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Providing the ideal fit



Providing the ideal fit


Online lottery platform provider NeoGames recently completed its acquisition of Aspire Global, in a deal designed to turbo-charge the growth of both parties in North America. Quincy Raven, Aspire Global’s Managing Director – US, talks to Gaming Americas about how the partnership makes perfect strategic sense, given both parties’ shared heritage and joint aspirations.

How does the acquisition change the way Aspire Global approaches the opportunity in North America?

The NeoGames transaction is completely transformative for our growth trajectory in the North American market. NeoGames and Aspire Global were previously within the same company, before NeoGames addressed what was then a niche proposition of iLottery in North America and subsequently expanded on a global basis. In parallel, Aspire Global was growing successfully in Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America – a process that is still ongoing, of course. Succinctly, within my remit here in the United States, NeoGames brings 17 state licenses to Aspire Global. That provides us with immediate opportunities in each of those states and those licenses – be it iGaming or iLottery, depending on the jurisdictional authority – will accelerate our business dramatically.

How will these competitive advantages present themselves?

When I first joined Aspire Global last summer, we were looking at the United States as a very new market from a platform viewpoint. I have spent time speaking with a wide range of people from commercial, product, and services perspectives, as well as getting involved into the detailed with regulators. From there, we have been working with our product and operational teams to ensure we were absolutely, 100% ready for the moment we deliver our entire suite of products and managed services to a US operator. In North America, it is about replicating the best practices we have implemented in other regions.

To provide a specific example, NeoGames’ partner Caesars, a key customer through their acquisition of William Hill, runs on the NeoSphere (PAM) platform. That proof of execution and scalability demonstrates exactly what we can achieve for operators here in the US and Canada. The same technology we use to support a national brand to roll out from state-to-state within a central platform can then be utilized on a localized basis. For tribal casino operators, this means they have access to platform technology that is nimble, modern and adaptable to be able to cater to local patrons or as part of a multi-state strategy.

What is the importance of the PAM being utilized by both NeoGames and Aspire?

We have been using the same PAM back-end between companies for the entirety of NeoGames’ existence. The sharing of this code and expertise presents us with a competitive advantage when talking to operators of any size. There is always a desire from operators to differentiate themselves, to find that uniqueness that resonates with their patrons in their target markets. Given the state-by-state approach to regulation we have here in the US, there are regional differences from a compliance standpoint which in some cases affect the player experience. When it comes to updating features or amending regulatory requirements within the PAM, if an operator has to address every instance in each state, rather than taking a roadmap approach which is released once and deployed across a network, that is a major advantage that we and our partners benefit from.

While sitting down with operators that use other providers and discussing exactly what our platform is capable of and how we support their brands with services, the response has been resounding, particularly when it comes to our CRM capabilities. If you look at the US market over the past year, there has been widespread realization by operators that casting the broadest net possible, with seemingly endless deposits bonuses, isn’t sustainable. Instead, player marketing focused on specific segments and offering real-time, in-app bonusing and experiences, allows the operator to attract the right profiles and retain patrons in this highly competitive market. Retention is something that Aspire has been honing for years, beginning as a B2C and now a pure-play B2B provider driving profitable growth. With our platform, the same premium product is presented to the player, backed by our CRM tools that drive sustainable long-term growth. Given the sophistication, at every player touch point, operators are able to make better informed marketing decisions.

Finally, how has the acquisition affected the way both companies operate?

The completed transaction gives us two company divisions. In total, we are a fully digital company that is iGaming, iLottery, and sportsbook, all wrapped up with Managed Services. Within our organization, we consist of two separate divisions – one with a lottery leaning, the other online gaming – that share technology. In terms of my day-to-day role, it means that I work in exactly the same way I did before, but with additional resources at my disposal.

A great example is our NeoGames operations hub in Lansing, Michigan. This operation center cover everything from customers service, VIP management, risk and fraud through the entirety of the player journey – in a country where localized talent and an understanding of our customer tendencies and preferences is priceless. In the iGaming space, for Aspire Global it means there’s already robust infrastructure in place that we will utilize as our operational hub. Interestingly, though, it was actually Aspire that originally set up the operation with NeoGames seven years ago, so it’s exciting to see how things have come around in a full circle.

Aspire Global is exhibiting at G2E Las Vegas 2022, which takes place at The Venetian Expo, from 10th to 13th October, at Stand 2032.


America’s got talent



America’s got talent


Operators and suppliers must attract the best talent in the business if they are to achieve their ambitious goals in what is a highly competitive market. We sat down with Brady Eagle from Van Kaizen to learn more.

