The Audit, Advisory & Tax Specialists – An Interview with Dennis Gauci from KSi Malta

KSi Malta has established itself as one of Malta’s leading audit, tax, and advisory firms, boasting a wide range of services and a portfolio of both local and international clients

Being tech savvy is very important in the iGaming industry, but it is equally important to make sure that your company is legally compliant with tax laws. We sat down with Dennis Gauci, Partner at KSi Malta, to get an insight into how his firm operates and its connection in the industry.

KSi Malta advocates for a participatory relationship between all of its team members and clients, so as to involve all relevant parties in all the processes that directly contribute to a client’s business objectives.

SiGMA igaming SiGMA magazine KSi Malta

Dennis Gauci, KSi Malta

The company is also a member of a number of recognisable international networks. These include Morison KSi, a global association of leading professional service firms, and IAG International, a non-profit worldwide network of accountants and lawyers.

Dennis Gauci joined KSi Malta in February 2008, and was appointed as a partner in 2010 where he manages all information and communication technology related matters. Having graduated in Information Technology from the Malta College of Arts, Science, and Technology, Dennis has also received certifications from renowned companies such as Microsoft, CISCO, and Linux.

Like many successful firms, KSi Malta can trace its origins to humble beginnings in the early 80’s, when founder Mr Joseph Gauci obtained his warrant as a CPA (Certified Public to become one of the first warranted auditors in Malta. Mr Gauci then quickly and successfully managed to become a Director at Deloitte (UK), and subsequently a Partner at Grant Thornton (Malta). He was also appointed to various roles by several local companies including Enemata and Malta Drydocks, and also as a consultant to government departments and ministries.

Later on in his career, Mr Gauci set up KSi Malta, which is a member rm of Morison KSi, a global association with members present in 80 countries that generate a turnover in excess of $1 Billion. Mr Gauci wanted to foster the notion of family values within the firm, by placing this at the forefront of the code of conduct. According to Dennis, KSi Malta continues to have the same approach to its clients now as it did when it was founded.

“We treat clients as members of our extended family, and our directors are available to them on a 24/7 basis. KSi Malta has been a successful rm as it listens attentively to the needs of its clients, advising and tailoring our work to suit their requirements wherever possible. This has given KSi Malta a very competitive edge over its contenders, allowing us to build long-lasting relationships with every client that we make.”

With over 30 years of experience, the rm has been developing its services in a sustainable manner, and in response to market opportunities which other major competitors were not fulfilling. In fact, Dennis indicated that this growth “has resulted in outgrowing our premises capacity twice due to the firm’s growth in its client portfolio. In fact, we are currently in the process of refurbishing new premises to include state-of-the-art facilities for both staff and clients alike. It is likely that this will coincide with the second generation of this family run firm, that includes myself and my brother Bernard Gauci, both current partners at KSi Malta”.

Regarding his work at KSi, Dennis joined the firm in 2008, and has since changed roles to now become the main person that is in charge of various sections within the firm that include iGaming. This constituted the firm’s ongoing relations with the iGaming industry, which they had already been servicing in 2008 through the provision of various local services including auditing of financial statements and tax planning, and by providing assistance to foreign multinationals that wanted relocate to Malta.

“It came naturally that the firm’s services evolved to offer a one stop shop solution to gaming companies, and I happened to gain more interest in the subject itself. In fact, we now offer legal, licensing, payroll, secretarial, company formation, Tax, Auditing, VAT, assistance with Banks, PSP’s, Data Centre’s, and hardware procurement amongst many other services.”

“Presently, my job mainly consists of assisting clients in getting licenses to operate from Malta and other jurisdictions. I act as a point of reference for our clients in relation to other services they might require, and I also lead a team of 4 people within the Compliance and Risk section.”

Over the years, KSi Malta has acquired considerable expertise in Financial Crime, Anti Money Laundering, and Banking Relations which are indeed the greatest challenges this industry is facing and for which the company is constantly updating itself in order to be able to service its clients in the best possible way.

The iGaming industry has changed significantly in the past decade, and Dennis has also noticed this shift ever since he started working at KSi Malta. In fact, accounting for the fact that this industry now constitutes around 10% of Malta’s overall GDP, Dennis feels that it is a clear sign that the MGA is constantly adapting to changes and consulting with all stakeholders to keep Malta at the forefront of this sector.

In terms of challenges, according to Dennis the greatest ones his clients face include VAT Laws, 4th AML Directive, and Cryptocurrencies, as well as the competition Malta is facing from new emerging jurisdictions. However, this is also a positive for KSi Malta, as “clients are using our expertise and international network to assess target markets, profitability, and growth.”

“Advice that we always give to new clients is to have a solid business plan with sustainable growth. We also suggest to them to invest heavily in human resources, especially within research and development departments. This would allow them to have that competitive edge in their products, improve their services, come up with effective marketing, and last but not least improve customer retention.”

