I’ve always regarded Pinnacle one of the online gambling industry’s strongest operators backed by one of the industry’s most respected leaders. Put aside the fact Pinnacle’s CEO is a rare female in a C-level position within iGaming, Paris Smith has been successfully leading her organization for over a decade and has rightfully earned the respect of internal and external iGaming professionals alike.
Pinnacle has maintained its position as a powerhouse in online sports betting since its inception in 1998 and is now recognized as the leader in eSports offerings, an area of sports betting Pinnacle has built up since 2010.
Running such a finely oiled machine is quite an accomplishment for Smith and learning what goes on behind the scenes at Pinnacle was the purpose of this interview. Smith and I have plans to meet in person shortly, so stay tuned for an on-camera follow up conversion coming soon.
Becky Liggero (BL): Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today, Paris. We all recognize Pinnacle as an industry leader in sports betting, how have you managed to maintain one of the best offerings on the market for so many years?
Paris Smith (PS) Unsurprisingly Pinnacle’s success and popularity is closely linked to the market leading odds we offer on multiple sports day in, day out. Our low margin model, high limits and the fact that we welcome winners (rather than exclude them) also differentiate us from any other operator in the market.
BL: Your model is certainly one of a kind. Can you provide us with a quick update on Pinnacle’s eSports offering? How are the numbers progressing in terms of growth and in comparison to other sports offerings at Pinnacle?
PS – eSports betting has gone from strength to strength for us. We recently passed the 5 million bet mark and if we keep on this trajectory we should pass 10 million sometime in January of next year. This is an incredible accomplishment for Pinnacle and the eSports trading team as we started from scratch just 7 years ago in 2010. Back then there was no eSports betting market – and now it’s our 6th biggest market by bet count – beating sports as established as hockey.
BL: Impressive accomplishment, Paris- congrats. How will Pinnacle continue to grow their eSports offering in 2017 and beyond?
PS – We’re in the middle of a total overhaul of our eSports Hub and are investing in the marketing team as well as marketing spend. Whilst we’re keen to defend our #1 positioning in eSports betting we’re unlikely to invest huge amounts into team sponsorships and events like our competitors. Our intention is to be a legitimate supporter and partner in educating players on how to bet strategically and responsibly. That said, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve for the new Hub launch and I’m very excited to see the potential fully achieved.
BL: Interesting that you’re not going to go the sponsorhip route as your competitors are doing, can you provide specific examples of how you plan to maintain your position as industry leader in eSports?
PS – As I said, we want to remain embedded in the DNA of eSports at a grass roots level. Being authentic, supporting fans and partnering with eSports media and affiliates are our keystone. We’ll look for tactical opportunities and markets in which to push one off campaigns if the fit is right and the ROI adds up.
BL: Got it, thank you. Switching gears here a bit, Pinnacle led the race to the border with Poland. What are your thoughts on such protectionist EU countries and their newly imposed regulations?
PS – I can’t comment on decisions made by jurisdictions or regulatory bodies. We’ll continue to follow the letter of the law in any market we operate in. Sometimes that means we need to withdraw from markets where Pinnacle is hugely popular, as was the recent case with Poland. It’s a shame, but that’s the nature of the evolving regulatory environment we exist in.
BL: Agreed, it is a shame, especially for the consumers. So there’s a bit of internal drama in Antigua with regards to gaming regulations and we understand Pinnacle doesn’t plan on renewing the license for your Antigua-licensed subsidiary. What would it take for you to consider returning?
PS – Once again, it’s not my place to comment on jurisdictional regulations. What I can say, is that we’ll continue to explore license opportunities and prepare applications if a license helps meet Pinnacle’s business objectives in the long term.
BL: Understood. Before closing out, I would just like to say what a pleasure its been talking with a professional who has been at the helm of Pinnacle for over a decade and is clearly a big part of the company’s success. What’s your number one secret as one of the industry’s most respected leaders?
PS – I’d have to say hiring the best talent and nurturing it. You’ve got to encourage your team to thrive and grow professionally. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’m lucky to work with an incredibly strong, intelligent and motivated team of people across all our different offices worldwide. They’re the beating heart of what makes Pinnacle tick and I value their contribution and input every day.
BL: I love it, Paris. I’ve heard you speak of Pinnacle’s outstanding talent on panels at various events in the past, clearly you’re very proud of your team. Thank you so much for joining me today and I look forward to a face-to-face chat the next time we’re in the same city.