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Becky’s Affiliated: My Top 5 Takeaways from WGES 2016

TAGs: beckys affiliated, Editorial, Rebecca Liggero, WGES, WGES 2016, World Gaming Executive Summit

For the first time since our launch, the CalvinAyre.com film crew was invited to cover the World Gaming Executive Summit (WGES) at the W Hotel in Barcelona.  I sincerely enjoyed my time at this event because its intimate nature, beautiful location and accessibility to senior level gambling professionals.

Becky’s Affiliated: My Top 5 Takeaways from WGES 2016While there were a number of topics covered and discussed at WGES throughout its 2016 edition, I would like to share with you five main takeaways from my time at the event.

Brexit’s immediate impact on Gibraltar not as bad as it seems

When the UK’s EU referendum results were announced on Friday, June 24, 2016 there was a wave of doom and gloom rippling across the iGaming industry.  Gibraltar’s future as hub for the industry was under fire and all sorts of hypotheses and rumors began circulating, but these are the key words here- hypotheses and rumors.

The discussions surrounding Brexit at WGES were clam, reasonable, informed and coherent.  To be honest, Brexit was discussed less than I thought it would be and the discussions taking place were brief, simply because we don’t have enough information to start reacting yet.

When it comes to Gibraltar specifically, Phill Brear, Gibraltar’s Head of Gambling Regulation, was calm and said the EU has been a constraint historically, for example, Gibraltar has corporation tax because of the EU.  Take away the EU and the UK will certainly revisit its corporation tax model, he said.

Brear also pointed out the referendum does not mean the UK will exit the EU, meaning more steps need to happen first and if there should be a Brexit, Gibraltar has the agility to adapt.  Gibraltar based Lottoland have already said they don’t have any plans to relocate and at WGES Lottoland’s CEO Simon Birrell added it will be several years before we feel any significant changes, if any.

In any event, Brexit may not impact, destroy, divide, [insert word of choice here], our industry as much as we thought when the referendum results were first revealed.  Don’t forget there could be some beneficiaries such as Malta, but the message here is for all jurisdictions to continue focusing on providing their operators with the best service possible.

Virtual & augmented reality potential

For the past year or so we’ve been talking about virtual reality (VR) and the massive potential for this innovative technology within the online gambling industry.  I liked WGES speaker Raf Keusterman’s statement that VR games could go one of two ways- the creation of entirely new games using the technology or moving traditional games into a VR environment.  Playing blackjack on the moon, finding yourself inside a slot game, or even running around a roulette wheel were all examples of VR environments provided by Keustermans.

Alexandre Tomic, CEO and Co-Founder of Alea Digital, has plenty of plans for VR and online casino games but also sees an interesting opportunity for the land based world with augmented reality.  He used the example of customers seeing a path on the casino floor when trying to get from point A to point B, or seeing a big “WIN” sign above a slot machine on the floor that has just paid out a huge jackpot.

The point here is the possibilities with VR are endless and I do think the technology will change the gambling industry as we know it.

eSports opps for land based casinos

The opportunity in eSports betting for the online gambling industry (and land based casinos where regulations allow) has been another huge topic as of late.  What I hadn’t thought about is opportunity in eSports for land based casinos where sportsbetting is not legal.

Simon Thomas, CEO and owner of London’s Hippodrome Casino, recognizes the explosion we’re about to see in eSports and want to harness the opportunity to the best of his ability.  “We can’t take bets on eSports (or Virtual Sports) at the Hippodrome as regulations are crazy, but it’s a fantastic way of attracting more people into the building”, he told CalvinAyre.com at WGES.

The Hippodrome hosts “NFL Sundays” during the American Football season by showing games on big screens, offering drink specials and serving American bar food.  While football fans are unable to bet on the games onsite, they are exposed to the other attractions the Hippodrome has on offer.  Thomas plans to do the same for eSports and believes these fans in particular are a competitive group and will likely enjoy a good gamble on the casino floor.

African regulators are ready for action

At WGES there was one session dedicated to the African gambling market and speaker Dawid Muller of Gidani Ltd drilled home a point also made by Christina Thakor-Rankin in last week’s Becky’s Affiliated column- the African regulators are open-minded and ready for action.  These regulators may not be experienced, but they are willing to learn, willing to change old ways and have an appetite for success.

Muller said there is a great pressure on regulators in Africa to start licensing casinos and online gambling right now, but it’s a challenge, especially when dealing with old regulations.  Despite the kinks to work out, what’s so exciting here is the regulators have a keenness to get things moving- add this to a mobile device boom throughout the continent, a blossoming economy and a passion for gambling and you’ve got one of the hottest markets in the world ready to explode.

Beware of too much regulation

While everyone seems to be rooting for regulation in large markets such as America, South America, India and so on, what we don’t want is over-regulation followed by a lack of innovation.

How to create a seamless omni-channel experience was a popular topic at WGES and more than one C-level speaker mentioned regulatory challenges in this area.  “Regulation is not designed for omni-channel, the concept of a single wallet is beyond the scope of regulators”, said Marco Castaldo, GM of Microgame.  “Offline & online convergence needs to happen, but there are regulatory challenges”, said Johan Johan Törnqvist, CEO of Playn GO.

Victor Martyn, the 1998 World Champion of Starcraft, the world’s first eSports professional and CEO of GosuGamers.net, warned WGES delegates on the dangers of over-regulating eSports.  He said not to enforce strict, old rules on a vibrant industry like eSports otherwise we’ll kill it- don’t forget it, but don’t stick it into the same bucket as traditional sports, he advised.

On the bright side, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)’s Chairman Joseph Cuchieri presented his vision for Malta’s new regulatory regime at WGES, emphasizing his goal of providing an environment to operators enabling innovation and growth.  “The industry needs to thrive, to innovate.  Hundreds of millions are invested every year and we need to provide the environment for the industry to develop so the consumer gets a better experience”, he said.

So what does all this mean?  As I’ve said before, strict regulation is not the panacea some of us think it is, so lets be careful what we wish for.

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