Leaders and legends

in Features

Six of the iGaming industry’s most successful leaders took part in ‘The Return of the Leaders and Legends’ webinar on
2nd February.

The event was organised by Continent 8 Technologies, a managed hosting, security and global network solutions provider for online gaming, sports betting and eSports. Chief Revenue Officer Roberta Castle explains that the company started over 20 years ago in North America. “As European countries started to regulate we moved into Europe and our service then spread across the globe in response to their requirements, and we now have around 80% of the online gaming sector working with us and our network.”

“Following the hugely successful Leaders and Legends panel discussion at ICE London last year, we were determined to bring it back, but due to Covid and as we are unable to meet at the expo, we went digital with a webinar powered by EGR which attracted the biggest ever audience for one of their virtual events with more than 1,000 registered to watch,” Roberta states. 

The event was moderated once again by Micky Swindale (Partner, KPMG Global Gaming Team) who people will know as Managing Director of their Gibraltar practice from 2013 to 2015. “Huge thanks go to Micky who was an amazing moderator and someone who was known by all the panellists,” Roberta says. “Our job was to pull it all together and coordinate the webinar behind the scenes.”

The expert panel of speakers was increased from four the previous year to six and consisted of Matt King, CEO FanDuel Group, John Coleman, CEO Microgaming, Shimon Akad, COO Playtech, Jordan Levin, CEO Scientific Games Digital, Yaniv Sherman, Senior VP, US, 888 holdings PLC and Matt Kalish, Co-founder and President of North America, DraftKings.

There are plans to make the panel discussion an ongoing event. “We hope to continue to build on the success of the last two events; although the digital event is very good because it widens the audience, we hope to do this annually at ICE in some form – maybe a physical event again next year,” Roberta remarks. The iGaming industry is a competitive one and Continent 8 acts as a neutral party able to bring together a group of experts and their peers. “Our panellists are keen to support the event and in fact we have already been approached by other Operators seeking to take part in next year’s panel.” 

There were several key takeaways from the panel discussion, with the impact of the pandemic something that was acknowledged by the panellists as having been a challenge. However, it was agreed that 2020 had also been a valuable learning experience from a business and industry perspective, driving businesses in the industry to find new ways of working and to think even more creatively about how to engage with customers.

“It was a year of learning from a team perspective. No one had all the answers, and there was a lot of improvisation.”… Jordan Levin, CEO Scientific Games Digital.

A strong focus on the US sports betting market again produced agreement among the leaders and legends that the pandemic had accelerated trends which were already emerging before it began, and that 2020 was a significant year for sports betting in the US in terms of it becoming more widely accepted by sports fans, leagues, teams, media and regulators and that the industry is moving towards being part of the mainstream.

“Playtech see the US as the biggest opportunity for online, anywhere in the world – and they expect the market to be worth tens of billions in the next five years or so. A key factor behind the rapid growth of the market was the fact that US players are already accustomed to eCommerce.”… Shimon Akad, COO, Playtech.

Commenting on security and compliance risks, CEO of Microgaming John Coleman said that their single biggest compliance risk right now is just how to stay compliant across multiple regulated markets.  “As we look at new and emerging regulated markets – and even changes within existing regulated markets – the more changes there are in terms of diversification creates a real technological challenge.” He went on to say that “it would be nice if there was more co-ordination amongst jurisdictions – it would certainly make our lives easier and I think it would protect the players even more than they are now.”

Micky Swindale says that from her point of view it was fantastic to be asked to moderate for a second year. “There aren’t many other panels that have such levels of executives from such a wide group of firms and it is testament to Continent 8 that they can get that group of leaders to want to come together at all – that is the real power of that panel and they were able to give some real insights as to what’s happening in the gaming world.”

Micky states that the focus on the US was because it is an area that’s expanding rapidly. “We talked about a number of other emerging markets but if we look at the speed of change and the potential of the US market, particularly when you compare it to Europe, then it is inevitable that given a lot of the online expertise and talent is perceived to be in Europe that a lot of that focus falls on the US because that is the area that’s expanding in online gaming.”

As leader of KPMG’s Inclusion and Diversity Initiative for the sector Micky comments the fact can’t be ignored that in what is seen as a rather male dominated industry, it was an all-male panel. “It was the same last year and I teased them about that then, but one of the people that was on last year’s panel and unfortunately was unable to participate this year was Shay Segev from Entain (now Co-CEO at DAZN Group) – and of course Shay’s successor at Entain as CEO is a woman – Jette Nygaard-Anderson who becomes one of six female chief executives in the FTSE 100, so that is a really positive thing for the gaming industry and it would be great if Jette was on the panel next year.”  

KPMG usually run face-to-face leadership events as part of their eGaming summits held annually in the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar. “Last May should have been our 10th anniversary summit in Gibraltar which of course had to be cancelled, but we are currently in discussions about whether we can run an event much later this year,” she states. “Because of that we have had a lot of focus about what is of interest in Gibraltar and obviously we have still got the ramifications of Brexit and what will unfold from that.” 

Gibraltar has long been the blue chip gaming jurisdiction, it positioned itself as that from the outset and as a result the vast majority of UK operators had big bricks and mortar operations in Gibraltar. “That has changed somewhat over recent years, and Malta in particular has been a beneficiary of Brexit and the uncertainties that came with it, but the enduring legacy of Gibraltar is that everybody that lives and spends time there wants to stay there and views it with enormous love.” Micky says that is why Gibraltar has been able to maintain such a significant footprint despite the uncertainties, but it is also having a Government and a Regulator who understand and support the industry – and can balance regulation with commerciality.

Although the outlook for the gaming sector in Gibraltar is a hot topic, Continent 8 is keen to stress that it is heavily invested in Gibraltar and will soon be launching a new cloud service there.“Whilst a lot of our customers are in the gaming industry, we are looking to diversify and have some very interesting projects that will hopefully widen the reach of what can be served from Gibraltar and connect it to others outside of Europe as well,” Roberta says. 

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