Talent acquisition is one of the greatest challenges for organizations in North America to overcome, with the demand for experience and skill on both the operator and supplier sides high. But with the first half of the year marked by micro and macro-economic challenges, set against the maturing of the online gambling sector in the US and Canada, the pace and scale at which organizations recruit have slowed significantly.

With some of those challenges now behind us, it looks set to be business as usual for operators and suppliers when it comes to identifying and onboarding talent for the rest of the year. To learn more about current recruitment trends, including where the supply/demand balance currently sits, we spoke with Brady Eagle, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Van Kaizen.


How has the recruitment space in North America played out so far this year?

Recruitment in 2023 has been quite different to years past. Where there were hiring bursts from the end of 2020 to the end of 2022, the first half of 2023 saw a perfect storm of micro and macro-economic factors that hit all around the world, including North America, that slowed down the pace of talent acquisition.

These factors included the USA hitting five years post-PASPA with share/stakeholders telling companies to stop spending money and demanding they become profitable, and even layoffs hitting the iGaming sector which we hadn’t really seen before.

Off the back of a challenging six months, the second half of the year was always going to be the timetable for companies to pick back up hiring. Come the end of July the speed at which companies were looking to onboard new talent accelerated ahead of the busy fall sports seasons, along with the continued anticipation of iGaming state expansion.

So, we have seen a steadying out of hiring across operators, suppliers, and the wider iGaming ecosystem (including newer niches in North America like media and affiliates), with the main hires coming across product, digital marketing and commercial roles including sales, account management, customer success, etc.


What have been the main challenges faced and what impact has this had on talent acquisition?

The biggest challenge in 2023 was the economy’s ups and downs and the ripple effect this had on the industry. It was important to educate those in the iGaming space that the layoffs that were happening in the North American economy were mostly across the digital and B2C sectors and especially at the ecommerce power players (Meta/Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) that had expanded exponentially during and post-Covid.

It was a reminder to clients that the iGaming sector isn’t affected as much by economic volatility as other industries are, and that it can even see a slight uptick during an economic downturn. So, for roles in competitive spaces like product and digital marketing, companies need to continue with those hires before the next upturn when they will find themselves back in competition with organizations from both the iGaming and other sectors. This was a tough message to get across at times.


What are the biggest hurdles organizations are up against when it comes to attracting the best talent? How can these hurdles be cleared? What does talent expect from an organization?

One of the biggest hurdles is the competitiveness within North America’s iGaming and sports betting space. With the industry being regulated for five years in the States, and even more recently in Canada in Ontario, it’s become mainstream to the point where even the most novice of bettors and/or those interested in casino want to work within the industry. iGaming is seen to provide the stability that some industries currently lack, with the ability to grow versus more mature industries that have become stagnant.

These hurdles of identifying and hiring talent can be cleared by having a very streamlined interview process, from candidate introduction and interviews, to offer, to the onboarding stage, to the candidate starting with the company. So many times, we see the interview process get off to a great start only for the final interview and offer to happen after one or two weeks of waiting during which time the candidate has potentially moved on to another opportunity. In such a competitive market, companies just can’t hand this sort of advantage to their rivals.


Where is the balance between supply and demand currently sitting? Which roles are in the highest demand?

In the iGaming and sports betting space, you’ll always see product managers, digital marketing (especially acquisition and CRM) and commercial roles (sales, business development, customer success) as being those that companies are looking to identify top talent for.

When it comes to the supply and demand of candidates, companies very much have a need for iGaming/sports betting talent, especially for Lead, Manager, Director and above levels. They need these candidates to have started/built/conceptualized and led a product roadmap end-to-end, or for them to understand campaign management on the marketing side or have a good “rolodex” or client base to be able to “hit the ground running” on the commercial side. So, the supply-and-demand, while getting bigger as a whole, is still pretty finite for senior-level roles.


Do North American businesses prefer to hire from within the US/Canada? Or is there a preference for experienced talent from Europe? What is driving this?

Unfortunately, most companies in the US are tied to immigration laws where they are only able to use US citizens or those with a Green Card (permanent residency). Even more so now, we are starting to see companies (like those in other industries in the US) wanting candidates to be located within the metro where they are headquartered or have a hub so that they can be a weekly hybrid company. With that, we are seeing an advantage handed to those companies that are still offering fully remote working.

On the Canadian side, there’s a little more flexibility, but most companies want to have the candidate based in Ontario and ideally within Toronto. But, if they are in a major metro area like Vancouver, Calgary or Montreal, there’s scope for remote and hybrid working.


