hat is the current situation of the online gaming industry in the countries where the company operates?
KZ: Orientplay Ltd.’s main market at present is the EU, focusing on the Eastern Bloc, where online gaming is widely offered and used. The sector’s economic significance is growing quickly with total annual revenues expected to exceed €12 billion by 2013. National regulatory models vary greatly by countries, with different requirements on licensing, related online services, payments, public interest objectives, and anti- fraud.
These models generally can be categorised into:
a) Licensed operators operating within a strictly regulated structure, and
b) Strictly controlled monopolies (state-owned or other).
Growing iGaming opportunities also raised the growth of an unauthorised market consisting of:
a) Illegal and/or unlicensed gambling and betting activities - third countries included, and
b) Gaming operators licensed in one or more EU Member(s) targeting other EU Member(s) without obtaining the specific authorisation from the targeted countries (the grey market).
National demand across the EU varies depending on a number of factors. Currently the largest market is the UK, followed by Germany; however there is a significant demand in Sweden, France and Italy despite having restrictive regulatory structures.
What is the margin for growth that online gaming industry has facing the future?
KZ: In order to analyse the growth potential for various online gaming markets, we must first classify existing online gaming markets; the cautious generalisation of mature vs. growing markets will illustrate these growth models:
Mature Markets – in the case of mature markets, the potential of growth hinges on three factors:
1) Hardware – The UK is a prime example of a mature gaming market. With the advent of mobile applications that allow betting ‘on the go’, we saw a two-fold increase in mobile gambling revenue from £19 million in 2009 to £41 million the following year. Already, we’re seeing punters with 3G iPads in sporting events betting on their favourite games whilst enjoying the match. Technology that allows players to bet will continue to be at the forefront of most gaming operators’ ambitions if they wish to tap into the mobile gaming market. In the future, we might even see ultra-portable hand-held consoles with the sole purpose of placing bets on their favourite games, eliminating the need to pull out an expensive iPhone or a bulky iPad during sporting events.
2) Innovation – innovation in this context refers to anything from new permutations of existing betting options to all new genres of games where bets can be placed. However, growth within this category does not only depend on creating something new from scratch, but growth can be spurred and nurtured by a different way of thinking about what we can do with betting intrinsically. We see bookmakers nowadays allowing their players to place bets on the outcome of events such as Eurovision, and it’s a great way to ease in potential players who would never bet on sports, but would like to take an active interest in other events such as entertainment and politics. This is one facet that is currently underused and could definitely see some growth.
3) Population growth – This is an obvious element of growth in the online gaming market. However, we need to understand that with the growth in population, we’re bringing forth everything that the older generation has established and learned with regards to the industry. Therefore, as population growth equates to a larger gaming demographic and therefore growth in the market, it allows the market to advance further and explore new frontiers.
Growing Markets – in the case of growing markets, the potential margin of growth is larger in relative terms (when compared to mature markets), but it is dependent on a few key factors:
1) Education – If we take Southeast Asia as an example, there are countries that are experiencing a poker boom (as in the Philippines, South Korea, and Singapore) as seen in the UK back in the early 2000s. The game is appearing on TV, in popular magazines, and in some cases mainstream advertising that helps to ‘educate’ the populace in order to back the poker boom. As more exposure of the game becomes realised, the potential for growth increases exponentially as it becomes a cultural norm. However, in the case of new and growing markets, this is something that requires the demographic to learn and adopt in order to localise gaming in an optimal fashion.
2) Legislation/legalisation – Although most unregulated markets exist in a grey area where online gambling is technically illegal but the state has no jurisdiction over sites hosted on servers overseas, regulation and legalisation of online gaming presents governments an opportunity to accrue revenue, along with allowing its netizens a legal and safe online platform that they are free to use.
3) Localisation – another margin of growth exists in localising the gaming industry. Gaming companies who wish to succeed in specific markets need to adjust their offering in order to accommodate the demand for various games. In East Asia, if you wish to successfully run a casino, you must have certain games. Pai Gow and Sic Bo are card games that are extremely popular in casinos throughout Asia. As for sports betting, the Asian demographic prefer Asian handicaps as opposed to traditional styles of betting seen in the West. Although this form of sports betting presents a lower margin for gaming companies, it is absolutely essential to offer handicap-bets in the growing Asian market if they wish to succeed.
How has online gaming evolved since OrientPlay LTD got to the industry?
KZ: The trend in the industry is to provide players with additional wagering choices to help in both acquisition/conversion, and player retention. Most of the successful new, and existing, operations provide players with the standard selection of casino games, but also additional choices like 3D games, poker, sports betting, bingo, and/or lottery. At OrientPlay we have recognized this and now offer 2 different poker rooms in addition to our core casino, and we are in the process of adding Live Casino game, Live Poker, Lottery, and other games.
