2019 Gaming Intelligence Lottery Operator of the Year
The Michigan Lottery has been one of the pioneering state lottery operators in the US.
It has reaped the rewards of launching new, tech-led online products that combine the instant win gratification elements beloved of players with technically strong solutions and platforms. In doing so, it recorded the sort of figures rarely seen in the lottery world, with online revenue shooting up 66 per cent to US$80m.
The operator has continually improved its product. It was the first US state lottery to launch an online affiliate programme in the country, thus being an early adopter of online marketing and onboarding techniques that provide it with efficient and stat-rich customer insights to drive home its lead in the online space.
Its adoption of virtual sports also means an expanded retail-online integration that can drive traffic from physical to online channels and back. The group’s target of US$826m in online wagers for 2018 is proof of its ambition and drive.
Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation
2019 Gaming Intelligence Bingo Operator of the Year
The bingo group headed by Phil Cronin continues its growth in the highly competitive online bingo field, building on its market leadership in the UK to assume similar leadership in Italy and Spain.
It achieved this growth thanks to an original games portfolio and sponsorship campaigns of high-profile UK TV shows such as I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Tombola puts the emphasis on fun, community and friendliness, with many of its users playing as much for the social features it offers as for the prospect of any financial gain.
The group’s focus on technical expertise, recruitment and excellence in customer service is all part of its 2020 strategy, which aims to establish it as the leading tech hub in the north east of England.
Its investment in a new £7m state-of-the-art office complex suggests a winner that is building foundations for a fantastic future.
Last year’s winner: Stride Gaming
2019 Gaming Intelligence Casino Operator of the Year
Global Gaming Ninja Casino has transformed the online casino world with its innovative use of technology and trailblazing approach to marketing and product development.
Ninja Casino offers super-fast access to an outstanding gaming experience, with no registration, and a streamlined cashout process that is easy and painless. This high-level onboarding enabled Global Gaming to grow 2018 revenues 181 per cent to €40m in the previous 12 months, with Q1 net gaming revenues up 64 per cent to €19.6m.
Although Ninja is not a global player it impressed the judges with its ability to enter a competitive market with a limited product offering and grab a large market share within a very short space of time. And it did it so purely through innovation.
The Stars Group
Last year’s winner: PokerStars Casino
2019 Gaming Intelligence Social Casino Operator of the Year
You could not look past Aristocrat in this category. While others have shunned or sold their social casinos, Aristocrat has continued to invest.
It has made social casino the cornerstone of its digital strategy since acquiring Product Madness in 2012, but it was in 2018 that it really began to motor.
The acquisitions of Big Fish Games and Plarium Global towards the end of 2017 have strapped on the rocket boosters, with digital revenue growing 220 per cent to nearly AUD$553m and digital profits shooting up to AUD$84m.
Aristocrat launched the hugely popular Cashman Casino and Asian-themed FaFa Gold, and its online daily active users have increased almost sixfold to 8 . 3 million, compared with 1.4 million last year.
The worrying thing for its competitors is that it plans to keep on buying. 2018 was an incredible year. 2019 might be even better.
2019 Sports Betting Operator of the Year
Bet365 continues to deliver the most astonishing figures. It was an excellent year for its challengers, too.
GVC, Kindred and the Stars-Sky axis pushed hard but it was impossible to argue with bet365’s weight of numbers. Total revenue for the Stoke-based giant was up 25 per cent to £2.8bn by the end of March 2018 while operating profits rose 33 per cent to £660m.
Continuing to deliver this level of growth year after year, despite the operator’s size is simply phenomenal. Its continuing dominance as the world’s most popular sports betting website owes everything to an attention to detail. It owed its growth to product improvement.
For example, live content was increased to 160,000 events, streaming everything from football to tennis matches to darts and racing events around the world. “The growth bet365 is able to deliver from its already market-leading position is nothing short of astounding,” said one judge. “bet365 is the clear winner when it comes to sports betting.”