But while KSi Malta is already an established firm, they still operate in a very competitive sector. Asked about his company’s specialisation, Dennis advocated for KSi Malta’s focus on services that include Forensic Accounting, Accounting, Auditing, Compliance, Payroll, VAT and Tax, including cross-border implications.

“We also take complete of personnel’s on-boarding process to Malta. Therefore, we can assist clients on contract drafting, work permits, residence application, Tax registration, and so on. Assisting clients in relation to such obligations enables them to shift their focus on expanding their operations and improving the quality of their product. This has proven to be successful with our current client portfolio, and in fact KSi Malta is investing heavily in personnel training and in business intelligence software to be able to meet current and future demand.”

When it comes to looking ahead, KSi Malta is also considering a proactive approach towards Blockchain and Cryptos, especially one the new government policy is launched.

“KSi Malta firmly believes that a proactive approach is necessary to ensure success in any eld, and this is even more important when new instruments such as Blockchain and Cryptos are involved. Our firm’s involvement in the gaming industry is obviously piqued by the upcoming legislative changes to handle the introduction of cryptocurrencies such as ‘bitcoin’.”

Furthermore, Dennis argues that KSi Malta also has an added interest since it operates in the field of financial services, so they also give their input to local institutions from a professional point of view. All the company’s personnel regularly attend conferences related to this subject to help them keep abreast with changing procedures and to be prepared once the policy is legalised.

“We truly believe that if Malta manages to legalise such services and find the right balance between gaming and financial services, it will retain its position as the number one gaming jurisdiction in Europe whilst retaining its position as one of Europe’s best financial centres.”

 

Architectural Design Project: Behind the Curtains – An Interview with Angie Sciberras

Architect Angie Sciberras highlights the main stages of her work

SiGMA met Angie Sciberras, who started her business in February 2015 as a freelance architect. With a passion for nature and design, Angie graduated from the University of Malta with Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering. While also collaborating with other professionals from across all necessary fields, Angie works on various freelance projects ranging from residential to commercial businesses.

SiGMA-igaming-Angie Scriberras

Angie Scriberras

With Malta being the Gaming Hub that is is, several of Angie’s projects revolve around designing efficient workspaces in the gaming industry. Taking the work and the company into consideration, each project adopts a life of its own. Keeping the client’s needs predominant, Angie explains that there are for main phases that she goes through when designing a project in an existing building, including a office in the iGaming industry

PHASE 1: SURVEYING THE PROPERTY AND DETERMINING A TIME FRAME

What is the first step when you are assigned to architectural design project?

One of the most important steps in my process when designing a project is to understand the current space. I like to visit the actual space and see what it lacks, what will work, if there’s room for natural lighting, etc. These will help me determine the building’s potential for the new project. All this and a basic brief from the client will guide me into determining an important aspect in the design process: the time frame. Through personal experience, clients are often unaware of the amount of work that is involved in their project. That is why I always try and suggest starting to engage the architect earlier on in the project.

When would you say is the appropriate time to involve an architect in the project?

I would say prior, or at the same time, that the company is looking for new office space, even if nothing has been finalised yet. For most companies, I would suggest contacting the architect, one to one and a half years, before the move needs to take place. This will also depend on how big the project is. For example, a small project of about 100-250sqm will require a minimum of around six months, from the design stage to the final execution stage, while a project of about 1,000sqm will require a minimum of twelve months for the execution to be handled professionally and state-of-the-art standard.

Apart from the reasons mentioned above, how will hiring an architect earlier on in the project benefit clients and companies?

Hiring an architect before the move begins will also help my clients financially since, with my expertise, I can guide them through expenses and cost estimates and any hidden costs that crop up at the end of the project. Through my background as an architect, I can also make sure that the chosen property follows the Planning Authority’s policies and regulations and that re safety and security measures are in place.

SiGMA-igaming-Sketch Angie Scriberra

A conceptual sketch of a section through a Kitchen space by Angie Scriberra

PHASE 2: DESIGN AND SPATIAL PLANNING

Do you consider every project different?

As soon as I’m involved in a project, I like to start o this second phase by conducting research. I consider meeting up with employees and management an important step, as well as visiting the current office so that I can put together a thorough brief of how the project will evolve. What makes every project different is that every strategy is customised around the company’s ethics, mode of work and their possible plans of growing in the future. No company is the same which means that no project will be the same. However, throughout the years I have picked up a few common traits that can be used throughout various projects.

What are these common traits?

For instance, even if you simply spend the traditional forty hours a week at the office, you are still devoting a big part of your life behind your desk at your workplace. Spatial planning is a determining factor to the person’s wellbeing. Social interaction is also key to a happy workplace so I take that into consideration when developing a design. If there is an overall common element in work environments, I would say it is the growing emphasis on employees. I like to design healthy places in which employees will feel at ease and happy to be in their environment.