How have iPhone, Blackberry and all smartphones in general influenced in online gaming in the last years?
KZ: The usage of the mobile application within the online gaming industry shows significant growth within the last years. 55% of Paddy Power’s players (one of the biggest bookmakers) regularly use smartphones (Blackberry ,iPhone, iPad and Android) in order to access services through their phone, which has increased the company’s revenue by more than 300% in 2010. Another leader, Betfair, is also prospering from bets placed from mobile devices increasing their revenue by 88% compared to the previous year. Developing mobile applications has become the key priority of these businesses and they are investing heavily into this endeavor.
One of the latest technologies of mobile betting utilize liquid layout, forming tabs into icons when shrinking the display window. Research suggests that traditional platforms will give way for smartphones while touch screen interfaces will see extraordinary growth in the online gaming industry.
What can you tell us about your recent launch, Apple Pie Poker?
AB: Apple Pie Poker is a newly established poker room that is already garnering acclaim and recognition for its excellent player experience and unparalleled flair. Apple Pie Poker’s branding concepts are exceptionally unique amongst a profusion of similar online poker rooms, and stands out with its chic artwork, a neo-vintage pasquinade in the style of art found in American advertising in the 1970s.
With regards to the poker room, MT said: “It’s been an arduous journey preparing everything for the launch of our brand new Cake Poker room, but the gentlemen at Cake have been extremely helpful and kind to make this process as smooth as possible. Today marks the day that our players will be able to play on the esteemed Cake Poker network, and the response from our players has been tremendously positive. Our players have spoken, and we’re happy to oblige. We’ve even added a Poker School written by yours truly.” He adds, “We’re not done yet. Apple Pie Poker is sponsoring two events comprising of four unique tournaments on their Cake Poker Room during the latter part of April and the middle of May. Thousands of dollars will be given away in prize money, along with two vacation packages to the sunny island of Malta, located in the southernmost Mediterranean region of Europe.”
“In the coming weeks, we’ll be launching yet another poker room to enrich the poker suite offered on Apple Pie Poker. You can expect to see the Enet Poker room on our platform in the near future, and you can bet that we’ll also be evolving our poker product to include other rooms as well.”
What kind of other products do you have to offer to online and remote players?
AB: We have been listening to the feedback from our valued players who were sending us suggestions for our new site design, and I think we have managed to incorporate most of them. I’m excited to see how easy it is now for our players to find the games that they want to play, and to quickly move from casino to poker. We designed the site so that we can seamlessly add our new live games from the Casino di Venezia and TopJack Games Lottery that will both be available to our players shortly.
Featuring an entirely new design, the new online casino has a fresh and appealing look, and features not only their full suite of World Match provided casino games, but also poker rooms provided by Everleaf and the Euro Cake Poker network.
Concurrent with the release of the new site are several exciting new features on their wide selection of new multiline slots, including Wild Cards, Magic Spins (which have a higher win frequency), Free Spins, Bonus Spins and Games, and Multipliers on both Bets and Wins. In addition the site has launched a new tournament-style feature called Casino Challenges, which provide players with the opportunity to earn extra cash while playing their favourite games.
MT: We wanted to ensure that our players had more games to choose from, including poker, and the new site design helps immensely. I am particularly happy that both players and affiliates can see all of their account information, and do all of their banking, without having to be taken to other sites. Players can easily deposit, withdraw, and transfer their money between our game platforms, and affiliates are paid automatically into non-restricted accounts. Overall it is a very positive customer experience.
What are your plans and objectives for the coming months?
AB: We know what our players are looking for and we know that the net is full of casinos and offers. We make every effort to accentuate quality as opposed to quantity. The key to our strategy is innovation and offering services that enable players to get the best and most exciting deals. We’ve got something extra special for our players in the coming months. We’ll be launching a brand new Casino Lunch Lottery, powered by TopJack Games, the world’s largest instant jackpots. This will include Lotto Games, a replica of the world’s most popular lottery game 6 from 49. Easy Life, which is a tailored lottery aimed at players who can choose the size of their jackpot based on their odds of winning. Jackpot Bingo, an instant version of 90 ball bingo, along with Jackpot Slots.
We will also have live streaming from Casinò di Venezia for numerous table games that will bring the live casino experience straight to our players’ homes. ApplePiePoker will be enhanced by Casinò di Venezia’s Live Poker platform. We will also be launching brand new mobile games for our Casino Lunch portfolio. We know how important mobile gaming has become and we are committed to building a solid portfolio of games to be released to market throughout the year. The industry is still growing at an amazing rate and it is more important than ever to channel players in the right direction, towards fun and safety. Casino Lunch has an impressive growth plan, not excluding all the fun that comes with it, and we’ll soon launch Casino Lunch TV, and the Casino Lunch Blog.