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“We’re delivering exactly what LatAm wants” – Exclusive interview with Evoplay CEO on LatAm casino

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While Latin America is steadily opening up and is full of potential, there’s still plenty to be learned when it comes to appealing, and indeed capturing the interest of LatAm’s millennials.

Ivan Kravchuk, CEO at highly innovative games supplier sits down with Gaming Americas to talk about what it takes to be a success in one of the world’s most exciting growth regions.   

Six months into 2021 – what’s the latest for Evoplay across LatAm? How popular are your next-gen games proving to be there?

The last six months have been a productive period for our game development pipeline. Almost our entire games portfolio is now live in LatAm, including top titles from our classic games collection and 20 games that we developed this year. One example of this – Ellen’s Fortune – is now among the continent’s ten most popular real money titles, and we expect plenty more success to follow in its footsteps.

There’s a real surge of interest in LatAm for our games, such as Forest Dreams and Surf Zone, demonstrating the value of disruption and experimentation on a continent where retro themes traditionally perform best.

How much of a change have we seen in playing behaviour compared to this time last year? What patterns are there to analyse and how has that shifted your creative plans?

Having developed an effective strategy that has brought us tremendous success over the past year, we will not be looking to change too much. Our operator partners know what we’re all about, and we do our best to keep excelling at just that. Players are responding well to our offering, so we’ll be continuing with the current roadmap in the coming period.

What’s part of that? Gamification definitely remains high on our priority list, driving engagement by ramping up the entertainment factor to attract the new generation of players. Even our classically-themed slots, therefore, are elevated with high-tech mechanics to provide a cutting-edge experience.

The integration of sporting themes, particularly on a sport-obsessed continent such as Latin America, has also proved to be an effective strategy for retention and acquisition. We’ve got a top marketing team, and a key part of their work is data-driven insights that can identify exactly what we believe players are looking for.

What kind of games do you believe LatAm players are looking for right now? Are there any games in your portfolio you’ve developed with the region in mind?

Players across the globe are looking for entertainment that goes beyond the themes and effects that have become most ubiquitous in our industry – and Latin America is no different. Innovation needs to be more than just a buzzword, even when it comes to the retro slots that perform well time and again.

We’re delivering exactly what LatAm wants – experience on the continent has taught us that players want high-quality, visual designs that can truly stand out. As an Irish-themed game, Ellen’s Fortune may not be the first title that springs to mind when you think of Latin American gambling, but it has performed well on the continent because of its stunning animations.

Evoplay launched its in-house casino engine Spinential last year – how key are products such as these to mitigating regional connectivity issues?

Our branded Spinential game engine has been a key factor driving our success in Latin American markets, where low broadband speeds mean that technical accessibility and speed are essential.

Accelerating loading and download speeds by x10, it saves time and digital storage space, allowing us to make high-quality products which are accessible to the full spectrum of player devices and internet connections.

We are always looking to enhance our proprietary tools and technology, and Spinential is no different. We are currently making improvements to the game engine and will be soon providing our players and partners with a number of exciting updates on its latest technical upgrades.

We’re also planning on incorporating a significant multiplayer element to make our games even more popular with the new generation of players, who have grown up in constant communication with their peers and demand a more social gaming experience.

Looking at a five-year vision for the future – how do you see LatAm developing and what key milestones should we be keeping an eye on?

Latin America is undoubtedly a region that is full of potential. By opening up their gambling markets to legal operators, governments can generate significant taxation revenues and protect local players more effectively. Doing so is therefore the next logical step for those that haven’t already.

In terms of technological trends, multi-channel flexibility, speed and visual designs are the most important determinants of an iGaming supplier’s success in the region. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

Last but not least, any exciting launches coming up for Evoplay that we should look forward to?

We’ve got a big announcement pencilled in for the second half of 2021, with a flagship game set to be launched this Autumn along with new iterations of our ever-popular retro title, Fruit Super Nova, which will be enhanced with the addition of even more paylines.

From the first day of its release, the game has been a firm favourite with our fans, including those based in Latin America. So much so, we’ve started to unveil a collection of fruit titles that follow on from the original smash-hit, including the recently launched Fruit Super Nova 40. We’re also preparing to enhance it with a progressive jackpot to ramp up players’ anticipation – so stay tuned for further updates!

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UNIBET CONVICTED FOR ILLEGAL GAMBLING ADS

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Wagering company Betchoice Corporation Pty Ltd, trading as Unibet, has been convicted of posting three illegal gambling advertisements with court-imposed fines totalling $48,000, as a result of an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW.
 
NSW Liquor & Gaming’s A/Compliance Director Darren Duke said under the Betting and Racing Act 1998, it is an offence to publish a gambling advertisement that offers any inducement to participate, or participate frequently, in any gambling activity.
 