How’s the recruitment space shaping up for the final quarter of the year?

Most companies have weathered the storm of the first half of the year, and things are starting to pick back up. With conference season in full swing with SBC Barcelona having just taken place and G2E in Vegas and SBC Latin America in Miami on the docket for the end of this year, you’ll see companies celebrating their successes by hiring across sales and business development, marketing, and product.

The continued (and more recent) push is for those with iGaming and especially iCasino experience as there is hope for more states to launch iGaming next year – Rhode Island is ready and raring to go – and the need for them to start to prepare for that given how much of a revenue driver it is for organizations.


Any final thoughts you’d like to share about recruitment in North America?

I think that recruiting will be back to somewhat steady and normal levels in 2024. With the steadying of inflation (as of September, at least!) and potential new jurisdictions coming down the line or launching, it should be another exciting year for both operators and suppliers to continue to carve their way to more market share on the B2C side, or to be able to get in and bring their product to operators on the B2B side. At Van Kaizen, we look forward to supporting clients on the hiring side, along with finding that new adventure for candidates.

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Central America

Mexico: How content is king in a country rich in promise



Mexico: How content is king in a country rich in promise


Light & Wonder’s Commercial Director LatAm, Tatiana García Barrenechea, explains why Mexico is the jewel in the crown of the region when it comes to games that provide recognisable fun to casino enthusiasts.

It’s been over 10 months since Light & Wonder made its debut in Mexico by launching with Rush Street Interactive. How has your content performed in the region?

As it stands, we are currently live with three operators in Mexico – RushBet, Novibet and Caliente – while in the process of onboarding a lot more. Mexico is a market with a huge land-based history, so there is no surprise that our most popular games are omnichannel titles such as 88 Fortunes and Jin Ji Bao Xi Endless Treasure. In fact, we have seen strong performance levels across all of our Asian-themed games.

It is also the top-performing land-based games that are performing the best online. These titles feature mechanics that resonate with players and ultimately, they have proven to be popular inside the casino and with online players. Mexico, in particular, has a strong casino culture, so it is no surprise that our content has performed especially well there.

Overall, how would you characterise the online casino market in Mexico?

While we’ve only been live for 10 months in Mexico, we have found that there are similarities to the US, given its rich land-based history. Our top-performing online games are recognisable land-based titles and we expect other Latin American markets that have a strong retail culture will follow suit in this regard. This is why our strategy is to align Latin America with our roadmap in the US and Canada, rather than UK and Europe.

Taking a wider view of LatAm as a whole right now, our biggest growth opportunities lie in Mexico, where regulation is currently less restrictive and therefore more straightforward for operators to enter the market. Many of our international tier-one partners have confirmed their plans for the market and we are in the process of onboarding these operators, while also looking to local land-based providers that want to offer their content online.

The expectation is for Mexico to grow exponentially over the coming years – to a greater extent than any of the other market in the region – and it is a country of huge interest to Light & Wonder.

Are we seeing any changing trends in the region from a content perspective?

Live dealer is a vertical of great importance in the region and as content continues to evolve along with the technology that enables players to have an ever-more realistic and engaging experience, we expect it to continue growing. There are some great products on the market right now and given Mexico’s land-based heritage and culture, the delivery of advanced live dealer experiences to players presents exciting opportunities.

With the entry into the market from huge tier-one international operators we are also seeing a lot more gamification tools implemented from within their platforms. Bringing knowledge and expertise from other markets can help to influence local operators to incorporate those value-adding tools to their offerings, which is an essential part of a successful player retention strategy.

Another element that is emerging is crash games, which we have seen performing well across all Latin American markets and especially in Brazil. They provide quick-fire, unpredictable entertainment that is engaging while also simple to understand.

What’s your growth focus over the coming months, both in Mexico and further afield in the region?

We will continue to work with our land-based content experts to ensure the content we’re offering is relevant. We’ll also be working with and closely advising our third-party studios that are entering the market. It is great to support these studios to help them bring content that delivers fantastic results. To take one example, Hypernova Megaways from Reel Play is performing very well in Mexico in particular through our OpenGaming platform.

We are also closely monitoring Peru, Chile and Brazil, to ensure once there is regulation published, we can make our analysis, enter the market and support our operator partners. Key to us is the long-standing partnerships we have cultivated. We need to support them when they want to enter a new market, whether that be through the provision of proven, successful content, back-end information or updated roadmaps. Given our extensive land-based history and strong data at a platform level, Light & Wonder has a strong competitive advantage in enabling operators to stay informed about the types of content that will prove successful.