The Stars Group
Last year’s winner: Sky Betting & Gaming
2019 Gaming Intelligence One to Watch Operator
Of the many new entrants to the US sports betting market, FanDuel is the one that our judges are most excited about.
Its entry as a US sportsbook happened almost by stealth – and not without bumps – but amid all the fanfare of the PASPA repeal and the legislation landslide, FanDuel has been going about its business at some speed.
It is the second largest sportsbook in New Jersey, with digital revenues of US$4.4m during November and the brand has been able to leverage the marketing and financial firepower of its parent company Paddy Power Betfair, which acquired it during the summer of 2018.
FanDuel has a canny management team that has agreed tech partnerships with GAN and IGT, while cutting a strategic partnership with US gambling heavyweight Boyd Gaming and a string of agreements with sports leagues and teams. FanDuel means business.
Global Gaming (Ninja Casino)
Last year’s winner: VideoSlots
2019 Gaming Intelligence Poker Operator of the Year
“With such dominance, there can be no other winner,” said one of our judges. But PokerStars wins this award for more than the weight of its numbers.
The world’s leading poker site continues to innovate and push the boundaries of online poker. This sustained focus on product improvement drove revenue up 19 per cent in the first half of 2018 and despite a blip in Q3, it continues to power on. Products such as Spin & Go, The Deal and its virtual-reality PokerStars VR offering continue a drive to bring casino-style mechanics to the poker table.
Its Stars Rewards programme has played a major role and significantly contributed to this growth, while the shared player liquidity arrangement between the markets of Italy, France and Spain, has re-energised the sector and been maximised by the company. “You can’t beat Stars when it comes to poker,” said one judge. Amen to that.
Last year’s winner: PokerStars
2019 Gaming Intelligence Socially Responsible Operator of the Year
It could be argued that this is our most important award, and Kindred is an extremely worthy winner.
It continues to push the boundaries of excellence when it comes to corporate and social responsibility in the iGaming sector. Kindred has been a key driver and educator on the topic of adopting best practices in responsible gambling across the industry.
As Sweden prepared to open to regulation this January, Kindred held its third Sustainable Gambling Conference in Stockholm. Kindred also sponsored the development and translation of a free Gambling Therapy app for the Nordic Region and collaborated with Betfilter to develop AdBlocker, a new online social responsibility tool to stop under-aged people from being exposed to gambling ads.
However, the real reason it is a winner is because its actions reveal a philosophy that runs to the core of the business. Kindred has led the way for years and others should follow.
2019 Gaming Intelligence Management Team of the Year
At the top of the tree, GVC has an inspirational chief executive in the shape of Kenneth Alexander.
But that would not be enough alone to secure this prize. Alexander has surrounded himself with key lieutenants such as Andy Hornby and Shay Segev, who get things done.
The motto of the GVC management team could be “nothing is impossible”. Nowhere is this more evident than in its approach to M&A, where it has refused to let competitors, market conditions or regulators get in its way. There is always a solution for this incredibly focussed team. Furthermore, the management’s no-nonsense style is reflected throughout the organisation.
Any one of the operators on the shortlist for this award would have made a worthy winner, but GVC has managed to grow at an incredible speed. It has pulled off the tricky task of integrating huge businesses, while continuing to pay attention to the bottom line and, crucially, continuing to improve its products. That is some feat. Now it looks set to conquer the US. This is a juggernaut that will take some stopping.
The Stars Group
One to Watch Supplier Award
This was a fiercely contested category, with a number of smaller suppliers on the verge of a big breakthrough. However, Big Time Gaming scooped top prize after an outstanding year, when it could quite easily have made it onto the Casino Supplier of the Year shortlist.
Bonanza has truly usurped Starburst as the biggest game in the industry – showing no sign of slowing down almost two years on from launch. But there is no way chief executive Nik Robinson will allow his team to rest on its laurels, with content continuing to evolve with each new release. Don’t be surprised if Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, released in late-2018, becomes the biggest game of 2019.
