Weizer said will become “the future of any entertainment industry”, Playtech has developed VR Roulette and VR Shoot for land-based gaming. While in casino the company has recently launched its new game development market place – GPAS.
“Gaming Platform As a Service, allows operators, software developers and content providers to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new games,” said Weizer. Specifically designed to give operators more flexibility in competitive regulated markets, GPAS enables firms to develop their own games quickly.
“Once you have the math, the graphics and the sound it takes seven minutes to deploy a game – and this is a revolution in terms of content development,” he added.
Also from the marketplace, operators can search for games specific to their target audience. “You can enter the certain characteristics of your customers, and based on all the data we have, we can offer you a list of games that will appeal to them most. Within seconds it’s deployed on you site.”
Last but not least, and inseparable to Weizer’s theme of increasing regulation, Playtech is bolstering its ability to help operators meet rising compliance obligations, without damaging the player experience.
Late last year the firm acquired Bet- Buddy, which uses machine learning and AI to identify potential issues with customers “to protect them and the environment, and create a more engaging and entertaining balance – which is the right thing, for the customers themselves.”
In January the firm also entered into an agreement with Feature Space, whose behavioural risk identification software will also be integrated into the Playtech IMS. Feature Space prevents fraud, automatically evaluates at-risk behaviour, and reduces the number of incorrectly sanctioned customers.
“As more markets become regulated, regulators are educating themselves and becoming more sophisticated, and with that become better standards in terms of responsible gambling,” said Weizer.
“We think this is right. And so we believe Playtech should be a pioneer in responsible gambling.”