iGaming Capital November 2021

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MEET EIGHT OF MALTA’S MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN iGAMING

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THE ANATOMY OF THE PERFECT iGAMING EMPLOYEE

€8 (WHERE SOLD)

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THIS IS THE FUTURE OF iGAMING

OFFICIAL PARTNERS

WINTER 2021 / 2022














WINTER 2021/2022 CONTENTS

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18 THIS IS THE FUTURE OF iGAMING

Experts weigh in on the projected trends, opportunities and developments that will shape the iGaming sector in the years to come.

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A SMALL FOUNDATION WITH A BIG HEART: GAMING MALTA INAUGURATES NEW HQ

LEOVEGAS AND THE NEW NORMAL

Stefania Curmi, Head of HR South at LeoVegas Gaming Group, opens up about fostering optimal company culture.

New office in Zejtun proudly opens its doors as a hub for iGaming, esports, and game development.

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THE RISK OF OVERREGULATION

Joonas Karhu, Bojoko CEO, proposes an alternative to overregulation to safeguard game entertainment value for clients.

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40 MEET EIGHT OF MALTA’S MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN IGAMING

Get to know who the experts are as they share some of their industry wisdom and experience.

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68 THE ANATOMY OF THE PERFECT iGAMING EMPLOYEE

Insights from HR into what makes a candidate right for a successful career in iGaming.

24 FOSTERING CLIENT TRUST THROUGH TECHNOLOGY 34 MEET GLOBIANCE’S OLIVER MARCO LA ROSA 50 THE PRACTICAL PAYMENTS PARTNER 54 NAVIGATING CHANGING FINANCIAL REGULATION WITH FORESIGHT AND FLEXIBILITY 58 ESPORTS TO ACQUIRE ASPIRE GLOBAL’S B2C BUSINESS 014


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80 DON’T HESITATE, PRESS ENTER

Lahcene Merzoug, CEO at PressEnter Group, reveals the company’s new direction following recent rebranding.

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CREATING A DYNAMIC, PRODUCTIVE, AND EMPOWERING PLACE TO WORK

FACING MALTA’S GREYLISTING HEAD-ON

Different voices speak out about the repercussions and projections for the iGaming industry, following Malta’s greylisting by Moneyval.

KaFe Rocks CEO, Simon Pilkington, reflects on the impact of the work environment on the success of a company and its employees.

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PIONEERING PEOPLEPOWERED OFFICE DESIGN

A peek into a peopleoriented space with Cordelia Morgan-Cooper, Head of People at KaFe Rocks.

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111 WE HATE MEETINGS… BECAUSE WE DON’T MEET WELL

C-level executive Marion Gamel explains how to make the most of meetings by breaking down the ‘how’ and ‘why’.

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PROPERTY TRENDS FOR IGAMING PROS

Look at current developments in iGaming-centred real estate, and the way forward.

66 MANAGING RISK FOR A STRONGER SECTOR 74 CONNECTING BUSINESSES, CONNECTING PEOPLE 76 GOING THE EXTRA MILE TO IMPROVE SUSTAINABLE GAMBLING STANDARDS 84 GIVING IGAMING OPERATORS THE LICENCE TO SUCCEED 94 SPEAKING A SHARED LANGUAGE TOWARDS A SHARED MISSION 015


WINTER 2021/2022 FOREWORD

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Navigating the new It feels like so much has changed – for the industry and in our lives. In some ways, things are slower, more measured, more important. In others, they are faster, more urgent, more exciting. For iGaming, the pace has increased. Many of the stakeholders in the industry talk of their anticipation about the months and years ahead – the increase in esports, the integration of VR, and the constantly growing focus on player experience. A lot feels renewed; in some cases, more renewed than it has felt for years. The anticipation is palpable and some of the people we speak to in this edition of iGaming Capital are more enthusiastic than ever about what is to come. We address that in our article on the future of iGaming, where we chat to experts inthe-know about what we should expect from these developments, both now and longer-term. This edition also celebrates some of the brilliant minds that are driving that change – and particularly some of the most influential women in the sector in Malta. We chat to eight of the well-known faces motivating change, from people management to sustainability and everything in between. But, of course, there are challenges facing the sector too, largely related to the global dearth of human resources, and the snowballing demands of regulatory developments. We address both issues on these pages too, sharing the solutions experts recommend and the opportunities opening up. There’s certainly plenty to explore, think about, and be inspired by as we go into this thrilling next era of an industry that has already achieved so much. Enjoy turning the pages on iGaming Capital!

Jo Caruana

DIRECTOR OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Matthew Spiteri

PUBLISHER Content House Ltd

DEPUTY HEAD OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Marie Claire Camilleri

Content House Group 3, Level 2, Mallia Buildings Triq in-Negozju, Zone 3, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD 3010 Tel: 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt

BRAND SALES EXECUTIVE Jovana Grech OPERATIONS & CLIENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGER Elena Debattista CREATIVE DIRECTOR & DESIGN Nicholas Cutajar

EDITOR Jo Caruana

COVER ILLUSTRATION Cover illustration by Thisisnadine.com, created exclusively for iGaming Capital

Content House Ltd would like to thank all the protagonists, contributors, advertisers and the project team that have made this publication a success. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Content House Ltd. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited. iGaming Capital is distributed to all leading iGaming companies operating in Malta as well as to relevant business and commercial stakeholders in Malta, including law firms, financial services companies and business consultancy firms, as well as to local auditors, accountants and accountancy firms. It is also distributed to Government ministries and departments, as well as to the waiting areas of private and public hospitals. Beyond the free distribution network, iGaming Capital is sold at leading newsagents around Malta.

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Future of T HI S I S THE

iGaming

What are the trends that will shape the future of the iGaming industry? How will the sector evolve to meet the changes of the past two years, and to embrace the opportunities to come? With tech developing at an unprecedented rate and the world emerging from the disruptions of the pandemic, we ask industry experts what to expect in the years ahead.

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he iGaming industry has gone from strength to strength in recent years. That rate of growth shows no signs of slowing, with projections from Fortune Business Insights predicting the global market will grow to $158.2 billion by 2028, compared to $66.7 billion in 2020. But with tech developing at a staggering pace, ever-increasing competition, changing regulatory environments opening up new emerging markets, and consumer trends shifting after the massive disruption of the pandemic, the need for the industry to react quickly and remain on the cutting edge is as pressing as ever.

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Michael Muscat is a partner at Helix Partners, a multi-service boutique firm specialising in advisory services tailored for regulated industries. He is also the founder of igamingcolombia.com, a services firm that assists European operators and suppliers to reach the Latin American markets. Dr Muscat sees the shift towards regulation across European countries, together with the opening up of new markets, as key trends in the industry, with bigger players looking to enter the space and an influx of new capital from jurisdictions that previously shied away from investments in gambling. “Certain markets in Europe have become saturated and over-regulated, causing operators to have to innovate, not simply from a product angle but also from a jurisdictional one,” Dr Muscat says. “I believe we are going to see the industry become even more international: products will be localised and resources mobilised.” Ultimately, however, Dr Muscat believes it is the tech that will continue to shape the future. Innovation from a product perspective, as well as spinoff products such as gamification tools, data analytics software, and automated compliance platforms, will be major considerations for the industry in the next few years, he says. “The pandemic has caused a need to rethink, revisit and innovate. We are seeing the preferential shift towards live casino and there have been big developments within the instant win space. I have seen VR being used to merge the land-based and online experience, with players from both the digital and physical worlds interacting. I have also encountered a software house that has created a poker product that removes the need for poker tables within landbased casinos. In other markets, the current global situation has caused more and more people to embrace digital payments, making operations much easier for iGaming operators across the board.”

For Marion Gamel, Executive Coach at Mariongamel.com, the trends shaping the iGaming industry are not necessarily emerging from within the industry itself. Having worked at Google and served as CMO of Betsson before moving to executive coaching – where she has coached leaders at major companies such as Spotify, Uber and Coca-Cola – Ms Gamel is keenly aware that customers’ expectations are now set by the digital giants they use on a daily basis. “I don’t think that iGaming trends are influencing the gaming industry; I think global trends are influencing the gaming industry. These trends – personalisation, data safety, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, intuitive UX, and seamless transition across devices – become expectations from customers who also happen to enjoy online gaming,” she explains. Looking ahead, Ms Gamel believes the gaming industry should become more inclusive and open to the outside world, attracting talent from other industries, diversifying the background of employees, and moving beyond the male, middle-class, digitally savvy target audience it has so far largely focused its efforts on. Moreover, she says, companies’ future offerings will have to consider the new realities created by the pandemic. The distinction between customers’ work and play activities has become increasingly blurred, while SportsBook and the opportunity to bet on events was limited. “This has to be replaced by other >

“THE INDUSTRY WILL BECOME EVEN MORE INTERNATIONAL: PRODUCTS WILL BE LOCALISED AND RESOURCES MOBILISED.” Michael Muscat

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“ESPORTS HAS BEEN TALKED ABOUT FOR MANY YEARS AND I SUSPECT THE TIME HAS COME FOR THIS ACTIVITY TO EXPLODE. COULD ESPORTS BE THE NEW SPORTS BET?” Marion Gamel

experiences, especially as sports betting has always been the acquisition channel for gaming companies. Esports has been talked about for many years and I suspect the time has come for this activity to explode. Could esports be the new sports bet?” Having seen the growth of the esports sector firsthand, Justin Mifsud, Founder and CEO of World Pro Racing – which organises simulation racing events and broadcasting across the world – is in no doubt as to its potential in the years ahead. The pandemic, he says, not only boosted esports viewership to levels previously unheard of, but completely changed perceptions of the activity, making clear its capacity to influence sectors beyond its own.

but even having a better chance at competing in real motorsport championships. Motorsport teams today are watching esports events to scout new drivers for their teams.” Yet for all the new opportunities, the fundamentals remain just as critical. Karl Gonzi, Managing Director of Entain in Malta, believes customer centricity – long a buzzword in the industry – is set to become ever-more important in the years ahead. The most successful businesses, he believes, will be those that can best respond and adapt to the changes their customers want and ask for, even if those changes are relatively disruptive.

“Esports is growing so rapidly that everyone is now realising how huge the industry can be and looking to get a slice of the cake,” Mr Mifsud says. “The opportunities available are far wider than with traditional sport, not only in financial terms with the multi-million investments taking place,

“Gaming companies have access to tech platforms and products that, in many ways, are similar to those offered by the biggest businesses on the planet. But, in recent years, the industry has not leveraged the full strength of these aspects,” Mr Gonzi says. “I think the winners will be those that use their platforms, their products and their data to respond to emerging trends and wants, and that find new ways to connect customers seamlessly across these different offerings.” >

“ESPORTS IS GROWING SO RAPIDLY THAT EVERYONE IS NOW REALISING HOW HUGE THE INDUSTRY CAN BE AND LOOKING TO GET A SLICE OF THE CAKE.” Justin Mifsud

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“THE WINNERS WILL BE THOSE THAT USE THEIR PLATFORMS, THEIR PRODUCTS AND THEIR DATA TO RESPOND TO EMERGING TRENDS AND WANTS.” At the same time, he stresses that a company’s principles are becoming just as important to players. “The most successful businesses will be the ones that are the most sustainable. It’s useless for a business to leverage its product, data, tech, and platform, and provide a seamless customer-centric experience if it is not also acting with integrity, honesty, and in the best possible way for its customers,” Mr Gonzi says. “On the operators’ side, there is a responsibility to use the data we have access to, to ensure we are proactively protecting our customers. We have started to see movement in that respect, but there is still a lot of progress to be made.” Similarly, Enteractive CEO and Founder Mikael Hansson believes the notion of trust will become more of a focal point in the coming years, driven by the emergence of new audiences and the worldwide cultural shift following the pandemic. “It amplifies the best parts of a sustainable approach to online gambling, and changing regulations mean it will be increasingly necessary to bridge the gap between operators and players,” he says. The increase of work-from-home arrangements is also a key factor for Mr Hansson. Enteractive, which works with gaming operators around the world to

“WE ARE REALLY JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE, AND THE FUTURE IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY EXCITING.” Mikael Hansson

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Karl Gonzi

increase retention and player loyalty, used such a model while live-testing its global expansion strategy during the pandemic, and found it surpassed expectations. “As we grow our business into new markets in coming months and years, we know that our operations can be just as successful, if not more so, in a hybrid or similar scenario.” Beyond the company’s area of expertise, he is also looking forward to opportunities for the industry to harness new leaps forward in technology. “AR glasses and VR environments will see innovation in game design where people play, whether overlaying the real-world environment or exploiting third-party virtual worlds online. We are really just scratching the surface, and the future is going to be very, very exciting.”



WINTER 2021/2022 INTERVIEW

FO ST E RIN G

client trust T H RO U G H

Photos by Bernard Polidano

technology

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The past year has brought big changes to Betsson Group’s technological and digital landscape. Dean Muscat sits down with Fredrik Ögren, Betsson’s recently appointed Chief Technology Officer, to discuss how he is preparing to deliver an improved customer experience and meet the industry’s various technological challenges with vision, innovation, and hard-earned confidence.

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rior to joining Betsson Group in 2019, Fredrik Ögren was just a few months shy from celebrating 30 years in Sweden’s news and media industry. Starting out as a digital designer for print, he eventually moved on to the tech side of things, developing services, applications, and networks to deliver the daily news to an audience of 10 million Swedes across some of the country’s leading online and TV outlets. Having diligently worked his way up to the upper echelons of Sweden’s news sector, what inspired him to suddenly jump ship to a different industry altogether? For one, Mr Ögren began to feel that the famously fast-paced news cycle was, in actual fact, not quite fast paced enough in his estimation. “In the news industry, things happen from one day to the next, but in iGaming, events can change from minute to minute, especially with Betsson. As we are supplying real-time games and worldwide sports coverage around the clock, there’s never a dull moment,” he says with a genuine note of excitement in his voice. Change of pace aside, Mr Ögren was also intrigued by the unique challenges that the iGaming industry posed.

“When I had the opportunity to join Betsson, I looked at the wider industry first of all. I realised that while the industry itself thinks that it’s really high-tech, in some areas it was actually a couple of years behind when compared to other sectors. Knowing what I had achieved within my media career, I was confident that I could apply all my knowledge and experience to help improve Betsson’s technology and online customer experience,” he explains. He began his Betsson journey as Director of Cloud and DevOps, and later headed up the Platforms and Infrastructure department. Here he was instrumental in restructuring Betsson’s digital platforms from scratch in order to map out a company-wide cloud strategy that is truly efficient and scalable in both directions: “That’s really the challenge in this industry, because everyone knows how to scale up. The trick is to find solutions to scale down to save money on the off hours.” Mr Ögren firmly believes his two previous roles with Betsson provided him with valuable insight into the challenges of working with digital environments within iGaming. They also equipped him with the necessary foundations for his appointment as the Group’s new CTO in July of this year, >

“UPTIME AND SCALABILITY IS GREATLY STRENGTHENED. WE CAN ALSO MOVE COMPUTING OUT CLOSER TO THE END-CUSTOMER, MEANING THEY’LL EXPERIENCE FASTER LOADING TIMES, FASTER ACCESS TO THEIR ACCOUNTS, GAMES, WITHDRAWALS, AND MORE.” 025


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where he now oversees all in-house and customer-facing technology. “My role as CTO is a natural step,” he explains. “But you need to start at the core to understand why you are using certain technologies and strategies. Otherwise, dropping into a position like this ̶ not knowing the digital space, not understanding the challenges we face ̶ you won’t succeed.” Mr Ögren has taken on the CTO position at a unique time in Betsson’s history. The company’s entire technological environment is in an unprecedented state of flux, a turn of events caused in no uncertain terms by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WHAT GIVES ME CONFIDENCE IS KNOWING THE TECHNOLOGY INSIDE OUT. I WAS PART OF THE TEAM THAT BUILT THESE SYSTEMS FOR BETSSON.”

From an internal perspective, Betsson’s shift to a remote working model when social distancing came into force last year, meant the company needed to rethink its in-house IT structure and distribution. “During the pandemic, our focus was on how we could get equipment out into the homes of our colleagues. We had to shift all our technology, everything that goes into maintenance and licensing models, not to mention moving from a centralised system to one that’s distributed. Regardless of what we think about the pandemic, it really put the spotlight on how to deliver internal IT and how to scale globally with video communications,” he explains. Now that Betsson’s people are slowly returning to the office, Mr Ögren is currently overseeing the second phase of the group’s big IT rethink in order to enable a fully compatible hybrid model that boosts productivity and collaboration wherever employees are working from. “We’re working closely with HR to ensure the best set-up for our new hybrid pilot model. Betssonites are working two days in the office and can work three days from home. It’s a team effort to ensure that we enable a seamless hybrid work environment. It’s going very well, but we’re not done yet,” he says of the challenges that lie ahead. The last few years have also seen Betsson begin to move its products and services to the cloud. Why this huge push to cloud computing and what are the benefits for clients? “There are a million answers to this, but it’s really super simple. The shift to the cloud enables us to live up to delivering the best experience to our customers, making sure that they get the service they deserve,” Mr Ögren explains, before spelling out some of the more practical advantages that cloud computing offers: “Uptime and scalability is greatly strengthened. We can also move computing out closer to the end-customer, meaning they’ll experience faster loading times, faster access to their accounts, games, withdrawals, and more.”

