Exclusive interview with Evolution's Commercial Director of North America, Jeff Millar

"We need to keep appealing to entirely new player demographics to stay this resilient and effective"

Jeff Millar, Commercial Director of North America, Evolution.
2021-09-29
United States
Reading time 5:58 min
As it readies for G2E, Evolution will launch in Connecticut next month, and before the end of 2021 it plans to launch in Ontario, where it's already working with over a dozen operators. Each market will have a new live dealer studio and slot games from Red Tiger, NetEnt, with new BTG titles planned for 2022. "The pandemic has made people more comfortable with video streaming, and how it can be applied to live casino games," Jeff Millar tells Yogonet.

What will be the main products that Evolution will present and focus on this year in Las Vegas?

There’s a broad spectrum of products we’re going to be focusing on this year, including our big push for Red Tiger games, new Live Casino games such as Craps and Lightning Roulette, as well as exciting NetEnt titles. There’s a real thrill this year, and we’ll be discussing the innovative ways we can work with our customers to make their player experience truly unique. We’re excited to offer operators the opportunity for customized live dealer studios, that match their branding and theme. We also have RNG games that can be figured to use the colors and logo of the operator. Flexibility and creativity are key when working with our customers, and we look forward to these in-person meetings at G2E – they’re a great opportunity. Although Evolution will not have a stand this year, we will be gathering with our customers at our reserved meeting rooms just outside the exhibition hall.

Considering the current pandemic scenario, where land-based reopenings are already at high levels in several jurisdictions, what are your expectations for G2E’s return to Las Vegas, under the new restrictions? What does this mean for the company, and the igaming industry in general?

During the pandemic, we had to learn new ways of working in order to continue developing and releasing new products. We had to ensure that the level of customer care to our partners remained excellent and that we were providing state-of-the-art gaming experiences to players. That’s not an easy thing when you’re lacking that in-person connection. The industry has a resilient customer base – the pandemic proved that. But what it highlighted is the need to keep building new partnerships. The G2E event is going to be another step in the return to normal and gives us the chance to make that human connection. We’re looking forward to networking and building those relationships with industry leaders.

In the US, the first Michigan live casino studio went live in July with nine operators. What’s the current situation of that business today, considering performance and feedback so far, and what are your outlooks in the coming months for that state?

Michigan was an exciting launch for us – we were the first provider to launch live casino to players in the state and it marked another major step in our US growth plan. We continue to expand our studio in Michigan. We originally launched the studio with around 10 operators and the live tables are continuing to grow and set to increase rapidly in the next few weeks. We have exceeded the expectations of our customers and we don’t see the growth slowing down anytime soon.

The company has said new studios are planned both in North America and in Europe, and also two new delivery hubs in Europe this year. What are your goals for those expansions, and which specific impact do you think they will have? Does this expansion respond to increased demand from operators looking to enhance their digital offerings amid the pandemic, especially Live Casino? What are the operators' and players’ current demands?

Our growth in North America seems to be limitless. In October, we’ll launch in Connecticut and before the end of the year we plan to launch in Ontario. Each market will have a new live dealer studio and we’ll be introducing our popular slot games from Red Tiger, NetEnt, and later from BTG. The truth is, we learned a lot from the pandemic. It proved that our industry is resilient, that our customer base is strong, and while we had to learn how to adapt to new situations, the industry proved that it was at the forefront of innovation and creativity. We did learn one thing in particular – we need to keep appealing to entirely new player demographics if we are to keep on being this resilient and effective. We need to keep being at the cutting-edge of innovation to engage new players that may have never considered the slot space or Live Casino before. And this is why North America is so exciting. This market remains relatively untouched by iGaming because it’s such a fresh idea. We seem to do a better job with each new market opening – we learn from each studio that opens and get better at launching products and serving customers. It gives us the perfect opportunity to put the lessons from the last year into practice.

Which role is the acquisition of Big Time Gaming playing in your strategy?

We are thrilled to have BTG as part of the Evolution family. BTG is known for their innovation and creativity. Prior to the acquisition, BTG had executed several licensing agreements with other suppliers. These games are some of the most successful games in the industry. Evolution will continue to honor these legacy license agreements, and operators can expect to continue to offer them to their players with no disruption. Going forward, BTG has been working on exciting new titles that will be proprietary to Evolution and will be part of our offering alongside NetEnt and Red Tiger. We expect these new, feature-rich BTG titles to be introduced in 2022.

Could you share any other plans and goals in the Americas, including the emerging igaming market in Ontario?

The Ontario market is a massive opportunity, and we are proactively preparing for the opening. With a population of close to 15 million people, it surpasses the size of any US state where iGaming is legal and we’re already working with over a dozen operators who plan to obtain a commercial license. That being said, we are confident that there will be even more North American markets that will follow – and we’re prepared to move quickly. The pandemic has made people more comfortable with video streaming, and how it can be applied to live casino games. The whole concept remains slightly foreign, and we need to keep in mind those localized approaches to game design that will resonate with players, but we’re still impressed with the level of player adoption of our live dealer service. More US players are transitioning from the land-based casino to online, and we hope to follow in the footsteps of online sports betting and to demonstrate how our casino products can complement this kind of offering in a responsible way. The goal here is to be ready to serve operators on day one when a new iGaming market opens.

Evolution CEO Martin Carlesund said in July that the company wants “to re-shape the Online Casino market in the world”. How to you plan to do this, which are the key resources and innovations with that aim? This year you have launched the world’s first live casino game to use VR, Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt. Can we expect more developments like this, or any other emerging technology?

We have always been the one to push boundaries, to push the realm of the possible when it comes to the iGaming industry. A ‘world first’ is a good way to describe what we do and who we are. Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt is one of many examples of a new and bright piece of technology coming into the industry and changing the fabric of what players can experience. We’ve been watching VR technology for a while – players love it and we’re looking forward to experimenting with this kind of technology in the future. But we’ve always just recently launched a new market first: NFT MegwaysTM. It’s the world’s first slot game to integrate NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and feature four unique, Larva Labs-created CryptoPunks. It’s a game that’s taken this crypto trend and transformed it into a form of entertainment – and that’s what drives our ability to re-shape the market, our capability for seeing a unique idea and applying it to our game portfolio.

On the near horizon, the rollout of our Red Tiger Games in the US and Canada will include some innovative online jackpot features. Operators will have the ability to configure their jackpot pools with a set time limit of when the jackpot must be won, and the ability to guarantee that a progressive jackpot will be won each hour, or each day. This is going to create a sense of urgency amongst players who are chasing the jackpot and watching the expiration countdown. We will continue to think of new ways to reshape the gaming experience - to make it more enjoyable for the players and more valuable for the operators.

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