2018 Gaming Intelligence Lottery Supplier of the Year
Scientific Games may have won the lottery supplier of the year award for the fourth year running, but that is simply a testament to its continued strength.
In an increasingly competitive field, the growing importance of online instant games means there are more suppliers than ever before. Scientific Games’ pure scale always makes it a force to be reckoned with, and you can’t ignore the evidence that it again out-performed the rest in 2017.
The company’s games and technology are already powering some of the biggest lotteries across the world, and last year Scientific Games launched its most advanced omni-channel lottery gaming system for Canada’s Atlantic Lottery Corp and Denmark’s Danske Spil.
The supplier also enjoyed success with its multi-state instant lottery game, Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, which has launched in 12 US states, with four more to follow this year. Through the game, Scientific Games has been able to bridge the retail and online divide by offering players the chance to win in April’s Billion Dollar Challenge event through a secondchance online draw for non-winning tickets.
Then there is the supplier’s vast library of content, which last year saw the addition of nearly 30 Monopoly-themed lottery games and new licensed properties Wonder Woman and Caddy Shack.
Last year’s winner: Scientific Games
2018 Gaming Intelligence Casino Supplier of the Year
NetEnt dominated this category to such an extent that in recent years, the judging panel has been forced to ask the question: has anyone performed better than NetEnt over the past year? The answer, yet again, is a resounding no.
While it may have been forced to issue a profit warning in January for its Q4 performance, the company remains on course to see revenue and profit growth for 2017. In the first three quarters of the year, it signed deals with 21 new operators and launched 14 of them.
It opened in new markets such as Mexico, the US and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, it strengthened its live casino and mobile product, and it continued to launch game after innovative game NetEnt refused to stick to an established formula with games such as Finn and the Swirly Spin, which abandoned the traditional tumbling reels in favour of a groovy spiral. NetEnt remains the casino supplier to beat.
Last year’s winnner: NetEnt
2018 Gaming Intelligence Sports Betting Supplier of the Year
Few would have thought any emerging supplier would be capable of breaking OpenBet’s dominance of the sportsbook sector, but SBTech is well on its way to doing so.
It is significantly growing its presence in regulated markets, moving into Portugal with Bet.pt, Romania with NetBet and the Czech Republic with Sazka Group. Further growth has come from new Scandinavian partnerships with Bethard, Evoke Gaming and Aspire Global. Such growth is impressive, but its partnership with Sky Bet, covering the German market, is a clear sign of its increasing importance in the industry.
The fact that it was selected over the operator’s existing sportsbook part ner speaks volumes. Looking at the range of solutions it offers, it is clear why it is becoming such an attractive proposition. The likes of Add2Bet and Action Betting, as well as Cash Out functionality and Enhanced Payout accumulators, are major assets to companies in search of the latest tools. This is translating into revenue growth.
In 2017 GGR from live betting was up 117 per cent, with mobile in-play up 160 per cent. Active players for live betting were up 63 per cent, and up 103 per cent on mobile. SBTech has leapt from being a challenger to an increasingly dangerous competitor, making it a worthy winner of the sportsbook supplier of the year for the second year in succession.
Last year’s winner: SBTech
2018 Gaming Intelligence eSports Operator of the Year
While the betting industry slowly comes to the realisation that simply offering odds on eSports events is not enough to attract a new generation of players, Pinnacle has shot ahead in the vertical.
The past year has seen the range of leagues and games on which it offers markets jump 55 per cent, leading to a 119 per cent rise in total eSports wagers. It now offers 304 per cent more live-betting markets, with in-play wagers increasing 242 per cent.
This has been aided by the launch of Pinnacle’s new eSports Hub, a resource available to customers in more than 100 territories. It has been quick to realise that a new approach to how betting products are presented to customers is required for the vertical. eSports is growing into an international phenomenon, with betting on its events increasingly popular.
Operators will soon be fighting for a share of this market, but will find themselves facing a formidable competitor in Pinnacle.
2018 Gaming Intelligence Social Casino Operator of the Year
The social casino market has shrunk in recent years, and a smaller number of larger providers are embroiled in a battle for market dominance. Many have seen social as a distraction.
Even market leaders such as IGT and Caesars Interactive have decided to exit the market, selling off DoubleDown Interactive and Playtika respectively. All the while, Aristocrat has been enjoying strong organic growth.