In your experience, do companies tend to hold on to the traditional-looking office or are they becoming more experimental?

It highly depends on the type of company and their ethics. For instance, one of the projects that I am working on is designed to be a 6-star rated office and it is set over 1,600sqm of office space. Not only are we pushing the boundaries of the traditional-looking office but we are also ensuring that we keep the office’s high-standard, both in its design and in its services. We have managed to create a collaborative, informal and relaxed office space that is anything but traditional. Furthermore, we developed concepts of dark spaces vs. light spaces, open spaces vs. small spaces and quiet spaces vs. active spaces, all of which assist with how much the staff work effectively and collaboratively. I think that having this flow and division is crucial to a happy workplace as it gives the staff easy access to an assortment of spaces for the varying demands of their work. I wholeheartedly believe that a building can inspire a flexible and productive environment.

Do you see any current trends in the architectural industry at the moment?

Thankfully, the trend for indoor- outdoor offices is becoming extremely popular and the impact of plants on our wellbeing is being acknowledged. iGaming companies prefer to take a nature-inspired approach instead of spending long hours in stuffy offices. As this concept has been close to heart since my University days, I always like to say that green is the new black.

You’ve talked us through the initial stages of a design project. How do you transform the project from paper and bring it to life?

Bringing the concept to life is the fun part! It requires a lot of artistic work that make ideas and inspirations come together through sketches, 2D plans, 3D models, renders etc.

PHASE 3: DESIGN DETAILING AND CUSTOMISATION

So what happens once the design is finalised?

Before the final stage of execution, it is important to look at the design detailing and the customisation of the project. For example, I’ve recently been working on an office for an iGaming company that is spread on two floors of 250sqm each. The company wanted to tie in their updated brand into the architectural design concept. We integrated branding and architecture by translating a bold and con dent design for their office space that fits in with their cool brand. For this to happen, it needed a lot of time for customisation and detail design such as lighting, wood work, colour schemes, furniture choices etc. All these details, be them small or large, ensure that while the spatial planning of the office reflects their professional work ethic, the style and branding reflects their character; current, bold and con dent.

PHASE 4: PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND EXECUTION

Finally, how is the project executed?

As the Project Architect and Project Manager, I assist with managing daily a airs of the project and supervise all the contractors, manufactures and suppliers involved. I also meet the clients and guide them towards the setting of their deadlines. I am also responsible for preparing and producing the construction and detail documents while also being the middle-person between the client, the consultants and the contractors. All this is important so that the correct design details will be executed on site. I also aid with ensuring that the quotes received for the project are factual and priced fairly and I keep track of the financial budgets.

How do you feel seeing a project come together after you worked so hard on it?

It’s a satisfying feeling to see your work being executed and happening in real life. Above that, three of the companies offices I have designed so far have won their first award after their respective projects were finalised. That is one achievement that I am incredibly proud of. It’s also fulfilling when I get new jobs through referrals and through people visiting the offices that I have designed and liking what they see.
I also breathe a sigh of relief when I see that everything has worked out the way that it was supposed to. Seeing my clients happy with my work is above and beyond rewarding.

The 4th AML Directive from an Operators Point of View

Dr. Kevin Plumpton and Stefan Grech share their thoughts on this year’s 4th directive

As gaming operator you may feel you have had enough of what you deem to be responsibility ‘responsibility’ dumping. Why is the EU imposing all of these new anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations on the industry through the introduction of the 4Th AML Directive?

Are Operators Investigators?

At first glance it seems like it is literally a matter of ‘dumping’ its onerous tasks on the Operator?
How can operators ever be held responsible for Sherlock’s job? Valid question. Operators are not investigators. They are not meant to be. They are in the gaming business to make money, clean money from legitimate sources. Not to work as investigative agents. Is the regulator aware of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of funds already invested by the Operator  just to build the platform on which its customers on-board? And the moneys spent to fund all the IT techs building the virtual dynamics? Do they consider the costs of setting up the business, of maintaining the license and compensating affiliates? Are the authorities really aware of what it takes to get just one single player to subscribe and log into one’s website for a second time?

Dr. Kevin Plumpton & Stefan Grech from Diligex

Is it worth all that the money, if following all that effort, the Operator is obliged to welcome a customer exceeding €2,000 in stakes, with an investigative ‘Risk-Based’ approach? Even at the risk of scaring off the new customer to third-party greener pastures, where potentially they don’t ask any uncomfortable questions.
Just for a moment and just to make a point, let us compare gaming to another legitimate business, such as catering. Forget the disproportionate incomparable risk of Money Laundering presented by each industry.