“Special or enhanced odds have the ability to induce people to open a betting account when they otherwise may be refraining from gambling and they may encourage people to gamble more frequently,” Mr Duke said. 
 
“In Downing Centre Local Court on 15 July, Unibet pleaded guilty to three offences and was fined $16,000 per offence, totalling $48,000, for breaching NSW gaming laws. They were also ordered to pay $3,900 in legal costs. 
 
“The offences relate to the publication on the Unibet website and Apple App Store on 26 November 2020, of the availability of the Uniboost, Uplift and Reboost products which are a form of special or enhanced odds.  
 
“During sentencing the Magistrate noted that Unibet had a record of previous convictions and had most recently been fined $15,000 in 2019 for breaches of the betting legislation. The advertisements were designed to entice people to engage with gambling products and are a breach of the legislation.”
 
Unibet has the right to appeal the sentence.

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SCIENTIFIC GAMES TO LAUNCH MURAL™ AT GREEN VALLEY RANCH CASINO & SPA WITH LIVESTREAM BY SLOT VLOGGER, BRIAN CHRISTOPHER ON JULY 21

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Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS) (“Scientific Games” or the “Company”) is bringing their newest and grandest slot cabinet, Mural to the Henderson local favorite, Green Valley Ranch Casino & Spa. The larger-than-life cabinet will bring awe-inspiring graphics through its featured game title, WILLY WONKA. To commemorate the launch of Mural at Green Valley Ranch Casino & Spa, the property will host popular slot vlogger, Brian Christopher, to livestream the ceremonial first spin on Wednesday, July 21 beginning at 4 p.m. on Facebook and 5 p.m. on YouTube. Any new customer signing up for Station Casinos’ Boarding Pass, during or for the next week after the live stream, will receive a complimentary bonus gift when mentioning code BCSlots at the Rewards Center.
“We are excited to partner with Green Valley Ranch Casino & Spa to bring this impressive cabinet to more casinos in Las Vegas,” stated Melissa Price, Senior Vice President, Global Gaming Operations. “Mural is a spectacular product and we couldn’t be prouder to build momentum on getting Mural with one of our most popular games, WILLY WONKA that features life-sized characters from the iconic filminto additional partner locations.”
Mural features dual 55-inch, ultra-high-definition curved displays with popular game titles such as WILLY WONKA and Emperor’s Coins – 88 Fortunes®. In its quest to elevate the player experience, Mural also features an embedded wireless charger for easy mobile phone charging and touchscreen enabled displays for easy player interaction.
Guests will have the opportunity to experience Mural at Green Valley Ranch Casino & Spa, located at the top of the Grand Events Center escalators, near Lucky Penny.
*Location of Mural at Green Valley Ranch Casino & Spa subject to change
WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and all related characters and elements © & Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s21)
All ® notices signify marks registered in the United States. © 2021 Scientific Games Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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FireKeepers Launches Digital Sports Betting and Casino Content in Michigan with Scientific Games

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Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS) (“Scientific Games” or the “Company”) and FireKeepers Casino Hotel have launched online casino and digital sports betting content in Michigan.

FireKeepers Casino first opened in 2009 and has become one of the biggest tribal gaming operators in the U.S. The casino, located in Battle Creek, Mich., features 2,900 slots machines, 70 table games, multiple restaurants and lounges alongside its new retail sportsbook which launched in June 2020.  This summer, FireKeepers will celebrate the grand opening of a major expansion, including a second hotel tower, plus new high limit slot and table areas, and a new location for the award-winning Nibi fine dining restaurant.

Scientific Games will provide its full suite of digital technology to FireKeepers including its extensive in-house gaming content via the OpenGaming ecosystem with leading titles and cutting-edge gaming features, including88 Fortunes®andLet It Ride®, further underpinning the Company’s foothold in Michigan.

Alongside the vast array of casino content being available, FireKeepers’ players will now be able wager on sports via Scientific Games’ OpenSports platform, which has enjoyed unprecedented activity for major sporting events across the globe throughout 2021. This latest deal willfurtherstrengthen the offering FireKeepers will be able to provide to iGaming players.

Kathy George, FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO, said: “We are pleased to partner with Scientific Games and bring their scalable platforms and content to our players, who are always the focus of our major initiatives.  We want to bring them a variety of entertainment opportunities and utilizing Scientific Games’ OpenGaming and OpenSports platforms will do just that.”

Cathryn Lai, SVP and General Manager, U.S., Digital at Scientific Games, said: “FireKeepers is unquestionably one of the leading casinos in Michigan and the Midwest, and partnering with them and launching our vast array of content on both the iCasino and digital sports betting side will create an immersive experience for their players.”