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Q&A – Quality control w/ Yordan Petkov, Product Owner at Silverback Gaming



Q&A – Quality control w/ Yordan Petkov, Product Owner at Silverback Gaming


Online slot developers make a lot of noise about the quality of their games and how crucial it is to the player experience they deliver. Given the sheer quantity of slots in the market, quality can be a real differentiator so it’s vital that developers get this right.

But quality assurance is no easy task and requires planning and a seamless process capable of detecting any issues within a game.

Once issues have been detected, the studio must have mechanisms in place to resolve them effectively and efficiently so that development remains on schedule while ensuring the game is actually ready for release.

To learn more about how studios approach quality assurance, we spoke to Yordan Petkov, Product Owner at Silverback Gaming.


How do studios ensure quality across game design, audio, play, etc?

The commitment to quality must cover all areas of game development, from design to build to delivery. The foundation of quality is the early detection of issues and ultimately this requires meticulous planning. By spotting issues early, they can be ironed out in the most efficient and cost-effective way and that’s why at Silverback we focus on anticipating potential problems from the outset. This proactive approach helps to mitigate risks and lays the groundwork for smooth and seamless game development and deployment.

Can you share more insight into how Silverback approaches quality assurance?

We have mapped out a step-by-step approach that encompasses everything from concept and design through to final execution. Each aspect of game creation, including graphics, audio, math, mechanics, game engine as well as front end, is done with careful consideration and planning. By establishing robust processes and incorporating thorough checks, our teams can concentrate on refining and enhancing the game experience instead of firefighting preventable issues and this is what allows us to take the player experience to the next level.

What does the testing phase actually look like at Silverback Gaming?

Our testing is structured and spans multiple stages.

Stage one is the pre-development phase. During this part of the process, the QA teams ensure all required information is provided and they also scrutinise game specifications. This is a super important point in the process as anticipating issues and addressing them at the concept stage is more effective than having them crop up later on.

Stage two is proof of concept. The first build of a game marks the second stage of testing and the QA team rigorously examines critical aspects of the slot, such as engine performance, functionality, stability and of course regulatory compliance. This phase ensures the core components of the game are sound before we move on to the next stage of development and testing.

The final testing stage focuses on the audio and visual elements. Here, we delve into the finer details and make sure the game aligns with best practices and upholds the standards of quality that we have built the Silverback Gaming name on.

How does quality carry over into the delivery of games, which can be an issue for both studios and their operator partners.

In terms of delivering games to operators, this comes down to having a cutting-edge remote game server that can handle integrations into the different platforms that operators are running on. There’s always the chance of encountering issues with integration and that’s why it’s important to have a dedicated team for this. In terms of the quality of the games that then land in the operator’s lobby, the studio must have put the necessary steps and processes in place to ensure these have been identified and address long before integration. Nobody likes to play a buggy game and a studio ultimately lives and dies on the experience its slots provide to players.

Are there any common issues that occur when developing slots?

Yes, but part of quality assurance is ensuring that issues are not recurring. When an issue occurs, it’s important to approach it in a way that addresses it there and then, but also prevents it from occurring again in the future. This is key to making quality assurance as effective and efficient as it can be – if not, you are simply wasting valuable resources on fixing problems that you are already aware of and have addressed in the past.

What sets apart your approach to QA and how do you ensure nothing slips through the net?

Our approach to QA is underpinned by our quality-focused culture which we apply to everything we do. Having top talent in every team ensures that each part of the game has unrivalled expertise working on it. Additionally, we have open communication across all design and development phases, which is pivotal to the overall quality of our slots. Collaborative discussions help iron out potential pitfalls and provide valuable insights that contribute to the highest quality end product.

What are the upsides to investing in quality assurance and making it a top priority?

QA teams not only identify bugs but also contribute to the overall quality of the game. Their valuable suggestions and insights lead to continued improvement. While having the right processes in place for testing is important, experience often reveals unforeseen issues and that’s why having a talented and experienced QA team is crucial. Our influence spans all stages of game production, minimising the risk of potential problems and ensuring that when issues do arise, they are quickly resolved.

QA-driven quality results in polished, engaging games that players love. In turn, operators appreciate the reliability and appeal of the games, allowing the studio to build a long and successful relationship with the casino. At Silverback, our product owners are fully committed to fostering collaboration and translating vision into reality while upholding a customer-centric approach. This shapes games that resonate deeply with players and operators alike.

By building a culture of quality, anticipating potential pitfalls and executing a well-structured testing process, we ensure that our games deliver exceptional player experiences. Quality is not just about finding defects; it’s about delivering excellence and making lasting connections with players and operators.

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