Digital revenue for its 2017 financial year was up 37 per cent to AUD$383m, thanks to the continued success of Heart of Vegas and the newly-launched Cashman Casino. Daily active users (DAUs) increased by 36 per cent to 1,729,859, with average revenue per DAU climbing 26 per cent to US$0.53.
A deal to acquire Product Madness arguably slipped under the radar, but now looks like one of the most shrewd moves ever taken in the sector. Playtika’s growth was driven in part by bolt-on acquisitions. DoubleDown had begun to decline before its acquisition by DoubleU Games. Aristocrat has kept pace entirely through organic growth.
Now, as it looks to expand through M&A, it threatens to outstrip its rivals. In 2017 it snapped up strategy gaming specialist Plarium and Big Fish Games, giving it a casual gaming business. It is developing a product portfolio that is to become a major player in a number of free-to-play verticals, not just social casino.
Last year’s winner: Zynga Casino
2018 Gaming Intelligence Lottery Operator of the Year
With the French government looking to raise €10bn through the sale of various state assets including FDJ, it would have been easy for these distractions to have got in the way of the National Lottery operator’s priorities to invest and grow its digital business.
We are only into the third year of the company’s ambitious FDJ 2020 initiative, but FDJ is a winner because it is already seeing the benefits of its digital investment.
2017 was the year FDJ really embraced interactive, with full-year digital sales expected to surpass €1bn for the first time (2016: €900m). FDJ has already developed one of the biggest online eCommerce platforms in Europe, and this is just the start of its modernisation drive.
FDJ’s digital transformation was enhanced by the launch of a new mobile app through which players could access its entire gaming portfolio for the first time, including lottery games such as EuroMillions and LOTO, alongside its illiko-branded instantwin game platform and Bingo Live multiplayer game. FDJ’s investment in its technology has led it to establish a B2B division to offer its services to other operators, beginning with a new sports betting solution for Switzerland’s Loterie Romande.
It also became the first of the traditional European lotteries to enter the eSports sector with the launch of the Parions Sport betting portal. FDJ is only at the beginning of its digital journey. We can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Last year’s winner: British Columbia Lottery Corporation
2018 Gaming Intelligence eSports Supplier of the Year
The eSports arms race is only just beginning but Betgenius is charging ahead of all competitors.
With more than 20 clients in regulated markets, including Unikrn – one of the highest-profile eSports-only operators – it has gobbled up an industry-leading market share.
Far from simply looking to accumulate as large a customer base as possible, Betgenius is looking to offer the strongest possible product range. It has invested in developing its in-play offering, powered by a Tallinn-based team of dedicated traders.
It also offers data feeds for more than 40,000 events each year, making it one of the most comprehensive solutions in the market. Parent company Genius Sports has moved to support this growth by launching tailored variants of its integrity solutions to help protect competition.
All this is managed by the company’s head of eSports Moritz Maurer. As the founder of one of the industry’s first eSports betting sites, GGwins, he is one of the most experienced executives in the vertical.
He knows what customers expect, and has complemented a market-leading solution with a range of controls to ensure all betting is carried out in a fair and safe environment.
2018 Gaming Intelligence One to Watch Supplier Award
The rise of Red Tiger Gaming in just three years of operation has been little short of incredible.
In a market where new suppliers often struggle with acceptance and then with integration, Red Tiger has stormed through the barricades.
While any casino supplier will rise and fall on the strength of its games, Red Tiger has gone the extra mile when it comes to providing customers with inventive approaches to everything from integration to marketing. Its brilliant daily jackpots have been adopted by the likes of Paddy Power and William Hill.
Effectively, Red Tiger brought the lottery jackpot draw into the casino game and – quelle surprise – everyone loved it. Red Tiger rose to prominence on the back of its Asian business, which continues to enjoy double-digit month-on-month growth, but its growth in Europe has been phenomenal.
It is live with giants such as JackpotJoy, PokerStars and Unibet, and has deals in place with 40 of Europe’s top operators. It managed to integrate with OpenBet in just three weeks.
Moving at this speed, it won’t be long before Red Tiger is established alongside the industry’s most successful suppliers.
2018 Gaming Intelligence Supplier Innovation Award
Scientific Games’ research and development team has long been one of the industry’s most prolific, but in 2017 it went one step further by inviting consumers into the research and development process.