Let us ignore that for a while and let us imagine that we were a restaurant owner who has bought a new eatery in the city. We refurbish it from scratch and we are eagerly waiting for the first call of business. A new patron knocks on the restaurant door enquiring on the menu and as any good restaurant owner would do, we haste to the door to greet the enquiring customer. With a beaming smile we welcome him in and hand the new customer a KYC form. The patron returns a confused look. Politely we proceed to inform him that unfortunately, due to the European Union, we can’t serve him dinner tonight, before he fills out all the forms we just gave him and show him to the bar, where we leave some pens handy for KYC purposes.
Hesitantly, and anticipating a negative reaction, we go on to explain that he also needs to provide us with a certi ed true copy of his ID card and Utility Bill before he gets to eat the main course. Not to mention, that we shall be monitoring his orders, and will enquire on his Source of Funds if he orders French truffles and Osetra caviar off the menu!

Is the 4th directive one step too far?

The example is obviously an overstretched assessment of the AML/CFT realities present within the gaming industry. From an AML/CFT risk perspective the comparison made above is odious, to say the least. However, it serves the purpose of highlighting the intense uneasiness sometimes experienced by even the most serious and responsible Operators in the industry. Despite their best of intentions, good-meaning Operators complaint that the 4th Directive has taken their responsibilities one step too far. They feel inadequately positioned to carry out such tasks, especially when confronting their current and constant customer base.

Labelling the 4th Directive and its primary objective as a mere exercise in responsibility ‘dumping’ is, however, an unjust assessment, to say the least. Some of the frustrations that accompany its implementation might be indeed justi ed, as explained above. However, the implementation of strict rules on transaction monitoring and suspicious-activity- reporting is the basis of a strong and protected market. Tolerating anything less than full co-operation from the Operators in the fight against crime, would not only give the wrong message to new applicants looking to invest in a reputable jurisdiction; but would eventually lead to a long- term deterioration of standards and good ethic across the market and operators. Without both standards and good ethics, society would truly be dumping, not only its AML responsibilities, or its consequences, but let’s dare say the Gaming market altogether; or at least a reliable one that produces long-term fruit. The 4th Directive, therefore, is not about responsibility ‘dumping’ but rather responsibility ‘sharing’.

The 4th Directive as a chance for the iGaming industry

In this light, the Operators who are willing to benefit from the spoils of a strong, healthy and open gaming market understand the benefits of ‘sharing’ some responsibilities with the regulator in order to retain the market’s reputation and good-standing. Rather than seeing the 4th Directive implementation as a matter of hard luck, these serious Operators are ushering the new procedures as benchmarks, which ensure higher reputational standards, raising the no-tolerance bar and consolidating their serious channels of business. These new procedures serve to strengthen a strong base of honest customers who are after a professional gaming industry. An industry that is serious enough to get rid of the bad apple.

SiGMA-igaming-Kevin Plumpton

“The 4th Directive is not about responsibility ‘dumping’ but rather responsibility ‘sharing’”

Once we’ve come to terms with the spirit behind this new Regulation, all Operators still need to establish whether, within their current setup, this sprit shall be haunting them throughout the next couple of months and years of implementation. Do they need to reshuffle their entire compliance department? Do they need to engage super- expensive 4th AML experts? Should they re-program their entire IT platform to carry out automated risk screening? In a nutshell – Do they need to run their business at a loss for most of next year or more? The short answer to that question is ‘no’.

Unfortunately, a detailed explanation of that outright ‘no’ would definitely take much more than just two pages on this publication to explain. So, restricted by reality (and for sanity’s sake) this article shall limit itself to three imperative actions that must be taken immediately to ensure that Operators get geared up for a thorough implementation of the 4th AML Directive.

Make sure your MLRO (nominated officer) is not just a figure head

The person nominated for the task must benefit form a minimum amount of experience within the field, especially on risk-based decision-making and adequate record keeping. Most importantly, the role of MLRO is to be respected for the responsibilities it carries. Furthermore, whoever occupies such role, is reasonable to expect advanced training and expert support, at least in the first months of implementation.

Discard any current AML Tick-Box procedures

The ‘Risk-Based Approach’ is in the house. Whilst to date the AML/CFT scenario was essentially based on a tick-box exercise, whereby the essential task of all Compliance personnel was getting all customer declarations and documentation collected, things have now changed completely. All compliance officers are required to direct their efforts towards a reasoned and examined determination of actions required to mitigate potential risks within a particular transaction. There is no box to tick here. All actions must be based on an ad-hoc analysis of the customer’s profile and behaviours, the determination of risk and the taking of unpremeditated measures to mitigate such risks.

The Compliance Department can’t be ignored and left to its own resources to carry out its ‘paper work’. It’s not about papers as much as it is about creating a Client-Relationship dynamic, absent to date, whereby customers are assessed both in terms of their communication with the Operator and in terms of their profile and any deviating patterns in their behaviour. A serious risk-based approach requires the full commitment and support of senior management, and the active co-operation of all employees.

