Start-up company Hold Gaming specializes in creating online skill-based casino games with a goal of tackling the regulated U.S. online casino market in the same way DraftKings has tackled the U.S. online sports betting market.
At present, Hold Gaming has developed games that are available and fully compliant in up to 40 U.S. states, making a U.S. audience more accessible to operators than ever. These games combine elements of skill, social casino, iGaming and eSports in a way that appeals to the coveted younger generation while falling under existing U.S. regulations.
So how in the world are these online games legal in so many states? Hold Gaming’s CEO Phil Runyan was happy to share his answer.
“We have amended the style of play enough to where users truly have equal footing and its their skill in math and probability and the speed in which they can do these things that truly makes it a game of skill, so much so that Apple without even flinching gave us the go-ahead to operate on their platform”, explained Runyan.
“Typically, when these things really are operating in a grey space, [Apple] will just go, ‘you know what, we don’t want to touch it’ and they with open arms greeted us, we made very strong, compelling arguments about our gameplay and why it is skill-based”, he revealed.
While iGaming is still quite limited in the United States, leaving a huge pool of customers for Hold Gaming, Runyan is not concerned about widespread regulation in future. He has a clear vision of the role his company’s games will play as regulation rolls on and more states open their doors to online gambling.
“I think we’re a great on-ramp for those companies that both abroad as well as here in the U.S., the operators and the suppliers. I still think we’re probably a good three to five years before [widespread regulation] happens”, Runyan said.
“Especially with repeal of PASPA and everybody is so hyper-focused on this one thing which is sports betting, which is good for us because there are a lot of people who will not wager on sports but love to play these types of casino games that we’re going after”, he said.
“We’ll continue to grow our base. We are in a way the same way that DraftKings operated which is, if we can do the next closest thing to sports betting and then from there when it does get, when PASPA was eventually repealed, they can then convert all those people over to real money players. That’s exactly what our strategy is”, Runyan added.
Compliance is one of the biggest buzz words in the online gambling industry, with so many different rules and regulations in place across geographical regions and constant changes to regulation as time goes on. For this reason, to stay at the top of their game, Runyan has built compliance into his platform from the ground up.
“We have an ‘act as if’ policy here. We don’t want to find ourselves 50 feet from the finish line in either acquisition or partnership only to find out that 14-year old in Malaysia have been playing cash games”, said Runyan.
“Its because of that we’ve built in strong AML and KYC compliance tools. We know exactly where you are, your physical device. We’ve even tested this against GPS spoofing which we became very popular with the Pokémon Go games”, he said.
“Before people even get a chance to get their toe in the water in cash games, they have to still verify age but not in a very intrusive manner”, Runyan explained.
“And then once they get up to playing those cash games for cash prizes, then we start to layer in additional layers of protection for the consumer as well as for us and our partners to ensure that the only people who are participating are the people who should be there because ultimately its not worth the fines and the penalties”, he added.
When it comes to future plans, Hold Gaming is just getting started. In addition to working on another card game and some spin-based content, they are expanding their footprint into additional markets where regulations are tight and iGaming is limited.
“We have launched in Australia as well, so we do operate there, looking at Canada next, really over-regulated markets, very similar to the United States, where people can’t just play these games but they have skill-based legislation in place to be able to protect consumers as well as allow people to operate”, Runyan said.
“So that’s really our next big play, we’re going to continue to expand our footprint from a country perspective as well as our content”, he added.