International edition
September 29, 2020

Arcangelo Lonoce, Habanero's Head of Business Development, Europe

"Gambling works around psychology that is not much affected by societal and technological changes"

"There will be a situation where players will be accustomed to a type of technological or digital entertainment that at the moment gambling is barely looking at," says Habanero's Arcangelo Lonoce.
Argentina | 12/20/2019

Yogonet spoke with Lonoce and Vera Motto, Business Development executive. They say what seems to appeal to land-based players is the mathematics of the games, and Habanero focuses on the tradition of slots, different from video games. They see a big market for this in Argentina, and are already moving forward with business contacts for when the regulatory process is completed. The firm entered Colombia, Portugal, expects expansion in Mexico, and globally once it receives Malta license.

W

hy have you decided to attend SAGSE this year, what were your goals and feedback?

Vera Motto: We decided to participate for the first time here especially for the regulation of online gambling in the city and the province of Buenos Aires at this time. We hope that the licenses come out soon. We had the opportunity to speak with many influential people here, including lotteries, and licenses are expected to be awarded in March. We are very interested in working here as soon as the market is regulated. We are happy to have come this year at the perfect time, and we are already moving forward with business contacts in order to be ready as soon as the entire regulatory process is completed. Everyone is waiting for the licenses to come out, we are all very optimistic and we think that next year we can start doing business here.

What kinds of partnerships would you be after in that sense?

Motto: We are interested in looking for operators here to provide them with our content, and bring our casino games here. Habanero has an adequate portfolio for the Argentine players, who we have understood that come from the land-based vertical, and our slots have a style the players like.

Arcangelo Lonoce: We have over 100 games, 100 slot machines. As you imagine, for so many slot machines, we would have something for everybody. What really seems to appeal to players that come from the land-based is the mathematics of the game. Habanero produces slots of very high entertainment value, but it pays a lot of attention to the tradition of slot machines. So we don't like to propose games that look like video games, that completely move away from what the tradition is. We understand that there is a big market for this in Argentina.

What are your expansion, growth plans for next year?

Lonoce: Next year will be interesting because we will bring to fruition a lot of preparation that we've been doing from a regulatory perspective in Europe specifically. At the moment, we have been among the market leaders in Asia for quite some time. And as far as Asia is concerned, we want to expand our influence into territories that we might have not necessarily targeting over the past few years for a series of reasons. As for Europe, we have spent the last two years signing important deals, growing our footprint in countries such as for example, Italy, the CIS, closing deals in the Iberian region, we achieved quite a few deals in Spain, where we are not live yet because we're waiting for final certification. We're going live in Portugal for the first time ever. So as far as Europe is concerned, we should be receiving Malta license, which will allow us to finally debut with a series of global clients that we have already effectively signed, or we are live with in specific regulated markets. Malta license will broaden our possibilities to distribute games further than local regulations. At the same time, we are heavily targeting Latin America. So we'll go live in Colombia for the first time, we are live in Mexico already, and we will expand our presence in Mexico quite dramatically in the next couple of months. Of course we are here in Argentina because we are trying to understand how the opportunities are moving forward. We're in fact very pleased that the outlooks seem to be very positive compared to what we experienced a few months ago, when there was a bit of an atmosphere of panic for a while. Now we're actually very excited about the opportunities in Argentina, in Buenos Aires.

What’s your approach to the US market?

Lonoce: We are not looking in the US, of course it's something that is very in the background, but we have so many tangible opportunities to bring to fruition very quickly and I would say organically in Europe and in Latin America and... who knows? In other territories, we've been looking at India for a while. At the moment, regulated markets in Europe are extremely exciting, and the same goes for Latin America. It goes without saying, you don't need to be graduated in geo-economics to understand that the potential is immense. Colombia has shown specifically in the past few months there is a virtuous, mature regulatory environment in the region. And like it happened in Europe ten years ago, I think everybody's looking at LatAm now. So it's very exciting times. We will definitely be looking at Latin America with a lot of attention and prioritizing the opportunities here.

How are Habanero products evolving to address different and new players' profiles within LatAm jurisdictions?