Furthermore Big Time Gaming has embraced Twitch and YouTube live streaming, creating an event out of its game launches. And its MegaWays mechanic is so good that competitors like Blueprint Gaming and Red Tiger have licensed it.
Big Time is now setting its sights on the US market and it will not limit itself to the fledgling online market. It plans to deliver its slots into land-based casinos via server-based games while leaving the RTP unscathed. Truly one to watch.
Runners up: Booming Games / Relax Gaming / QTech
2019 Gaming Intelligence Sports Betting Supplier of the Year
SBTech made great strides during the past year with its arrival in the US market and a string of contracts in Europe. Furthermore, it has continued to innovate, building out its product with innovations such as its PulseBet feature, and has continued to build its team.
The US market was where it was at for sports betting suppliers in 2018, and SBTech was one of the first out of the blocks, when it announced an agreement with Churchill Downs. The pair teamed up in Mississippi and New Jersey, and SBTech followed that up by agreeing a deal with New Jersey’s iGaming market leader Golden Nugget. If Stateside progress grabbed the attention, SBTech had already reinforced its reputation in the European lottery market. In early 2018, Danish state lottery Danske Spil selected SBTech as the full turnkey platform solution supplier for its new Youbet.dk brand.
Deals with the likes of Mansion and Bethard showed that SBTech will not lose focus on its core markets. To top it all off, SBTech closed the year with an extension to its deal with Czech lottery operator Sazka Group. Nobody made progress like SBTech in 2018.
Last year’s winner: SBTech
2019 Gaming Intelligence Virtual Sports Supplier of the Year
The judges were almost entirely unanimous in picking Inspired for this category. The virtual sports betting vertical has grown massively in recent years and Inspired Entertainment has led the way.
Thanks to its virtual channel, Inspired generates 15-20 per cent incremental revenues for operators and starting from the UK it has expanded its footprint into 30 markets worldwide, including Italy, Greece, China, Latin America, Eastern and Central Europe.
Inspired is Italy’s largest virtual sports supplier and generates €1bn revenue per year and around 25 per cent of in-shop revenue for operators there. It is live across 6,000 venues in China and nearly 4,000 OPAP venues in Greece. Inspired hasn’t stopped there, it signed major agreements with leading operators such as Paddy Power, Betstars and the Pennsylvania State Lottery, where its ‘1st Down’ virtual American football product has given a strong foothold in the US market. Its commercial growth and product innovation make it a clear winner.
2019 Gaming Intelligence Supplier Innovation Award
Playtech wins this award for its new Playtech Open Platform (POP), GPAS and Market Place suite. In combination, these features are looking to open Playtech up and ease the supply chain – allowing operators to pick and choose, and integrate any games they want with minimal fuss.
POP aims to be the ultimate in content aggregation technology, while GPAS (the Gaming Platform as a Service) puts incredible creative power in the hands of developers. Marketplace is a ground-breaking tool that acts as a single point of discovery for all the latest content.
Taken as a whole, they should bring an end to the walled garden approach that critics have often levelled at Playtech. This suite of tools is Playtech saying: “We listened and we acted.”
If this really is a revolution for Playtech, then it could be a revolution for the entire industry.
Bet Builder from Betgenius
PulseBet by SBTech
SCiQ by Scientific Games
Last year’s winner: Scientific Games’ ONEVoice
2019 Gaming Intelligence Game of the Year
Blueprint Gaming could have won this with any number of games – Buffalo Rising was another classic.
But The Goonies scoops the coveted Game of the Year award for being an object lesson in how to create a winning branded game. Oh, and its numbers are pretty good, too!
The Goonies was the number one game for 85 per cent of UK operators in the first three weeks after launch. In that initial 21-day period, it was also the number one bonus game in terms of plays, turnover, GGR and users across all operators.