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Mr Ögren mentions some of the incredible work done over the past months at Betsson. “We have scaled our infrastructure by 100 per cent, meaning that we doubled our capacity in terms of transactions per second, for example. This also meant that during our peak period this summer when we had the Euros and Copa America in full swing, we managed 100 per cent uptime on all brands and products.” On top of the challenges of rolling out new tech is the fact that Betsson operates in multiple global markets, all of which fall under different jurisdictions and regulatory frameworks. These high-level responsibilities are all part and parcel of


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being CTO for one of the leading companies within the iGaming industry and Mr Ögren feels confident that he can steer Betsson’s digital evolution in the right direction thanks to his extensive first-hand experience with developing solutions from the ground up. “What gives me confidence is knowing the technology inside out. I was part of the team that built these systems for Betsson. So, I can put that worry aside and focus on ensuring our customers receive the best service,” he asserts. According to the latest quarterly report (April-May 2021), Betsson had more than a million active customers during this period. Mr Ögren explains that as CTO he is also looking to prepare Betsson for the “known unknowns” to come. “Instead of trying to control everything, I’m willing to take a step back and admit that all I can control is our portfolio of solutions on how to cater for different issues, if and when they arise. That’s why we are planning to have a multi-level strategy for everything, from cloud computing and onpremises to all types of markets we operate in. We need to plan for where we believe the industry is heading next and take the time to prepare for these eventualities, so we’ll have contingencies all set to go when needed,” he says. Other tech and systems that the CTO is looking into to keep Betsson competitive include geodistributed databases and native apps, which he believes could offer the possibility to deliver customer experiences that are smoother and more interactive, if developed with thought and careful consideration. Indeed, Betsson’s casino native app launched in October 2020 has already won three prestigious industry awards.

“Simplicity and trust ̶ those are crucial regardless of what we do with the applications or what kind of services we’re providing. Our products must be streamlined to ensure they are engaging and don’t have a high bounce rate. We also need to have the trust of our customers. We can gain trust by making sure that our content is stable, reliable, and secure. We want to ensure that our customers feel their data is in safe hands and that once they open an account with us, they’ll be happy to continue on that journey,” he explains. From setting out a vision that “would put us in the driving seat of this industry” to rolling out new products and services across global markets that span all the way from Far East Asia to westernmost Chile and Peru, it’s a wonder that Mr Ögren finds any time to sleep. “That’s always the question I get asked when talking about my role,” he says with a chuckle. “And the answer is always yes. Because you need to trust your employees. You need to trust that you are empowering them to do their job well. And if they can do their job well, everything will be up and running and secure and I’m in a privileged position to be working with some of the brightest minds in the industry. If you cannot sleep at night, you’re not doing your job right and you don’t have the right colleagues.”

However, more than innovative solutions, what Mr Ögren is really hoping to achieve in his role is to establish even greater trust in Betsson’s products among its worldwide client base.

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WINTER 2021/2022 INDUSTRY NEWS

‘A small foundation with a big heart’ Photos by DOI - Clodagh O’Neill

GAMI N G MALTA INAU GURAT E S N EW H Q

From the modern AM Business Centre in Zejtun, Gaming Malta will intensify its work to support the iGaming, game development, and esports sectors. By Solomon Cefai

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aming Malta has finally cut the ribbon on its plush new office in Zejtun, which is set to become the new centre for the iGaming, esports, and game development industries in Malta, and “a new home of gaming excellence”. Companies visiting the office will receive the extensive support of the independent, non-profit foundation set up by the Government and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), as it strives to create an environment at the facility where, as if they were at home, business leaders can “feel comfortable, share joys and tears, discuss challenges without any inhibitions, and reach out for a helping hand,” in the words of its Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ivan Filletti.

This is recognised by leading figures in the sector, who provided testimonials for the inauguration. “Thanks for the support we get on a daily basis,” said Ariel Reem, CEO of Genesis Global, “and congratulations for your new office.” Similarly, Omar Bitar, Senior HR Business Partner at Flutter International, reflected that Gaming Malta has been “incredibly helpful in building bridges and tailor-made solutions.” Though the offices represent a promising and tangible development for the organisation and the local businesses it supports, this is not just a practical development but a symbolic one. From its new offices, Gaming Malta will work to intensify its support of all three industries it is responsible for. Speaking at the inauguration, Minister for the Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri, explained that the new offices highlight that the Government and its organisations, including Gaming Malta, have been working to intensify its efforts to “elevate the ecosystem” of Malta in the gaming sector, along with its commitment to continue to grow simultaneously as the industry continues to develop.

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“Hence, we are fully embracing these two sectors, and my Government is fully committed to ensuring that these become additional pillars of our economy,” Mr Schembri commented, adding that, in the coming months, the Government will launch several initiatives to support the esports and game development industries. “Serving the iGaming sector is a privilege and our duty,” added Mr Filletti, expanding that “three years ago, together with Minister Schembri – who at that time was still junior minister – we launched a vision for video game development and esports. We set an ambitious-yet-realistic 10-year plan, and our aim is to see these industries account for one per cent of Malta’s overall GDP.” Addressing the strong appeal of Malta’s esports jurisdiction, Mr Filletti stated that the country is the perfect place for esports companies to operate. Malta, he added, has already been launched into the world in this field, hosting multiple events, such as the ESL Pro League. It also has the technology to succeed, including world-leading dedicated sim racing facilities in the form of the World Pro Racing, Development and Entertainment Centre.

“These new offices are a symbol of our ongoing ambition to strengthen this industry, and our commitment will continue to intensify through Gaming Malta, ultimately ensuring that this sector continues to grow,” said the Minister.

Mr Filletti thanked the Minister for his department’s support, stating that “by not working in silos, and by cooperating in line with our vision,” Gaming Malta and its partners can make their aims a reality. In this holistic spirit, the new offices are situated in the AM Business Centre, along with other industry promotional arms, such as FinanceMalta and Tech.mt.

Minister Schembri also introduced the upcoming iGaming Council, which will be set up under the auspices of Gaming Malta and will include key industry partners. It will serve as a forum to “encourage direct communication with Government partners, with the aim of building a closer relationship between the Government and the sector.”

Looking to the future, the Minister concluded: “Gaming Malta will continue to be instrumental in ensuring the ecosystem not only continues to grow, but thrives.”

Additionally, Minister Schembri celebrated the resilience of Malta’s iGaming industry, pointing out a report by recruitment company Boston Link that showed that, after a blip during the pandemic, Malta’s iGaming jobs market returned to life. In fact, jobs created in Malta during the first quarter of 2021 returned to their pre-pandemic level.

“MALTA IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR ESPORTS COMPANIES TO BASE AND BOOTCAMP.”

Additionally, both leaders also detailed a drive to provide intense support to the esports and game development industry in Malta, with Mr Filletti calling esports a “low-hanging fruit” for Malta. He insisted the country is the “perfect place for esports companies to base and bootcamp.” While Gaming Malta will continue to give attention to the iGaming industry, Mr Schembri explained that the organisation and Government’s strategy also embrace video game development and esports. On a global scale, the video game sector is larger than the film and music businesses combined, he said.

Silvio Schembri

The organisation’s support of businesses in the sectors is already welcome and, in his message for the event, Dave Hawkins, the CEO of independent video game developer Exient, said: “At Exient, we enjoy a great relationship with Gaming Malta. Long may it continue.”

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new normal AND TH E

LeoVegas Gaming Group’s Head of HR South, Stefania Curmi, speaks to Lisa Borain about empowering managers, tailoring employees’ work environments, and the importance of trust between leaders and employees to create a company culture.

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he concept of hybrid working and providing flexibility so people can balance their work with their personal lives is not new. The HR community has been advocating this for several years with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, the pandemic has accelerated these discussions and hybrid work was introduced whether businesses were ready for it or not. LeoVegas Gaming Group’s Head of HR South Stefania Curmi says, “I don’t believe there is a perfect solution here or a ‘one size fits all’ approach that would work in all companies. The extent to which someone prefers to work remotely or from the office is quite personal,

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and depends on a number of factors including their family situation, their working and leadership style, and even their personality.”

Photo by Alan Carville

LeoVegas has consulted internally to develop a hybrid way of working that the company will adopt going forward. Ms Curmi says, “we have been very clear that this is a pilot and that we will reassess our plans over time. This situation is new, and we are realistic and open to the fact that we don’t have all the answers yet but need to be agile and ready to adapt as needed. We are excited to welcome people back to the great working spaces in our offices and genuinely believe in the importance of face-toface interaction. At the same time, we >

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“AT LEOVEGAS WE FOCUS ON TRUST AND ACCOUNTABILITY, CHASING IMPROVEMENTS IN ALL AREAS OF OUR WORK, AND JUST GENERALLY MAKING IT HAPPEN, ALL WHILE MAINTAINING A GREAT SENSE OF TEAMWORK.” are also extremely proud of the way our people have performed while working remotely. A hybrid approach that combines both of these elements is what we believe is best suited to us going forward.” Globally, the pandemic has seen a spike in mental health challenges. Quarantine, social distancing, and psychological fears such as germaphobia have created higher levels of anxiety. Working remotely has made it much harder to spot the warning signs of mental health issues; employers are faced with a potentially dire situation that needs to be dealt with urgently and carefully. The pandemic has encouraged employers to re-examine the support they give in this area. Ms Curmi explains, “there has been a great deal of effort made by our leadership team supported by HR to create an environment where mental health and well-being are of the utmost priority, including the revamp of our EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), the organisation of various talks by professionals, and a deeper focus on measuring the engagement of our people.”

A topic that perhaps isn’t being discussed as much and probably should be is the gap we are seeing in on-the-job learning for new joiners. When a person starts a new job, they absorb a lot of information – some of it consciously and some of it subconsciously.

Photo by Albert Camilleri

How has the pandemic affected onboarding and new joiners? Ms Curmi shares, “it’s more challenging to onboard someone remotely. Engaging with new joiners, demonstrating company culture, and creating a welcoming experience is generally easier to do in person. As a result, employers have had to innovate and try to recreate their onboarding processes remotely.”

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“For instance, you hear your manager deal with a challenging conversation and you learn from that,” Ms Curmi explains, “This sort of learning has decreased with remote working, and its impact will not be felt immediately, but rather over the coming years when our leaders of tomorrow are not properly prepared for their roles due to gaps in skill sets.”

Photo by Alan Carville

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As a result, learning specialists have had to think outside of the box and create an environment where these skills are developed in different ways. A large part of the LeoVegas culture focuses on ‘self-driven’ employees and this has never been more relevant. “Our people need to really push themselves to seek out opportunities and learning experiences that may have ‘landed in their lap’ prior to the pandemic,” Ms Curmi says.

“OUR PEOPLE NEED TO REALLY PUSH THEMSELVES TO SEEK OUT OPPORTUNITIES AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES THAT MAY HAVE ‘LANDED IN THEIR LAP’ PRIOR TO THE PANDEMIC.”

Anyone within HR or management will know that the most effective way for employers to stay close to their people is to have empowered managers who can support employees as necessary and adapt to their needs in an agile way. Ms Curmi affirms, “this year we launched a redesigned LeoLeadership training programme that extends over a number of sessions and focuses on a wide range of areas including the management of remote teams. Our HR Business Partners have also kept very close to our leaders during these challenging months, in order to coach and support in the best possible way. Developing emotional intelligence and empathy in our leaders continues to be a priority.” What impact has the pandemic had on creating a sense of culture at LeoVegas? Ms Curmi answers, “the starting point here is the definition of ‘culture’. We have seen a shift in this definition as a result of the pandemic. Perhaps (rightly or wrongly) culture was only perceived as your office space, your social events, etc. However, now, culture is much more focused on the level of trust between leaders and employees, the opportunities for our people to do interesting work, and the level of support received – whether in the office or remotely, from colleagues and leaders. I believe that fostering our sense of culture has never been more important than it is now. At LeoVegas we focus on trust and accountability, chasing improvements in all areas of our work, and just generally making it happen, all while maintaining a great sense of teamwork.”

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LeoVegas has revised its benefits approach because of the coronavirus pandemic. One example is the company’s launch of a ‘one month working from anywhere’ benefit that gives its staff the freedom to choose to work from any country remotely for up to one month each year. Ms Curmi says, “since we have a large expatriate community across the Group, this has been received well, as it allows them to spend more time with their loved ones at home. It’s also appealing to our more adventurous employees who love to travel!” “The pandemic has shown beyond a doubt that we can achieve great business results regardless of where we are located and we feel that this benefit acknowledges that.”


WINTER 2021/2022 INTERVIEW

MEET

Globiance’s

OL IVER MARCO L A ROS A The Globiance Crypto Payment Gateway enables merchants to accept crypto payments with lower fees and instant settlements, while removing rolling reserve and chargeback risks. Much of Globiance’s popularity is attributed to its co-Founders, couple Irina La Rosa and Oliver Marco La Rosa. Together with the other cofounding shareholders they have worked hard to bring Globiance to the position it is today. Here, iGaming Capital meets Mr La Rosa, Globiance’s CEO, to gain his insight into how the company supports the iGaming sector, and so much more.

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lobiance has made waves in the financial services industry with its state-of-the-art services and infrastructure that consists of numerous cryptocurrency exchanges and financial organisations located all over the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, Estonia, and many others. In a short time, Globiance has acquired a significant customer base that is comprised of clients from the corporate and retail sector. The firm also manages the trading and exchanges between cryptocurrencies like XDC, GBEX, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and fiat currencies such as the US Dollar, Singaporean Dollar, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Pound Sterling, and many others. It has created a seamless platform for secure and rapid money transfers across the globe. >

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“WE ARE WORKING HARD TO LAUNCH GLOBIANCEBANK, WHICH WILL REVOLUTIONISE THE BANKING AND CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY.” . Mr La Rosa, what can you share about your background? I started my career as a systems administrator. I founded my first company, ServerArena, to rent out game servers to clans before the term ‘esports’ was really known. I then founded my next company and took on CitiBank in Frankfurt as our most important client. We worked with them for eight years and proudly handled all of their production and network support, 24/7. We then moved our headquarters to Malta and went on servicing banks, in seven European countries, for another five years. It was in 2018 that the idea for Globiance was born. With my wife, Irina, and our small shareholder team, we founded the project with the goal of building a fusion of bank and cryptocurrency exchanges. We’ve come a long way since then. We opened our first licensed exchange in Estonia (Europe) in 2019 and, by the end of 2021, we will have over nine legally operating platforms launched across the globe, including in the USA and Canada.

How would you describe Globiance? Globiance is a fusion between a bank and cryptocurrency exchange. It allows clients to keep their cryptocurrency and fiat money secure on the same platform, so they can easily convert between them. Not only does it provide users with a secure and stable platform, but it also ensures that they can experience faster transactions and discounted fees when using the GBEX tokens. And what can you tell us about GBEX? Well, in August we created our own token called GBEX, which is based on the XDC (XinFin Network). It’s a revolutionary (thirdgeneration) protocol that features more transactions per second, lower fees, lower transaction confirmation time, less energy consumption, and smart contract support. GBEX is Globiance’s house token and it will be used daily on the Globiance Global platforms, as well as in the Crypto Payment Gateway. On Globiance platforms, trading fees will be discounted when using GBEX. For the first time, an exchange token has been designed in a deflationary way. This tax-and-burn model collects a four per cent tax on each transaction, with two per cent burned and the other two per cent distributed among the other holders. This means the supply is >

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decreased daily, while the holders are rewarded with more tokens. On top of that, we have scheduled huge burn events that will decrease the supply by 60 per cent over the next two years. What else is new at Globiance? Lots! We just updated our UI platform completely. We added many languages and launched our new app for a better mobile experience. Globiance DEX is also being released in November and will be the first decentralised exchange based on the XDC (XinFin Network). We have also built a rapid XDC token deployment system for our exchange, which enables us to become the launchpad for all XDC based tokens. Did you face any hurdles when starting the company? Of course! I believe there is no start-up that can operate smoothly, especially during its formative years. When we had just launched the company, the cryptocurrency market was badly hit and people said the bubble had burst. This prevented us from raising the capital we needed to launch our operations from the ground. Nevertheless, we kept going and built the platform ourselves, without any external support or investment. We even had to manage the operational costs on our own. But we got our cryptocurrency exchange licence in mid-2019, and this was when we

“WE JUST UPDATED OUR UI PLATFORM COMPLETELY. WE ADDED MANY LANGUAGES AND LAUNCHED OUR NEW APP FOR A BETTER MOBILE EXPERIENCE.” 038


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“IN 2022, WE WILL CONTINUE WITH OUR GLOBAL EXPANSION AND ESTABLISH OURSELVES IN ALL IMPORTANT MARKETS. WE ALSO PLAN TO LIST MORE FIAT AND CRYPTO CURRENCIES AS WE DEVELOP.”

managed to generate a small revenue. By 2020, we finally managed to run the business without having to pool in our resources. This time of hardships was however eventually rewarding, because today Globiance is globally recognised in the financial services and cryptocurrency sector, and it is also a key member of blockchain and gaming conferences worldwide. Currently, the biggest challenge we face is that of regulation. Since we are a global company with a goal to penetrate as many markets as possible, we have to strive to comply with the regulations and laws for each region. So, we work with regulators around the world to obtain licences so that we can serve everyone on this planet. What does the future hold for Globiance? Right now, we are working hard to launch GlobianceBank, which will revolutionise the banking and cryptocurrency industry. It will provide clients with all the features and convenience that you get from a digital bank, and integrate our crypto exchange. Additionally, clients will be able to trade securities and security tokens. We will offer new DeFi products too. Then, in 2022, we will continue with our global expansion and establish ourselves in all important markets. We also plan to list more fiat and crypto currencies as we develop. We are constantly in touch with our user community and thanks to their valuable feedback, have further improved our platforms to provide the best possible experience. We now regularly plan new features based on our user demands. Stay tuned for some more exciting new projects from Globiance in the years to come!

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M E ET EIGHT OF

Malta’s Most Influential Women

I N i GAMING iGaming in Malta is booming. With the industry growing at a rapid rate, there is an increasingly diverse range of roles being created. From experts in sustainable gaming practices and talent acquisition, to those with an acute understanding of AI and robotics, the sector is attracting a wealth of talent. Here, we speak to eight of Malta’s most influential women in iGaming about the opportunities and challenges facing the local gaming industry, and their predictions for the future.

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“I HOPE THAT MY WORK INFLUENCES THE SECTOR TO MOVE TOWARDS A MORE PROTECTED GAMBLING APPROACH.” MARIS CATANIA

Head of Responsible Gaming and Research at Kindred When she is not hard at work on her PhD, Maris Catania is devising innovative ways to keep players safe with Kindred. She is continuing to improve ‘PS-EDS’ (Player Safety – Early Detection System) and has been awarded the Gambling Compliance Most Significant Contribution to Responsible Gambling Research for three consecutive years.