Stop treating your MRLO as a party-pooper

The reality faced by most Nominated Officers, when compared to the expected scenario they are presented with during training sessions, is starkly disappointing, and that’s being polite. The Operator, particularly its senior management, must make all efforts to show that it is serious in insight against financial crime. The Nominated Officer must feel assured that the Operator, on behalf of whom he or she is carrying extensive responsibilities, is intolerant to any attempt of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
This is not only about the MLRO’s reputation or the potential gravity of the transaction; but it is also about the Operator’s legal status and reputation within the industry. The nominated officer was engaged and appointed to carry out onerous duties at law. It is a fact that such an officer is remunerated for his or her responsibilities.
However, it is also true that these obligations carry a particular burden on the said officer, including the risk of imprisonment, if not carried out with the diligence and care required at law. Thus, the nominated officer must tangibly feel that he or she has the liberty to apply their judgement, based on all skills and knowledge they have acquired in the course of his or her training. Senior Management must be foursquare behind their nominated officer on all required or introduced procedures. That is, if the Operator is serious about its employees (from top to bottom) co-operating fully with all nominated o cials in eliminating nancial crime within their business channels.

Virtual Is Real – An Interview with Steven Spartinos From Kiron Interactive

Virtual Sports, eSports, Fantasy Sports have established themselves quite actively in gaming a few years ago. In this interview, SiGMA’s own Sophie Crouzet asks Co-CEO Steven Spartinos for his insights on such emerging trend and how Kiron Interactive is embracing this movement.

Pleasure to sit with Steven Spartinos, Co-founder and CEO of Kiron Interactive, and discuss virtual sports. Can you confirm and elaborate that virtual sport is evolving and becoming a much bigger piece of the Operator’s portfolio. What is contributing to this increased market share?

Yes, this is correct for a number of reasons. The high frequency nature of virtual sports events means that operators have access to a steady stream of betting content on a 24/7 basis. Time-sensitive players can also enjoy a bet whenever they have a spare few minutes in their busy day, and no longer need to wait until a live scheduled game begins. Due to their high frequency and RNG derived results, the products also appeal to a wider gaming audience thereby allowing operators to attract new players to their sports betting venues or websites. Further, the consistent and attractive margins delivered by virtual sports make them a valuable component to any operator’s product mix.

SiGMA-igaming-

Steven Spartinos From Kiron Interactive

Virtual Sports were initially used to fill the dead time between racing and other live events, but many betting shops decided to cast them aside. That’s how the Virtual Sports mania started. But why, in your opinion, Virtual Sports has become a unique feature in itself?

Virtual offerings may have started life as filler content for high street bookmakers more than a decade ago, but they have quickly become an integral part of an operator’s portfolio. Unfairly dubbed ‘cartoon racing’ when first introduced, players quickly adopted them on the back of the similar betting experience they offered to real racing. Over the years, the improvement in graphics and engaging audio have allowed virtual sports to rival the latest games console offerings and in so doing grow their appeal with the millennial generation. Time has become a big factor in our daily lives and with this in mind, players no longer have the time to wait around watching live sports matches. Virtual sports matches scheduled every couple of minutes o er an attractive alternative. Not only do they o er similar betting markets, but the shorter duration events immerse players into the action with exciting and enticing rapid play.

Why are players happier to play on Virtual sport and not real sport? Are we dealing with a totally different player demographic? Is this the beginning of a new area where virtual sport will dominate over all other betting styles?

I wouldn’t say that virtual sports will dominate over real sports or other betting styles. Rather they are a complimentary product to real sports betting, and are likely to continue to be played in parallel for the foreseeable future. A younger generation of players accustomed to computer-based gaming are, however, more inclined to bet on new generation products such as virtual sports and e-sports, thereby growing the popularity of these products with operators. The mobile betting boom is also largely attributable to a young tech-savvy market, and virtual sports t perfectly with this demographic. Younger players seek instant gratification and high frequency games that are available at the click of a button suit this time-sensitive world we live in.

When it comes to Virtual Sports, a big debate rages on which features make VS better than others. Some brands focus on graphics. Others focus on retention thanks to a strong meta-game and player experience (realistic odds, large wage of different sport event etc.). What’s your opinion on that?

Growing up with the latest gaming consoles, mobile phones and tablets means the latest generation of players demand high quality graphics and immersive game play. Regardless, even though these players hold a lot more trust in computer-based gaming than those before them, they still need to be catered for with a high level of care to ensure player retention. It is very important that virtual offerings are believable, realistic and as enticing as possible. Only then can they be treated as a true substitute for live action. A variety of betting options, considering local preferences, as well as attractive odds are also necessary ingredients for a successful offering.

