Bragg Gaming CEO Richard Carter on the US opportunity
Richard Carter, chief executive officer of Bragg Gaming Group, shares his thoughts on the North American market ahead of the Gaming Intelligence Awards
It has been a remarkable year for the industry in the US market. What is your take on the market forces driving the consolidation and where does it go from here?
Indeed, the US online market has had a remarkable year, with new markets like Michigan and Connecticut coming online and with considerable growth in established markets. New Jersey, for example, just announced that in September its internet gaming win increased 39.9 per cent over August, bringing its year-to-date total to just under $1bn ($988.7m). Likewise, Pennsylvania experienced record iGaming revenue in September with gross revenues of $98m, a 71 per cent increase over the same prior year period, and both states are expected to continue setting new records as the year concludes.
Of course, the rapid expansion of mobile sports betting throughout North America is a key factor driving industry growth, and the US online market is experiencing growing interest from new sports betting jurisdictions which are also considering legalizing iGaming. We’re seeing a wealth of new companies from Europe, in particular, who are looking to enter the market to capitalize on this growth, and we’re seeing increased consolidation of existing iGaming operators and technology and content providers who are combining to leverage their complementary strengths and be better positioned to go after the market expansion. We anticipate that this will continue, especially as existing markets continue to post record results and other markets rush to come online to avoid being left behind.
Talk us through Bragg’s part in that consolidation. And where do you see the company in two-three years’ time?
As online gaming has grown in North America, we’ve been aggressive in searching out and acquiring entities that enhance our ability to meet our strategic growth goals. Earlier this year we acquired Wild Streak Gaming, and our pending acquisition of Spin Games should close by year-end. Both of these acquisitions help us expand our ability to support our existing client base and go after new market opportunities, and we are always reviewing other potential acquisitions from an M&A and strategic alliance perspective to ensure that we are well positioned to quickly pursue new markets and other expansion opportunities as they arise.
Tell us about the importance of iGaming in a market that has been dominated by sports betting thus far?
We consider iGaming to be a critical additive vertical for land-based and sports betting markets: as the most recent revenue results released by New Jersey and Pennsylvania attest, iGaming’s demand is growing, and is a key enhancement to other gaming products and services. As such, we expect that we will continue to see markets that have recently launched sports betting move forward with legalizing iGaming to meet the expectations of their players, especially given that operators who are able to cross-market to their sports and iGaming customers have experienced significant success by offering both products.
On an operational level, how does the US market differ from Europe (or other continents like South America)?
On an operational level, the US markets have more rigid regulatory requirements both in terms of jurisdictional and technical product approvals. From a land-based gaming perspective, the US market is quite mature, but is still relatively young with respect to iGaming and mobile betting expertise and knowledge. Although this does create some logistical challenges for companies with deep roots in more mature online markets like Europe, it also provides an excellent opportunity to leverage experience gained overseas in order to provide a more well-rounded online experience in North America.
North America also has a lot of operational cross-over between its land-based and online gaming operators: mature bricks and mortar casino operators like MGM, Caesars and Wynn have all entered the online gaming space, as have regional operators like Penn National. This isn’t as common elsewhere, and it creates a unique operating environment in North America.
Do US players prefer different games to Europe? Do these differ from state to state?
Generally speaking, we have found that US players have different play experience requirements than European players, and a lot of this relates back to how young the online gaming market is in the US. In North America, there is definitely more value in prominent land-based gaming brands, and we’ve found that different game themes are more successful here than they might be in Europe. For example, Asia-themed content does quite well in North America, but wouldn’t necessarily have the same appeal to European players. Conversely, Irish-themed content is quite popular in Europe, but might only work in some regional markets in the US. And, game operational elements like math models and volatility levels vary regionally: in Europe for example, players are more comfortable with higher volatility levels than players in North America are. Finally, we’ve found that in Europe average bet levels are consistently higher than they are in the US.
Are you a believer in omnichannel? Will the winners in the US market have the best omnichannel operations? Is this the same for large and small casinos?
Yes: I believe that omnichannel is a growing requirement, and to be successful in the expanding online market, a company will need to have a mix of omnichannel and non-omnichannel solutions. As we’ve seen historically, not all game content is suitable for both online and land-based markets, as game preferences are driven by so many unique market and player demographic characteristics. So, successful companies will need to have versatile product portfolios and technology platforms that can meet the needs of both large and small operators and savvy and less-experienced players.
What does the year ahead hold for Bragg and the industry in general?
On the heels of our Wild Streak and pending Spin acquisitions, we will continue to focus on driving growth in our core European markets while expanding our footprint in both Europe and North America. We recently went live in both the Netherlands and Spain, and we are expecting our UK Gambling Commission license shortly, so we have good momentum there. In North America, we will hopefully be live in British Columbia in Q1 and in Ontario shortly thereafter, and we will aggressively pursue other market approvals as they open.
Additionally, once our Spin acquisition closes, we will focus on aggressively deploying our ORYX technology and growing content across Spin’s existing customer base, leveraging Spin’s well positioned North American footprint.
Bragg Gaming sponsor the North American Gaming Intelligence Awards