What has been the most important moment in your career so far? It is difficult to choose one moment from a career of over 10 years, but I have really valued the opportunity to learn from people who have lived with a gambling disorder. I am inspired by the excellent work of treatment centres and learned a lot working with renowned researchers on the topic. How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? I hope that my work influences the sector to move towards a more protected gambling approach, where responsible gambling is at the top of the agenda. It

DANA FARRUGIA CEO at Tech.mt

In her role as CEO at Tech.mt, Dana Farrugia and her team are trusted with promoting the national strategy for technology and innovation. Having worked in the telecoms industry for 14 years, she now works in the areas of AI, software development, robotics and cyber security – among many others. What has been the most important moment in your career so far? Being appointed CEO of Tech.mt. It is something that I worked hard for throughout my career and being entrusted to drive Malta’s momentum in the tech sector was such a proud moment. How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? My mission is to ensure economic prosperity and growth for the technology sector in Malta. As the digital revolution accelerates, we aim to position the country as an attractive working destination within the European tech industry. Tech.mt also aims to grow local tech companies that want to expand their business in the country. >

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is important to ensure the gambling sector is safe, supportive, non-exploitative and set up to help people stay in control. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? Responsible gambling can be seen in a negative light but a sound approach to non-exploitative gambling can help companies introduce long-term, sustainable strategies. Responsible gambling will become more important for every stakeholder and, by prioritising this, companies can move towards a brighter, more ethical future.



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“AS THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION ACCELERATES, WE AIM TO POSITION THE COUNTRY AS AN ATTRACTIVE WORKING DESTINATION WITHIN THE EUROPEAN TECH INDUSTRY.”

What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? Looking ahead, we must develop and use digital solutions to thrive in key digital infrastructures. The Government has invested over €3 million to position Malta as a global technology hub of excellence. Further investment will doubtlessly position the island as a digital powerhouse within Europe.

JACQUI GATT

COO at BeyondPlay.io With more than 15 years’ experience within the gaming industry, Jacqui Gatt has worked with casino and live casino products, both on the ground and online. She is passionate about the optimising player experience, product innovation and the execution of gamification concepts within the casino space.

What has been the most important moment in your career so far? My appointment at BeyondPlay is the culmination of many important milestones. Together with the BeyondPlay team, we aim to deliver an entirely new experience in online gaming and redefining how people play. My role is tremendously handson and extends across many areas of the business, which is something I cherish. How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? I hope to inspire people who currently work, or aspire to work, in the gaming industry, especially locally. I also want to influence the sector by bringing

new products and player experiences to life. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? Regulatory changes and M&As will continue to impact and challenge this ever-adapting industry. As a crucial contributor to the Maltese economy, gaming investments require the continued support of a strong regulatory body, as well as a healthy talent pool. Within the industry, we should aim to evolve and improve our products further, with more focus on innovation, entertainment, and a player-first approach. >

“REGULATORY CHANGES AND M&AS WILL CONTINUE TO IMPACT AND CHALLENGE THIS EVER-ADAPTING INDUSTRY.” 043


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TEREZA MELICHARKOVA Head of Marketing at Swintt

Starting her iGaming career at NetEnt, Tereza Melicharkova has held senior marketing roles at Pragmatic Play, Relax Gaming and Pariplay. She joined Swintt in June 2021 to support the commercial team through a range of marketing initiatives and to drive awareness of the brand among operators and the wider industry. What has been the most important moment in your career so far? I have been very fortunate to enjoy several important milestones in my career. During my time at Relax Gaming, I organised a boxing event at the Westin Dragonara Hotel in Malta; we brought together operators and suppliers, and it is still talked about to this day! Joining Swintt as Head of Marketing has also been a significant achievement. How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? I have a lot of responsibility in my role to ensure that Swintt cooperates with

the right partners, ranging across the media, affiliates, and streamers we choose to work with. We believe that sustainable strategies bring long-term success. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? We need to show the world that this industry is about entertainment, but that we also take responsible gaming seriously. If we all work together towards this goal, I am positive that the industry will have a long and sustainable future.

“WE NEED TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT THIS INDUSTRY IS ABOUT ENTERTAINMENT, BUT THAT WE ALSO TAKE RESPONSIBLE GAMING SERIOUSLY.” CORDELIA MORGAN-COOPER Head of People at KaFe Rocks

Working in recruitment for the past 10 years, Cordelia Morgan-Cooper started her career in the UK specialising in senior finance recruitment. Moving to Malta in 2016, she began developing, leading, and mentoring recruitment teams within iGaming businesses. She is now using her talent acquisition skills as Head of People at KaFe Rocks. What has been the most important moment in your career so far? I would say joining KaFe Rocks. To be part of such an innovative and people-centric business is something that really excites me. We have the most amazing team of Rocketeers! >

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How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? I am currently leading a number of extremely exciting projects that are helping me to push boundaries – not only within our business but the industry as a whole. Watch this space. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? I think we will continue to see a shift from more office-centric workplaces to fully remote working. This really opens things up when it comes to finding the best talent and it’s amazing to see! Our industry needs to continue pushing innovation and creativity to be the very best employers out there.

“OUR INDUSTRY NEEDS TO CONTINUE PUSHING INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY TO BE THE VERY BEST EMPLOYERS OUT THERE.”

LENA NORDIN

Chief HR Officer at Betsson Lena Nordin has lived in seven different countries and worked in senior HR positions at Baxter, Gambro and Ericsson. She has a background in talent management and company culture, with more than 25 years of HR experience. She joined Betsson in October 2017 and is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s human capital strategy. What has been the most important moment in your career so far? Joining Betsson and becoming part of the amazing world of iGaming. It is still a relatively young industry, so I have been able to help shape the leadership, company culture and employee experience. Four years down the line, I still feel there is so much potential! How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? As one of the largest operators in iGaming, Betsson has been at the forefront of a lot of developments. Other companies consider what we do as a blueprint for how things should be

done. We are very proactive, which I think is key; speaking at conferences and sharing our knowledge is a core part of what we do. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? We are seeing a number of consolidations at the moment but, overall, I predict future growth. I think the industry is still somewhat unknown to the people outside it, so we need to join forces to raise awareness, educate and communicate what we are all about. >

“I THINK THE INDUSTRY IS STILL SOMEWHAT UNKNOWN TO THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE IT, SO WE NEED TO JOIN FORCES TO RAISE AWARENESS, EDUCATE AND COMMUNICATE WHAT WE ARE ALL ABOUT.” 047


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LIESBETH OOST

Sustainability Manager at Aspire Global A Dutch native speaker with a Master’s degree in International Political Economy, Liesbeth Oost is a certified investor relations professional. Having previously worked at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she now focuses on responsible gaming and sustainability strategy at Aspire Global. What has been the most important moment in your career so far? I have had several key moments in my career, in particular working to limit Aspire Global’s potential negative impacts and maximising its positive contribution to society (including going completely carbon neutral). I was also delighted to be awarded the 5Star Media Rising Star Award in 2021.

“MAKING A QUANTIFIABLE IMPACT TO PROTECT OUR SOCIETY AND THE PLANET IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.” MARIE THEOBALD Chief People Officer at Hero Gaming

How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? Collaboration is important when addressing key issues, which is why I will be running workshops and participating in panels to start a dialogue about raising the standards of sustainability focus areas in our industry. Aspire Global will also be participating in research and working with academic institutions to address this. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? Making a quantifiable impact to protect our society and the planet is the right thing to do. If a company has sustainability in its DNA, it will be better equipped to comply with new regulations with the goal of reducing social harm. Over the last decade, we have seen a significant shift in this direction, but there is still work ahead to create positive, lasting change.

With over 14 years’ experience in talent management and a passion for developing people and organisations, Marie Theobald has led the People function within start-ups, SMEs and large organisations. At Hero Gaming, she is responsible for organisational and culture development, talent acquisition, and employee retention.

What has been the most important moment in your career so far? The culture transformation we have seen at Hero Gaming has been the result of a solid people strategy that I have led, together with my team and the leadership team. It has been extremely rewarding to see the unique culture we have created and the way it has supported the business through significant growth. How do you hope your work will influence iGaming? Diversity and inclusion is an area close to my heart. Our industry is male dominated, particularly at the top. The situation is slowly changing and I hope that I can encourage other

incredible women in our industry to have the courage and confidence to take on senior roles. What is your prediction for the future of iGaming in Malta? As gaming companies, we need to ensure we are fully compliant with regulations on all fronts. We also require the support of Government institutions to promote and incentivise gaming companies to relocate or stay in Malta. Other European countries are becoming attractive for our industry and Malta needs to stay ahead of the game.

“I HOPE THAT I CAN ENCOURAGE OTHER INCREDIBLE WOMEN IN OUR INDUSTRY TO HAVE THE COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE TO TAKE ON SENIOR ROLES.” 048



WINTER 2021/2022 FINANCE

payments TH E PR ACT I CAL

In a world where the payments and banking spaces are developing at an unprecedented rate, many businesses are struggling to find a financial partner that can keep up with their needs. FinXP CEO Jens Podewski chats with Teri Spiteri to explain how, and why, they’re offering so-called high-risk industries a practical alternative to traditional banking solutions.

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Photos by Alan Carville

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WINTER 2021/2022 FINANCE

“ONE OF OUR MAIN ADVANTAGES IS THAT WE UNDERSTAND THE NEEDS OF THE IGAMING INDUSTRY, SO WE PROVIDE THE SOLUTIONS THAT MAKE MOST SENSE TO OPERATORS AND AFFILIATES.”

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e have experienced financial discrimination from local banks that do not accept clients from the iGaming industry, and we don’t think it’s right. So that’s exactly why we decided to go down this route,” says FinXP CEO Jens Podewski. Mr Podewski is switched on. We’re only a couple of minutes into our conversation and it’s already obvious that he is a man with a mission – with a clear motive behind it. Mr Podewski co-founded and self-funded FinXP in 2014 together with his business partner and CFO, Stefan Haenel, after they spotted a gap in the market. “We both have a lot of experience working with iGaming entities, so we truly understand the needs of this particular industry. We could see that, alongside other high-risk industries like crypto, many companies in iGaming were struggling to find banking and payment service providers.” “This is very strange to us because, on the one hand, Malta is known to be one of the strongest markets for iGaming business, and on the other hand, it is one of the strongest markets for providing licences in the financial sector. And yet, you rarely see the two industries working together. We wanted to provide a practical solution to a prevalent issue,” he explains.

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In its seven years of operation so far, FinXP has gone from strength to strength, servicing business clients across several European countries in a multitude of sectors. The company first focused on providing SEPA Direct Debit services and later developed its Omni-Channel Payment Gateway offering, which covers hundreds of payment methods that are ideal for growing e-commerce businesses. FinXP has been expanding its reputable payment services ever since, and is focused on growing into a full-service provider that covers every step in the payment cycle through constant product development and innovation. The company’s popular IBAN4U product is an online payment account that offers the same functionality as an online banking account. Designed specifically for B2B payments and with no intermediary bank involved, it is one of the company’s most requested services. “Since it is not possible for companies in these so-called ‘high risk’ sectors to open a simple bank account with traditional local banks, we are giving interested parties the opportunity to open a business account with us directly,” the CEO explains. “We take care of the onboarding process online; we have invested heavily in the proper >


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“SINCE IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR COMPANIES IN THESE SO-CALLED ‘HIGH RISK’ SECTORS TO OPEN A SIMPLE BANK ACCOUNT WITH TRADITIONAL LOCAL BANKS, WE ARE GIVING INTERESTED PARTIES THE OPPORTUNITY TO OPEN A BUSINESS ACCOUNT WITH US DIRECTLY.” systems to handle all due diligence and we are the final decision maker in whether we onboard a client or not. This makes IBAN4U one of the biggest advantages we offer to the market,” he states. With seven years of FinTech success under its belt, the team at FinXP readied themselves for the effects of the pandemic to reach Europe. Thankfully their hard work paid off, and the company managed to not only thrive but also grow throughout 2020. When asked to pinpoint what led to the firm’s current standing in the marketplace, Mr Podewski says he credits three key factors. “One of our main advantages is that we understand the needs of the iGaming industry, so we provide the

solutions that make most sense to operators and affiliates. We also have a strong, motivated team that is constantly looking ahead at the upcoming trends in the market – we are nothing without our team members.” Finally, Mr Podewski believes his team has built a lot of trust with the different stakeholders in the market. He affirms that the company works closely with the Malta Financial Services Authority and has a very strong relationship with Central Banks in Europe and Malta to ensure they are fully compliant. The company also partners with, and serves, several big brands. “We still work closely with the clients we took on in the early days because they know we understand their business. They know that when they come to us, we will listen to them,” he adds. Indeed, the company’s most recent major partnership was announced last July, when FinXP became a principal member of Mastercard. This milestone was pivotal in enabling the company to develop its latest product, the XP WHITE Debit Mastercard. The card will allow companies to empower their employees and customers, and is set to launch in November 2021.

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“This debit card allows us to provide the final piece of the puzzle to complete the whole cycle of payment. It enables users to combine the IBAN4U payment account with a dedicated Mastercard debit card issued by FinXP,” Mr Podewski continues, asserting that the product is of great value to the account itself, as well as to the market as a whole. As with all FinXP products, the XP WHITE debit card was designed with the iGaming industry in mind, enabling both B2B transactions through employee spending while also providing B2B2C solutions. “This card empowers the iGaming sector to streamline the payout process of winnings. We have developed a dedicated solution which makes life much easier for players in the industry to settle payouts to their clients,” says the CEO. He also points out that, while there are competitors out there that offer similar products to their debit card, the XP WHITE remains unique in that it forms part of a broader range of products and services that covers the entire payment cycle. “Our competitors only offer pieces of the puzzle – the payment processing service or the debit card. In our case, the card is a valuable component of our wider product portfolio.” This highly anticipated product launch will round off what has been another great year for FinXP. Just recently, the firm was awarded the ‘Malta’s Best Alternative Banking’ Award at the prestigious Malta iGaming Excellence Awards (MiGEA). Moreover, the company has invested heavily in its technical infrastructure over the past months, and has doubled employee headcount – all while celebrating yet another record-breaking year in terms of revenue. So, after taking the pandemic in its stride and going on to enjoy a very successful 2021, what can people expect from FinXP in the new year? With a gleam in his eye, Mr Podewski teases at a few new partnerships and products that are in the pipeline, the details of which cannot be shared just yet.

“OUR COMPETITORS ONLY OFFER PIECES OF THE PUZZLE – THE PAYMENT PROCESSING SERVICE OR THE DEBIT CARD. IN OUR CASE, THE CARD IS A VALUABLE COMPONENT OF OUR WIDER PRODUCT PORTFOLIO.”

What he can divulge, though, is that the firm will focus on expanding its Open Banking capabilities in 2022, as well as launching its SEPA Instant Credit Transfer offering. There are also plans to have payment accounts available in different currencies, including the British Pound and Danish Krone, among others. “Other than that, our focus is on growing the business even further by letting more people know about our products. We’re looking forward to representing the company at the ICE London conference in February as well as other events throughout the year,” he smiles.

This roadmap for the coming year is testament to the singularity that makes the company stand out in a sea of alternative banking competitors. Rather than aiming for mass consumer appeal and onesize-fits-all solutions, they have chosen to specialise in the B2B payments space and are dedicated to offering their business customers a complete suite of premium, tailored payment solutions. In Mr Podewski’s own words, “the most important thing for us is to be a part of the journey that makes life easier for our clients in every industry, enabling customers to quickly and easily make and receive payments in whatever form suits them best.”

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N AVIGAT ING C H A N G I N G

financial regulation WI T H

foresight

A ND

flexibility

Amid rising demands of regulation and corporate reporting, Zampa Debattista partners John Debattista, Matthew Zampa and Kris Bartolo discuss new challenges facing the industry with Dean Muscat. Here, they highlight the services they offer to simplify and facilitate all accounting and tax-related aspects for iGaming operators.

Photos by Anton Levytskyi

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ounded in 2014 by Matthew Zampa and John Debattista, Zampa Debattista has grown into a highly regarded accounting, advisory and tax services firm, primarily focused on businesses operating internationally. Today, the company unites more than 55 expertly trained and dedicated professionals working alongside its partners, a leadership trio completed by Kris Bartolo. “At Zampa Debattista, we are committed to giving our clients an efficient and specialised service, assuring the highest attainable level of commitment, quality, and integrity. It’s also important for us to maintain a high level of partner involvement in each assignment. We believe it’s this personal touch that sets us apart and allows for a more humanised process in an industry that can sometimes feel too corporate and transactional,” explains Mr Bartolo. The firm offers its clients a specialised portfolio of services in financial reporting and indirect taxation, both of which are crucial for iGaming operators when it comes to preparing accounts in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as adopted by the EU and to VAT treatment on iGaming transactions. In recent years, corporate reporting and IFRS have evolved significantly. Three cases in point are the radical changes brought to IFRS 9 Financial Instruments, IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers, and IFRS 16 Leases, all of which have had a major bearing on the accounting treatment and disclosure requirements of significant balances and transactions, such as revenue, various types of bonuses, impairment on receivables, and player liabilities.

“We recognise that iGaming companies are operating in a unique space that is notoriously highly regulated. We keep on top of all the latest regulatory and compliance pressures being posed by various authorities around the globe so we can assist our clients in this constantly evolving accounting and taxation landscape,” says Mr Bartolo, before pointing towards several significant challenges the iGaming industry is currently experiencing. >

“WE KEEP ON TOP OF ALL THE LATEST REGULATORY AND COMPLIANCE PRESSURES BEING POSED BY VARIOUS AUTHORITIES AROUND THE GLOBE SO WE CAN ASSIST OUR CLIENTS IN THIS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING ACCOUNTING AND TAXATION LANDSCAPE.” Kris Bartolo

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“PREDOMINANTLY IGAMING BUSINESSES USE OUR SERVICES TO DETERMINE THE VAT TREATMENT OF COMPLEX TRANSACTIONS AND CONSEQUENTIAL COMPLIANCE OBLIGATIONS.” Matthew Zampa

Back in April of this year, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that improves upon the existing reporting requirements of the EU’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). This updated directive not only makes environmental, social, and governance reporting mandatory for large gaming companies, but also introduces an assurance requirement. For Founding Partner John Debattista these changes are a sign of even more challenges to come.

