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2017 – 1st Quarter Gambling News Roundup

by Dirk_Tracy - March 8, 2017

There’s always a lot happening in the first quarter of a new year, as people possibly still are under the ruse of the new good intentions that they pledged themselves to adhere to, during the New Year’s Celebrations, and today, the 7th of March, 2017, it’s the same, as far as i can tell:

Bitcoin

Right now, a lot of insiders and professionals that occupy themselves with the Bitcoin aspect of the Online Gambling Market, are preparing themselves for a number of upcoming events that carry the collective name ‘Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference’, which consist of 4 big conferences throughout Russia, the Czech Republic and Estonia, starting from the 9th of March until the end of May.

These conferences have been held before – mostly in Russia and the Czech Republic – since the start of 2015, to be exact, but as Bitcoin as an entity is rapidly making a name for itself, and the mainstream media is taking note of it, there’s a big rise noticeable in it’s popularity, and naturally, a rise in attendance of said conferences.

The one first in line, happens to be the Tallinn Blockchain Conference, in Estonia, and this marks a premiere in that Country, not just for it’s sheer size, but also as one of the first official Eurozone Countries that hosts an event of that scale, with Blockchain, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies as it’s main focus.

There are plenty of interesting speakers on the list, such as Kaspar Korjus – holding first place on the Forbes Fintech rating, Karolina Marzantowicz – Leading Engineer at IBM, and Jon Matonis – a distinguished researcher of Electronic Currencies, and Founder of the Bitcoin Foundation. The topics include several main points of interest, such as the further integration of Bitcoin in the various current Banking Exchanges, Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing, and Government Control Projects. Other topics include Private and Open Blockchains for Banking Management, Exchange Trade, Logistics and Technologies for the Retail and Social Sector.

Bitcoins are without doubt one of the most interesting things to happen in technology in the last decade, and specifically concerning the Online Gaming Market, as its adaptation into this platform, has opened up a lot of doors, for players that found themselves unable to enjoy their vices due to changing legislations, leading to Geo-restrictions and a huge lack of willing – or trustworthy – payment providers, but also for players that wish to remain as anonymous as possible.

More and more Online Casino’s are looking to offer their services in Bitcoin, as it also opens doors for them. Some Countries that currently offer their residents very limited options in the Gambling sector, represent a huge chunk of the actual Market, and thus could very likely mean a steady and stable flow of revenue for any Online Casino Operator that finds their way into this niche, so to speak.

Of course the longer one stands at the sidelines, just watching the game, the less chance one has, to become a participant, and in that Market, all the more. It will be interesting to see what the near future holds, and if Bitcoin really will become the self regulating world wide currency of freedom, a role that it seems to want to fulfill.

Market Expansion

Another seemingly growing trend in 2017, at least so far, is expansion. There have been loads of huge takeovers ‘behind the scenes’ that will not perse be noticeable by the players themselves – immediately, or even in the long run, but definitely have some newsworthy merit: we are seeing successful Casino operators taking over smaller operations or already established Casinos, huge Providers taking over smaller or ‘up and coming’ Providers, Multinational Corporations taking over the Majority of Shares of Casino Groups, that already have proven to be Multi Million Businesses, and then there are the real giants – trying to take over huge segments of the market, making sure they will still have a decent piece of the ‘Big Pie’ in the future. With names like 888.com, Everymatrix, NYX and such, buying up, or starting cooperations with, several other businesses or service providers who collectively cover pretty much all aspects of the Gambling Market.

It’s easily understandable, and a natural evolution of sorts, which sprung forth out of the mainly grey area that Online Gaming Legislation still is, crossing invisible borders, yet adhering to multiple local Laws and Regulations, at the same time.

Leaving it up to the big money lawyers and international traders, to come up with near perfect solutions, for any issues that arise in such scenarios, providers, operators and investors soon noticed that certain forms of cooperation seemed the way to go. The fact that Gambling Licenses can be shared, has opened up a lot of new ways for Casino Operators and Gambling Moguls alike, to get a foothold in area’s which were previously either unreachable, or very costly. Sharing is caring, or so they say, and it seems to be much the same in the business world: or rather, sharing is earning.

The most noteworthy takeover that a lot of people are currently talking about, has to be the Kindred Group taking over 32Red Plc. – two very healthy companies, best known for their respective flagship Casino’s, Unibet and 32Red. These two companies, both with a very well established brand reputation, falling under the same roof, may turn out to become the primary target of interest, for any Giant or Mogul as described above, in the next merger or takeover.

Other recent deals of interest are:

Gamescale will soon be offering EveryMatrix’s Games Platform “CasinoEngine” in it’s own current platform, giving them access to more than 4000 Games, from well known Providers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, Scientific Games, NextGen, Play’n GO, Thunderkick, Evolution Live Gaming, and more.

