Evolution Gaming Sums Up the Passing Year in the exclusive interview for our portal: “2017 was a momentous year all round…”
Expansion to the North American market, opening of a new live studio in Tbilisi, Georgia, and innovative releases that will probably change the approach to live gaming for the rest of the providers across the industry – about all this and more in a one-of-a-kind interview that the team of Evolution Gaming shares with the readers of our portal.
First and foremost – you’ve announced an opening of a new studio in Tbilisi, Georgia. When is it due to open, and how greatly will it contribute to Evolution Gaming’s capacity?
Yes, that’s correct. We are opening our third major central live studio in Tbilisi, Georgia. This new studio in Tbilisi is scheduled to go live in Q2 2018 and is designed to evolve into a stand-alone hub and fully independent studio operation, just like our studios in Riga and Malta.
The Tbilisi studio will grow to support our expansion needs. Tbilisi is a beautiful city with a population of over one million people. It is developing strongly in many aspects and is becoming attractive for foreign investors.
We currently operate seven studios in total, with a further studio — in the Metro Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada — set to open in early 2018. The Tbilisi studio will extend the Evolution studio count still further when it goes live in 2018 and will make a significant contribution to our overall capacity.
What was the decision caused by? And what are the plans for further live studio expansions?
We have been launching new tables and dedicated environments across all of our studios at an intense rate for some time. This fast pace is set to continue for the rest of this year and into 2018.
As part of our commitment to ever increasing our gap to the competition, we took the decision to establish our next major studio to support these needs. From this studio, we will continue to expand, offering our services to additional customers and markets.
Our new live studio in British Columbia, Canada — expected to launch in early 2018 — will be our eighth studio, with Tbilisi being the ninth.
“We have been launching new tables and dedicated environments across all of our studios at an intense rate for some time. This fast pace is set to continue for the rest of this year and into 2018.”
The new Canadian studio marks a very exciting period of growth for us and is our first major expansion outside of Europe. It will be in the New Westminster Vancouver area of British Columbia and will provide live games and services for BCLC (British Columbia Lottery Corporation).
This is an agreement of high strategic importance to Evolution and the start of a potential expansion into North America as a whole. Canada is a regulated market, where each province has its own gaming and lottery operations under government management. The studio is initially being built for BCLC, but with the intention of serving other provinces over time.
This year, you’ve diversified the portfolio with new types of games, including a progressive one. Talk to us about innovations in your portfolio, and the reasons for launching the Dream Catcher and Jumbo 7 Jackpot releases? What is the response from players?
This year has been an especially exciting year in terms of product releases and demand for our products. Our two unique Progressive Jackpots, available on Live Casino Hold’em and Live Caribbean Stud Poker respectively, have been key additions this year.
Likewise, Evolution Gaming’s Dream Catcher, our first title in our new Money Wheel category appeals to a whole new player segment. We see Dream Catcher broadening out the market for live games in 2017 and beyond. The new game has been developed specifically to expose live content to a new type of player, particularly slots and bingo players who don’t typically play table games. Dream Catcher is a different kind of game for the world of live gaming and it has been received with great enthusiasm.
Most importantly, Dream Catcher is proving incredibly popular with players. The player counts are truly record-setting and uptake has been very strong.
“Dream Catcher, our first title in our new Money Wheel category appeals to a whole new player segment. We see Dream Catcher broadening out the market for live games in 2017 and beyond.”
Dream Catcher has been successful in attracting new gamers and reactivating churned players. It's something new and different, and it's also highly visual and easy to play, so it has enormous value as both a player acquisition tool and a powerful conversion tool for operators.
Mobile is another area where there has been continuing exciting activity — and it continues to be a key driver of growth for Evolution and our licensees.
We have now completed the rollout of portrait view gaming on smartphone. Portrait view has been rapidly adopted by players and we feel this could be another incremental revenue earner for operators. When players have full choice to play games just the way they want on smartphone, there is a greater likelihood that they will enjoy ad hoc gaming sessions whenever they have a spare few minutes.
This year you also released Dual Play solutions at Genting and Grosvenor. Talk to us about the reasons for such cooperation, and the outcome. Will we be seeing more of Evolution Gaming in the land-based venues?
That’s right. The latest Evolution Dual Play Roulette tables, which bring together land-based and online play at the same on-premise table, have recently been launched at Genting International in Birmingham and at Grosvenor’s The Victoria in London.
It follows Dual Play Roulette launches in the past 18 months at The Ritz Club London, The Hippodrome brand in London and Malta’s Dragonara. The installations at Grand Casino Bucharest and Dual Play Dragonara are available across our network and allow customers to play at their favourite table, wherever they may be.
“Growth has been incredible in those first 12 months and we have over 200 staff there currently.”
Evolution already has a significant presence at the Grand Casino Bucharest, as it is home to Evolution’s own state-of-the-art live studio serving the Romanian market. The studio, which opened in September 2016 was the first live studio to be certified in Romania and now supports numerous Romanian licence holders. We have just recently celebrated the first anniversary of the studio’s launch. Growth has been incredible in those first 12 months and we have over 200 staff there currently.
