Gaming online is about betting on sports,
betting on card games like poker, and about online casinos.
But online gambling is a lot more than that.
Esthetically packaged games of skill are on the rise. Like eSports… and of course Fantasy Sports, a lifetime passion of Benjamin Carlotti, the Managing Director of Oulala Games in Malta.
As everyone knows, Sweden is set to regulate its gambling/gaming market from the beginning of next year.
Most foreign operators are of course welcoming the reregulation, which will be the main topic of discussion at the 10th i-Gaming Forum, at Berns Salonger in Stockholm on April 17th – 18th.
Online has 46 per cent of the gambling turnover in Sweden, currently.
But the reregulation impacts different online gaming sectors in different ways.
For fantasy sports enterprises, like Oulala, there is a long way to go to the “Promised Land”, still.
“While we strongly support the liberalisation of the gambling/gaming industry, we hope that the Swedish authorities will also decide to regulate the fantasy sports sector. It is absolutely critical for our sector to be properly regulated, thus separated from other gambling activities. As we need a legal frame, that will understand the specificities of our activity.”
Oulala Games is based in Malta, an EU gaming hub which is leading the way, in pointing out the special situation of certain online gamers
“As you may know, last year, the Malta Gaming Authority introduced a skill game licence, which has had a very positive effect on our future. Since it is key that we grow in an optimised ecosystem.”
Does Benjamin Carlotti think that this kind of license will be granted in other countries soon?
“Yes, we are optimistic that other European countries will follow Malta’s path and create their own skill game licence in the future, Sweden included.”
Some people call Sweden “The Spiritual Home of iGaming”. How interesting is Sweden, or the Nordics – as a market, for Oulala?
“The size of the Swedish community working in the iGaming sector in Malta tends to prove that this quote makes sense. The Nordic market is strong because people are enthusiastic about watching sports, particularly football, with the daily fantasy English Premier League being the most popular in Nordic countries. For Oulala, the main challenge is the lack of specific regulations for skill games. Until Sweden has created a specific legal frame for our type of activity, their market will not be a priority for us.”
Does Oulala firmly believe that the future of iGaming lies mainly in developing games of skill?
“Unequivocally. There appears to be a major dissonance between what the industry is hoping the customers want, and what the customers and potential clients are really looking for. Over the last four years, Oulala has paid close attention to fully understanding the specific needs of these new generations, often referred to as millennials. What we have learnt, above all else, is that they want skill games.”
Gaming is of course a mainstay of the younger generations. But all of it does not automatically translate into online gambling.
“If one’s childhood and teen years have been spent playing unbelievable skill games on consoles, then it is quite likely that one is hooked on skill games. As anticipated, adulthood then brings along the desire to play using real money, a feature that amps up the excitement towards the game. It is hard to see how someone would opt for games of luck instead, however it is a query that strategists often tend to overlook.”
Why is this, one might ponder?
“Their conclusion tends to be that what worked for older generations will also work for the younger ones. This belief neglects to take into account, that older generations were raised prior to the launch of the first Atari console in 1982. Any CTO would brand this as a ‘fatal error’.”
Benjamin Carlotti continues:
“Younger customers expect skill games. If we do not respond accordingly to their demands, then there is absolutely no doubt that someone else will leap at the opportunity.”
Any thoughts on how Artificial Intelligence will impact your particular sector of the market, going forward?
“AI will damage any business models where the house plays against its customers because AI (and Big Data) serves to help the operators foresee match results. Who would want to play against a bookmaker that already knows the results on which to generate the odds? Less and less people, I would imagine.”
However, Carlotti who is on the tech panel of this years i-Gaming Forum in Stockholm on April 18, says:
“Daily Fantasy Sports is being structured as a market place, where customers play against each other. Therefore, AI is not a threat to us but a strong ally.”
You attended last year’s i-Gaming Forum in Stockholm as a panelist, discussing AR/VR, new technologies, eSports etc. What has been the biggest game changer in the tech sector since then?
“Beyond any doubt, the biggest game changer has been the explosion of the video gaming sector within our space. For so many years, the video gaming industry had been incapable of “chasing on our land” simply due to their targeted demographic that included primarily the child and teenage market. Nonetheless, after such a job well done by the video gaming industry, customers never actually ceased to play and thus, the average age of gamers is 35 years in 2017 (it was 30 in 2013). Moreover, our young and reluctant prospective clients are already their customers.”
There are two factors that attest to the way the video gaming sector is planning to unsettle fantasy sports, according to Carlotti.
“Electronic Arts (EA), recently launched their Star Wars Battlefront II game. Players are invited to pay real money to unlock virtual “loot boxes” with no prior knowledge to the kind of reward that lies inside. For those who are still missing the big picture, the introduction of loot boxes is the video gaming industry’s first clear endeavour to compete directly with the iGaming sector.”
That Oulala sees this as a major threat to what it is trying to achieve, is unmistakable. Benjamin Carlotti paints a picture of how large the threat actually is:
“Rockstar announced that Grand Theft Auto VI will be offering an online real money poker and casino game. With GTA V being the fastest selling entertainment product in human history, this is a clear, critical warning for the future of our industry. With the introduction of luck elements in their skill games, they now begin to offer the best of both worlds. In doing so, they are effectively obliterating any competitive advantage that our sector could possibly offer. They are ensuring that, even as they age, customers will stay loyal to them because they are catering to all their present and likely their future anticipations.”
OK – Last question: is the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) a bit of a nuisance, and if so, why?
“As a citizen, I am very happy that GDPR has finally begun to regulate the use of personal data. I understand that it may be a challenge for some operators, however it is definitely a healthy one. The internet was originally a space of freedom, but companies have found ways to transform internet users into a product. GDPR is simply attempting to restore a healthy balance within the ecosystem.”