Provider and iGaming Giant Playtech has secured deals to ensure the opening of their next Live Casino Platform, which is to be based in Romania, to enable them to meet the current and future demands from various regulators inside the iGaming sector. There are also a number of improvements versus their already existing Live Casino’s, one of which is Full HD Graphics.

Slotegrator, a well known Games Aggregator and Provider, active in various Market segments, which also offers complete Casino Solutions, keeps focusing on growth: this is underlined by their latest deals with Evolution Live Gaming and ZeusPlay, thus expanding their already impressive portfolio considerably.

Another iGaming Giant, the Betsson Group, has acquired the ‘Premier Casino’, which is an Online Operator focussed on Spanish players. With this acquisition, Betsson hopes to enter the Spanish Market with a bang, and increase the already healthy stream of revenue some more. The price was a mere €3 Million, which should be earned back easily, as according to their CEO, the Spanish Market is one of Europe’s biggest, and especially the interest in Online Casinos is increasing.

Captain Up, an up and coming (pun intended) company that specializes in Player Retention, has struck its biggest deal yet, and will now soon become an Official Playtech partner: they already had deals with 888 and Ladbrokes, and this deal with Playtech will most likely ensure that the company keeps gaining interest from other operators. For Playtech it could be just the right partner to get with the times, as their Player Retention schemes so far, have never won them any awards yet. But don’t quote me on that.

Pokerstars, the current flagship of Amaya Inc., have recently made a deal to implement the Quickfire platform into their existing Casino Suite, which is a clear step in the direction of Casino growth. If this is because the popularity of Poker is on a downswing, or because the board of directors wishes the site to diversify, I can’t say, but that the Quickfire platform will see their Games offering increase significantly, is a fact: a fact that will likely attract new players, and surely will keep some existing players interested.

As one can see from these examples, just in the last three months, partnerships and takeovers seem synonymous to growth, or even survival in some cases, and I wonder what form expansion will take in the future, specifically what it will mean for you and me, the players: will we end up with a handful of Major Players on the Market, bordering on Monopolies, enabling them to force player unfriendly Terms & Conditions on us, and killing off new and innovative ‘players first’ types of operations, before they can even properly hatch? As comparison: the Global Food Industry partly forces processed and low quality food on us, and kills the local farmer, and can only do this, because a few Major Companies have an ‘invisible’ Monopoly, being in control of more than 70% of all Global Food produce and shipping. So we can only guess for now, but I am not sure if I like it.

Innovations

Some other newsworthy facts that will make gambling in 2017 more interesting:

Provider NetEnt announced on the ICE conference in London, that they will soon make waves in the world of Online Casinos, launching their first real-money Virtual Reality Slot.

The company will showcase one of their well known classics “Gonzo’s Quest” as the premiere title. A demo version was already available at the Expo, and it has to be said that the experience seemed rather unique. But as it stands, the adaptation being still in it’s early phase, we can’t really predict if this will truly revolutionize Online Gaming yet. It’s certainly in the realm of possibilities, though.

As reported by thePOGG earlier this year, the overall importance of Responsible Gaming is on the top of the list of many agendas: whilst Gambling Representatives and Entities on all sides of the fence, are negotiating Standards and Regulations, there are also developments from the side of some operators: as thePOGG shared the news about the MAX BET SHIELD, a great innovation that has been introduced by Video Slots, Freaky Vegas and BitStarz Casino, we started scouting for more of these sorts of implementations of player protection, and found out there are more. Slotsmillion Casino, for one, also has it’s own player protection scheme, and aptly called theirs the ‘Slotsmillion Bonus Safeguard’: this also protects the player from Max Bets, when playing with a Bonus, but has the added feature that each and any Game that is restricted from play with an active Bonus, is also blocked.

A quote from one of their representatives: Each slot comes with a notice describing whether the game can be played with Bonus money or not. The warning is there even before the game starts, so that there is no confusion on the matter. If a certain slot is meant for real money play only, Bonus funds will not show in the balance. Moreover, players will be notified about the exact amount of allocated Bonus funds, as well as the amount of real money available.

Who was first with the MAX BET protection I do not know, but I also think it’s not important, because these kind of great innovations are what the industry needs, and if Casino’s only copy the good things from one another, how could we ever complain?

Small steps, but obviously the Market is seeing several improvements, and this is something that not only makes me happy on a personal level, but also signifies a very healthy future for Online Gambling in itself. Let’s hope the days of T&C’s schemes and player ‘traps’, worthless Jurisdictions and Irresponsible Gaming, are soon behind us!

If you valued my contribution about what’s what in Online Gaming this first Quarter of 2017, be sure to check back next week, as there’s plenty to discuss, and if not feel free to leave a comment with some feedback. Comments and discussions are welcome at any rate.