ONEVoice is SciGames’ market research online community. It asks users for their feedback on a wide range of gaming topics and then feeds back to them how their ideas helped shape the creative process.
The online platform supports a community of over 2,000 consumers, who are engaged using surveys, member discussions and moderator-led discussions.
Furthermore, the SciGames marketing team is also hoping to get a better understanding of non-players.
By interacting directly with non-players, the company can learn what new products might be developed to appeal to their interest.
It is not exactly rocket science but in opening up the creative process to its customers and beyond, SciGames has done something that is quietly revolutionary.
2018 Gaming Intelligence Game of the Year
Playtech faced a major challenge in 2017, with the end of its partnership with the Disney-owned Marvel Studios forcing it to remove some of the best performing games from its portfolio.
Playtech has plugged the gap with the launch of a wildly successful new proprietary franchise that stands out in a sector where huge importance is placed on branded content.
Age of the Gods emerged from nowhere to roar to the top of the rankings. Five of the Age of the Gods slots are ranked among Playtech’s top 25 best-performing games, with two – the original title and Age of the Gods: Olympus – outperforming a number of its branded titles.
The records keep tumbling. The franchise has broken records for the fastest-rising and highest revenue for the solutions giant, and also for the most unique players in one year. More of Playtech’s licensees have launched Age of the Gods titles than any of its other games – the franchise even has its own tab on Betfred’s casino page.
It’s a phenomenon. In little more than a year, Age of the Gods has established a position similar to enduring gaming franchises such as Cleopatra and Rainbow Riches.
Scientific Games’ Willy Wonka
Last year’s winner: Be The House’s Cash Out Roulette
2018 Gaming Intelligence Marketing Solutions Provider of the Year
There are more and more companies looking to offer data-driven solutions to iGaming, and Beehive has pushed its way to the top.
At its core, Tel Aviv-based Beehive is an iGaming business intelligence platform that consolidates enormous amounts of data into a solid data warehouse. It has developed powerful data-driven tools that drive growth for its clients.
Beehive allows operators to segment players by specific behavioural characteristics and quickly create multi-channel campaigns to target them with relevant promotions, delivering the right message at the right moment. It is a gaming marketer’s best friend.
It already works with some of the biggest operators, including GVC, Ladbrokes Coral, Microgame, Snai and Markets.com, and late last year launched Pulse, a revolutionary new iGaming BI product that transforms the way operators analyse big data.
The company spent years learning which KPIs drive operators in their day-to-day operations, and Pulse is the result. Alongside Beehive’s flagship Labs product, it is using new technology to offer cutting-edge solutions to its clients.
It is using artificial intelligence to convert data into actionable insights, and this could be just the start of a new revolution in iGaming marketing.
Last year’s winner: Optimove
2018 Gaming Intelligence Bingo Supplier of the Year
The online bingo market may have been struggling in recent years, but Playtech’s investment in its bingo offering has helped create an ecosystem which is a key part of the Playtech ONE omni-channel offering.
The integration with retail bingo supplier ECM and acquisition of games studio EyeCon have helped in this regard, but Playtech’s Virtue Fusion network also delivered a number of major software developments during the past year, including seven exclusive games for some of the leading operators, such as Gala, Sky, William Hill and Rank Group.
Playtech has also begun repurposing its most popular bingo games for the retail sector, including Clover Rollover. Another game, Tiki Paradise, was designed with Playtech’s omni-channel approach in mind and includes cross-channel features across the ECM estate.
Playtech continues to see bingo as a key acquisition channel for operators that cross-sell into casinos, which just happens to be Playtech’s core strength. One of the benefits of its recent Eyecon acquisition was the roll out of the hit slot Fluffy Favorites for retail, with a hybrid Fluffy Bingo game also in development.
The bingo supplier category remains a competitive area, but Playtech deserves its award after a year of significant development and cross-channel innovation.
Last year’s winner: Dragonfish
2018 Gaming Intelligence Poker Supplier of the Year
In a struggling poker market, Playtech has embarked on a major overhaul of its iPoker network.
It has made a number of shrewd strategic moves, such as launching a new player valuation system to better segment players, and creating space for new recreational players without pushing away the experienced ones.