What’s the technology behind your Virtual Sports product? What are you using to make your games as good as real? Basically, what makes Kiron Interactive stand out from the clutter?

Kiron uses state of the art technology to offer the widest range of virtual sports titles on the market. With 17 titles that include a variety of racing, racquet and team based sports, Kiron has the largest and most varied virtual sports portfolio on the market, and we can tailor any of our offerings to suit the local markets and operators we are supplying. We place a great deal of emphasis on realism and capturing the essence and excitement of each real sport we simulate, albeit in a condensed format. This includes a combination of high end graphics, game play variants and realistic human audio commentary. By always ensuring we do our research, we can o er the best product on the market while also ensuring operators are left with a profitable and reliable offering. Our flexible and configurable solutions, including a number of playout options, ensure we can offer a tailored package for operators across industry verticals.

Besides your Virtual Sports Products, you also offer a Remote Gamer Server which provides a fully hosted and managed turnkey virtual sports betting solution: BetMan Online. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Why is it a good investment for Operators?

Our proprietary Betman Online RGS provides a market leading omni-channel fixed odds betting platform dedicated to virtuals, allowing players to bet at high frequency on our large portfolio of virtual sports on both desktop and mobile devices. Our RGS seamlessly integrates with an operator’s player wallet system, offering a large range of standard and unique betting markets, to sit alongside Kiron’s extensive virtuals catalogue. We offer a fully managed and hosted solution which requires minimum investment on the part of the operator. Together with an extensive back office, operators have all the tools required to fine tune the games to their preferences and operating requirements as well as analyse performance in infinite detail through the large number of statistics and reports that are available.

This platform allows player to bet on both desktop and mobile device. Would you say that the dazzling penetration pace of mobile and its impact on the customer journey has changed the way of building and thinking the Virtual Sports?

The rapid play nature of virtual sports lends itself perfectly to mobile delivery. With events beginning and ending every minute and with the proliferation of mobile bandwidth allowing for high quality videos to be streamed across all devices, virtual sports suit the modern-day player. We need to continue to stay ahead of mobile trends and technologies ensuring that we deliver a mobile product of the highest quality for users, including a high load-bearing and responsive betting interface.

You have a pretty impressive portfolio in the industry offering a large variety of virtual sports product and games such as football, archery, horse/dog races, table tennis etc. You even introduced the aptly-themed winter sports to the virtual gaming world a few months ago. In terms of Buzzwords and trends, what is in your opinion the most popular Virtual Sports product?

On a global scale, football continues to be a king. The sport has billions of fans worldwide, and virtual football offers those with time constraints in their life to enjoy the buzz of the game without needing to take two hours out of their busy schedule. In partnership with VSoftCo we continue to offer the industry’s only real time football game, rather than pre-recorded highlights, ensuring that players are engrossed in the action as they would be with a live football match, creating a much more real to life football experience. Racing continues to be a massive product in the virtuals world and continues to perform incredibly well in most markets irrespective of whether they have an established real racing industry or not. However, it’s important to tailor your content to fit the market, as football is not considered as a main sport in places such as Scandinavia. Our winter-themed sports are a great example of how a one size fits all mentality will see you left behind.

Kiron Interactive was also the first to introduce virtual sports in Malta with its leading retail sports betting operator, IZIBET. How do you approach the Maltese market? What does this introduction mean for your expansion strategy?

Kiron is always looking to push into new markets with principal local operators. The strategy used to introduce our products into the Maltese market is a similar one that we have used successfully in other new markets we have entered. The perfect opportunity presented itself to work alongside IZIBET, which shares our own beliefs when it comes to virtual sports. The deal was enabled via BGT terminals which were already well distributed across the IZIBET shops. As always, we tailored our package to perfectly suit both the market and IZIBET to ensure we maximize penetration and profitability. The products we have launched in the market have already proved popular with local players and the tools used to promote them, have worked well in terms of notification and education.

 

 

MGA (Malta Gaming Authority): Challenges and Opportunities

For many years now, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has arguably been the world’s pre-eminent remote gaming jurisdiction, with little or no competition from bigger countries who took far longer to recognise the value inherent in the industry. In particular, Malta has become the mainstay jurisdiction with regard to licensing and regulation in ‘grey’ gaming markets, such as Australia and Canada, where players are not prevented from participating in online gaming even though operators are barred from running sites from within those countries’ borders.

Although there are other licensing regimes, such as Gibraltar, Belize and Alderney, a site accredited and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority generally earns the greatest respect and trust from players, and they see it as being a well-organised body that effectively oversees the fair and secure operation of gaming sites. In essence, Malta has for some time been virtually the only game in town.

However, there have been significant challenges posed to the MGA’s position, not least by the UK’s decision to become a ‘white’ market where online gaming is fully regulated through the auspices of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). Now, operators of white listed casino sites are required to be regulated by the UKGC if they want to advertise and provide services to UK players, and a point of consumption tax is paid by the operator on every wager.