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High 5 Games Puts Old-School Arcade Thrills Under the Spotlight in Retro Riches

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High 5 Games today confirmed that its highly-anticipated new slot game, Retro Riches, will launch worldwide on Thursday, July 29th. The new online casino game combines a brand-new game experience with a retro theme that celebrates the 1980s in bold, colorful ways.

Phil Welty, Head of Game Design at High 5 Games, commented: “With Retro Riches, we’re pushing the boundaries of what the experience of gambling on slot games can really be. This game has an ebb and flow that allows players to charge up the screen and build towards big wins in a uniquely visual and intuitive way.”

Inspired by 1980s arcade games, Retro Riches sets aside traditional reels and introduces players to a unique grid system not seen in any other slot game. Players who sit down to play for the first time will immediately feel immersed in a retro world of arcade-inspired icons and backgrounds.

When a player lands shapes on the grid, they charge up the dots and receive a MegaPixel Pay. What’s more, the more charged a dot is, the bigger the payout will be. Players can also Spin-crease by landing a special icon on the grid, fill up the progress bar at the top of the screen, and unlock the next unique paying symbol shape with a multiplier value. The larger the bet, the faster the progress bar will fill. And as players unlock shapes, they’ll reach a new level in the game.

With an ambitious gameplay model unlike anything else on the market, players will be onboarded as they play and win. For a preview of Retro Riches before its worldwide release date, watch the video.

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Reflex Gaming sets sights on US market

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Reflex Gaming, the UK-based omni-channel gaming provider, is excited to announce that they have their sights set on the US market and have partnered with ODDSworks.  This collaboration will result in the launch of two new online games to be released early next year, in four states, initially.

Reflex Gaming is one of the UK market leaders in the analogue and digital machine markets as well as in the global online arena.  Reflex has taken the UK market by storm with a run of legendary games catapulting them to gaming stardom with blockbuster titles such as Lucky Gems.

During November 2020, Reflex Gaming broke into the online slot market by teaming up with Yggdrasil, with the release of ‘Moley Moolah’. This was swiftly followed by the release of a Western-themed game, Desperate Dawgs, led by a trio of canine outlaws.  Desperate Dawgs proved to be a major hit. The game was launched exclusively with William Hill, the giant operator reported that the game was amongst their top 3 most successful releases of 2021. Since then, Reflex Gaming has released Sea God through Stakelogic’s Greenlogic program and Krazy Klimber, again in partnership with Yggdrasil.

ODDSworks, established in 2020, in Illinois, provides games to legal and regulated gaming jurisdictions in North America.  ODDSworks provides proven hit-game content through BETguard their state-of the-art remote game server. ODDSworks has agreements with most online operators, and intends to grow into the total US market, as it expands with new states.

Commenting on the partnership, Mat Ingram, CPO at Reflex Gaming said, “We are pleased with our success in the European markets, to date.

“We have decided to focus our next phase of growth in the US market because we share cultural similarities with the States, therefore, our games will be easily transferable.

“We recognised that the US market is highly complex, with each state having different rules and legislations.  ODDSworks will bring much-valued knowledge and experience to our collaboration.”

Larry DeMar, President at ODDSworks added, “Reflex Gaming has built a solid reputation in the European gaming markets.  We know they will supply quality gaming content, which will be a big hit with our players in the States.”

ODDSworks CEO, Shridhar Joshi stated, “We are proud to bring the best of breed RGS platform to the United States online gaming market. Combined with ODDSworks’ content, this feature-rich, long-running platform has the capacity, speed, reliability and uptime to enable ODDSworks to become a major force in online gaming.”

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High 5 Games Announces Multi-Year Market Access Agreement with Penn National Gaming for iGaming in Pennsylvania

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High 5 Games (High 5) today announced a multi-year market access agreement with Penn National Gaming, paving the way for an expansion of High 5’s B2C iGaming business into the United States via Pennsylvania.

Tony Singer, CEO of High 5 Games, commented: “As we continue to focus on expanding into every regulated market in the United States, our strategic partnership with Penn National Gaming is instrumental in introducing the High 5 Casino experience to a world of new players. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership, and we look forward to announcing more multi-year access agreements in other states soon.”

High 5 is already a licensed supplier in the United States, with its online casino games currently available in a number of regulated iGaming markets through several operators. The company also operates a social casino in the United States, catering to over 25 million players.

With the strategic partnership, High 5 is positioning itself to become an operator and launch its real-money online casino, High5Casino.com, in Pennsylvania. The online casino, which serves millions of players in other regulated markets outside the United States, uses High 5’s proprietary platform to deliver games to players, including its own content and titles from third-party providers. High 5 is currently going through the licensing process in the Keystone State.

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Yggdrasil hires Christoffer Melldén as Head of Account Management

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Yggdrasil, the leading worldwide publisher of online gambling content, has appointed Christoffer Melldén as its new Head of Account Management, a move that will significantly strengthen the supplier’s commercial team.

