ow was this year for the company in each of the markets it operates in? What were the main difficulties you had to face? What business opportunities could you take advantage of?
2013 has been a highly successful year for Evolution as we’ve strengthened our Live Casino market share both geographically and in terms of products. We’ve released more new products and product enhancements in the past year than in any previous year. We have also launched into new jurisdictions and new vertical markets.
Each market has been buoyant, which is very positive, and we continue to expand. Just prior to ICE 2013 we launched our 100th table at our Riga studios. As the year closes we are getting ready for the opening of a second central studio, in Malta, which will add capacity for a further 50-plus tables.
In terms of new markets and products, there are many highlights.
After a great deal of hard work and planning we went live in Spain with our shared Spanish Live Roulette studio, open to all Spanish operators, at Casino Rincon de Pepe in Murcia.
Mid-year we signed an agreement with SHFL entertainment, Inc., which gives Evolution the rights to include many of SHFL’s specialty table game titles in our Live Casino games portfolio.
We also became the first Live Casino provider to gain a temporary licence to operate in the state of New Jersey in the US – and to date we remain the only such provider approved for New Jersey. As well as making key strategic inroads into North America, we began working with Codere in Latin America, bringing our live dealer games to the screens of EGMs.
As is often the case, the main challenges related to legislation. We continue to operate in a period of great change, but frequently Live Casino is not at the forefront of changing regulations. However, this gives us an opportunity to work closely with regulators to advise on how things have been done in other jurisdictions and how similar principles could be applied successfully in the jurisdiction in question.
Business opportunities in all our key markets have flowed from our focus on product development and product range extension. To round up our key releases, we launched our iPad betting interface as part of Lottomatica’s nightly Live Casino TV show in Italy; we extended our Mobile offering to the leading Android tablets and smartphones as well as iPhone; we launched Immersive Roulette, the world’s most advanced live online Roulette game; we introduced Multi-Game Play to allow up to four live games to be viewed and played simultaneously in one window; we enhanced our world’s fastest Live Blackjack game with 21+3 and Perfect Pairs side bets; and we have our Live Casino version of SHFL’s Three Card Poker rolling out and the list goes on. As I said earlier, in terms of new products it’s been our busiest and most exciting year ever.
In terms of your core products, what was your greatest innovation in 2013?
That would have to be Immersive Roulette. We have taken our world-leading online Live Roulette and presented it in a similar way to live sporting action. Each game is presented via multiple HD camera views and slow motion action replays. Players can follow every movement of the wheel and ball in close-up. Camera sequences follow a general pattern but are randomised, so the visual experience of every game is dynamic and different, just like the outcome. Immersive Roulette adds even more excitement and drama to Live Roulette – it is quite simply the most advanced Roulette game available online.
Running Immersive Roulette a close second would have to be the widening of our mobile offering. Our full product offering is now available across multiple devices, with each mobile solution optimised specifically for each device’s screen size and OS. Also, when we make a game available via mobile we make all tables available not just one or two. So we now offer unprecedented choice for players not just in terms of number of tables but also in the means of access.
What are the most important agreements you've closed?
The SHFL agreement mentioned earlier is important in that it was a clear signal of our intent to become the Live Casino partner of choice for progressive operators in North America – US and Canada. At the same time it’s an agreement that will open up a whole new portfolio of hugely popular specialty table games – starting with Live Three Card Poker – for our European clients.
In terms of new clients, Mr Green, LeoVegas, Vera&John and Merkur all selected Evolution in the last quarter. But even more telling is the number of existing clients who have extended their agreements with us and are choosing to extend and enhance their Live Casino offering. They are doing this in a number of ways – adding new games and additional tables, upgrading their branded backdrops, extending and rebranding their dedicated environments, deploying dedicated teams, and adding native speaking dealer tables. It’s this continued strong demand from both new and existing clients that was behind our decision to open a second central studio in Malta.
Bearing in mind the types of products and services you offer, which has the greatest growth potential and why?
Two categories immediately spring to mind – mobile and in-casino live studios.
Mobile has huge potential for growth, particularly with the rollout of 4G and faster connections. But I don’t feel that the uptake in Live Casino mobile play will be at the expense of play on desktop computers and laptops. Our experience to date is that the longer playing sessions are highest amongst players using both desktop and mobile devices, at different times and on different days. So, it’s about mobile convenience and portability, about fitting in with players’ lifestyles and rounding out a multi-channel service offering, not cannibalising playing time on larger screen devices.
The second growth area is the opportunity for land-based casinos to extend their offering online to maximise the value of their brands.
This can be achieved by using services from an existing Live Casino studio – our Riga studios, for example, or our Spanish Live Roulette service.
Alternatively it can be achieved by deploying a dedicated in-venue live studio on the gaming floor of a land-based casino. Interest in this latter option has taken a little while to warm up, but we are now seeing the market leaders investing in this area. Right now we are finalising plans to install an in-venue live studio at Casinó Campione. Initially we will offer Roulette, Blackjack and Baccarat .
An in-venue live studio opens up so many opportunities to deliver a seamless offline and online service. Implemented correctly, and ultimately underpinned by a single loyalty system, it’s part of a forward-thinking multi-channel strategy that can maximise loyalty and revenue from existing customers while also attracting new customers and new demographics to the land-based venue.
Beyond your company, what is your view of the global gaming industry?
Generally there appears to be genuine optimism that things are improving across the whole gaming sector.
Live Casino has sustained continued significant growth as licensees recognise the value of a Live Casino offering. I was going to say we have been lucky, but I think it’s more than luck. Live Casino is genuinely an engine of growth and we are able to demonstrate tangible return on investment to our clients.
In terms of all sectors, several jurisdictions have regulated in the last 12 months and there are several more finalising that process at the moment. The outcomes will strongly influence the fortunes of many companies in the industry during 2014 and beyond.
Also, as I touched on in my previous answer, I believe we will see greater movement of land-based casinos into the online world as they look to maximise the value of their brand. Rather than worrying about the cannibalisation of their revenues by online, they will see that incremental revenue can be gained by offering a fully rounded multi-channel service that meets their customers’ needs.
What are expectations like for 2014? What are your next goals as a company?
We have high expectations for several reasons.We will kick-start the new year with the opening of our new studio in Malta, which will add significant further capacity to our main central studio in Riga. Malta will become the home to our international dealer teams and native speaking dealer tables. This will free up even more space in which to create dedicated environments in Riga.
Early in 2014 we will also see the launch of the in-venue live studio we are creating for Casinó Campione on the shores of Lake Lugano In Italy.
Alongside expansion in Europe, North America will become a key focus – not just in New Jersey, where we recently became the first and only Live Casino temporary licence holder (at the time of writing), but in Canada too.
Our next goals are to continue to deliver a market-leading Live Casino service to licensees in our European markets; to increase our foothold in Europe and make further progress in North America; and to continue to be alert and responsive to new market opportunities generally as legislation changes.
Overall, we will continue to create and develop live gaming innovations and solutions that enable our licensees to grow their business and differentiate themselves in what is an ever-growing and ever-more competitive market.