EuroSlot goes in-depth with Martin Lucas, Managing Director for Betting & VLT, Inspired Gaming Group.
Inspired has clearly made great in-roads in the Italian market in the past 18 months. Where do you see the company’s strengths?
Our strength is in our machine performance and the flexibility our open platform offers concessionaires. We deliver the ultimate VLT solution, with powerful yield management tools and an unrivalled library of content and cabinet choice. We have exceeded market expectations with impressive machine incomes and over 6,000 terminals contracted.
You’re independent of a concessionaire in Italy. How important do you consider this?
We are committed to remaining an independent supplier to the VLT markets we operate in. This allows our customers the peace of mind that we are not competing with their business in any way and that they have full access to our complete portfolio of cabinets and games – not just a selection. This approach has secured us the custom of Europe’s largest gaming operators, such as William Hill, Bplus and Sisal.
Turning to Research & Development (R&D) – how do you ensure the company continues to innovate while satisfying current client requirements?
All of our products are installed and run on the same technology, our Open SBG CORE™ platform. This allows us to focus our R&D on the one platform, thereby maximising the benefit of our R&D across all of our products and utilising the platform architecture to build different modules to suit specific markets. An example of this would be our most recently developed marketing and rewards module, CORE VIP, which is already live with William Hill in the UK. This module is available across our platform for all of our machines.
To ensure our continued innovation, our business is carefully structured. We have a R&D facility and customer operation divisions, working side by side to analyse performance, manage customer requirements and plan for the future.
Describe for us the process of licensing new content – how you source it, what you look for, and how the commercial model works for third parties?
As an open provider, we work with world class content developers who provide games for our platform in the UK, across Europe and Latin America. Our platform utilises an open API and open game development kit, which makes creating games for our platform easy for developers. Because we have over 35,000 VLTs installed across our territories, all of which use our common platform and open API, we’re a very attractive proposition for game developers – their content receives a huge amount of exposure and they get the maximum return for developing their games to one single API.
When selecting content, we use our specialist knowledge to create games in-house and look for established international and local game developers. This ensures we provide the best mix of content for the each of our markets, everything from casino slots and freespins to multiple feature games. Our commercial model generally works on a participation basis, where the developers receive a share of the game’s revenue.
Describe for us the metrics by which you judge a release a success?
We constantly monitor all of our content across each of our territories. I can tell you that since launch of our VLTs in Italy, Treasure Island has been our most successful game to date. This sort of information is essential for operators to make informed content decisions. We use many qualitative and quantitative measures to assess game performance, such as overall handle, the number of plays, average stake, consumer feedback via focus groups and market research. Of course, we ultimately look at the bottom line, but this level of analysis allows us to understand how and why games perform. The deep understanding achieved by our platform is one of its most unique features. Its performance monitoring allows us to identify any decline in income - and where regulation permits, we can fine tune the game parameters. Attributes such as the return to player, the stake or game maths can be optimised - or we can even replace the game entirely with new content through our server-based network.
Product approval for regulated markets such as Italy is obviously important – how much of a hurdle is gaining this in practice?
The Italian VLT market is widely regarded as having the most technically demanding regulation in the world. We have worked very closely with our concessionaires and the regulatory bodies to meet the complex legislation and ensure the approval process is as efficient as possible.
We were the second system to go live in Italy with our first concessionaire and subsequent concessionaires. With so few suppliers approved in Italy, our success really demonstrates the strength, power and flexibility of our platform.
Getting back to basics – you’re known for your software, but the cabinets are the first thing players see. How much of the business is devoted to making sure you get this piece of the jigsaw right?
We are passionate about innovation in every part of our products. Inspired introduced the concept of HD Gaming™, which is now standard across our portfolio of products. We feel it’s essential the player’s perception of the cabinet is as good as the technology it’s powered by. We’re devoted to getting the mix of cabinet and content right, as demonstrated by Storm HD, our high-definition and best looking gaming cabinet – over 20,000 Storm HD cabinets are installed worldwide, each with an unrivalled library of games to suit local players from leading international and local content suppliers.
Where there is demand, we will happily work with third party cabinet manufactures. Operators who have existing relationships with cabinet manufacturers can still benefit from our Open SBG CORE™ technology. We can run our platform on any cabinet, allowing access to Inspired’s full range of platform functionality. Italy is a great example of how this can benefit operators – our approved technology platform is in high demand, but with so few suppliers live in the market, concessionaires also want a range of cabinet types to generate a sense of variation in their venues. Inspired can offer both, the platform’s power to run on any cabinet allows this to happen.
The speed of the VLT rollout in Italy has been particularly impressive – is this now a “known science”, or are there ways to improve further the deployment of new machines into new territories?
The success of rollout is ultimately down to the relationships we have with our customers. As the product's performance created demand, wesupplied as many machines as possible and our customers worked extremely hard to accelerate their installation plans. Despite the fact Inspired has had great success rolling out so many VLTs for its customers, there are still a significant amount of VLT licences in Italy, which suppliers have yet to or are unable to deploy because their platform is not approved.
Finally, the future – where can we expect Inspired’s Betting & VLT Division to be in five years’ time?
It’s difficult to predict technology trends three years in advance, let alone five years, but rest assured innovation is at our core. In five years’ time we will remain at the forefront of gaming and still be pushing the limits with our leading server-based technology. Over the last 10 years we have demonstrated amazing innovation, such as our high-definition Storm cabinet, marketing and rewards system CORE VIP - recently launched with William Hill in the UK – and award-winning cross platform virtual sports betting products.
We’ve enjoyed much success in Italy and have even more cabinets and games available for our customers. Looking ahead, we will continue to grow our customers’ incomes and expand our successful formula to other VLT territories which are suited to our expertise.
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