CRM tools have been improved to strengthen clients’ ability to target these players, all supported by a new centralised promotion system. In short, if an operator is looking for a third-party poker client, there are no better options.
Playtech may have not seen rapid growth in new customers in the past year, but that’s simply because it already works with all the top-tier operators.
Instead, it has achieved an industry first with the establishment of the cross-border poker network, through a partnership with Finland’s Veikkaus and Austria’s win2day. With legislation to facilitate pooled liquidity on both sides of the Atlantic, cross-border poker networks are the future.
In Europe Playtech is working to secure a significant first-mover advantage. It has an innate ability to pick out key trends as they are being adopted, and this is the latest example of that talent being put to good use.
Last year’s winner: Relax Gaming
2018 Gaming Intelligence Marketing Campaign of the Year
Of all the entries for marketing campaign of the year, LeoVegas’ partnership with Swedish search engine Hitta.se stood out from the rest.
Working with a search engine is a particularly effective way to get its brand in front of customers, but rather than simply putting a banner ad on the Hitta homepage it has been a little cleverer.
When a search with no results is made, customers are shown a humorous LeoVegas ad. When they use its map search feature, any sporting venue is marked with a LeoVegas logo. If a sporting event is taking place at any of these venues, live odds from LeoVegas Sport are displayed.
What makes this partnership so effective is that LeoVegas is integrating its branding into an everyday tool. It’s an excellent example of creative brand-building, without being too intrusive.
After a year in which gambling advertising has come in for increased scrutiny, LeoVegas has shown it is possible to innovate in how operators promote their services. This new approach to advertising partnerships is deserving of the marketing campaign prize.
Last year’s winner: 888Sport
2018 Gaming Intelligence Operator Innovation Award
The stars reward programme has only been live since July 2017, but has allowed the operator to expand beyond its VIP programme for poker players, allowing it to cover all verticals.
Already, 85 percent of its active players have opted into the programme. Considering its wild success it’s easy to forget that launching the Stars Rewards programme was something of a gamble for The Stars Group.
Its original poker-focused programme, where players were rewarded for the volume of poker play, was particularly popular among skilled players who may have been turned off by the new, softer offering.
The fact that the operator has managed to balance retaining these players, as well as attracting new recreational customers, is an impressive feat. By awarding players chests – similar to loot boxes in video games – it is bringing in reward mechanics popular among a larger audience.
To date, industry loyalty programmes have mainly been a way to reward highspending players, but Stars Rewards is using it – as it should be – as a retention tool. It was a calculated risk, but it has paid off beautifully.
VIDEOSLOTS – BATTLE OF SLOTS
2018 Gaming Intelligence Social Casino Supplier of the Year
A number of leading US suppliers have successfully operated social casino businesses, but few have had the same level of success in creating a viable B2B product.
Scientific Games is the exception. It has made its free-to-play Play4Fun Network a central part of a range of solutions that land-based operators can use to drive growth in off-property revenue.
Rather than looking at social casino as a stand-alone product, Play4Fun is integrated into a casino’s loyalty programme, supported by free-to-play variants of slots from the supplier’s range of studio brands.
While Scientific Games maintains its own B2C social casino products, it uses customer research to tailor the solutions it offers to clients. This helps it to avoid falling into the trap of expecting clients to compete against its own offering.
In a sector where so many gambling businesses have tried and failed to establish a significant presence, Scientific Games has successfully leveraged a range of assets to create an industry leading solution.
New clients in Oklahoma and Arizona show that US land-based operators certainly agree. In the past year, no other social casino solutions provider has come close.
Last year’s winner: Greentube
2018 Gaming Intelligence One to Watch Operator Award
Videoslots has been one to watch since it launched its Battle of Slots feature in late 2015.
It is now evolving from a minor industry player to a company that made significant gains in 2017. The player versus player slots format has been tried by a few but none with the success of Videoslots, which has seen gross gaming revenue climb more than 300 per cent.
Videoslots does not make a profit from Battle of Slots. It was never intended to. It is this willingness to take apparent risks and pull them off that sets Videoslots apart from the pack. The genius of Videoslots is its ability to find the faults in established industry wisdom and pursue an alternative path, while retaining the parts that make online gaming such a successful business.