“The entire iGaming industry is experiencing revolutionary changes in the field of corporate reporting. This makes sustainability reporting at EU-level a top priority. The directive is applicable for the accounting financial year 2023. Gaming companies should act now and not leave it until the very end to make the shift to sustainability reporting. This is a significant leap in corporate reporting and should not be underestimated,” Mr Debattista warns.

Zampa Debattista has positioned itself as one of the more knowledgeable leaders in the field of iGaming. The partners explain how they have intentionally set up a 360-degree advisory firm to cater to the iGaming industry’s unique corporate reporting needs. Specialised services offered include accounting advisory, financial reporting, indirect and direct taxation, and assurance services. The team also assists with statutory reporting requirements, such as interim management accounts. “Our team can assist clients in the accounting and disclosure treatments of various highly technical transactions in order to be compliant with IFRS. Furthermore, our specialists can also assist clients in reporting, from the drafting of a set of financial statements under EU-IFRS to assisting with specific disclosures or other reports which may be necessary,” Mr Debattista explains. The firm also boasts a specialised VAT team that offers a wide range of VAT-related services. Comprised of eight experts who have over 15 years’ collective experience operating in the field, Zampa Debattista has gone on to become a member of the VAT Forum, which is an independent partnership of professionals established in the European Union. This membership gives added depth to the firm’s VAT function.

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The partners explain how the verification of the VAT treatment of certain supplies is required by gaming operators established in Malta. “Predominantly, iGaming businesses use our services to determine the VAT treatment of complex transactions and consequential compliance obligations. A typical gaming company would come to us to provide them with a highlevel VAT analysis. This would effectively identify the revenue streams that will be generated by the company for the purposes of determining the VAT treatment thereof, any limitation on the right of the deduction as a result of the supplies rendered, and finally the determination of the correct VAT registration,” explains Mr Zampa. Mr Zampa extrapolates further on the complex VAT frameworks that govern iGaming operators, explaining that more often than not, gaming companies carry out both taxable and exempt without credit supplies. As such, these companies require assistance to determine the extent of the right of deduction and the manner in which such a right may be exercised. “Following an assessment of a particular gaming structure, we determine whether a VAT optimisation solution may exist and may be implemented within the parameters of the applicable legislation. Should we determine that there may be scope to implement such solutions, we also hand hold and assist with implementation and the subsequent ongoing compliance obligations,” Mr Zampa adds. Industry expertise aside, Zampa Debattista also holds itself to exceptionally high ethical standards. This is also a value the firm has endeavoured to instil within the wider industry through the launch of its very own ZD Academy in 2019. This innovative platform offers accredited technical courses for accountants and auditors, some of which are explicitly related to the iGaming industry. “Through the Academy, our team shares its firsthand industry knowledge with fellow professionals. We pride ourselves on being the only educational centre of our kind, focusing on real case studies, practical scenarios, and specialised knowledge. We invite iGaming operators that wish to train their own in-house accounting teams to take advantage of the expertise on offer. Our upcoming VAT and gambling expert courses are specifically designed to get to grips with the financial intricacies of the sectors,” says Mr Bartolo. The Academy itself serves as a reflection and extension of Zampa Debattista’s underlying values, which drive the company’s success within the industry.

“ONE OF OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES AT ZAMPA DEBATTISTA IS TO ALWAYS ACT AND OPERATE WITH INTEGRITY.” John Debattista

“One of our guiding principles at Zampa Debattista is to always act and operate with integrity. This goes beyond mere reputation management. We firmly believe in keeping transparent and honest relationships with our clients, many of whom we have serviced for years now. Ultimately, fostering a financial and regulatory landscape that’s held to a high ethical standard will result in a stronger iGaming industry for all in the long run,” Mr Debattista concludes.

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WINTER 2021/2022 INDUSTRY NEWS

Esports TO ACQ UI R E

Aspire Global’s B2C BUSINESS

1 October 2021 was an audacious day for the iGaming industry, as Esports Technologies announced the execution of an agreement for the acquisition of Aspire Global’s B2C business in one of the most exciting deals of recent times.

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ounded five years ago in Las Vegas, Esports Technologies has fast established itself as one of the leading global providers of esports products, platforms and marketing solutions. The company operates a licensed online gambling platform and is also developing esports predictive gaming technologies that allow distribution to both customers and business partners. The $75.9 million transaction that will see the company acquire Aspire is the culmination of five months of negotiations and comprises $58.3 million in cash, $11.7 million in a promissory note, and approximately $5.9 million worth of common stock. Finalisation will be completed on 30 November in what is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting industry developments of the year. For its part, Esports Technologies has entered into binding agreements with investors for a private placement of $36.2 million, consisting of convertible preferred stock at an initial conversion of $28 per share, subject to future adjustments and warrants to purchase common stock. The conversion of the preferred stock and exercise of the warrants is subject to the receipt of shareholder approval.

THE NEW DEAL Under the terms of the deal, Esports Technologies will acquire Aspire’s portfolio of B2C proprietary online casino and sportsbook brands, including Karamba, Hopa, Griffon Casino, BetTarget, Dansk777, and GenerationVIP. Esports Technologies intends to utilise this multiple-brand acquisition to cross-sell esports wagering opportunities and to increase its esports revenue, player bet transactions, and customers. >

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“THE ACQUISITION OF ASPIRE’S B2C BUSINESS WILL BE A TRANSFORMATIVE OPPORTUNITY.” Once the acquisition is completed, the two companies will enter into an agreement wherein Aspire will provide four years of managed services for the acquired brands, ensuring operational continuity, while allowing Esports Technologies to scale its operations in key markets. Aaron Speach, Esports Technologies CEO said, “the acquisition of Aspire’s B2C business will be a transformative opportunity for us to accelerate growth by offering esports wagering to 1.25 million new deposited customers. Our company is in a strong position to benefit from the heightened popularity and growing interest in esports.”

The agreement is clearly a win-win situation, as attested by Tsachi Maimon, CEO of Aspire Global, who said: “Esports Technologies is a strong company with high growth ambitions and the perfect match for our B2C brands. With Aspire Global’s B2C brands, Esports Technologies gains leading, well-established brands, an excellent base for further growth, and a very talented team that contributed to the B2C’s growth. We are confident that Esports Technologies will take our B2C brands to the next level, and we welcome Karamba and the other B2C brands as our new partners.” In essence, the resulting acquisition grants access to Aspire’s online sportsbook and casino – a new and expanding market – while Aspire can now offer esports to its clients, making it an attractive deal for both parties. It is a market with huge potential, according to Mr Speach who explained, “the iGaming consumer is in the demographic that we look for, with 70 per cent falling between 18 and 40 years old. This has fantastic cross-sell potential which is why the assets are so exciting to us.”

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“OUR COMPANY IS IN A STRONG POSITION TO BENEFIT FROM THE HEIGHTENED POPULARITY AND GROWING INTEREST IN ESPORTS.” “What is exciting,” he continued, “is that we currently offer the best odds. By improving the situation further, we plan to give our players a better chance of winning. This is entertainment at the end of the day and the more people win, the more likely they are to enjoy themselves and spread the word. We are going to show off those odds and our competition will lag behind.” The 2022 launch of the Esports Book product, a regulated esports and sports wagering site, is aimed at Western Europe and North America, and will cross-sell to consumers from various Aspire brands, providing previously unavailable products. Mr Speach revealed that, while a number of other companies were under consideration, it was Aspire’s focus on iGaming that was totally compatible with Esports’ vision for the future that made it the obvious choice. To ensure that the agreement went smoothly, Esports Technologies brought in Chief Marketing Officer and industry veteran Mark Thorne, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ESPORTS TECHNOLOGIES? During COVID-19, the esports industry grew exponentially due to the extent of cancelled in-person events. With these events now taking place again, the unparalleled rate of growth cannot continue but, Mr Speach shared, the market remains strong with a current base of 550 million esports fans.

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Malta’s attraction of allowing access to a regulated market in Europe is also one that is not to be underestimated according to Mr Speach, and he remains convinced that the island “is full of talent.” As for the future, it certainly looks bright for Esports Technologies. “Our goal was to always grow through acquisitions,” he said. And the next two years certainly look to be exciting, as the CEO hinted to further acquisitions and product releases that will make esports even more accessible than ever before.




WINTER 2021/2022 OPINION

Overregulation T H E RISK O F

Joonas Karhu, CEO of Bojoko, says the industry must remember it is a provider of entertainment and that overregulation can negatively impact player experience. Here he shares his opinion on how this can be mitigated.

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Before discussing how regulators, operators and suppliers can strike the right balance between providing entertainment while still protecting players, it is important to first understand how overregulation negatively impacts the player experience.

TAKING THE THRILL OUT OF SLOTS

nline gambling is a form of entertainment that is enjoyed responsibly by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. From the Las Vegas strip to online casinos, the focus must always be to ensure the consumer has a great time.

In both Germany and the UK, recent changes have been introduced to limit spin speeds so that online game rounds take longer to complete. In the UK, the auto play option has also been removed as part of efforts by the regulator to strengthen player protections.

I think this has become lost in the drive for responsible gaming and the steps taken to protect those at risk of developing a gambling problem. Safe gaming is important, of course, but overregulation has the potential to do more harm than good. Overregulation can negatively impact the consumer experience and customer choice, ultimately pushing players away from licensed online gambling sites to unlicensed brands. These brands may offer a better experience, but there are far fewer protections in place. I fear that the tightening of regulations in markets such as the UK, Germany and Sweden is going to lead to a migration of players away from locally licensed online casinos and sportsbooks towards internationally licensed – or even unlicensed – sites.

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While there is an argument for slowing spin speed, removing auto play has the potential to put some players at even greater risk. Auto spins allow players to monitor their spending and time in a far more comprehensive way than just aimlessly clicking ‘spin’ over an unchecked period. With auto play, gamers can select a number of spins and now, with the minimum spin speed limit in place, they know how long the gameplay will last and how much it will cost them. This can be combined with a loss limit that will stop the play if that threshold is hit.


WINTER 2021/2022 OPINION

Some players don’t like clicking the mouse and prefer to sit back and be entertained while the reels spin. Auto play allows them to do this too and, provided they have a loss limit in place, they know exactly what they are spending.

The vast majority of operators want to work in regulated markets and are willing to meet the requirements set, but if those requirements become too onerous, they may look to leave the market – just look at how many brands have left the UK in recent years.

BONUSES WITH NO BANG FOR THEIR BUCK

The same can be said for newly regulated markets such as Germany. The regulations here are rigorous, with many operators still unsure if the country is viable. Ultimately, this reduces consumer choice and will undoubtedly fuel growth among unlicensed sites.

Another area where overregulation is having a negative impact is bonusing. Taking the UK market as an example once again, it is evident from the UK operators on Bojoko that the value of bonuses has dropped in recent years. Not that long ago it was common for operators to offer four-figure maximum bonuses, however today the largest bonus amount of any operator on Bojoko is £600. If players want a four-figure bonus, they now need to look to offshore brands that are not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF REGULATORS, OPERATORS AND SUPPLIERS Online gambling is entertainment and regulators, operators and suppliers must work together to ensure this remains the case, while also ensuring players are protected. It is a balance that can be struck, but at present I think it is tipping too far in the wrong direction.

The change has not been made to the bonus percentage, but rather the amount it is matched to. A great example of a Bojoko-listed operator changing its welcome offer is Unibet, that previously offered new players 200 per cent up to £200, plus 190 free spins. Now they offer £30 when depositing £10.

The last thing this industry wants to do is drive players away from licensed sites to offshore brands. The direction can be changed, but stakeholders must collaborate to understand how to protect those at risk while ensuring that the majority of players, who gamble responsibly, receive the entertaining experience they are seeking.

Others have moved away from deposit match offers and only provide free spins with low wagering requirements. For some players, the welcome offer is the deciding factor in where they play, and operators offering smaller bonuses are undoubtedly forcing players to turn to unlicensed brands.

For more information, visit https://bojoko.com/ casino

MORE OPERATORS ARE GOING OFFSHORE The increased appetite for sites that offer a ‘full’ online casino experience is evidenced by the increased number of licence applications reportedly being submitted to the likes of the Curacao Gaming Control Board. These regulatory jurisdictions subject operators to some scrutiny, but they are nowhere near as stringent as jurisdictions like the UK, Malta and Gibraltar. This being said, their licensees can offer players a more comprehensive experience. All industry stakeholders understand the need to protect players; especially the most vulnerable. However, we must make sure that we are not taking action for the sake of taking action, and that any regulatory changes are properly researched and considered.

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M A N AGI NG

Risk FOR A

Stronger Sector

Malta’s greylisting has undoubtedly had a negative impact on its reputation as the jurisdiction for iGaming. Having said that, Malta still offers a mature iGaming ecosystem with strong knowledge and expertise within the sector available on the island. “This is why we have to keep working at ensuring good corporate governance is implemented across the iGaming industry, to mitigate risk and ensure an ethical and socially responsible environment is fostered among iGaming companies,” says Andrew Naudi from Getgovernanz.

NOUV is being very vocal about governance. How can the iGaming sector apply governance principles more effectively? Indeed, NOUV set up its Getgovernanz initiative to promote good governance, transparency, accountability, and rule of law as the necessary fundamental values to shape a better economy and a fairer society. When it comes to iGaming, as with most other sectors, good corporate governance ensures that companies have the appropriate policies and practices in place to establish longterm shareholder value. Shareholders have the right to ask questions around the governance of an organisation, especially when performance is taking a downturn – but not just then. Good corporate governance principles give shareholders the right to ask questions to reaffirm that the board and management are doing their best to increase shareholder value, and that the board is accountable to them and working in an ethical and socially responsible manner. Every iGaming and financial services company needs to have its own in-house Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO). What are your thoughts on this? It is a regulatory requirement on licenced entities and ‘subject persons’, as described in the FIAU regulations and guidelines. The role of the MLRO is to ensure AMLCFT policies are in place and implemented as per implementing procedures

Photo by Rene Rossignaud

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published by the FIAU for the various industries. It is, therefore, essential for companies to engage qualified and knowledgeable MLROs, and for the MLRO to be empowered to exercise their duties in an objective and independent manner. What, in your opinion, have been the most important effects of Malta’s greylisting on the local iGaming sector? The greylisting has undoubtedly had a negative impact on Malta’s reputation as the jurisdiction to be in for iGaming. This reputational issue, compounded with the fact that – as a nation – we are now, possibly, stepping up our game in regulatory and compliance matters, has made doing business in Malta less attractive than it used to be in the past. We have seen from existing and potential clients of ours that there is scepticism as to whether Malta should still be considered as a jurisdiction to establish an iGaming company. However, Malta still offers a mature iGaming ecosystem, and the knowledge and expertise within the sector are still very strong. One of the major aftermaths of the greylisting has been how banks and financial institutions outside the country view Malta, with repercussions on cashflow in and out of the country. How has this impacted the iGaming industry in practical terms? What have been the quantifiable losses so far? What are the foreseeable ones if Malta does not exit the list within a year? Malta’s greylisting as a jurisdiction has triggered a reassessment of the risk posed by Malta-based entities among several stakeholders, including international banks. As a result, MGA licensees may be faced with additional queries and requests for information from their international partners. It appears that the MGA, as confirmed by the MGA CEO, has picked up on this immediately and is prioritising outreach to the most relevant stakeholders. He will do this to underline that the shortcomings identified in Malta’s regard do not relate to the gaming sector. Perhaps the most meaningful initiative is the action plan put together by the Ministry of Finance to set the ball rolling to implement change at MBR and FIAU level, and to satisfy the FATF’s recommendations. This plan primarily affects unregulated businesses – namely over 48,000 companies currently registered with the MBR. From an MGA perspective, the Authority had already embarked on a process to improve its onboarding and ongoing monitoring processes. You advocate for proper board composition and governance at board level. In what ways would this apply when we focus on the iGaming sector? iGaming companies are no different from any other organisation. This means that proper board composition that ensures ethical and social behaviour, adopted throughout the organisation, will go a long

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way to ultimately producing shareholder value. Boards should ensure that the good corporate governance principles of transparency, responsiveness, efficiency, and accountability are adhered to. While good governance can be associated with governments and public institutions, corporate governance is very much one and the same thing. iGaming companies have their own ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders, just like a government has. Companies also have social and environmental responsibilities to society in general. Hence, while government and institutions such as regulatory agencies and authorities, and professional bodies such as the Chamber, Accountants’ Body, and others, set the governance frameworks through the enactment of laws, regulatory and licensing regimes, and companies operating within those frameworks, must adhere to the same governance principles as described earlier. What foreign model of governance should Malta’s gaming sector emulate in your opinion and why? There is no one single model that stands out above others. However there are various frameworks, such as the International Finance Corporation’s (part of the World Bank) corporate governance methodology that are well worth a serious look. This approach evaluates and improves a company’s corporate governance (including the governance attributes of key environmental and social policies and procedures) to identify, reduce, and manage risk. Its use helps companies confirm their commitment to demonstrating leadership, and promotes effective environmental, social, and corporate governance. How easy/difficult is it to apply the principles of good governance in cases where a company is governed by different jurisdictions? Issues like transparency, accountability, participation, and responsiveness apply to private organisations in the same way they do for public institutions. Good corporate governance helps companies operate more efficiently, mitigate risk, and safeguard against mismanagement. It therefore makes companies more accountable and transparent to investors, and gives them the tools to respond to stakeholder concerns. This applies to any organisation. The principles of good governance remain the same in whichever jurisdiction one operates. For more information please visit: www.nouvconsulting.com, nouvigaming.com and Getgovernanz.com


WINTER 2021/2022 FOCUS

Anatomy T HE

O F TH E

Perfect

i GAM I N G E M PLOYE E

What is the gaming industry looking for in its new employees and what does it have to offer successful candidates? Recruiters and HR directors break down the skills, attitudes and preparation needed to break in – and thrive in – the industry today.