Melldén has more than seven years’ industry experience and previously held roles at Play’n Go, NetEnt, and most recently Real Dealer Studio where he was Commercial Director.

He will manage the supplier’s existing team of eight Account Managers, overseeing the continued growth of the department based out of Yggdrasil’s Malta office.

Melldén will be responsible for positioning Yggdrasil as the most relevant, and valuable strategic partner of choice for its operating partners, and ensuring that customer service is at the heart of everything the supplier does.

Andrew Pegler, Director of Commercial Operations at Yggdrasil, said: “We could not be happier to welcome Christoffer to our commercial division.

“He comes with great experience, a wide network of industry contacts, and a brilliant attitude. I think we already have one of the iGaming industry’s best commercial teams and we are stepping it up a gear with this important appointment.”

Christoffer Melldén, Head of Account Management at Yggdrasil, said: “I am thrilled to join Yggdrasil at what is a very exciting time for the company as we strive to become the undisputed leading worldwide publisher of online gambling content.

“Yggdrasil is a market leader in the iGaming space, known for offering world-class services to customers and I look forward to being part of the company’s future growth strategy.”

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Spray Lakes expands into the Americas

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Spray Lakes Consultancy, the digital hub that provides hiring companies with access to a rich talent pool of C-Level executives and specialist gambling industry providers, has confirmed that it is expanding its geographical reach to encompass North and Latin America. 

The brain child of Nick Harding, who in a 40-year industry career has led corporate transactions with a value of £500m, Spray Lakes has accelerated its expansion plans following demand and feedback from the market. Nick Harding explained: “As awareness of Spray Lakes and the services we are offering the industry spread following our launch in May, we began to get requests from sections of the business looking to expand not only in Europe but also into other international markets where operators and suppliers were struggling to a greater degree in order to get projects off the ground.

“We identified Latin America as a key region in which companies were experiencing significant problems simply because they did not have access to the right calibre of people who knew both the market and the industry. Having one but not the other can lull organisations into a false sense of security and ultimately end-up costing enormous sums of money. Not having access to the right people with the right experience or alternatively thinking that successful expansion programmes can be achieved using existing resource frequently jeopardises the entire project.” 

He added: “As well as providing C-Level executives with specialist knowledge of a region, Spray Lakes has the ability to put together a team of vetted experts, who can go into a business wherever it’s based, analyse it, report to stakeholders and if necessary, pick up the reins and run that operation. The website also features a dedicated section for service providers to the industry with links to Law firms, Accountants, Compliance Providers, Security Providers, Designers – in-fact the full gamut of specialisms a business could require. Ultimately, it’s all about delivering one stop shopping for relevant expertise.”

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The Sand Dollar Lounge to open at the Plaza Hotel & Casino Classic Vegas bar and music venue to open in the fall

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A longtime Las Vegas icon for live music and craft cocktails, The Sand Dollar Lounge will open a second location inside the Plaza Hotel & Casino this fall, bringing to downtown Las Vegas a venue dedicated to late-night live music and entertainment.

In 1976, the Sand Dollar Blues Bar opened its doors, and almost instantly became one of Las Vegas’ most iconic bars. Some of the greatest blues legends, as well as many other famous musicians, graced its stage for more than 30 years. People like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and even Mick Jagger would swing into the Sand Dollar when they were in Las Vegas. In 2007, the Sand Dollar Blues Bar closed its doors, but it was resurrected in 2009, when The Sand Dollar Lounge opened on Spring Mountain Road honoring the tradition and history of the iconic Vegas venue. In 2015, the Sand Dollar Lounge was taken over by the current owners Nathan Grates and Anthony Jamison with an eye on bringing back and building on its original luster.

Now the iconic venue will open The Sand Dollar Downtown, a second location in a similarly iconic Vegas destination, the Plaza Hotel & Casino, which dates to the Rat Pack era as well and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The Sand Dollar Downtown will be in a nearly 5,000 sq. ft. space adjacent to the Plaza’s casino floor. It plans to offer its full menu of craft cocktails with pizzas made by Pop Up Pizza at the Plaza. Live music, both local acts and other headliners, will take the stage in the evenings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

“The Plaza is known for its vintage Vegas character and is proud to partner with a legendary Vegas venue like the Sand Dollar,” said Jonathan Jossel, CEO of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. “The opening of the Sand Dollar at the Plaza will create a late-night destination for live music unlike any other in downtown Las Vegas.”

“We are very excited to be expanding The Sand Dollar legacy into Downtown Las Vegas with the Plaza,” said co-owner Anthony Jamison.

“Sand Dollar Downtown will be focused on recreating the classic age of electric blues and Rock ‘n Roll in the Downtown corridor,” added Nathan Grates.

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