This development has not, however, significantly impacted on the reputation of the MGA’s licensing regime, as UK-based operators who continue to operate in grey markets still seek and retain Maltese licences. Currently, there are more than 500 MGA licences held by remote gaming operators from around the world and their value continues to be recognised globally.

Nevertheless, in order to retain its pre-eminent position within the remote gaming industry, the MGA has been seeking to expand and diversify its offerings, and is looking to innovate in a number of areas.

Most notably, the MGA is seeking to expand into the realm of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and cryptocurrencies, through allowing operators with its licences to offer online gaming based on DLT and to accept payments using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Etheruem.

Such a move is not without potential challenges for the MGA. In a White Paper issued in July 2017, the authority noted that before it can licence DLT and cryptocurrency operators with confidence, it needs to ensure that proper protocols are in place to protect players and that security measures are implemented so as to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism. This is deemed necessary so that a move towards accepting new technologies and emerging currencies will not in any way compromise the MGA’s reputation and international standing.

Therefore, the MGA is currently establishing a ‘test and learn’ live environment in which cryptocurrencies can be used for gaming, and is also exploring how it might draw up and enact a regulatory regime applicable to remote gaming sites implementing DLT. Industry observers have noted rapidly growing interest in the use of cryptocurrencies at remote gambling sites, fuelled by the spectacular rise in value of Bitcoin and others in 2017, and so the MGA has clearly recognised this as a sector in which it needs to be an active, if not leading, participant in the future.

This represents the sort of forward thinking that has seen Malta lead the way and remain at the forefront of regulated remote gaming for so long. From the outset, it recognised that prohibition was not the answer, but rather that a better solution was to create safe and secure gaming environments in which operators were regulated and controls were in place to ensure that players were treated responsibly and games operated fairly. Likewise, the MGA has recognised that as cryptocurrencies gain more widespread acceptance, it make sense to ensure that players using Bitcoin are able to benefit from the same sort of assurances that players using traditional currencies have always enjoyed.

Therefore, it would seem that despite the challenges posed by the UK and other jurisdictions becoming regulated white markets, Malta looks set to stay ahead of the game, and will continue to be a respected and valued regulator as remote gaming moves into its next phase.

 

Three Ways iGaming Can Engage Audiences

The iGaming industry is booming – and, as such, the market has become extremely saturated with sites fighting to be heard in the noise of both online and land-based competitors. So, online casino providers need to be clever about how they target potential new audiences while keeping original fans happy and returning. There are multiple ways this can be done, from welcome bonus offers to attempting new ways of packaging the gameplay.

Welcome Bonuses

One of the surest quick wins of attaining new customers and fans of online casino to a site is through an incentivised system if they choose the site. These can range from free spins on online slots to huge cash bonuses on offer for signing up. Some sites opt for the simple reward that guarantees the initial few bets for free while customers investigate the site, while others opt for the possibility of winning huge rewards, which will attract the more adventurous gamer. As sites collating Canadian focused casino promotions show, both larger rewards such as $2000 are offered as well as smaller ones spread over bonuses.

Newer Technology

Keeping on trend with the latest technology in iGaming is crucial for a site to keep up with the competition, especially with the slew of new developments. For example, live casino is now the norm across most sites due to the increase in live broadcasting technology coupled with online casino. Most sites offer some variation of live dealer, with others going as far as offering live games with the ability to see your opponents. The live variation isn’t for everyone but it helps create the immersive atmosphere for the players that want one. The simple offering shows that an online casino provider is committed to changing things and developing, as opposed to settling with a well-worked formula. In all business, evolution is critical to ongoing success.  

Game Content

While most people tune into online gaming to play the simple games on offer, such as blackjack and poker, which have remained the same for centuries, others are enticed by the packaging of the games. By adding rich visuals, an exciting soundtrack, and enhanced graphics, those less familiar with the actual gameplay will be more interested in trying it out. Attracting new fans is crucial for online casino and by packaging the basic offering up in an innovative way, such as with branded content from Hollywood blockbusters or enduring themes such as Ancient Egypt or fantastical lands, websites can attract these fans. Branded content has proven time and again to be a sure-fire way to engage with a different breed of fans.

As with all industries, how a product is offered and marketed is crucial to its success and online casino is no different. By taking similar core offerings of the game, sites have to be clever in deciding how to target new customers, where to find these customers, and what these customers would be looking for when iGaming.

 

Find SiGMA at ICE Totally Gaming

ICE Totally Gaming is on the books for 6-8 February 2018, and SiGMA is attending in force

The 2017 edition registered upwards of 30,000 in attendance, and cemented the show’s reputation further. ICE is known for its product launches, and as a showcase for innovation in general.  ICE VOX, which will replace ICE Conferences, will provide an opportunity of gaming aficionados to get in touch with the more salient industry issues and learn from some of the keenest minds in the business. All of this will take place in one of the best and biggest venues available today.

