Simon Westbury: Post-ICE 2020
03 March 2020 / Otra
A friend of mine told me a few years ago, “Simon, you do not have a reverse gear – it’s like you hurtle down the motorway through a 50mph traffic zone – leaving traffic cones flying in your rear view mirror”.
Never has that felt more true than after another ICE filled with back to back meetings from sunrise to sundown. With the show now in the rear-view mirror, and after accelerating through, we’re certainly ready for the hard work to begin.
As some of my readers may remember, I mentioned in my pre-ICE blog a number of key buzz words I expected to be on the cards this year, and I plan to revisit these soon enough. Before we get started however, I’d like to give kudos to the fantastic marketing team at Digitain, who created the perfect base of operations for our team at our stand over the three days.
Admittedly, my friends may suggest I’m somewhat biased, but if there was an award going for best stand showcase; I’d be throwing our hat into the ring. The stand encapsulated all that makes us one of the world’s favourite platforms: a true visual representation as to how we are powering innovation on a global scale.
This leads me nicely on to the subject of today’s blog: Innovation. In my pre-ICE piece, I promised my readers I’d take a venture into ICE’s North Hall to take casino’s pulse – but I’ll be honest, not only was the lure of Digitain’s stand holding me back, but my meeting schedule ensured I barely had time to conduct my research.
So, in the interest of providing a report based on my own findings, we’ll stick to innovation in sportsbook and virtuals as these were in immediate vicinity of Camp Digitain in the South Hall.
Starting with virtuals, we certainly had a strong line-up, with the usual suspects to consider, and plenty of ICE-timed product launches on show.
Kiron were on hand to showcase its new in-house built virtual football, with Inspired also rolling out its version, with women’s soccer also proving to be an industry first. Global Bet got in on the action too, unveiling its take on the beautiful game. Golden Race also had its virtual football product up and running, with the key differentiator being its full toolkit of products were ready to be delivered.
Of course, ICE wouldn’t be ICE without some “vapour wear” – or in other words, products that are meant to be ready “in the next few months”, but likely won’t be until ICE 2021, so I’ll remain cautiously optimistic as to when they’ll launch.
Rumours were also abound from the North Hall that Pragmatic Play had dipped a tentative toe into the virtuals market, with plenty of leading industry luminaries hovering anxiously around the Pragmatic Stand to check out the new kid on the block. With virtuals set to be a key vertical for 2020, I certainly don’t blame them.
More interesting for me however (when it comes to the innovation side), will be how the existing graphics vs. maths play out over the year for virtuals. I’d advise my fellow industry hawks to keep an eye on Highlight Games given their recent Italy success and their changes at Executive level (congratulations Nick and Steve!).
Moving on to my second topic – sportsbook, and we’ll take a slightly different direction. Forgive me for being blunt to my industry peers, but market-leading launches certainly dropped off the agenda this year. Marketing upgrades for existing tools seem to be 2020 focus, and I can’t say I was particularly blown away.
Of course, that wasn’t the case at Camp Digitain, where we kicked off the show by celebrating our Malta B2B Licence. Regulation, while frustrating at times, is also key to our growth – and the endorsement of Malta’s regulatory authority is one we fully embrace at Digitain. In terms of launches, our market-leading API solution proved particularly popular this year with our Asian visitors, as well as our friends and partners who came to congratulate us on our latest licence.
Following on from ICE Africa at the close of the year, we also saw plenty of visitors eager to learn more about our African View portfolio; including one of our competitors referring a customer to us as a better solution! That’s not to mean that we should be resting on our laurels of course. Expect to see plenty more focus on Africa in 2020.
Our CEE products also garnered plenty of interest, with our recent Romania licence establishing our credentials in the region. While I won’t bore you too much on regulation; I will say that if you want to scale on the global stage, you’d better be prepared to embrace it.
Taking off my sales hat, the majority of industry-focused discussions were around AI and sportsbook personalisation. Alongside, my Betting on Sports interview where I touched on ‘Digiflix’ certainly caused a stir. Those who read my ramblings regularly know how I’m a proponent of this kind of tech. So to see plenty of talk focused around AI – and the questions we need to ask around player protection and user experience, certainly impressed me.
For team Digitain, AI and personalised tech will be at the heart of what we do this year. Google has encapsulated it rather well in switching their mantra from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘AI-first’. While we may not be in their weight class (yet), I can certainly promise you our latest AI driven platform and suite of products will do better than my working title of ‘Digiflix!’.
Last but not least, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Clarion for another great event. Its dedication to ensuring that we (as an industry) represented ourselves in good form was fantastic, despite the appearance of numerous UK journalists who had clearly decided what to write about before they visited. Although having said that, kudos to Flavio Grasselli, who gave the most romanticised quote I have ever seen printed in gambling! Going forward; initiatives such as All in Diversity’s Open Doors will no doubt prove to be a gamechanger, and definitely have cause for celebration. I said before ICE if the industry represented ourselves well, we may get a B-, but after an ICE where I think existing themes and discussions were solidified, we can upgrade to a B.
To sign off, I’ll leave you with my favourite ICE quote: if you have a good ICE you have a good year. While the hard work may start now, 2020 looks very promising for Digitain and I hope the same goes for the industry as a whole. My best to you all.