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ver since its emergence in Malta, iGaming has developed a reputation as one of the most attractive industries to work in for a variety of professionals. From the creative and innovative nature of the industry to its competitive salaries, opportunities for rapid growth and famously appealing workplace culture, it is not difficult to see the work companies put into attracting top talent, and how those efforts are paying off. In fact, according to recent figures, the iGaming industry was directly responsible for around 8,300 jobs as of the end of last year, with just under a

third of employees being Maltese and the rest international. And, despite the challenges of the last year, the iGaming jobs market has proved remarkably resilient: employment has continued to rise, new licensed operators keep entering the market, and new job listings are back up above pre-pandemic levels. “Compared to other industries, iGaming is still in its infancy and, therefore, things develop very quickly,” says Raketech HR Director Martin Schillig. “When you work in iGaming, you can be at the centre of all this innovation, or even be the one driving a particular change within the company. The industry also values equality and inclusion, so you can be yourself and know that, however you identify, it will not deter your career progression in any way.” For those looking to enter the fast-paced and ever-changing industry, Mr Schillig says the

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“WHEN YOU WORK IN IGAMING, YOU CAN BE AT THE CENTRE OF ALL THIS INNOVATION, OR EVEN BE THE ONE DRIVING A PARTICULAR CHANGE WITHIN THE COMPANY.” Martin Schillig

most successful employees are usually those who have developed deep specialist knowledge in one or two key areas, but also boast a broad generalist knowledge and understanding. Transferable skills such as adaptability, empathy, communication, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking are vital in the industry, he explains. While many iGaming roles are highly specialised, with a candidate’s chances of securing the post largely dependent on their level of knowledge and experience in the field, Mr Schillig says companies typically also offer entry level roles, which can be great opportunities for those at the beginning of their career or looking to change into a new field. For these jobs, an eagerness to learn, humility and patience can go a long way. >

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“IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT MENTALITY AND COMPETENCY, YOU CAN REALLY FAST-FORWARD YOUR PROFESSIONAL GROWTH WITHIN THE INDUSTRY.” Krysta Muscat

“Being a digital industry, it is imperative that everyone working within iGaming has a certain level of technical acumen, even if they are not in a technical role,” Mr Schillig adds. “Nowadays, almost all roles must work with data and make data-driven decisions. Therefore, analytical reasoning and the ability to understand and transfer data into meaningful actions and decisions is becoming increasingly important.”

preparing for an interview once a company offers one, a skill she says is still somewhat underrated.

Krysta Muscat, Head of Recruitment at Betting Connections Recruitment Solutions, believes many roles in iGaming welcome skill sets developed in other industries, meaning the right attitude and motivation can be a determining factor in finding a job. “iGaming is thriving and evolving all the time, so the approach is often to hire for the right attitude and train for the industry-specific skills,” she explains. Ms Muscat highlights the role a good recruitment agency can play in helping connect job seekers with the right employers, discussing their needs, motivations, and expectations, working out career options whatever their levels of experience, and guiding them through the entire process. However, she also stresses the importance of a candidate fully

“My advice is to really prepare to stand out and do your research thoroughly. It is important to fully explore what the company and industry are about, understanding as much as possible what the business you have applied for does. Part of our recruitment solution is to assist you with an interview preparation session, providing information and materials to aid your research, ensuring you go to your interview as confident and prepared as possible.” For those who secure a post, Ms Muscat highlights the benefits on offer, with most companies embracing learning and development, and supporting seminars, courses and events to help employees better themselves. There’s also a focus on well-being, with common benefits such as breakfasts and lunches, gym packages, work- >

“PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IS WHAT HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER AND MAKES EMPLOYEES HAPPIER, MORE LOYAL AND MORE PRODUCTIVE AND ENGAGED.” Marion Gamel

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“ONCE YOU BREAK INTO THE GAMING INDUSTRY AS A CANDIDATE, THE SKY REALLY IS THE LIMIT.”

of companies have had to find a way to strike a balance between this and more tech-based skills to have teams perform at their best.” Apart from the skills and experience needed for specialised roles, Mr Borg highlights languages as a highly sought-after skill in the industry today. “A lot of gaming related roles are specifically targeted towards specific markets and audiences, so having native or extremely fluent speakers of particular languages would be beneficial for the company,” he says.

Sacha Borg

Having himself worked with a number of gaming companies both internally and as a recruitment consultant, Mr Borg is extremely positive about the benefits of working in the industry, from perks to flexible working arrangements to opportunities for growth.

from-home options, social events and more. “What strikes me most is the lightning speed you can progress, sideways and upwards. If you have the right mentality and competency, you can really fast-forward your professional growth within the industry,” she says.

“Once you break into the gaming industry as a candidate, the sky really is the limit. If you put in the work, are honest in what you do, and seek help when you feel you need it, nothing can hinder your career progression. It is an amazing environment to work in, so you might as well make the most of the perks while you’re there!”

Marion Gamel, Executive Coach at Mariongamel. com, has a simple answer when asked what makes a great iGaming employee. “Psychological safety! Google discovered 10 years ago that it is the magical ingredient that separates good from exceptional teams. Psychological safety is the ability to take risks, knowing that your team has your back, to express ideas without fear of judgement, to ask difficult questions without censorship, to innovate and not rest on our laurels. Gaming’s no different from any other company: psychological safety is what holds it all together and makes employees happier, more loyal and more productive and engaged.” She advises anyone interested in making their mark in the industry to develop digital expertise, international exposure, and a continuous curiosity and desire to learn and grow. While a passion for sports and casino games can help, she says, it is not as essential as it was once thought to be. “Learn your trade, sharpen your skills, get exposure to fast-growing digital companies, have a stint as an entrepreneur, understand international expansion, familiarise yourself with P&L, margins and productivity, stay close to the customer at all times – and you’ll be perfectly equipped to excel in gaming.” According to Sacha Borg, Recruitment Manager at Tailwag Recruitment, the impact of the pandemic in the last two years has left companies more limited in terms of how particular they can afford to be in their recruitment process, and shifted priorities for potential employees. “The shift to a remote working or hybrid structure has left companies focusing more on the soft skills candidates possess and how much of a culture fit they are within the company,” he explains. “A lot

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WINTER 2021/2022 BUSINESS

Businesses, People CON N ECT IN G

CON N ECTIN G

Co-Founders Chris Vella and Anthony Hennessy set up Exacta Solutions in late 2019, just before the world as we knew it experienced a sudden shift. However, despite it not being an easy journey, a global pandemic was not enough to shake away the business’ success. Here we take a look back at the company’s journey two years in.

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xacta Solutions is the result of a two-man collaboration that has grown into a team 13 people strong, who together have accumulated over 50 years of collective experience in the industry. The team attracts top talent and offers a consultative approach that reflects what is happening in the market. Exacta Solutions’ main focus lies within the iGaming market, which is the area in which the team holds the highest level of expertise. The iGaming space has been experiencing growth for the past 15 years, with no sign of slowing down. When Mr Vella first penetrated the market back in 2005, iGaming was still in its infancy here on the island. As the industry landscape developed, it started to diversify into other areas related to iGaming, such as FinTech and IT – two spaces that Exacta Solutions also operates in.

WHAT DOES EXACTA SOLUTIONS DO? Exacta Solutions is all about headhunting and going out to market. The company differentiates itself because of its extensive network. Its services lie in two main areas: recruitment, and mergers and acquisitions; both of which have one thing in common – networks and connections. The bigger you grow in the businesses, the more connections you make and the better the connections, the more relevant and lucrative they become for the business. Recruitment Recruitment remains Exacta Solutions’ primary business. In such a competitive market, the company’s unique selling point is its people. The team’s combined years of experience, knowledge in the field, and globally established network –

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which has been curated over the years – are what Exacta Solutions considers to be its competitive advantage in such a crowded marketplace. The 2020 global climate required a few weeks of adjustment for the company, especially considering it had just launched a few months prior to the pandemic’s primary outbreak. However, business quickly took off again, and the industries the company operates in swiftly adapted to the new reality. As a matter of fact, online businesses – as we know now – experienced exponential revenue growth. Exacta Solutions also used this unprecedented shift to its advantage, expanding its global reach and enabling it to maintain momentum and growth. Exacta Solutions’ recruitment services also include a comprehensive consultation with specialised team members, to identify gaps and opportunities for their clients. They advise on the way forward, providing in-depth consultation from organisational set-up to reward structures and methods of hiring. In addition to regular recruitment, the company’s collective extensive professional network allows it to offer C-level search and headhunting to its clients. So, whether you are a professional looking to shift your career trajectory, or a candidate just starting out in the bustling iGaming business, then the team at Exacta Solutions will put in the effort to get to know you, your skills and your preferences, so they can best match you with the perfect role, all the while maintaining strict confidentiality. Mergers & Acquisitions The iGaming industry has witnessed a surge in the adoption of merger and acquisition (M&A) processes over the past few years. However, COVID-19 has brought about a number of logistical obstacles when it comes to securing deals and making the right B2B introductions.

they are interested and would like to proceed with the deal, the more technical aspects of the process come into play, some of which may be outsourced to partners. This is where financial diligence, corporate due diligence, the contractual aspect, and price negotiations come in. Once the latter action points are dealt with, the contract is signed and both parties can celebrate.

From a practical perspective, the lack of social interaction that the world has been forced to abide by has altered the process. However, the appetite for investment has not been dampened. Strong demand persists, both from people who are looking to sell, as well as those looking to invest in new opportunities.

WHAT LIES AHEAD?

There are several essential steps involved when it comes to approaching a successful M&A deal. Firstly, one must understand that two entities are at stake, and it’s likely their teams haven’t ever met before. The role Exacta Solutions plays is bringing one opportunity to the table and matching it to the other party’s expectations. Mr Vella reiterates that the match-making process is the most critical part of any M&A deal. Once both parties agree that

Moving forward, Exacta Solutions’ main priority will be to continue to expand on the current growth that the company is experiencing. The target for Exacta Solutions will be to follow the same trajectory and operate along the same business model, expanding on both a market and a geographical level. www.exactasolutions.com

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extra

G O I N G T HE

mile

TO IM PROVE SU STAIN A B LE GA M B L ING STA N DARDS

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ndeavours to improve the gambling industry and make it safer for players have always been part of Casino Guru’s agenda. They have the form of helping players resolve their disputes with casinos, providing honest and unbiased casino reviews, promoting fair approach to gambling, pushing operators to change unfair practices, creating helpful content on gambling addiction and safe gambling, and more. However, the team behind Casino Guru realised that they could do more. With the goal of improving sustainable gambling standards all over the world, they started two ambitious projects – the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative and the Casino Guru Academy. Behind both of these projects is Šimon Vincze, Casino Guru’s Responsible Gambling Projects Manager and an advocate of social responsibility among affiliates. Šimon Vincze, Responsible Gambling Projects Manager at Casino Guru

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GLOBAL APPROACH TO RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING The Global Self-Exclusion Initiative is the most ambitious of Casino Guru’s and Šimon’s projects. Its aim is to improve responsible gambling standards on a global level by addressing the insufficiencies of currently available tools and advocating for the creation of a global selfexclusion system, which could better protect vulnerable players. Self-exclusion from a single casino and national self-exclusion schemes do not create an effective barrier that can stop problem gamblers from accessing gambling websites and protect them from further gambling-related harm. A global system that would allow players to self-exclude from all gambling sites at once could be much more effective. And the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative is trying to make it happen.

With customer support being one of the most common entry-level online gambling jobs, the Academy starts educating workers right at the beginning of their career paths and gives them good basics that will help them not only to succeed professionally, but also to positively transform the gambling industry in the future. Speaking of the future, the Academy’s upcoming courses will be aimed also at more senior professionals, with the goal of sharing Casino Guru’s expertise on how certain aspects of operating a gambling business should be handled in a way that reduces customers’ issues and complaints, and creates a better gambling environment for everyone.

WHAT IS TO COME?

Currently, Šimon is increasing awareness of the issue and spreading the message at major gambling industry conferences – both as an attendee and as a speaker – and collecting feedback from industry professionals. Together with other members of the Casino Guru team, he is also working on a blue paper presenting a suggested technical implementation of a global self-exclusion system.

Šimon’s efforts to improve the industry do not stop with these two projects. Speaking about sustainable and socially responsible gambling at some of the biggest and most popular industry conferences and events, he is spreading the message that the industry as a whole – including affiliates and other parties that are often excluded from this discussion – needs to come together to improve online gambling’s safety and responsibility, as well as public opinion.

BETTER EDUCATION FOR THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY

From his standpoint, it is not only a good and moral thing to do, but also an important step toward a sustainable industry that will grow and prosper.

Šimon is also leading the Casino Guru Academy, with its quest to improve gambling industry standards related to customer support, player protection, and fair gambling. The Academy’s courses, which are free and accessible to anyone, aim to give people working in the industry a better understanding of how things work in online gambling, resulting in a better and safer experience for players.

ABOUT CASINO GURU

The Academy’s first course, entitled iGaming Customer Support Essentials, is aimed at educating current or aspiring customer support agents about the gambling industry, the most common customer issues and queries, as well as how to prepare for the job and be good at it.

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Casino Guru is an affiliate website with the biggest up-to-date database of online casinos and casino bonuses. The team behind the website puts emphasis on fair gambling, reviewing each casino based on a set of strict but objective criteria and pushing them to be better. They also run a multilingual forum and help players who complain about unfair treatment by a casino. www.casino.guru




WINTER 2021/2022 INTERVIEW

PressEnter

Photos by Inigo Taylor

D O N ’ T HE SITAT E ,

Fresh from a rebrand that is primed to continue establishing the business as a tier one organisation in the global iGaming industry, PressEnter Group CEO Lahcene Merzoug talks to Sarah Muscat Azzopardi about the process behind the new corporate identity, and the company’s ambitious plans for growth.

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“WE SEE OUR FAST-MOVING BUSINESS AS BEING A MIX OF TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT AND IGAMING, WHICH PRESSENTER AND OUR NEW CORPORATE IDENTITY CAPTURES PERFECTLY.”

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arlier this month, PressEnter Group – formerly Betpoint Group – unveiled its new corporate identity, marking the start of a new chapter for the company that has grown at an incredible rate in recent years.

The CEO believes that the rebrand to PressEnter Group will continue to establish the business as a tier one organisation in the global iGaming industry, maintaining that, with “tremendous momentum” now behind the business, the team feels it is the perfect time to unveil a new identity that matches the company’s ambitions to become an industry power player over the next few years. “We see our fast-moving business as being a mix of technology, entertainment and iGaming, which PressEnter and our new corporate identity captures perfectly,” he says.

Steering the Group into this new chapter is a new management team led by CEO Lahcene Merzoug, who joined earlier this year with a mission to spearhead growth as the company continues to go from strength to strength. “Betpoint Group was born in 2018 when the team behind 21.com took it over. Prior to that, Betpoint was providing the platform and licences for 21.com,” explains Mr Merzoug, affirming that, since then, the business has grown at an incredible rate, going on to launch several other brands including JustSpin, NitroCasino, NeonVegas, UltraCasino and Rapid Casino. “It has been a speedy rise and, today, we are a sizable organisation with a workforce that has more than quadrupled in the last 12 months alone,” he smiles.

Shedding light on the process behind the rebrand, the CEO explains that the team started from scratch, kicking things off with brainstorming sessions with different members of the team and several creative agencies. “We knew we wanted an identity that combined technology, entertainment and taking a new and modern approach. To capture this in a brand, logo and corporate identity, we had to come up with something that was simple and minimalistic, as this ultimately reflects the time we are in,” he notes, highlighting that the resulting rebrand consists of a new name, logo, website and accompanying business and marketing collateral. >

“PRESSENTER IS BASED ON THE CONCEPT OF PRESSING THE ‘ENTER’ BUTTON ON A COMPUTER KEYBOARD AND THE EXECUTION THAT COMES WITH IT. IT ALSO STANDS FOR DECISIVENESS AND ALWAYS BEING THE FIRST TO TAKE ACTION.” 081


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“OUR TEAM MEMBERS ARE THE ONLY THING THAT IS BETTER THAN OUR PRODUCTS AND WE MAKE SURE TO NEVER LET A SINGLE MEMBER OF THIS INCREDIBLE ORGANISATION FORGET THAT.” PressEnter as “the crossroad where industry knowledge meets hands-on experience, and we will use this to not only meet but exceed our ambitious targets.” Of course, Mr Merzoug continues, it is not just what the team behind PressEnter delivers, but how they deliver it. “We operate on a foundation of transparency, camaraderie and mentorship. Our team members are the only thing that is better than our products and we make sure to never let a single member of this incredible organisation forget that. At PressEnter, we employ the best talent in the industry – some of it is homegrown and some of it is onboarded from other organisations – and we will continue to strengthen our team under our new corporate brand.” The rebrand to PressEnter, the CEO states, will also help in this regard. “We challenge boundaries and are determined to attract the brightest minds in the business. These are individuals that are not happy to just stare at the ‘blink’ but instead, PressEnter.” “PressEnter is based on the concept of pressing the ‘enter’ button on a computer keyboard and the execution that comes with it. It also stands for decisiveness and always being the first to take action. These are qualities that we have built into the culture at PressEnter and which underpin how we go about our business,” Mr Merzoug maintains. As for the visual identity, he continues, the logo was inspired by the ‘blink’ one sees when typing a document, and replicates the simplistic approach to communication in the digital world. “We have used a monotone palette as a base, with pops of colour for our various business divisions (PressEnter Group, PressEnter Partners and PressEnter Media). This is a timeless solution that captures our bold and ambitious approach to the industry,” the CEO says. The primary benefit of the rebrand, he continues, is that it allows the company to showcase its identity and culture. “We are a growing, skilled organisation that prides itself on its ability to quickly adapt and overcome entrepreneurial challenges in the most dynamic markets around the world,” he maintains, describing

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Speaking of what differentiates PressEnter from similar organisations, Mr Merzoug acknowledges that, while it may sound like a cliché, the team has always looked to strike the right balance between being a place of work and also a place where employees feel welcomed and appreciated. “Our culture is similar to that of a family and, despite growing rapidly over the past 12 months, we have maintained this culture,” he affirms. He adds with pride that, for many, the process of growth can lead organisations to become corporate and slowmoving, but PressEnter has been able to avoid this, staying agile and nimble in order to react to changing market requirements. “We have gone to great lengths to find the right talent for our business, and we never settle for second best,” the CEO continues, revealing that many want to join PressEnter because of the company culture and incredible team of people. “This means we have to be selective and find the best person for each role. By having the right people in place, and providing them with an environment in which to push boundaries and succeed, our employee turnover is low and this is something we are incredibly proud of.”