The Goonies has become a record-breaker for Blueprint, with the highest ever number of plays in one day across all partner operators and was the best performing launch ever with the UK’s number one operator. Blueprint deserves recognition for years of success, and with The Goonies it absolutely smashed it.
Dragon’s Fire by Red Tiger Gaming
Sporting Legends by Playtech
Vikings go to Hell by Yggdrasil
Last year’s winner: Playtech’s Age of the Gods
2019 Gaming Intelligence Bingo Supplier of the Year
Playtech has continued to produce the best original and branded content titles for bingo operators. It provides brands like Gala, Mecca and William Hill with a range of fresh and compelling titles available across the Playtech Bingo network.
The company has also added to its side games roster, with its award-winning Age of the Gods casino brand now expanded to bingo, complete with themed lobby and slots, while its Dynamite Digger jackpot game brings an innovative new jackpot to the world of bingo slots.
Playtech has added to its tech capacities with the acquisition of Australian software house Eyecon, which has significantly strengthened its games selection and provides licensees with a portfolio of 70-plus cutting-edge games, including the popular Fluffy Favourites.
The group has also developed specific product ties with brands such as Gala, Sun Bingo and Mecca and continues to lead the way when it comes to tech excellence and product innovation.
Last year’s winner: Playtech
2019 Gaming Intelligence Lottery Supplier of the Year
Scientific Games has had a stellar year, with growing European dominance complementing its market leadership in North America.
This year it launched the first full-scale sports betting platform in the US with the Delaware Lottery, and also rolled out complete lottery solutions for Swisslos in Switzerland and Szerencsejáték in Hungary.
SG’s expertise allows it to develop highly innovative digital lottery products such as the Pennsylvania Lottery’s first online/mobile games in May 2018, which recorded sales revenue of over $100m by October and is considered the most commercially successful iLottery launch in the US.
IWG and NeoPollard Interactive ran SG close this year but the supplier’s sheer weight of numbers and innovations like its new SciQ retail system keep it ahead of the competition.
2019 Gaming Intelligence Casino Supplier of the Year
2018 was a breakthrough year for Red Tiger Gaming. It rode the success of its daily jackpots – a truly inspiring innovation – and ploughed through an impressive 30 integrations, with another 50 signed and waiting for delivery.
It should not be a long wait. Inspired by the large SAAS businesses from outside our industry, Red Tiger invested heavily in automating its integration process. In theory, any operator should be able to take Red Tiger content out of the box without the need for Red Tiger’s involvement. The direct result is an increase in the number of integrations from two to six each month.
However, it is not just the weight of deals, it is the quality of the deals with Betsson, GVC, Kindred and Paddy Power Betfair all carving out exclusive real estate for Red Tiger content.
And it was not just the daily jackpots or the deals that inspired the judges. They praised Red Tiger’s in-game branding and other engagement tools. And, of course, it continues to churn out inspiring games. A truly world-class casino supplier has arrived.
Last year’s winner: NetEnt
2019 Gaming Intelligence Poker Supplier of the Year
Playtech’s biggest achievement of the year was the merger of its French and Spanish regulated market networks – a vital task in preparation for the introduction of shared liquidity between these countries.
Playtech is partnered with six major operators – Betclic and Unibet in France, and Bet365, Betfair, Casino Barcelona and Sportium in Spain – to create the largest B2B poker network across the two countries. With Portugal and Italy also ready to go, you can expect more operators to join the network in 2019.
This was the single biggest differentiator from its competitors, but one other is that it remains the single biggest poker network in the industry. It continues to invest in a vertical that has struggled in recent years and its latest innovation is to bring casino-style gambling to the poker room.
Whether this is through the hybrid missions based on events in its side games or its introduction of the hugely popular Age of Gods brand to poker. Playtech will not stand still and iPoker will benefit.
Last year’s winner: Playtech