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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Jake Apperley Apsley Director – US

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INTERVIEW: Jake Apperley Apsley Director - US

 

With sports betting opening up across the US, Pickswise, part of Spotlight Sports Group, has seen a huge growth in audience over the past 18 months. The affiliate is run by the same team that saw huge growth and success in the UK with MyRacing and FreeSuperTips. We sat down with Jake Apperley to discuss the growth and what he sees as the key opportunities for 2021.

  1. Can you run us through the Pickswise journey in the US? How it came about and early growth?

JA: Following the repeal of PASPA we began to explore opportunities in the US market, and how receptive the audience was to sports betting content for the major US sports. Having had success in the UK with MyRacing and FreeSuperTips, our team set about building and growing the site to reach a new audience. I moved over to fully manage Pickswise myself in the Autumn of 2019 to focus on the upcoming NFL season and reaching a new audience.

Using our expertise in SEO content campaigns, we began to grow exposure through organic channels. These campaigns were hugely successful with CNN, CNBC and Fox picking up our content and Pickswise climbing to number one in the google rankings for competitive search terms focused on US sports betting. To highlight just how successful these campaigns were, during the NFL playoff season in 2018 our traffic was c.10k users per month, and by the end of the 2019 regular season we had grown that to c.350k users, and it’s still growing today.

 

  1. The affiliate landscape in the US looks quite a bit different to Europe, where do you feel affiliates can support new US operators?

From our research and experience over the past couple of years we’ve definitely seen an appetite for sports betting content. Bettors are looking for key pre-game and in-game picks and we can offer that full game experience through our bet stimulating content. American sports are stats heavy, even the language used around sporting performance is focused on statistics, and we know that betting tools that provide reliable information using data are popular as sports bettors can make more informed decisions.

It’s also important to educate bettors in the US. A lot of our audience won’t be used to betting online and it’s important to give them a full understanding of what you can bet on and how it differs from the traditional casino or black market gambling. As it’s ever-changing, we also think it’s hugely important for affiliates to inform customers on the regulatory landscape, what sportsbooks are legal, who has licences and how they can place bets. Of course, as with traditional affiliate methods we also want to highlight operator offers and how our customers can open accounts.

  1. It’s a bumper second half of the year for US Sports with the NBA returning at the end of July signifying the start of 5 months of non-stop sport. Do you think this is the opportunity for US operators to convert new customers into sports betting?

We know that sports fans and bettors alike will be hungry for some action. Like when any event gets cancelled, marketing teams would have designated some spend that might be moved to another time of the year and that will likely fall into the new NFL season.

On a practical note, bettors and visitors will have concerns visiting casinos and sportsbooks if the virus is still circulating with the numbers we are seeing in the US at the minute, so we think it’s the perfect opportunity for online sportsbooks to work with affiliates to drive conversions and turnover throughout the second half of the year. With the amount of sport on offer and with a lot of new sports bettors looking for value it is a great time for newer operators to close the gap on DraftKings and Fanduel.

 

  1. The growth of FST and MyRacing in the UK set the bar for Pickswise, just how different was the growth of Pickswise in the US?

We launched FreeSuperTips and MyRacing as social media affiliates first and when we saw the opportunity for growth we repositioned the business to become an SEO first business. We enjoyed incredible success ranking for major football and horse racing tipping keywords once we did this. The combined traffic has grown to over 1 million unique users. We took what we learned from these two ventures to Pickswise.

We focused on SEO first from the outset as we had built the skills and expertise around us, leading to increased traffic and some early success. We now have that solid foundation to build from and we want to grow our brand awareness and enhance the product offering for our customers which will take Pickswise to the next level.

 

  1. Looking beyond what is a very strange 2020, how do you feel the US landscape will evolve as we approach 2021?

As the market and industry grow, we expect three more states to open up before the NFL season begins. And more competition is good for customers, customers will begin to use multiple bookmaker accounts as they begin to trust newer brands. This will be a ‘best product’ wins race and the improvement in the customer experience will help operators stay ahead of the game.

I think the trend of gambling filtering into sports as more teams embrace it will continue. As we’ve seen with the Denver Broncos and Betfred, I’d expect to see more deals between operators and huge franchises. With all this going on it is vital that we as an industry take responsible gambling seriously and put consumer protection in place. We have done an awful lot in the UK on responsible gambling and there is still more to do, this must translate to the US.