WINTER 2021/2022 INTERVIEW

Divulging PressEnter’s growth strategy moving forward, Mr Merzoug explains that the plan is to continue to grow organically in the markets where the company is currently active. This includes launching new brands such as Rapid Casino, which made its debut last month.

“Having established ourselves as a leading casino operator, it makes sense to expand into the sports betting space with a brand and book that will deliver the same market-leading experience as our online casino assets. It will also open the door to new player segments and demographics, and that will allow us to unlock tremendous growth opportunities,” he explains.

“We now run six online casino assets, and each has been designed to meet different player preferences while setting the standard in key areas such as game selection, payment options, overall user experience and customer support,” he says, elaborating that in the latest, Rapid Casino, players venture to the Wild West where they join outlaw Trae Rapid in his search for vengeance and big wins. “It’s a great brand with an intricate back story that will ensure players remain engaged and entertained at all times,” he describes.

When launching any new brand, be it casino or sportsbook, Mr Merzoug stresses, “we always aim to bring a new, never-seen-before USP to the market, as this is what helps us to stay ahead of our rivals and always deliver a superior player experience. We have some exciting USPs in the pipeline, so stay tuned to see how we will be revolutionising both the casino and sportsbook sectors in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, the CEO reveals that the company is also eyeing more regulated markets and has started to apply for licences in several jurisdictions where the team believes PressEnter’s brands will be a big hit with players. “We also plan to be aggressive when it comes to mergers and acquisitions (M&A); we have a war-chest ready to open when the right opportunities come along. Our approach to driving growth organically and via M&A, and the incredible team that we have built, is what gives us a tremendous edge over our rivals,” Mr Merzoug affirms.

Finally, the CEO concludes, “we believe there are currently unexplored markets where the PressEnter Group has what it takes to become a power player. We are researching these markets right now – and especially those in South America and Asia – and look forward to deploying our international market expansion plan when the time is right.”

Elaborating on the main areas the company will be focusing on in the months and years to come, the CEO states that at present, preparation is well underway for the launch of their first online sportsbook brand.

“OUR APPROACH TO DRIVING GROWTH ORGANICALLY AND VIA M&A, AND THE INCREDIBLE TEAM THAT WE HAVE BUILT, IS WHAT GIVES US A TREMENDOUS EDGE OVER OUR RIVALS.”

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licence GIVI NG i GA M I NG OPER ATO RS T HE

Having launched an advisory firm that provides specialised consultancy and solutions for the iGaming sector, Mario Fiorini has made it his mission to never allow gaming operators to gamble on the success of their business. Dean Muscat speaks with the Founder of IGA Group to discuss the invaluable benefits of gambling licences and why, despite recent setbacks, Malta is set to remain a world-leading iGaming hub.

TO SUCCE E D

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very year, more and more licensing and regulatory requirements come into force across the international iGaming scene. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any operator to navigate the landscape and make informed choices that ensure their business can thrive without falling foul of legal pitfalls. IGA Group – formerly IG Advisors – was launched to assist gaming businesses with these precise headaches. Founded by Mario Fiorini in 2017, the Group brings to the table specialised skills and knowledge that traditional advisory firms simply do not possess. With over 16 years’ experience in the industry and boasting a solid technical background in engineering, Mr Fiorini was confident he could better understand the challenges that today’s iGaming operators face and felt the need to provide something more niche within the advisory service space. “In my opinion, it’s just like when you need a doctor; there’s a time for a GP and a time for a specialist. At IGA Group, we like to think of ourselves as true experts within the iGaming sector. We offer a 360-degree service for any iGaming brand, whether they’re still setting up shop or are more established. We can assist a company from inception by providing guidance with their legal, financial, and technical development through to offering assistance with day-to-day operations, maintaining regulatory compliance, and acquiring international gambling licences,” Mr Fiorini explains. Having successfully assisted many companies with obtaining their gambling licences in Malta and other international jurisdictions, IGA Group has firmly established itself as one of the industry’s most experienced iGaming service providers, capable of guiding operators safely through the murky waters of never-ending regulatory and compliance reforms with ease. In recent years, licensing requirements have become so labyrinthine that the subject has turned into something of a bone of contention within certain quarters of the wider gaming industry, especially among newer operators entering the fold. Without a doubt, obtaining a gambling licence can prove to be a lengthy, complicated, and costly process, with fees and taxes placing significant strain on any fledgling operator’s start-up budget. As such, some are attempting to do away with licensing altogether by operating exclusively within unregulated markets. >

“MALTA HAS THE MATURITY TO COURSE-CORRECT AND EMERGE FROM THE GREYLISTING STRONGER THAN BEFORE.” 085


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“REGULATED MARKETS PROVIDE PLAYERS A SAFER ENVIRONMENT THAT, IN TURN, IS REFLECTED IN A PLAYER’S TRUST AND LOYALTY TOWARDS A BRAND.”

time, money, and resources into building a holistic iGaming ecosystem while the industry was still in its infancy. Other countries may now have regulation in place, but this does not necessarily mean they have the infrastructure to support iGaming businesses and see them flourish. Malta provides iGaming brands with the professional services they need, an established and robust infrastructure, as well as a large pool of industry-specific talent that other jurisdictions cannot match,” he explains. That being said, Mr Fiorini is keen to point out that IGA Group remains cognizant of these shifts within the industry and recognises that fragmentation with further regional regulation is a reality that cannot be ignored. As such, the company is continuing to keep abreast of new regulatory frameworks to assist clients with obtaining licences from multiple jurisdictions. Currently, the local sector is also under increased pressure to remain a competitive base of operations in the face of emerging iGaming markets, including India, Nigeria, and Latin America, all of which could potentially challenge Malta’s status as a leading iGaming hub of choice. And the question stakeholders are asking is: has the FATF greylisting caused any significant reputational damage, and are local operators looking to defect elsewhere?

With all this in mind, do gambling licences continue to hold value today? “Absolutely,” Mr Fiorini asserts. “The difference between operating in regulated and unregulated markets is night and day. Firstly, a gambling licence is regarded as a mark of quality and respectability that not only elevates the company, but the industry itself. Regulated markets provide players a safer environment that, in turn, is reflected in a player’s trust and loyalty towards a brand. And while the costs may seem burdensome, regulation implemented in the right way can drastically increase an operator’s revenues and safeguard their business in the long run.” While the Malta Gaming Authority licence continues to be regarded as the gold standard of licensing – giving iGaming brands the freedom to operate within many international jurisdictions – the industry is seeing an upward trend in countries seeking to regulate online casinos and sportsbooks through their own regional licences. Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany are just some states that have been introducing tougher regulation and licensing requirements to operate within their respective markets. Are these changes posing a threat to Malta’s attractiveness as a competitive jurisdiction for gaming companies to operate from? “I think it’s important to distinguish between being a regulated market and being a true iGaming hub. Malta had the foresight to invest

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“It’s a very wrong perception to state that the iGaming industry is at a higher risk of being targeted for money laundering. In actual fact, the local iGaming sector is ahead of many other online businesses with regards to anti-money laundering (AML) regulation, and is one of the least probable industries to be a victim of money laundering. This was achieved thanks to the high standards implemented by the MGA, which has continued to step up its supervisory reach on licensees over the past years through collaboration with other local and international regulatory bodies,” he asserts. Mr Fiorini believes this is further proof – if proof be needed – that it is in an operator’s best interest to acquire a respectable licence. Through a licence, operators are given clear rules of operation within that jurisdiction, including transparent tax policies, robust AML procedures, and legal protection from the state in case of disputes. Furthermore, a licence ensures that leading solution providers and financial institutions will be open to conducting business with that operator.

“This industry is known for its resilience and flexibility. Being greylisted is certainly not something anyone would have hoped for, but there is a quiet confidence within the sector that Malta has the maturity to course-correct and emerge from the situation stronger than before,” Mr Fiorini says, before adding that, in his experience working with local operators, he has not seen any major fallout related to the greylisting.

While the process may seem daunting and complicated, Mr Fiorini assures operators that an advisory specialist like IGA Group can simplify the process and put them on the right track for success. “Regulation is constantly changing and there are vast differences between jurisdictions. That’s why each company should make it a priority to find the right partner to assist with their licensing needs. At IGA Group, we offer a multinational service and can assist clients with obtaining their MGA licence as well as licences from all other major jurisdictions,” he concludes.

As for claims that Malta’s online gaming industry is at greater risk of serving as a potential conduit for money laundering activities, Mr Fiorini believes such statements to be somewhat ill-founded.

“WE CAN ASSIST A COMPANY FROM INCEPTION BY PROVIDING GUIDANCE WITH THEIR LEGAL, FINANCIAL, AND TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TO OFFERING ASSISTANCE WITH DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS, MAINTAINING REGULATORY COMPLIANCE, AND ACQUIRING INTERNATIONAL GAMBLING LICENCES.” 087


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CR E ATING A

dynamic , productive, empowering place AN D

TO WOR K

KaFe Rocks’ unconventional yet enticing work culture helps it stand out in a country that’s experiencing an unprecedented iGaming boom. Here, CEO Simon Pilkington tells Benjamin Abela how his company is achieving that and so much more.

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n more ways than one, iGaming trailblazer KaFe Rocks is not your conventional company. Founded in 2018 by a trio of industry veterans, the company currently amasses 40 active sites across countless markets and nine different languages – and CEO Simon Pilkington won’t be putting the brakes on this growth anytime soon. The secret behind KaFe Rocks’ success? Mr Pilkington says it’s all down to the company’s “really clear purpose: that of being the lighthouse of reputable iGaming.” “When we say ‘lighthouse’, we mean it quite literally. We want to shine a light on the iGaming industry and ensure that our end users have a true and transparent picture of the betting and casino operators that they are choosing to play at,” Mr Pilkington highlights.

This mission, as well as the company’s recently launched and refreshingly ambitious time2play.com project, are two of the main factors driving KaFe Rocks towards further growth. “Time2play.com will definitely be a destination brand – the booking.com of the iGaming industry, a prospective replacement of Google’s role in the industry,” Mr Pilkington describes. “I truly believe that this project can improve not just the affiliate side of the industry, but the industry in general; all while serving our end-user to the absolute max with an innovative and ground-breaking Playscore system,” he continues. One shouldn’t gloss over the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into bringing this aspiration to life. After all, chances are the project would be nothing but a pipe dream

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Photos by Aleksey Leonov

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if it weren’t for Mr Pilkington’s calm yet calculated management style. “I’m a relatively level person. When we have big wins, I don’t over-celebrate, and when we have big losses, I try not to get too down in the dumps. I’m a Liverpool supporter, so growing up in the nineties supporting this team meant that I constantly had to stop myself from getting too down in the dumps,” the CEO jokes. >

“IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THE POORER EXPERIENCES THAT I’VE FACED IN MY CAREER THAT HAVE TAUGHT ME A LOT MORE AND INFLUENCED THE STYLE OF MANAGER THAT I DON’T WANT TO BE.”

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“DESPITE BEING A FULLY REMOTE COMPANY, WE DO HAVE AN OFFICE SPACE CALLED ‘THE OASIS’ AND IT’S VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER OFFICES I SEE AROUND THE ISLAND.” Mr Pilkington is also a firm believer that empathy and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence are vital characteristics for a successful leader. “Having a good understanding of how people think and what makes them tick, coupled with making yourself available to the owners and employees, are key when evaluating different situations and making well-thought-out decisions,” Mr Pilkington reflects.

years he’s taught me so much about the commercial and emotional sides of business.” Not only has Mr Pilkington’s diverse career exposed him to a variety of management styles, but it’s also placed him in countless different environments. Having experienced these first-hand, the KaFe Rocks CEO is perfectly equipped to create a dynamic, productive, and empowering work culture.

Prior to his introduction to the iGaming industry, Mr Pilkington built up a wealth of experience working in a plethora of different spheres – we’re talking marketing, commercial, and operations, to name but a few.

“Being a remote-first company from day one has given us a global talent pool and a real competitive edge. Back when KaFe Rocks was first incorporated, in 2018, not many companies were fully remote, so people, good people, wanted to come to us,” the CEO highlights.

Despite being superficially unrelated to his current area of expertise, the CEO believes that these experiences have been nothing short of formative to his current management style. “It’s always been the poorer experiences that I’ve faced in my career that have taught me a lot more and influenced the style of manager that I don’t want to be,” Mr Pilkington says. “At the same time, I’ve been very lucky to have had a couple of mentors who taught me so much. My first ever manager in a recruitment company sticks with me even to this day, and over the

“By then hiring against our six core values – not to homogenise the culture, but to ensure that there’s a backbone of culture running through the business – KaFe Rocks allows plenty of freedom, personality, and a highly-diverse environment.”

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Notwithstanding the company’s inclination to a fully remote style of working, it still gives room for its employees to collaborate face-to-face. “Despite being a fully remote company, we do have an office space called ‘The Oasis’, and it’s very different from the other offices I see around the island,” Mr Pilkington says. “We took a residence and developed it into an office space; so we’ve got this beautiful outside area with a pool, barbeque, and trees – hence the name ‘The Oasis’. We’ve got games, a relaxation room, and these amazing pockets of collaborative space.”

“The side that did affect us was the uncertainty of all that was happening. For that reason, we made sure that our Rocketeers were more connected than usual and that there was more communication flowing through the business. Our employees’ physical and mental wellness were our biggest priorities.”

This unconventional yet enticing work culture helps KaFe Rocks stand out in a country that’s experiencing an unprecedented iGaming boom, however the benefits of fully remote working were further accentuated with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another way KaFe Rocks safeguarded its employees’ health was by putting out a statement early into COVID-19’s spread guaranteeing that no redundancies would be made as a result of the pandemic. In situations where employees’ families suffered financially, the company even stepped in and offered support. Meanwhile, as its counterparts reeled from the adverse effects of the pandemic, KaFe Rocks has been busy improving its internal structure and ensuring that its markets and assets are in a solid position.

“We were lucky in many ways because I don’t really believe the pandemic affected the culture so much. We didn’t have to pivot or find a new system that we could implement in a short amount of time,” Mr Pilkington reflects.

“Now we’ve definitely got our eye on further expansion through new markets or other emerging markets. I’m not going to give away any secrets, of course, but I’d be crazy to be sitting here and not say that the USA will become a key focus,” Mr Pilkington shares. “At the same time, my other core aim is to drive as much value from our KFR engine – so our portfolio of SEO assets – as possible. This will take place through the development of our current markets and strategic expansion to new markets as well,” the KaFe Rocks CEO concludes.

“NOW WE’VE DEFINITELY GOT OUR EYE ON FURTHER EXPANSION THROUGH NEW MARKETS OR OTHER EMERGING MARKETS.”

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WINTER 2021/2022 KNOW

Malta in numbers

TIME

POPULATION

516,100 GMT +1 at end 2020 INTERNATIONAL DIALLING CODE

AVERAGE YEARLY TEMPERATURE

+356

27OC

AREA

316 KM²

MALTA’S ECONOMY GOVERNMENT DEBT

GDP GROWTH

14.8

€6,960

per cent increase for the 2nd quarter of 2021 when compared to the same quarter of 2020

million projected to end 2021

GOVERNMENT DEFICIT

ANNUAL RATE OF INFLATION

billion

per cent in 2021

-€1.6

1.2

GAMING IN NUMBERS TOTAL NUMBER OF GAMING LICENCES ISSUED IN 2020

68

COMPANIES LICENSED BY MGA

VALUE ADDED BY THE GAMING INDUSTRY TO THE MALTESE ECONOMY IN 2020

at end 2020

million

323

€924

Sources: Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), National Statistics Office (NSO). The World Bank

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FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES IN THE iGAMING SECTOR

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S PEA KI NG A

shared

language TOWAR DS A

shared mission Maria-Gabriele Doublesin, Founder of Intercultural Counselling & Competence Development Ltd, speaks to Sarah Muscat Azzopardi about her company’s diverse service offering. She explains how the work she does helps businesses overcome issues pertaining to social and cultural adjustment at the workplace, effecting social change, and working towards the enhancement of community cohesion and internationalisation of the local corporate sector.

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ounder of Intercultural Counselling & Competence Development, MariaGabriele Doublesin, wears many hats – among them, those of business consultant, leadership mentor and counsellor. As a multilingual German-born Maltese citizen, she draws from her experience of living and working among different cultures, people and societies – coupled with her academic training – to benefit her clients in a variety of different ways. “I incorporate myself and my personal experience into the work that I do,” Ms Doublesin says, affirming that

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interculturalism is part and parcel of her being. “I was brought up between two different cultures, two different languages and two different religions, so, from the very beginning, I was exposed to cultural differences and the issues arising from those.” Since then, she’s amassed more than 30 years of practical experience working with companies and individuals from Japan, China, South America, the Middle East, West Africa and Eastern European countries, going on to study psychology and becoming a certified and warranted counsellor with a focus on multinational and multi-ethnic communities.


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“I CAN BE A SOUNDBOARD TO HELP [GAMING COMPANIES] ASSESS THE GROUND THEY ARE STANDING ON, AND THE CONSEQUENCES THAT GAMING HAS ON SOCIETY; AS WELL AS HOW THEY ARE FUNCTIONING WITHIN THE COMPANIES THEMSELVES.” Speaking of her dual Master’s degree in Transcultural Counselling (University of Malta) and Counselling Psychology, Community Counselling and Counselling Education (University of Maryland), she reveals, “I wanted to understand what drives and motivates human behaviour, and how humans function in the corporate world, as well as the private and social world.” This led Ms Doublesin to found Intercultural Counselling & Competence Development Ltd, which operates intercultural consultancy and training. Elaborating on this, she explains that the company focuses on three main components. “One component is business advisory, consulting on business re-engineering with a focus on customer and work dynamics,” she says, highlighting its importance in today’s business environment more than ever, with people having moved from working from the office to working from home and back. “Here, I also aid companies to examine the ground they’re standing on and their objectives, helping them to align their business vision and HR strategy,” she continues, noting that many of the micro-businesses that make up Malta’s business landscape had to reshape their outlook and approach as a result of the pandemic. The second component is our counselling service, which is split up into both individual counselling and corporate counselling, with a particular focus on corporate counselling. “I look at not only the well-being of employees, but also their productivity and team spirit, as well as the company culture as a whole,” Ms Doublesin continues. Last but by no means least, the third component is training. “I give competency training, cultural sensitivity training and also offer upskilling to boost competitive advantage,” the company founder states, highlighting that, in today’s increasingly strong business network, which is both local and international, competitiveness is key.

