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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Robb Vecchio Managing Director of Jogo Global US

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Exclusive Q&A with Robb Vecchio Managing Director of Jogo Global US

 

Jogo Global is one of the industry’s newest suppliers and is already making a name for itself. In the past month, the emerging platform provider and casino content developer announced two high-profile appointments, which highlighted the strong ambitions the company has for its future operations. Cashcade and Gaming Realms co-founder Simon Collins has become its new chairman, while the highly experienced Robb Vecchio joined as Managing Director of Jogo Global US.

Gaming Americas caught up with Robb Vecchio to understand more about what exactly Jogo Global has to offer and the company’s strategic plans for the US market.

Congratulations on your new role at Jogo Global US, Robb. What will be your initial focus over the coming months?

I’m really excited to have joined such an ambitious company. My key focus is to build the brand awareness of Jogo Global within the US casino industry and educate businesses about how our content, platforms and services will drive business growth. I’m very confident we have all the right assets and resources, and know we have a very talented team of highly experienced individuals that are developing quality products. I will be sure to tap into my digital rolodex over the coming months, as there’s a massive opportunity right now in the US as the landscape shifts from the land-based to online. We are in a unique position as a global omnichannel gaming company providing a wide range of services.

What are the types of services that Jogo Global offers in the US right now?

We can offer bespoke solutions, something that a lot of the main organizations within the industry cannot offer right now. Given that we’re a nimble and agile company, we can provide a personalised service and deliver a product that truly meets a customer’s requirements, which is very rare these days.

The localized approach is something I learned during my time at Video Gaming Technology (VGT). We successfully introduced a new foreign subsidiary, VGT Mexico, and turned it into a multi-million nationwide enterprise. That was very much driven by a localized product for the market’s needs. At Jogo, we have that ability at scale to develop bespoke content and platforms for our partners that match their individual requirements.

What can Jogo Global offer that’s different to what’s already available in the market, particularly compared to the main suppliers?

Having a scalable business is very important, even for start-ups. Companies want to know that a third-party provider can match their expectations and deliver a reliable service. We can prove that our offering is scalable to prospective new clients, which has been a driving force behind Jogo Global securing new commercial agreements both in the UK and US, which hopefully will be announced very soon. References and new customer wins are going to be key to truly establish ourselves as a business that is going places. Word of mouth is hugely valuable in helping a young company to position itself in the marketplace.

Secondly, our creative solutions have impressed a number of organizations that we’ve engaged with already. The unique overlay that our solutions can offer to their existing ecosystem is something that is highly advantageous to them.

Close relationships are key and that’s an area we’ll be working hard on to ensure partners get the best possible service. Those deep-seeded partnerships, almost like a family, go along way in this industry and help take a start-up to the next level.

In the US we’re seeing the digital iGaming industry accelerating at warp speed. Given your background in the land-based environment, how are you looking to support those companies in translating their content for online?

There’s a lot of potential in the legalized jurisdictions of both land-based and online gaming, particularly in the Class II category, which requires games to be associated as a form of bingo. Class II machines are heavily prominent in the Native American properties, and there’s an opportunity to adapt that type of content for online use.

Digital gaming has certainly grown, especially as Covid-19 forced venues to shut down and players naturally migrated to online sites. Online activity is likely to double over the next 12 months, and I think in the near future we’ll see smaller land-based casinos as a result, which only showcase the brand and top games, but eventually lead players to their online and mobile offering.

Can you give us an insight into your new business targets for the next few months?

Here in the US, we think more can be done to provide a better service to the tier 2 operators. Most of these operators aren’t being looked after properly, certainly when you compare the support that UK and European companies of a similar size receive from their suppliers, along with the big players in the industry. We have a great opportunity to showcase how nimble we are as a business and be more attentive to operators in their everyday needs. We look forward to maintaining our momentum and interest generated by attending the recent NIGA Conference and carrying it forward to the upcoming OIGA Conference later this month.

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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Compliance Updates

Reputation matters – the importance of supplier licensing

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Reputation matters – the importance of supplier licensing

 

More and more jurisdictions are introducing licensing for B2B providers in an attempt to boost regulatory oversight and restrict black market activity with Sweden and Denmark recent examples. In this piece, we talk to Greg Ponesse, Chief Revenue Officer at Compliable, about how the increased compliance burden can favour suppliers’ standing in the iGaming ecosystem.