In 2017 Videoslots took another risk with the purchase of the software behind failed poker site PKR. Videoslots chief executive Alexander Stevendahl is a poker fanatic and will approach the relaunch of PKR from a player’s perspective – just as he has done with casino games.
Sweden’s online casinos are among the world’s most innovative. Here is another one. Expect it to soar.
2018 Gaming Intelligence Casino Operator of the Year
Pokerstars Casino has been live for three years, and is established as a market leader.
Efforts to market the product have barely begun, and already it is the world’s largest online casino in terms of unique active players. It is pushing to be Italy’s largest casino operator, is one of Spain’s top-performers, and has successfully moved into Denmark, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
It has roared to the top of the market, and not just by accumulating third-party games. Mindful of the need for differentiation, it has established an in-house development studio, launching the Stars Mega Spin and Millionaires Island progressive jackpot games. This is supported by a series of promotional tools.
PokerStars’ massive poker player base has proved a boon, with 75 percent of players moving over to play its casino offering. When it begins to seriously market PokerStars Casino, rivals will be blown away.
The move from a single- to multi-vertical business has not been without its challenges, as BetStars’ struggles show, but in casino it has replicated its success in poker.
Last year’s winner: Amaya
2018 Gaming Intelligence Bingo Operator of the Year
The men behind 888’s Dragonfish platform, Stride Gaming founders Eitan Boyd and Darren Sims, have an outstanding bingo pedigree.
In a market where few see any opportunity for growth, they have carved out space to establish themselves in the market. Net gaming revenue almost doubled to £89.9m in its 2017 financial year, with the acquisitions of Netboost Media, Tarco and 8ball all contributing to growth from brands hosted on its proprietary platform.
It has also made massive strides in developing its mobile offering, with two-thirds of revenue now coming from the channel. At the core of Stride is a 10-man team, led by Boyd and Sims, which has been together since GlobalCom, the platform now more commonly known as Dragonfish.
The pair have been able to retain and motivate a talented team. While Boyd and Sims’ previous bingo ventures have been snapped up by 888, Stride has already grown to the point where it could acquire the sort of companies that would have once seen it as a target. Even Jackpotjoy’s management will be looking nervously over their shoulders.
Last year’s winner: Jackpotjoy
2018 Poker Operator of the Year
The poker vertical is littered with companies that have gone through boom-and-bust cycles, but PokerStars has consistently remained at the forefront of the industry.
This sees it once again take home the poker operator of the year prize. When a company continues to perform so impressively it makes the decision particularly easy.
PokerStars has constantly reinvented itself, successfully adapting to every challenge it faces. At a time when other operators are cautious about moving into newly-regulated territories, PokerStars has the means to secure a first-mover advantage in almost every territory.
In the regulated New Jersey market, where it was unable to join the first wave of licensees, it is pulling ahead of Caesars Interactive as the market’s third largest licensee. It holds a 75 per cent sit’n go market share, more than 10 times that of any competitor, and a 74 per cent tournament market share.
The company has also made a conscious effort to expand its player base with simplified products and promotions for recreational players, and now has 113 million registered players.
Efforts to tap into the eSports player base even threaten to broaden the appeal of poker beyond the core gambling demographic. In this category, no one else comes close.
GVC HOLDINGS (PARTYPOKER)
Last year’s winner: Amaya
2018 Sports Betting Operator of the Year
Sky Bet has quietly taken over the UK gambling industry. It leads the way in innovation, and outstrips giants such as William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral in terms of revenue.
Of all its recent innovations, RequestABet has proved to be particularly impressive, sparking a wave of industry imitators.
This is supported by real-time promotions, crowd-boosted accumulators, and personalised programmatic marketing. The company has also become a lot more adventurous since its 2014 acquisition by CVC Capital Partners, expanding into the German and Italian markets.
This operational progress has been matched by impressive revenue growth. Sports betting revenue was up 46 per cent to £314m in its 2017 financial year. The company is led by an impressive management team, with CEO Richard Flint and tech chief Andy Burton the leading lights. It has also significantly invested in new tech hubs and recruitment programmes in the north of England, ensuring it has a positive impact on its local community.
Sky Bet has pushed itself into the top of the sports betting vertical. Few would disagree that this award is richly deserved.
GVC HOLDINGS (BWIN)
Last year’s winner: Sky Betting & Gaming