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This gamut of services and specialised skills in issues pertaining to social and cultural adjustment can be brought to bear on businesses across industries, including Malta’s gaming sector. Viewing the gaming industry as one that provides services to clients, Ms Doublesin asserts that the issues and potential problems that can arise from and within it need to be understood and acted upon. Expressing her wish to help shape the industry, insofar as helping companies step up on their responsibilities, she says that, through her knowledge and experience, she can be “a soundboard to help them assess the ground they are standing on, and the consequences that gaming has on society; as well as how they are functioning within the companies themselves.” Breaking this down, she begins by elaborating on the consequences of gaming and gambling, noting that, “before COVID-19, the UK alone reported £16.5 billion being gambled per year. During the pandemic, gambling increased exponentially – to the extent that even The Malta Chamber, together with the Chamber of Psychologists, is looking into research to get more data and understand better what needs to be done to tackle this,” says Ms Doublesin, wearing her counsellor hat. With this in mind, Ms Doublesin believes that it is now down to gaming companies “to review their level of corporate social responsibility and become more innovative in helping clients to control excessive gaming and gambling,” going on to mark the distinction and dynamics between the two. >


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“Gambling in a sense always involves money, whereas gaming involves time spent. Both can lead to impaired social behaviour, which can also lead to criminal behaviour,” she explains, noting that, until recently, not as much importance was given to the impact of gaming because it did not involve money directly. Referring to a number of incidents around the world which have shed light on the potential issues excessive gaming can bring about, she notes that the World Health Organisation has now added Internet Gaming Disorder to its international clinical directory as a medical disorder. “It is important that we slowly recognise the impact that both impaired gaming and gambling behaviour can have on the public, because they’re part of our human nature, but can also be highly addictive, and it is also down to the gaming industry to deal with that and raise awareness of it,” she affirms.

“Cultural sensitivity training is designed to read these cues, whether it’s online or in-person. We communicate not only through speaking, but by processing what we hear. In this way, cultural sensitivity training deals with how different cultures and personalities, as well as cognitively diverse people, process what they hear.” Indeed, the ability to interact effectively with people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives is increasingly important in today’s multicultural and multigenerational working environment. “My cultural sensitivity training addresses all of this, by using specifically designed tools to provide companies with the necessary foundation to become culturally competent,” Ms Doublesin asserts. This also includes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), she notes, because culture is not only related to ethnicity, but also to personality – so these issues also need to be addressed, particularly as they relate to employees’ satisfaction and motivation to work, affecting their productivity.

Meanwhile, on the intercultural side of her service offering, Ms Doublesin notes that gaming companies tend to employ multicultural teams, and while many do have internal professionals that provide cultural skills training, it is often outdated. “We need to take into consideration that, nowadays, there is a huge cultural confluence, and this is not only country-specific or culture-specific, but it also relates to cognitive diversity,” she explains.

“Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce can provide many benefits and competitive advantages for organisations of all sizes and industries, including the gaming industry,” she notes, adding that business leaders must understand that, in order to be effective, an inclusive package of cultural sensitivity training shouldn’t be treated as a checkbox.

“I offer two types of cultural sensitivity training – one addresses customer dynamics, because these have also changed due to COVID-19; and the other is designed for executives and employees, dealing with team efficacy and enhancing productivity,” the company founder explains, maintaining that cultural sensitivity training raises awareness of the nuances of cross-cultural or intercultural communication, as well as the importance of words, actions, gestures, and body language.

Besides this, Ms Doublesin adds, she also looks at the disposition of the individuals that make up the company. “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, a large portion of many companies’ focus is on solving problems caused by the effects of the pandemic or creating strategic plans,” she explains, noting that problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning are all specific cognitive processes that require an open mind.

“ATTRACTING AND RETAINING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE CAN PROVIDE MANY BENEFITS AND COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES FOR ORGANISATIONS OF ALL SIZES AND INDUSTRIES, INCLUDING THE GAMING INDUSTRY.” 096


WINTER 2021/2022 INTERVIEW

“Open-mindedness is an acquired leadership skill and a prerequisite for higher-order thinking,” she says, adding that the cognitive processes are only as effective as the type of facts we feed them with, “so when we are results-driven, for example, we already have blinkers on, so to speak – the blinkers are the result, not the total picture.” The facts Ms Doublesin is referring to must include information and data that not only supports the individual’s perceived decision, but also contradicts assumptions, and this is when having someone external act as a soundboard can help to create that objectivity. “We look at the world through the lens of our assumptions – which causes the brain to recognise patterns related to threats and opportunities that can hinder from assuming an open-minded disposition: the blinker. This can cause you to fall prey to information bias,” she explains.

“ONE THING THAT THE PANDEMIC BROUGHT OUT IS THE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER – RECOGNISING THAT WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT, AND THAT WHAT AFFECTS ONE END, ALSO AFFECTS THE OTHER.” Among the major lessons brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Ms Doublesin identifies the importance of collaboration above all. “Before the pandemic, everyone was working alone or with a highly competitive disposition. One thing that the pandemic brought out is the need to work together – recognising that we are all in the same boat, and that what affects one end, also affects the other. We need to learn to coordinate better,” she maintains, adding that “what the pandemic has taught us is the need for collaboration, as well as the need to understand each other.”

It is in these instances that she is able to combine the knowledge gleaned from her professional training with her practical experience to address these conscious and unconscious biases, acting as a sounding board to identify unused resources or blind spots, to look at things which haven’t been looked at or taken into consideration in order to develop an innovative re-engineering strategy.

Here, she once again draws upon her experience in intercultural training, emphasising the need to speak a shared language. “We must have a shared mission – when we have different visions, it makes it very hard to coordinate,” Ms Doublesin concludes.

As a result of the pandemic, the importance of resilience – both on a personal and a business level – has been much spoken about and brought to the fore. Describing resilience as an acquired skill, Ms Doublesin explains that businesses need to be aware of how to support people with different abilities to build their resilience, to help them acknowledge and deal with an overwhelming situation without leaning on maladaptive coping strategies – such as excessive gaming. The best way this can be addressed is through relevant training and awareness programmes. “My company provides custom-designed training – so I sit with HR or the executive team and listen to what they need. Dealing with these issues is not one-size-fits-all, and companies can have different issues they’d like to tackle. So, I develop specific tools and stress specific areas based on the company’s needs,” she explains.

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WINTER 2021/2022 CALENDAR

iGaming Calendar Never miss an appointment! Here are some of the most important iGaming events, trade shows and conferences happening worldwide (online and in person!) over the next few months. SiGMA iGathering

NOVEMBER 2021 TUESDAY 2ND

Reputation Matters: UK Gambling’s Future at Stake London, UK

THURSDAY 4TH

Affiliate Conference & Expo (ACE) 2020 Manila, Philippines

iGaming Germany Berlin, Germany

M O N D A Y 8 T H

Hipther Festival XXI Online

TUESDAY 9TH

Betting on Sports Europe (#boseurope) Stamford Bridge, London, UK

G2E Asia Venetian, Macao, China

M O N D A Y 1 5 T H

The Europe Gaming Awards

Hilton Convention Centre, St Julian’s, Malta

iGaming Academy: Anti-Fraud and Payments Handling

THURSDAY 25TH

EGR Operator Awards 2021

Virtual

Grosvenor House, London, UK

TUESDAY 16TH

MONDAY 29TH

iGathering - Malta 2021 Malta

iGaming Academy: Customer Relationship Management Virtual

SiGMA Europe

TUESDAY 30TH

MFCC, Malta

Gaming Americas Q4 Meetup Virtual

WEDNESDAY 17TH

Gaming & Sports Dubai Summit Dubai, UAE

THURSDAY 18TH

International Lottery Play Summit Shanghai, China

CasinoBeats Slots Festival (#CBSlotsFest) TBC

International eSports Business Forum Shanghai, China

European Gaming Q4 Meetup Virtual

099

SBC Summit North America

Meadowlands Exposition Center, NJ, USA

iGaming Academy: Customer Relationship Management Virtual


WINTER 2021/2022 CALENDAR

iGaming Calendar DECEMBER 2021 WEDNESDAY 1ST

JANUARY 2022 MONDAY 17TH

Brazilian iGaming Summit

AffiliateINSIDER Summit

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Virtual

THURSDAY 2ND

SBC Awards North America TBC

Chile iGaming Santiago, Chile

M O N D A Y 6 T H

WGES (World Gaming Executive Summit) W Hotel, Barcelona, Spain

ExCeL London, UK

WEDNESDAY 2ND

Lyceum Fire & Ice: 20th Anniversary Party London, UK

iGB Affiliate London

CE

Evolution London, Battersea Park, London, UK

ICE London

tI ex en

SBC Awards

TUESDAY 1ST

Th

TUESDAY 14TH

FEBRUARY 2022

ev en t

ExCeL London, UK

THURSDAY 24TH

All In Gaming Ukraine Kyiv, Ukraine

EGR Operator Awards. Credit: egr.global

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wi

ll b eb ack

with

a bang



WINTER 2021/2022 IN DEPTH

FAC IN G

Malta’s

greylisting HEAD - O N

This June, Moneyval’s umbrella organisation, the Financial Action Task Force, voted to place Malta on its grey list of countries deemed untrustworthy in their fight against financial crime. Here, stakeholders from the iGaming sector talk about the industry’s resilience in overcoming the challenges that this presents and look ahead with determined focus.

A

fter much speculation, 2021 turned out to be a rocky year for Malta’s efforts to bolster its international reputation in the wake of revelations of public and private corruption that have rocked the island in recent times: the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an intergovernmental watchdog devoted to battling global money laundering and terrorist financing – voted to put the jurisdiction on its grey list of countries possessing ‘strategic deficiencies’ in their anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorism (CFT) structures. This vote – the first for a European Union country – was taken despite the substantial effort made over the past few years to strengthen the island’s ability to fight financial crime through the institution of new policies and procedures directed towards financial institutions, stakeholders, and Government entities. Indeed, in April, Moneyval – the Council of Europe’s monitoring body – recognised these endeavours and issued a report that

underscored the substantial advances made in addressing historical AML and CFT deficiencies. Malta’s relegation to the FATF grey list places it in a vulnerable position, particularly with respect to its relationships with global business stakeholders, investors, and financial institutions. The iGaming sector – which is founded on the fruit of such collaborations – may be seen as particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the vote. Yet, as Mario Fiorini, the Co-Founder and Director at IGA Group, says, “this industry is known for its resilience and flexibility, which, over the years, have helped it grow and mature into the industry we have today.” Despite this, Malta’s position on the grey list “is surely not something that any of the companies based in Malta was hoping for.” However, in his view, the industry “had already geared up for such challenges”, with the introduction of the new Gaming Act in 2018, and also through

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the transposition of the EU’s fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive into Maltese law. “The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) had already stepped up its supervisory reach on its licensees in recent years, through collaboration with other local and international regulatory bodies,” he explains, adding that these efforts need to continue being built upon.

“THIS INDUSTRY IS KNOWN FOR ITS RESILIENCE AND FLEXIBILITY, WHICH, OVER THE YEARS, HAVE HELPED IT GROW AND MATURE INTO THE INDUSTRY WE HAVE TODAY.”

“Over time Malta has become one of the best iGaming hubs in Europe, achieved through the collective efforts of all those who form part of this industry. Operators, service providers, industry bodies and also the MGA, all had their fair share in ensuring that the iGaming industry in Malta developed into the mature and stable industry we have today, and all these key stakeholders need to keep working together to continue safeguarding this unique ecosystem for the years to come,” Mr Fiorini, whose company specialises in providing a range of corporate and software services to the sector, asserts. Yet, timing is key and the sector, he underlines, is eagerly waiting for the country to get off the list as soon as possible, which could take as long as 2023. However, Mr Fiorini is clear: “if we manage to get off this list in the shortest time possible, the gaming industry in Malta will continue to thrive and consolidate its presence.”

Mario Fiorini, Co-Founder and Director, IGA Group

Until that happens, the IGA Group Director is assured of the industry’s ability to stave off the difficulties that may lie ahead, for “the iGaming sector in Malta has overcome a number of challenges throughout the years, and I am confident that the resilience shown in the past will continue to be prevalent in the future of this industry.” Such confidence was also expressed by Iosif Galea, a consultant working within the sector. “Malta has been at the forefront of the industry since 2004, so there is lot of expertise here,” he says, adding that “for Malta to be removed from the FATF grey list, it is imperative that the country keeps up the momentum implementing policies and procedures to strengthen the country’s economic and political structures.” He sees a lot of progress already being made in this regard: “The FIAU, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), the Malta Business Registry (MBR), the MGA and the other relevant authorities are drastically improving and strengthening their financial intelligence and investigations, audits and other ad hoc checks. Onboarding, vetting and due diligence are more rigid and rigorous, and I believe that regulatory bodies are committed to sharing intelligence, resources and knowledge,” he explains. >

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“FOR MALTA TO BE REMOVED FROM THE FATF GREY LIST, IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE COUNTRY KEEPS UP THE MOMENTUM IMPLEMENTING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES TO STRENGTHEN THE COUNTRY’S ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STRUCTURES.”

Iosif Galea, iGaming Consultant

Speaking more broadly, the consultant argues that “landing on the grey list like this has a major impact on the island’s economy” and should be “taken as a lesson learnt.” Yet, “the industry was and remains cautious”, with its stakeholders constantly monitoring the situation to determine the best way ahead. Malta, thus, should aim to get off the list as quickly as possible for, even if companies do speculate on relocating, this takes time, and “if Malta manages to leave the grey list swiftly, then the industry is here to stay,” he states.

For Matthew Zampa, Founding Partner of Zampa Debattista, an advisory firm predominantly specialising in indirect taxation and financial reporting, Malta’s greylisting will create difficulties for those gaming operators who bank in Malta, due to the creation of “extensive delays in the processing of payments” which, consequently, reduces “further the attractiveness of our country for operators within the gaming sphere.”

“GOVERNMENT AND ALL RELEVANT PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS ARE DOING THEIR UTMOST TO ENSURE THAT WE ADDRESS THE REMAINING SHORTCOMINGS IDENTIFIED BY THE FATF IN THE SHORTEST TIME POSSIBLE.” Carl Brincat, CEO, MGA

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WINTER 2021/2022 IN DEPTH

Looking ahead, “various facets should be considered in safeguarding the iGaming industry. We need to keep working on the regulatory framework and assessing the weaknesses that put Malta on the grey list,” he recommends. Moreover, the willingness of both the private and public sectors, as well as, “the intelligent work that is being put in by all major stakeholders should create the necessary confidence for gaming operators to believe that Malta will always be the jurisdiction of choice for the gaming business.”

Photo by Inigo Taylor

Despite this, he continues, “Malta still prides itself on being home to large gaming companies” with firms based in the jurisdiction gearing up to meet the challenges ahead. “More resources, more internal controls and stricter auditing will be very important in the daily operations of businesses operating within the iGaming sector. Companies will need to make sure their systems are up-to-date, their onboarding processes are clearly defined, and their operations are fiscally sound,” he explains.

“MALTA IS THE HOME OF IGAMING AND THERE IS A CRITICAL MASS OF PROFESSIONALS, AND COMPETENCIES. THIS HAS NOT CHANGED OVERNIGHT, AND IT IS NOT CHANGING AT THE MOMENT.” Enrico Bradamante, Founder, iGEN

Enrico Bradamante, the founder of iGEN, an industry trade association representing the iGaming sector on the island, echoes many of these sentiments, and states that there is still “a degree of confidence” in Malta, and what it has to offer. “Malta is the home of iGaming and there is a critical mass of professionals and competencies here. This has not changed overnight, and it is not changing at the moment.” However, Malta’s placement on the grey list has, in his view, added to the concerns some industry insiders have had about the jurisdiction over the past few years, including Malta’s skyrocketing cost of living, the difficulties in finding local expertise, and the issues in recruiting foreign talent, and convincing them to come to an island suffering under construction, pollution, and disrespect for the environment. “Every bit of bad news chips away at the advantages of remaining in Malta,” he affirms. Therefore, “the challenges are on several fronts.” Firstly, there is the immediate impact on financial transactions, with financial institutions asking for additional information and increasing scrutiny. “This has happened to a lot of companies right away,” he says.

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The flow of investment has, thus, also been impacted, he asserts. “Moving money is harder. This is an obvious direct consequence, a difficulty we expected. Therefore, investing in companies or start-ups is going to be harder. This is happening already.” Another more subtle repercussion, he explains, is the reputational cost that is harder to quantify. “Essentially, we – as professionals and companies – have placed our headquarters in a greylisted jurisdiction.” As a result, it will “become harder to maintain licences in other jurisdictions, since Malta is considered high-risk and you will be subject to enhanced due diligence – which, of course, leads to extra costs.” Yet, the founder of iGen does see a silver lining. “One positive consequence of all this is that, once we get off the grey list and we’re

>


WINTER 2021/2022 IN DEPTH

“COMPANIES WILL NEED TO MAKE SURE THEIR SYSTEMS ARE UP-TO-DATE, THEIR ONBOARDING PROCESSES ARE CLEARLY DEFINED AND THEIR OPERATIONS ARE FISCALLY SOUND.” Matthew Zampa, Founder, Zampa Debattista

back to white, I hope we will be one of the whitest jurisdictions in Europe. Then, hopefully, everyone in the sector will be proud to be associated with, and based in, Malta, although, right now, we have a long way to go.”

Despite the difficulties, “we are also aware, however, and are in fact prioritising outreach to the most relevant stakeholders to explain, through ever-increasing transparency, that the shortcomings identified in Malta’s regard do not relate to the gaming sector in any way. In practice, this should not alter the manner in which these international stakeholders perceive and relate to our licensees,” he concludes.

