Ricky Ruddock is head of sales at igaming platform provider Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) joining the platform provider from NetEnt where he was responsible for driving growth of their WLA partners.
The betting and gaming industry has evolved significantly in the two years since the last edition of ICE London, and this is particularly true of Gaming Innovation Group (GiG). Since ICE 2022, the once-hybrid B2B-B2C business has made a strategic pivot to be a pure B2B operation.
The strategy has begun to pay off, with revenue up 28% year-on-year for 2021, and its acquisition of Sportnco is set to expand its addressable market, while adding a top-tier sportsbook solution to its product range. As head of sales, it is down to Ricky Ruddock to ensure it continues to grow its client base and geographic reach through new partnerships.
It’s a global play, Ruddock points out. Once the Sportnco deal closes, we will be licensed in up to 35 markets, working with 55 clients by the end of 2022.
“We continue to focus on delivering our strategy in 2022,” he says. “That’s not really limited by geographical locations. We’ll look at opportunities that come up regardless of location, and assess them individually.”
A key strategic target for GiG, and a key target for ICE London 2022, is land-based operators looking to move online. The supplier has cultivated a roster of brick-and-mortar clients looking to add igaming to their product range.
From a business perspective, there are multiple benefits for retail operators diversifying into online. Closer engagement with customers can create new revenue streams, but it can also ‘future-proof’ businesses. While Covid-19 is receding, the sector is still recovering – the European Casino Association noted that its members’ properties averaged 150 days closed in 2021.
“We’re looking at the opportunities that are interested in, or have made the commitment to, either taking a land-based brand online, or simply launching a completely separate online brand,” Ruddock explains. The goal is to act as the connective tissue between the two channels, to ensure a successful launch.
“I think we’re in a unique position to offer them the complete end-to-end turnkey solution”, he continues. “Everything from the technology they need to make the breakthrough, to helping with their acquisition, conversion and retention, even the business operations through our managed services solutions.”
It’s helping top-tier retail operators make the transition from one channel to another, something GiG can do just as effectively for online-first businesses looking to expand into new markets. This is becoming especially crucial for the igaming sector, as amid a frostier regulatory climate in traditionally booming western European markets.
Key to this is GiG’s managed services business, something Ruddock views as a key selling point. “If your partner is just a technology provider, you don’t have that managed service support,” he points out. “When there is a need for operators to understand their obligation around player safety and regulatory compliance for example, who do you turn to?
“What if you’re having problems from a marketing perspective, such as increasing ARPU or reducing churn, who can you brainstorm with? I’m not saying they necessarily have to engage with us as contractors, but we have that internal knowledge where we can step in and help.”
And that focus on partnering rather than simply supplying goes beyond the land-based channel. At a time when leading operators’ efforts have been focused on the US, the addressable igaming market continues to expand at pace. There has been regulatory progress in Latin America – where GiG are live in Argentina – and Central Eastern Europe – it’s active in Serbia, Germany and Croatia, among others – Ruddock sees the supplier as playing a potentially key role in helping industry leaders unlock these opportunities, something further aided by the addition of a sportsbook solution.
“Tier one operators have a real appetite for growth and new revenue,” he explains. “That comes from new markets typically, but they may not have the ability or the resource to enter with their current proprietary solution or third party platform provider.
“So we’re wanting to talk to them, and help them get into these new markets. By the end of 2022 we’ll be able to offer rapid access to a set of defined markets across the group, with more to be defined and added during 2023, a considerably larger reach than we had before the Sportnco acquisition.”
“This year our market share has almost doubled, with 14 regulated markets and more than five in the pipeline. With Sportnco, we have a further 11, with five in the pipeline. With both of these together I don’t think there’ll be many other businesses out there that can give customers access to that many jurisdictions.”
For established names, that could facilitate expansion. For up-and-coming brands, that reach could be the difference between carving out a niche and falling by the wayside. As GiG could be a driving force behind established industry names’ new market entry, Ruddock believes it could play a similar role for the sector’s up-and-coming brands. He explains that as these brands transition from a startup mindset into a growth phase, executives’ concerns inevitably turn to costs.
“They need to look at where they can optimise costs, and we have various productivity solutions that can really help with that,” he says. He picks out IT solutions as an example, noting that adding a degree of automation can be a major source of efficiency for an operator scaling up.
“This is where GiG can increase efficiency by up to 25%. they can invest this surplus in marketing and growth.
“I think sometimes people think we’re not a startup or small business-friendly, but we definitely are,” Ruddock adds. “We’re definitely open to working with smaller business and help take their business to the next level.”
Providing the safety net
GiG’s expansive reach in terms of current and prospective partners is all underpinned by a commitment to ensuring customers can grow sustainably. “We need to make a conscious effort on keeping players safe,” Ruddock says. “We’d rather see an industry where players are spending small and often, and generating money over a longer period of time.”
It looks to take the industry towards this goal by building in player protection features into its core platform. This includes monitoring for patterns of play, to flag unusual or potentially risky activity, another example of automated efficiencies available through its solution.
“We have the ability to be proactive on this through AI models, where we can predict with a high level of accuracy, which players are at risk of self-excluding,” he continues.“We can see when these irregularities have happened and when to take action. By being proactive and really looking after our partners will have a more sustainable business over the long term.”
The business is making its ICE debut as a focused and growing B2B provider, and with Sportnco to be integrated, it’s got a sizeable new element to showcase.
“We want to demonstrate the features and functionality of our platform, and how we differentiate ourselves from others, and we will want to show how the sportsbook can compete and compare with others,” Ruddock says.
The value it offers goes beyond products, he adds. “I think [the industry] needs to look beyond just seeing us as a technology provider, and how much the solutions cost, to see the added value. I think that’s something that’s massively underrated.
“From a leadership perspective, we have such strong experience and depth of knowledge, whether that’s from offline or digital.
“What we want people to understand is they can trust us, because that knowledge filters down to the business or the stakeholders that manage those teams. They really know what they’re talking about.”