 

Have you seen a shift in attitudes from suppliers to only provide products in regulated markets?

We have seen that suppliers that have traditionally taken a .com approach are starting to move towards being licensed to secure additional revenue and more customers but also to improve their overall reputation and standing. The perception of brand integrity plays a big part of the decision-making process because some operator partners might be reluctant to work with suppliers if they have a mainly grey-market approach.

In the US, supplier licensing has always been the norm, so where we are seeing attitudes changing is primarily with European suppliers. Although most suppliers might have a few licenses that they need to manage in key markets, they are now better understanding the importance of being seen as fully compliant across the board as regulation changes and operators are looking for trusted partners.

Some of these brands are massive enterprises who are now trying to get a handle on how to manage all their licenses across multiple regions, and we have seen an increased interest in our software to support that.

 

What has been the driving force for this – regulator pressure or business strategy?

It’s a little bit of both. Regulator pressure is definitely a big one as gambling becomes more ubiquitous and mainstream. It’s the responsibility of the government to provide structure and regulation to ensure safety for consumers and many are starting to realize that suppliers play an equally important role in that as operators. We have recently seen examples of locally licensed suppliers being fined by regulators for offering their products to unlicensed operators, so providers need to be on the ball to ensure their reputation stays intact.

That said, the grey market suppliers up to this point have stayed in grey markets because that’s what was available to them. Now you’re seeing new markets opening up like North America, which has been huge, where all states require suppliers to be licensed. These grey market players that have previously focused on Europe now see that there’s revenue over there to be gained, so they need to pull up their socks and play the game.

As a business strategy, suppliers can only remain in black markets for so long, avoiding paying taxes and declaring revenue. In a competitive marketplace, suppliers can definitely benefit from being more established and having numerous licenses. Operators might be wary to work with companies that don’t take compliance seriously so being able to show that you have X number of licenses and that you have infrastructure in place shows that you’re serious, and that you know what you’re doing. It kind of sets the table for you to have a soft landing and to be able to begin those discussions with potential partners.

 

A sole focus on regulated markets would suggest a negative impact on profits so what benefits do suppliers see from being licensed?

If the train is only going in one direction, you eventually have to hop on it. Moving away from grey markets will inevitably have a negative impact on profits but you then have to look at where you can find additional revenue. If you are a licensed supplier, it does allow you to work with the big local operators. You have to decide on whether you can make more money as a grey-market supplier or by going into markets being licensed and making the most of what that offers.

 

Do you expect more jurisdictions will introduce B2B licensing going forward?

Yes, for sure. Gambling is ubiquitous now and governments recognise that it’s a great revenue generator for them and it also helps with ensuring responsible gambling. With licensing, you provide a framework, infrastructure, and environment that is safe, and it ensures that everyone is on a level playing field. That needs to include all different sides of the industry such as operators, suppliers, affiliates etc. If everyone in the ecosystem follows the rules, it will be a better place for all.

 

What are the big challenges that suppliers face when it comes to licensing in 2024 and beyond?

Your licensing strategy, so basically, where you are going to go get licensed. This process takes time and resources, and you want to make sure you are prepared before you start talking with operators. They will want to know, just like as with any other vendor, if you are licensed as a supplier.

If we use the US as an example, there is no shortage of suppliers that want to partner with the available operators, so you need to know who you want to work with and where, and then you have to make sure you sort those applications properly. That is all about getting the right advice or using software because if you fail the process, you will end up at the back of the queue and your go-to market strategy will be delayed.

 

What, if any, are the key differences between licensing in the US and regulated markets in Europe and other regions around the world?

For starters, every state in the US acts as if it is its own country and the licensing process is very complex and rigorous. In Europe, it was initially somewhat more relaxed. You got your Malta licence, and that was then good for all countries in Europe. We’re now seeing a bit of backtracking, with more and more countries getting tougher on rules and regulation.

Increased supervision, with regulators having more oversight, means there is no hiding and I think that is what we’re moving towards on a global scale.

I do believe that most suppliers and operators prefer a regulated market because it separates proper companies from the bad ones. If I was a large operator or supplier that invested time and money into licensing and establishing a compliance team, I would feel good about that because there are so many companies that can’t do it. There’s this element of pay to play, so to speak, in order to really maximize your profits in a region.

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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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