The land-based gambling market continues to be a key focus area for us, and we are looking to extend our Dual Play portfolio to maximise the convergence opportunity for land-based gaming houses and online operators. So, yes, players will be seeing more of Evolution Gaming in land-based venues.
In parallel we will continue to strengthen our leadership position generally in the European market. We will do that both with pure-play online operators and with land-based brands looking to create a seamless brand experience for players, whether they choose to play on-premise or online.
As always we will monitor developments in re-regulating markets. We are proud of our record of helping our licensees achieve first-to-market advantage in new markets, and I would expect there to be more exciting news in this area as the year progresses.
With so many competitors producing live dealer software, Evolution Gaming undoubtedly dominates this category of gaming. Earning the Live Casino of the Year at EGR eight years in a row proves it. How do you manage to stay at the top of your game? What specific products and/or services produced by the studio make it stand out?
I think the point is that no specific product or service is the stand-out — it’s about everything in the whole Evolution package being of a uniformly world-class standard. That is what keeps us ahead of the competition and why competitors find it difficult to close the gap. That and the fact that we are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries, constantly driving ourselves forward, and never being content to sit back.
There are certainly an increasing number of providers of live gaming in today’s marketplace as the barriers to entry are now lower. But our extensive experience, resources and our investment in continued innovation and improvement does set us apart.
Since Evolution was founded in 2006, we have focused on operational excellence, customer optimisation, product innovation and ensuring a scalable, reliable solution of the highest quality for our licensees. That mean we are able to offer the best technology, the best trained dealers, the best games and playing experience, and the greatest flexibility to deliver what operators and players want. New providers find out very quickly that they cannot get to that point overnight.
“…we are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries, constantly driving ourselves forward, and never being content to sit back.”
By the end of the year, we will have around 400 tables operating across our seven European studios, with the further Evolution Gaming studios I mentioned earlier opening soon in Canada and Georgia. Then there’s our growing number of Dual Play installations in land-based places to bet and win.
With Evolution, operators have so many options to differentiate their live product – dedicated tables and environments, dedicated dealer teams that get to know players, native speaking dealers, live promotions….
All of this underpins an amazing portfolio of games. This includes exclusive games that are the result of our agreements with partners like Scientific Games — titles such as Live Three Card Poker and Live Ultimate Texas Hold’em for example. Then there are unique Evolution titles such as Baccarat Control Squeeze and our new Dream Catcher money wheel, which I mentioned earlier.
The games catch the eye initially, but there are so many things behind the scenes that continue to widen the gap between us and our competitors, such as our Game Integrity and Risk operations, which give operators significant peace of mind.
On that note, it was rewarding to see our Head of Game Integrity and Risk, Tania Johannisson, win the Head of Risk/Fraud award category at the GamblingCompliance Global Regulatory Awards 2017 in April. Just a month before, Tania also became the first ever security professional from an online live gaming provider to be accepted as a member of IACS, the biggest land-based gambling network platform related to industry’s security, and the only global intelligence network of its kind.
How would you sum up the year 2017 for Evolution Gaming?
It has been a non-stop year in which we have taken further amazing steps forward.
We have announced the opening of the two new studios I mentioned earlier.
We have gone from our listing on Nasdaq First North Premier to a listing on the main Nasdaq Stockholm stock exchange. We are of course very proud to be listed alongside other Large Cap segment companies from Sweden, but what’s really important is that this is further confirmation of Evolution’s continued development and will further enhance our brand and support our exciting growth.
It’s been a hugely exciting year for new products, too. I’ve already talked about Dream Catcher but I should also mention our Progressive Jackpots on Caribbean Stud Poker and Hold’em. Both add exciting additional betting opportunities and prizes for players. The biggest of the two is the Hold’em Jumbo 7 Jackpot which kicked off with a massive €1,000,000 main Jackpot prize seeded by Evolution. That Jackpot prize grows progressively with every Jackpot side bet placed by players.
“2017 was a momentous year all round….”
Other new product launches were Speed Roulette and Speed Baccarat, which increase our appeal to all types and levels of player. If you look across our portfolio, there really is something for every end-player, from first-time players, through regular mainstream players, right up to the most committed VIPs and high-rollers.
In terms of Evolution customers, it was satisfying to see so many of our existing customers grow their live operations with us in terms of both table numbers and revenues. There were lots of new customer wins too, one of the biggest being the gaming giant Nederlandse Loterij, operator of the Dutch Lottery and more recently, National Lottery AD, operators of the Bulgarian National Lottery.
2017 was a momentous year all round and, as mentioned earlier, winning the EGR award for Live Supplier of The Year for the eighth successive year, plus Dream Catcher being crowned Digital Product of the Year at the Global Gaming Awards made 2017 even more special!