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Belgian omni-channel expert GAMING1 has proven itself as a worthy partner during the pandemic, especially when it comes to transitioning operators’ offline operations to online. We sat down with Sylvain Boniver, COO and co-founder to talk through GAMING1’s market outlook for Europe over the coming months – this one’s not to be missed!

GAMING1’s services were certainly in demand during 2020 as land-based operators sought to establish their presence online – can you give us a quick snapshot of what that’s looked like? 

The outbreak of Covid-19 has accelerated the transition online for most businesses, and that includes the gambling industry. For us, helping partners navigate the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic was priority number one.

Lockdown restrictions forced land-based casinos to shut up shop, and even in countries where they’ve reopened, visitor numbers remain a long way off their pre-pandemic levels. The longer outlets wait to go digital, the greater the loss of their market share – it really is that simple.

Fortunately, our model is designed to help facilitate that shift, allowing players to continue using their favourite brand in an online format. We help retail and land-based partners digitise their operations – a service which, for many, is urgently necessitated by the current situation, and we’re here to deliver.

How has the last year changed the European landscape? Comparing to the way the market looked last January, how much would say has shifted in terms of growth and expectations?

The widespread closure of land-based establishments has underlined the imperative for operators to expand their digital activities. Our partners have enjoyed tremendous success when it comes to re-directing offline customers online, thereby curbing the financial impact of the pandemic.

Self-evidently, operators without an online outlet are struggling to succeed right now. Those who have a synergised land-based and digital offering, on the other hand, are much better equipped to weather the storm that is sweeping the global economy. For those in the former category, our company is ready and waiting to help deliver an omnichannel experience to their players.

Where has growth been particularly strong for GAMING1 on the continent? Where should our readers be looking at for potential expansion?

Our online operations in Belgium have grown beyond expectations. Of course, that can partially be attributed to the Covid-induced shift of all land-based activities to the online sphere. But it also reflects the sky-high quality of our digital products, and the operational efficiency of which we are so proud.

In addition, our status as a Portuguese market-leader remains undisputed, with valued local partners Estoril continuing to grow at an impressive rate. Our Iberian reach has also expanded in Spain, with 777.ES going from strength to strength by outperforming the competition – a pattern which we are confident will continue in the year to come.

Your home markets are very much across Belgium and France – do you see the current French approach to online gaming changing anytime soon?

There’s a world of difference between the two markets. Looking at regulation, in Belgium you must own a land-based casino to open a betting shop, and there is a €500 weekly deposit limit in place. Neither of those rules apply in the French market – and yet, France is still the more restrictive of the two.

French laws prohibit the existence of any private sector in the entire gambling industry, except for land-based casinos. Little wonder, then, that the country’s black market is the most significant in Europe. Regulation would not provide an overnight solution, such is the scale of the exposure of unregulated sites. It would, however, be a giant leap in the right direction – not just for France’s gambling industry, but for its players and economy too.

Looking to the year ahead, a lot’s been talked about in terms of engagement and retention, as well as acquisition of land-based players to the online world – what should operators be spending their money on to make that happen?

As a land-based operator, having the right partner by your side is paramount. That’s how to deliver a world-class digital product to players, and marketing your offering in the most effective way possible is paramount.

Beyond the cross-selling acquisition and retention tools that we’ve implemented, my strongest recommendation is to develop a 360o strategy that maximises the synergy between your different channels. Ensuring that staff genuinely buy into your vision is also critical – without them on board, even the best-planned projects won’t get very far.

Last but not least, can you give us a few insights for staying ahead this year? What’s going to be the GAMING1 approach for ensuring your partners can succeed?

We strengthened our senior management team over the course of 2020 with an impressive string of industry heavyweights. Our peerless 50-50 business model, in which we win or lose alongside our partners, continues to reap the rewards, and we’ve got an ambitious set of expansion plans in place. I’m very proud by our hard-earned reputation for excellence, and we’re all very excited for the decade ahead. This is especially the case for the growth of our existing operations in Europe and Colombia, as well as developing markets such as France and Holland. Safe to say, we’re in for another busy year!

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