Lonoce: I've been involved with this industry for 17 years, and innovation and evolution are very touchy-feely when it comes to gambling. The new generations of players are an assumption of this time. The assumption is that the new generation of players will be moving towards platforms of accessibility and dynamics that are radically different from what has been working for the last 100 years. So the assumption, in my opinion, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt because gambling works around psychology that in my opinion is not very much affected by societal changes and the technological change, in my personal experience. Of course, the ways people gamble can, have been, and will be affected. But at the same time, when you talk about, for example, a supplier like Habanero, which makes games, looks for delivering games, then we need to be very careful not to play with fire because, like it has been shown many times already in the past, we need to respect the will to gamble of the gamblers. The gamblers want to gamble, basically. So there's a lot of interest in different ways of acquiring players, entertaining players, distributing the content to different media, different platforms. There will be a situation where players will be accustomed to a type of technological or digital entertainment that at the moment gambling is barely looking at. For example, you think about eSports and things like that, which in some parts of the world are completely monopolizing the way the dynamics of gaming is being changed. That doesn't necessarily mean that machines will have to turn into something else. For example, social gaming has been going on for a quite some time, virtual gaming as well. In my personal experience, I've seen much interaction between casual gamers, social gamers and hard gamers. Habanero at the moment cannot predict the future, but I would be surprised if Habanero became something different from a supplier that provides excellent solution for hard gamers, for gamblers. When it comes to elements for gamification, for example marketing tools, interaction with the games, Habanero has already provided a series of solutions they were looking into enriching the experience of the player from this perspective. However, this past year we have gone back in time, in a way. After spending 2018 releasing games that were quite reaching gamification, bespoke feature rounds, and things like that, we started 2019 releasing two fruit games, and those were the first fruit games that Habanero ever released, since the company started in 2013. It's paradoxical, but that's the way it is. Because we realized that we lacked fruit games, and there was a massive need of fruit games in the market. And the same goes for three reelers, one liners. We didn't have anything like that in our portfolio. So our first three-reel slot came out in 2019, year six of Habanero history, when we had already grown a lot in many parts of the world. So it's interesting when you have a situation when there is obviously a need for development and innovation, but then the next thing you know is that tradition pays the bills. We want to be ready to serve players everywhere in the world without ever becoming lazy, without ever assuming that things are in a certain way. We're very much aware of how things are moving forward in different parts of the world. We were just talking about how we seem to understand that in some territories the player base online will be somewhat similar to what the territories see on retail, in land-based. Disruptive is an adjective that everybody seems to be going crazy for these days. I wouldn't disrupt something that works perfectly well, to be honest. It's important to disrupt and innovative, but it's not the core of what we do. 

Do you see there could be an infrastructure problem in LatAm?

Lonoce: We don't see a problem like that. We've penetrated the market before the technological revolution really kicked off. For example, now everybody talks about how incredibly technological Asia is now, but five years ago it wasn't the case. So the games are made and built in a way that delivery of the games is usually suitable to all infrastructural set ups in terms of loading times, loading gradually. Basically the games will download the very small number of data at the beginning, and then they will load gradually. So when it comes to 5G for example, our games really don't 5G to work, they work perfectly on 3G, they download very quickly. Players can start playing the game in seconds. From our own infrastructure, we are ready to serve different territories very quickly. We have servers in different locations in the world. Like I said, our games are extremely light on all platforms. We haven't used Flash since 2015. So we see no problem at all in Latin America or anywhere else.

Are you planning any launches any time soon?

Motto: We still have a release towards the end of the year, the Christmas-themed slot. It is the third Christmas slot, and seasonal slots always perform very well.

Lonoce: We have a series of launches when it comes to operators, we're very excited. We’re operating in Colombia, and there will be more coming. There are some really important developments globally, in Italy, Portugal. So there are launches all the time. It's exciting times for Habanero, because with just six years old, we have consolidated our presence in Asia a long time ago now. And these past two years we have grown fantastically in Europe in particular. So as of this year, we have started answering what Latin America was asking us. We've already been contacted by a lot of LatAm operators, and we have had opportunities in Latin America, but we've never really taken them. Not because Latin America wasn't ready, but Habanero wasn't ready. Habanero was focused in Europe for the past two years. Latin America is very exciting for us. We recently signed a deal with Patagonia and there a few more coming in the next few weeks and months. We are already here, and we will definitely grow as fast as we can.

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