SiGMA’s attendance is further proof of the organisation’s commitment to the gaming scene at a global level. Furthermore, a number of SiGMA’s clients also attend ICE, making the show an ideal opportunity for the organisation to interact with some of its partners.

ICE is a melting pot of all the key players in gaming today – from operators to regulators. It stands to reason that SiGMA should make its presence felt there. SiGMA’s delegates are keen to meet their current clients, as well as some potential new ones.

Contact laima@sigma.com.mt to book a meeting with one of SiGMA’s attending representatives.
SiGMA igaming SiGMA team

 

 

Competition and Markets Authority Changing Bonus Offers Regulations in the UK

Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes Committed to Change their Bonus Strategies

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced that some terms used for bonus offers are “likely to be unfair, in breach of consumer protection law, and could mislead consumers” and are therefore not appropriate.

Several operators of the UK Gambling market were affected by this statement. The CMA plans to implement stricter rules which will come to force before February 28, 2018.

According to the CMA, Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes have committed to change.
This implies changing their bonus strategies, since players will not have to play multiple times in order to withdraw money.
Secondly, restrictions regarding gameplay must be stated clearly and operators have to have defined terms to confiscate players’ money. And finally, players can not be forced by operators to take place in publicity.

Sarah Gardner, executive director at the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) celebrated the announcement, “real progress in making gambling fairer and safer for customers will be made.” Further, she urged operators to comply with the CMA’s demands on time.

 

Relax Gaming Announces New CEO Daniel Eskola

Eskola to take over from Relax co-founder Patrik Österåker

​Innovative multi-product supplier Relax Gaming has announced Daniel Eskola as its new Chief Executive Officer, a role previously held by Patrik Österåker.

SiGMA-igaming-Daniel Eskola

Daniel Eskola – New CEO at Relax Gaming

Eskola, currently Chief Product Officer with Kindred Group, will take over from Relax’s co-founder – who will in turn become Chairman of the Board.

Welcoming him to Relax, Patrik Österåker said, “I’m delighted that Daniel has agreed to become our CEO and we look forward to harnessing his product, commercial, and operational expertise to take the company to a new level. Daniel shares our company values and vision and I’m certain he will be an excellent fit in the team.

“For myself and the company the appointment of a new CEO represents a natural and welcome transition after eight years at the helm. During that time, Relax has built a solid foundation that is now ripe for exponential scaling, and I ‘m excited to leave this responsibility in the hands of our prominent Executive Management team with Daniel as captain.

Eskola, who will take up his new post on April 1st, brings a wealth of industry knowledge to the role, with 13 years of B2B and B2C experience across casino, sports betting, poker, and bingo.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to my new role which will allow me the freedom to further strengthen our competitiveness through strategic internal and external initiatives.”

Daniel Eskola said, “I have followed Relax Gaming closely since its inception. I’m incredibly excited to be joining a fantastic team and at being part of the exciting journey in the upcoming years.

“I’m very confident that we can leverage their market-leading tech platform across casino, poker, and bingo in order to benefit the company and all its partners.”

Eskola’s appointment follows in the wake of former NetEnt CPO Simon Hammon and Head of Account Management Andrew Crosby, as the supplier bolstered its product and commercial teams.

 

Habanero joins forces with SKS365, enters Italian market

A range of games to be launched with planetwin365 brand

Habanero, known for its quality slots and table games, has effectively found a way into the Italian iGaming market with its latest deal. The agreement will see Habanero supply its full range of certified games to SKS365, which operates the successful planetwin365 betting and gaming brand.

Arcangelo Lonoce, Head of Business Development – Europe at Habanero, said the deal formed part of the company’s plans to grow in Europe during the course of 2018, placing its games in front of more players than ever before.

He added: “SKS365 is taking the market by storm, so it’s a great opportunity for us to work alongside such a successful operator.  We have some really innovative themes and features in the pipeline, and we are delighted to share them with players on planetwin365.”

Under this agreement, blockbuster HTML5 titles such as Koi Gate, Bird of Thunder and the recently-launched 5 Mariachis will be made available. The move follows the recent AAMS certification of 33 of Habanero’s newest and best-performing games, offered through their proprietary platform, and featuring impressive visuals, immersive audio, and elegant maths.

Daniela Lanzolla, Head of Gaming at SKS365, said: “Habanero develops some of the most unique and interesting games on the market, so their content makes for a great addition to our portfolio. They are helping us stand out from the crowd and offer our players something different.”

Habanero has expanded its commercial footprint of late. Deals with 1XBet and Digitain has seen their reach extend into Eastern Europe. They will be exhibiting on stand N3-243 at next week’s ICE.