 

Interviews

Why is LatAm such an important market for 3 Oaks Gaming?

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Why is LatAm such an important market for 3 Oaks Gaming?

 

3 Oaks Gaming is beginning to establish itself across regulated European markets, but now it has a focus on gaining a footprint in the rapidly evolving Latin American region.

We spoke to 3 Oaks Gaming’s Account Manager LatAm, Henrique De Simoni, about the distributor’s plans for LatAm and the overall appeal of the region.

 

3 Oaks has recently signed multiple deals in LatAm. How did those deals come about and are there plans for any more partnerships in those territories?

It is fantastic to sign a range of deals across LatAm, initially in Colombia and Mexico before sealing a number of agreements in Brazil. Colombia, in particular, is now a mature jurisdiction and entering the market there first ahead of other regulated territories was something that we felt was a sensible move for us.

Luckia and BetPlay are two of Colombia’s foremost operators, with a huge network of suppliers under their remit. To sign deals with those two giants undoubtedly bolsters our reputation within the region.

We also have Bet7K and F12.bet with our portfolio in Brazil and many more operators that are almost ready to go live in the next semester.

Overall, we have connected with multiple casino platform providers, such as Vibra Solutions, Alea, Hub88 and Salsa Technology, extending the reach of our content across the continent and we are excited at what the future holds for us with these partnerships.

 

Why were Colombia and Mexico first on 3 Oaks’ list when entering LatAm?

Colombia and Mexico emerged as the top choices for several compelling reasons. Firstly, both countries exhibit substantial market potential, with burgeoning populations eager for new and exciting gaming experiences. Additionally, the regulatory landscapes in Colombia and Mexico have been evolving positively, offering conducive environments for the expansion of the gaming industry. This regulatory stability provides a solid foundation upon which we can build our operations and establish long-term success.

Despite Colombia’s rapid maturity within the gaming sector, our thorough analysis identified continued high potential for growth. By securing certification for our games in Colombia, we’ve positioned ourselves to capitalise on the evolving landscape and seize lucrative business opportunities.

Mexico is now the second market in terms of volume, internet betting traffic and great demographic numbers related to gambling in LatAm. This opportunity of offering casino games for Spanish speaking countries that adores sports is something that challenges us and makes the industry more competitive in terms of generating the best premium slots.

 

What other LatAm regions are 3 Oaks targeting over the next 12 months?

With some provinces in Argentina already regulated, such as the capital Buenos Aires, this is a key market for us as we look to expand across the continent. Argentina has shown substantial numbers in the iGaming market and can easily become the third largest country in terms of GGR.

However, we are also looking at other regions in LatAm as we try and finalise further partnerships here so watch this space as our journey continues!

 

With Brazil on the cusp of regulation, how do you think the space will pan out over the next 12 months and what plans does 3 Oaks have for the region?

It’s no secret that Brazil has been our number one target and we are thrilled to be live in the jurisdiction through a number of agreements already. Certain analysts predict that the market is expected to be worth over US$3 billion by 2028, which is an astonishing prediction, but also an incredibly exciting one.

We will see an increase of mature companies trying to expand in Brazil and can expect to reach the biggest operators with our approach and outstanding customer experience. We have premium slots, a team that believes in the market and everything to make our brand visible for our Brazilian customers.

These numbers ensure Brazil will be the jewel in Latin America’s crown once it fully regulates, and thanks to the deals we have in place, we feel we are well positioned for future growth when regulation finally kicks in.

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Interviews

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

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"Francisco Leiva: Forging the Future of the Gaming Industry in Chile"

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Interviews

Women in iGaming Interview: White Hat Studios’ Holly Fairweather

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Women in iGaming Interview: White Hat Studios’ Holly Fairweather

 

Holly Fairweather, Director of US Accounts 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.

 

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?

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.

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.

 

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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GamingAmericas.com (part of HIPTHER) is your one-stop portal for the latest news, insights, and analyses in the gaming industry across the Americas. From legislative updates and market trends to interviews with industry leaders, we provide a comprehensive look at the dynamic landscape of both online and land-based gaming. Whether you're a stakeholder looking to stay ahead of the curve or a gaming enthusiast eager for reliable updates, GamingAmericas.com has got you covered. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for real-time updates and exclusive content. Make informed decisions and stay ahead in the game with GamingAmericas.com.

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