Considering the reshaping of Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) during more than three years with Richard Brown at the helm, it would feel trite to call 2022 yet another transformational year.
The milestones speak for themselves, driving the renewed optimism: GiG snapped up Sportnco to enhance its sportsbook offering and accelerate its global growth, and its affiliate arm GiG Media reported a seventh consecutive quarter of growth in Q3 2022. On the B2B side, 17 new agreements, including market expansion deals, were struck in the first nine months of the year.
Since last November alone, a trio of Ontario launches, a deal to take StarCasino into Spain, ISO 20000 certification for its service management and a new challenger brand in Strike Games have been signed on the B2B side. This complements a high-profile partner in News UK for GiG Media.
In Brown’s eyes, 2022 was another step forward. “Three years ago, we had the media business, the platform business, as well as a B2C business,” he says. “We’ve had to shape the organisation over that period to enable both the media and the platform business to learn exactly what works for us, and most importantly for our clients, to continue to evolve.”
But the view internally, he continues, is that there’s plenty more to come.
“One of the things I’m proud of is the organisation’s attitude. We’re never happy,” he says. “We’re never satisfied. Everything needs to be improved.
“We’re always looking for areas where we can do better for our clients, for our sites, and in our analysis. Every element is continually under scrutiny and I think that enables the business to keep looking at progressing its trajectory across both business units.”
GiG Media: The affiliate sector’s 2022 success story
While the B2B business has been at the front and of much attention, in the past year following the acquisition of Sportnco, GiG Media continues to grow at pace. How can the team, led by chief marketing officer Jonas Warrer, top seven consecutive quarters of growth?
“The affiliate industry has always been central to the success of the overall industry, in terms of the value it provides in acquisition and the flexibility it provides to operators,” explains Brown. “And it has always done so, whether that’s in 2007 with poker, or 2022 with casino and sports.
“Even if the fundamentals have evolved there’s still so much opportunity out there.”
In GiG Media, the supplier has built “a really strong organisation on top of an excellent technology stack”.
“That allows us to be very agile; we can test something, experiment, scale up when it works, scale back when it doesn’t.”
GiG’s platform and sportsbook: Open to all
For the B2B operation, 2022 has been typified by an ability to take on all comers. There are startups such as Strike Games and Maryland-focused Crab Sports, and established names taking an omnichannel approach such as Aspers Group in Great Britain or Belgium’s StarCasino.
GiG’s experience across “multitudes of markets”, from established European territories to emerging regions in Latin America, gives it the flexibility to provide something to everyone when it comes to regulated markets.
“I think we’ve demonstrated abilities in converting retail and land-based businesses to online, […] and considering we have the managed service offering within the group, that can support those client launches in conjunction with the omnichannel offering,” Brown explains.
These businesses are a key part of the supplier’s client portfolio. However, in an industry ripe for disruption, challengers can still carve out market share, and top-tier operators may still look for a new supplier as they consider expansion into newly regulated territories as the addressable client base continues to expand.
“Given the product portfolio, given the diversity and global reach of the platform, the business and our strategy, what it means for clients – irrespective of what type of goal they have – we can be very supportive and [provide] the product that enables them.”
American opportunities continue to emerge
GiG’s reach, of course, has been significantly aided by the recent Sportnco acquisition, prompting the business to put long-serving executive Ben Clemes at the vanguard of its North American gaming expansion, heading up a new hub on the continent.
A business that was historically casino-led would have a limited scope for growth in the US. Online casino is only legal in six states, and the market conditions such as tax rates range from attractive to eye-watering. A strong US sports betting solution, coupled with an enhanced platform optimised for the US, means the time is right for operational exposure.
Partners such as PlayStar would argue that GiG has successfully supported them from across the pond. But a local presence aids account management and technical integrations, ensures frontline support is on-hand, and positions traders at the heart of the action, Brown points out.
The pace of sports betting expansion has slowed, however, and some argue all the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Does this limit GiG’s scope for growth?
“As an organisation we’re not scared to go for the fruit hanging higher on the tree,” he replies. “Complexity doesn’t scare us; we look at whether the opportunity and the partner is right.”
This, he continues, means the “exceptionally important” role of tribal gaming has to be respected, to ensure the commercial sector doesn’t find itself in direct competition with Native American operators. After a year of flashpoints ranging from Oklahoma to Florida, culminating in California’s midterm debacle, Brown advocates for a more collaborative mindset in 2023.
“It’s very important we identify what is best for the consumer and balance all the interests – that’s a real challenge, it’s not something that’s going to be resolved easily,” he says.
He points out that competing interests in the gaming sector are not unique to the US, and that balance can and has been struck elsewhere. “I think that is going to play an important role, having everyone come together with an open view of what’s best for the players in the long-term.”
European land-based operators look online
Brown points to parallels in Europe, where established incumbents such as lotteries and land-based casinos have evolved to compete effectively in an open market.
GiG’s experience in taking land-based operators online has been a key element of the supplier’s growth strategy; Brown has seen first-hand how these brick-and-mortar businesses can successfully evolve into omnichannel operations.
It has been a slow burn, something he says has been developing over the past five years before Covid-19 proved to be an unexpected accelerant.
Traditionally retail-dominant markets see players shift entertainment spend online, it has prompted more interest from casinos. “Now online is more established in regulated markets,” says Brown, “land-based operators have seen the success. That plays a role in advancing their online plans.”
There’s still scope for the online-only businesses to expand, he adds. The likes of Entain are pursuing Central and Eastern European opportunities, and Southern European markets are growing faster than ever before.
“Germany is still evolving from a regulatory footprint, but I do believe it will grow to its former size,” Brown continues. “Though when that will be, I don’t know.
“[Operators] will look to these other markets. Betsson has done particularly well in the CEE region and LatAm; that’s also about having the product and operational experience to be successful.”
Emerging markets provide room to grow
While the US and Europe have dominated the industry discourse in recent years, LatAm and Africa can become important gaming destinations as operators seek new growth.
In Africa, there are established territories such as Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya that offer access to engaged, sports-mad bettors. GiG is already in play, thanks to May’s deal with Full Games in Angola.
Latin America, meanwhile, is seeing the wave of regulation many hoped for when Colombia’s igaming market launched in 2017. Peru and Chile legalised online this year, and a bill is working its way through Uruguay’s legislature. Argentina is live, on a province-by-province basis, and Brazil is edging closer to legal gaming at least.
If it’s local experience operators are after, GiG has it, in spades. It has deployed its technology in Colombia with Betsson, for example, and is active in five LatAm territories in total, again highlighting its capabilities as an expansion partner for the region. “Operators will look for more opportunities in these regions, and we have developed the infrastructure to help these companies be successful,” Brown says.
“The ones with operational and product experience in these regions will have a greater chance of success.”
Over the past three years, Brown has helped ensure that GiG has developed the operational and product expertise to set it up for success. For a company that’s never satisfied, there’s plenty to do in 2023.
Richard Brown joined GiG in 2016 as managing director for GiG Media, before progressing to chief digital officer and then chief operating officer. In November 2019 Richard was appointed as CEO. Prior to joining GiG, Richard worked in senior roles for various companies including Highlight Media Group, Web Guide Partner and THG Sports.