That road ahead is one replete with urgency. However, Carl Brincat, MGA CEO, attests that, “Government and all relevant public institutions are doing their utmost to ensure that we address the remaining shortcomings identified by the FATF in the shortest time possible.” In the meantime, “the MGA and other national stakeholders are, through outreach, providing the necessary visibility to international stakeholders – some of whom are essential partners for the industry – to show that Malta is a reliable participant in the international financial system and will continue making the necessary improvements to combat financial crime,” he says, expressing confidence in the jurisdiction and the work it has achieved so far. “Malta can carry that momentum forward and, with the existing commitment at both political and institutional levels, ensure that the island addresses the remaining issues and reasserts itself as a place of establishment which is both attractive and adheres to the highest regulatory standards across the board.” Regarding the outcome of the FATF’s vote, Dr Brincat notes that, while disappointing, given the effort that was made to address any and all shortcomings, “the shortcomings identified by the FATF do not relate to the gaming sector, and therefore the sector has shown that it has already geared up and invested heavily in terms of time, money, and resources, to implement effective AML/CFT safeguards.”

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WINTER 2021/2022 COACH

meetings… WE H AT E

B ECAU S E WE D O N ’ T

meet well

As a C-level executive with over 20 years’ experience in corporate settings, Marion Gamel understands the value of a good meeting. She started her career as an entrepreneur before working for Google, Eventbrite and Betsson Group. Marion has been coaching other entrepreneurs, founders and C-executives around the world since 2015. In this regular column, she provides advice to business leaders to inspire long-term solutions for issues ranging from attracting the right talent and improving efficiency to driving operational transformation and stimulating change in their workforce.

R

emote working is fuelling a trend of thought (or, rather, frustration) that started a long time ago: we have had enough of meetings! The vast majority of business leaders I coach tell me the same thing. “We have too many meetings.” “They add no value.” “They’re so draining.”

of belonging rates at #3 in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

When it comes to business, the stakes are high. Many corporate leaders spend their evenings doing the work they did not have the time to do during the day because of being pulled from meeting to meeting. The result is clear: exhaustion and broken families. And this is bizarre because human beings are tribe animals – we LOVE to gather! In fact, our sense

WHY

How, then, does something we crave become what we hate about work? The answer is simple: meetings are a tool we have forgotten how to use. We hate meetings because we do not meet well.

Before we get into the how of meetings, let us talk about the why. Why should you attend a meeting, and when is it best to decline? First of all, an invitation is not an obligation. When invited to a meeting, the temptation is to attend >

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WINTER 2021/2022 COACH

if your calendar allows it. But availability should not be your prime reason to accept a meeting invitation; instead, the purpose of the meeting should be. I have a simple rule to help leaders lighten their calendar. If you are not the project owner, the main presenter, a key decision-maker, or an expert with an important role in the discussion, you probably should not attend a meeting. Reading the meeting’s minutes will suffice to keep you up to date. No one should attend a meeting just to ‘stay informed’. There are other channels for this, and they are all within easy reach.

gang will be here!” or “Join us to celebrate X’s birthday!” And the same rule applies to meetings.

Preparation: A meeting is not a moment to present, update, or inform. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss and decide. Therefore, activities that can be done before the meeting (such as reading documents, project updates, and skimming through slides) should not happen during the meeting. It is just as important to share your content before a meeting as it is to create your Zoom link! Make it a habit for your team to share content the day before a meeting, so it can be used to prepare great questions, discuss options, plan resources, and reach a decision as a group.

Attend a meeting when you are going to play a role in it. Meetings are like delegation: if there is another way to achieve the same goal, the meeting is probably not the best use of your time. I advise leaders who struggle to delegate to ask themselves, “Am I the only person who can do this?” Similarly, I encourage executives who despair when they look at their packed calendar to ask, “Will I play an active/key role in this meeting?”

Meeting notes: Someone should be tasked with taking a meeting’s minutes and other notes to keep track of what was agreed during the meeting for both those who could and could not attend. Your notes should include: (1) the list of attendees, (2) topics, (3) updates, (4) new decisions, (5) action items, and (6) the date of the next meeting. Importantly, the minutes should be distributed to all guests (including those who could not attend) on the same day that the meeting took place. Remember: if a meeting is not worth someone taking notes, then it is probably not worth having in the first place.

In both cases, if the answer is NO, you should DorD it! (DorD = Decline or Delegate)

MEETING PROTOCOL 1.0 Once corners start being cut and rules forgotten, meetings become inefficient, repetitive, boring, exhausting, and even detrimental to team spirit. But there is such a thing as a ‘meetings protocol’, which when followed does help.

Meeting agenda: In the early days at Google, it was not acceptable to invite people to a meeting without sharing an agenda – and it is now time for leaders to guide the way and make this a rule once again. Today, to ask “Why are we meeting?” is considered rude, but on the contrary, it is a very valid question. For example, you would not invite friends over by simply saying, “Come at 7”. Instead, you would tell them, “Come for dinner – the whole

Action items: Since meetings are used to make decisions that impact people and teams, all attendees should walk away with agreedupon actions in writing – an essential part of a meeting’s minutes. By documenting an action’s ownership, allocated resources, and delivery date, you will avoid confusion later. What’s more, a good practice is to start the next meeting by following up on the previous meeting’s action items. >

“MEETINGS ARE LIKE DELEGATION: IF THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO ACHIEVE THE SAME GOAL, THE MEETING IS PROBABLY NOT THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME.” 0112




WINTER 2021/2022 COACH

“WRAP UP THE MEETING PROPERLY BY SAVING TWO MINUTES AT THE END TO RECAP ON EVERYONE’S KEY TAKEAWAYS.” THE DIGITAL MEETING I have been working 100 per cent remotely since 2018, and throughout my career, 40 per cent of my meetings have taken place over the phone or via video conferencing with headquarters and offices far away. And, with most of us having had to go digital over the last couple of years, we have all learned that remote work has a significant impact on meetings. So, here are my two top tips for digital meetings, which are essential but nevertheless seldom used!

FINAL TIP Shorter meetings can be as efficient as long ones, which is news to no one but still deserves repeated mention. Replace an hour-long meeting with a 45-minute one to give yourself 15 minutes after the meeting to think about the implications of the decisions that have just been made and plan for your action items. Or, be even more daring by cutting a meeting’s duration in half. You may be surprised to experience better engagement from all attendees because of the sense of urgency triggered by a shorter time window. Time is like money: the less of it we have, the more careful we are with it. To help make shorter meetings a success, ensure you prepare for them properly and document notes well.

Bonding: In-person meetings start with valuable small talk, and the same should apply online. As a rule of thumb, make sure that at least 10 per cent of your meeting is dedicated to basic human bonding. As the meeting organiser, log in early and chat with your colleagues as they show up. Take this as an opportunity to check in on them. A good practice is to devote the first five minutes of a meeting to asking everyone about their energy levels that day or perhaps what they are most excited about. And remember to introduce people to each other, so all attendees understand what everyone’s involvement is. Then, wrap up the meeting properly by saving two minutes at the end to recap on everyone’s key takeaways. There is nothing worse than digital meetings that run over as attendees are forced to sign out quickly without saying goodbye. It is the equivalent of walking out of a meeting room without saying a word. Video and sound: Turn them on. When your dog interrupts a meeting, we find it cute! And no one cares if you are taking the meeting from your kitchen today because we are all in the same boat. Being off camera and on mute during a digital meeting is the equivalent of spending an in-person meeting checking emails. The fact is that if people’s sound or cameras are off, the engagement level of a meeting drops below acceptable. So, lean in and be “on” in every possible way. It is better to have a slightly messy meeting where people speak simultaneously (because they are engaged) rather than one where you wonder if people are even there.

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Too many meetings that are too long and too inefficient have led to a profound dislike of them. But instead of popping pills to deal with symptoms (such as fancy video conferencing systems, nifty home installations, and more), we need to tackle the real issues. Is there an actual need for so many meetings? If a meeting is worth having, follow a protocol that benefits all attendees in terms of efficiency, clarity, and continuity. And let us try to have shorter meetings and set rules to improve people’s engagement. Meetings are like the old recipe of your favourite cake, the one your grandmother used to make. Of course, putting your own spin on the recipe is not a bad idea (sure, you can add a bit of honey), but changing every single ingredient would lead to disaster. So, let us rediscover that good old recipe and enjoy that cake together all over again! Got a question for Marion? Email her at marion.gamel@gmail.com.


Photos by Alan Carville

WINTER 2021/2022 WORKSPACE

PI O N E E R I N G

People-Powered Office Design For KaFe Rocks, people equal power. This ethos drives the core of the company, defining every aspect – including its unique Malta headquarters, The Oasis. We speak with their new Head of People, Cordelia Morgan-Cooper, to find out how people-centric workspace design pioneers the future of iGaming.

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or an international iGaming company with a vibrant culture sculpted around its people, the decision to transform a Maltese villa into its local headquarters is both fitting and forward-thinking. Indeed, at remote-first company KaFe Rocks, the office has always been a home away from home. In an age when working from home has become the new normal, it is nothing new for the more than 100 so-called Rocketeers based not just in Malta but in locations around the world. And with flexible working follows the need for an equally adaptable, comfortable and home-like workspace for the many visiting Rocketeers to use as a base – which is exactly what has been created here.

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WINTER 2021/2022 WORKSPACE

“KaFe Rocks has a vision of being a lighthouse for the iGaming industry, to set the standard and be a trusted, respected beacon for the sector – and we know that it is our team of incredible Rocketeers that will get us there,” Ms Morgan-Cooper explains. Reinventing the norm within the iGaming sphere is already standard procedure at KaFe Rocks, which provides users with a global portfolio of websites, localised content, and data to help consumers make informed choices. Catalysed by its signature corporate culture and people-oriented vision, KaFe Rocks also recently welcomed Cordelia MorganCooper as its new Head of People, replacing the former Head of HR position. And, since July 2020, this innovative, people-centric approach is reflected in the spacious yet cosy interior and lush grounds of The Oasis, the company’s stunning headquarters in St Julian’s.

“Our commitment to them lives in every corner of the business and of The Oasis. Everything we do revolves around our trust and our belief in our people. The Oasis complements that mindset perfectly, creating a family-like environment in a building that is more home than office. We are a social business with a team that genuinely enjoys spending time together and has bonded through a shared passion for what we do. People really love working at KaFe Rocks, and they are what makes the culture here so special.” >

“EVERYTHING WE DO REVOLVES AROUND OUR TRUST AND OUR BELIEF IN OUR PEOPLE. THE OASIS COMPLEMENTS THAT MINDSET PERFECTLY.” 0117



WINTER 2021/2022 WORKSPACE

“WE ARE A SOCIAL BUSINESS WITH A TEAM THAT GENUINELY ENJOYS SPENDING TIME TOGETHER AND HAS BONDED THROUGH A SHARED PASSION FOR WHAT WE DO.” Launched in February 2018, KaFe Rocks started out iin a smaller office in St Julian’s with its then-50strong team. The company has since grown at a phenomenal rate – even amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic – necessitating a move to a far larger local workplace for its expanding team of around 150 Rocketeers. After discovering the villa that would ultimately become The Oasis, the team knew they had found the ideal property – but that it would take a lot of work to turn what was once a family home into a functional, modern office workspace. “KaFe Rocks called upon Angie the Architect to design The Oasis, a team led by local architect and space-visionary Angie Sciberras. With their expert help, the villa was reimagined and repurposed, to create a welcoming interior and exterior all crafted specifically with the Rocketeers’ needs and well-being in mind,” shares Ms Morgan-Cooper. “We wanted it to be a sanctuary for our workforce; somewhere they can relax as well as focus.” Today, The Oasis blends the charming and traditional stone architecture of a centuries-old Maltese structure with a décor and layout befitting an innovative iGaming affiliate company that is busy trailblazing the international sector. The building’s bright and open interior boasts rooms equipped with numerous shared desks ideal for remote-working Rocketeers, as well as various comfortable nooks that offer countless working >

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“SUCH A FRIENDLY AND WELCOMING ENVIRONMENT SUPPORTS OUR OPENDOOR POLICY, OUR VALUES AND OUR COMMITMENT TO THE LIFESTYLE OF OUR PEOPLE.” options to fit every mood. Meanwhile, Rocketeers can relax and find inspiration in recreational areas that are more reminiscent of a hygge-style living room than a corporate conference room. There is even a bedroom available on the upper floors that visiting Rocketeers may use free of charge, instead of a hotel.

pool, where I love to work or chill out under the trees. The Oasis truly is a haven for everyone at KaFe Rocks.” Evoking the KaFe Rocks name are also artworks bearing one of the company’s key brand images: the rocket. The image not only speaks to the stratospheric potential of the Rocketeers themselves – and their key role as the engine behind the company’s rapid success – but also of the company’s skyward-facing innovation within the iGaming space.

The jewel in the crown at The Oasis, however, may well be its extraordinary outdoor space. “The kitchen leads out onto a huge, covered terrace with a barbeque area, in front of a private swimming pool that staff can use whenever they want,” guides Ms Morgan-Cooper. “My favourite area is the tranquil shaded garden close to the

“The Oasis is open by nature and by culture,” concludes Ms MorganCooper. “Such a friendly and welcoming environment supports our open-door policy, our values and our commitment to the lifestyle of our people. It has even led to KaFe Rocks being shortlisted for the iGB Affiliate Employer of the Year and the iGaming Idol Employer of the Year awards in 2021, which highlights, again, that our people – and their Oasis home – are the secret of our success at KaFe Rocks.”

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WINTER 2021/2022 ART

Local

Artists

CAPTU R E T H E

Essence of Malta With their vibrant artwork, the Te fit-Tazza team has taken Malta by storm. Now, they’re bringing their work to keepsake outlet Souvenirs That Don’t Suck.

M

alta has a fun, quirky side that’s unparalleled. It’s a tasty cocktail of colours that gets washed down with an easy-going lifestyle; a quality that’s impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world. The creative scene on the Maltese islands is bursting and on-hand to document it all is the Te fit-Tazza team. The trio behind Te fit-Tazza go together like mint, white rum and lime juice… and Malta joins in with the soda and sugar. They

Photo by Maria Galea

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WINTER 2021/2022 ART

Photo by Ed Muscat Azzopardi

Photo by Ed Muscat Azzopardi

have carved out a niche documenting Malta’s identity at a critical time in the history of the islands. Development is chipping away at the islands’ charm, but Te fit-Tazza is keeping it alive with illustrations that serve as poignant time capsules of Malta’s natural beauty and spirit. The trio have now taken over the brand Souvenirs That Don’t Suck and shaken (not stirred) it up. It’s clear that Malta’s identity is the backbone of their visual guide, and you only

Photo by Ed Muscat Azzopardi

need to step into their Sliema or Valletta stores to see how they’ve incorporated their unique art into timeless souvenirs. Their products and gifts are wearable, useful, and evocative of the heart of our beautiful country. They’re also timeless; a moving snapshot of Malta at a time of rapid development and modernisation. At Souvenirs That Don’t Suck, you’re not shopping with a big corporation; you’re buying from local artists who aim to highlight Maltese identity and safeguard the country for future generations. It’s not easy to bottle the essence of Malta, but the guys at Te fit-Tazza have somehow managed it.

For more information visit Souvenirs That Don’t Suck at 108, Manwel Dimech Street, Sliema, or 8, St John’s Square, Valletta, or browse online at www.souvenirsthatdontsuck.mt

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WINTER 2021/2022 PROPERTY

Property Trends

FO R i G AM IN G PR O S

iGaming has already transformed Malta’s real estate market, with companies seeking vast open-plan offices and, for their professionals, high-end residential rentals. Here, some of Malta’s top property experts weigh in on whether these trends will continue – and offer advice on how iGamers can channel them into their property search.

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orming the foundation of Malta’s impressively strong economy is the country’s thriving world of real estate. At that industry’s heart beats a consistent and vibrant lettings market. Zoom in further still, and arguably the strength of local lettings may be credited to the nation’s ever-growing iGaming sector. Beyond becoming such an economic cornerstone, iGaming has certainly changed the face of Maltese real estate in recent years. As major brands settled on the island, a proportionate yet rapid rise in demand rippled across the new gaming hubs – not just for huge,

interactive commercial spaces to accommodate their hundreds-strong teams, but for nearby residential properties for their professionals. Of course, the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 threw a pandemic-sized curveball at the sector. Almost overnight, thousands of foreign workers returned to their home nations while employees switched to working from home instead of at their company’s – lest we forget: enormous, open-plan and multi-storey – offices.

Photo supplied by Dhalia Real Estate Services

But is demand now rising once again? Well, most property experts agree that it is – but add that we are not there yet. >

“WE PREDICT THAT MSIDA, PIETA, FLORIANA, VALLETTA AND THE THREE CITIES ARE NEXT IN LINE AS GAMING CENTRES.” Michael Incorvaja

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“SLIEMA AND ST JULIAN’S WILL BE HARD TO BEAT – BUT THE SOUTH IS ALSO ON THE RISE.”

Photo supplied by QuickLets and Zanzi Homes

WINTER 2021/2022 PROPERTY

both local and foreign inhabitants,” Mr Incorvaja predicts. “They are a focal point for shopping, entertainment and café life, ideal for an outdoor meal or a stroll along the promenade.” Mr Mercieca agrees that “Sliema and St Julian’s will be hard to beat – but the south is also on the rise.”

Steve Mercieca

“As restrictions have gradually eased, people are starting to return to Malta to continue their employment, but with more flexibility to adapt to today’s realities of the pandemic,” explains Jeff Buttigieg, CEO at RE/MAX Malta, which includes the island’s oldest and largest dedicated property letting team. “Although nowadays Malta seems to be one of the safe zone countries to work and live in, it is still a challenge for people to return to the island and slot back into their old routine at work. Recruitment is still slow for iGaming companies located in Malta; the numbers seem to be increasing gradually, but not as fast as expected.” Founder and CEO of QuickLets and Zanzi Homes, Steve Mercieca, has experienced a similar situation. The real estate group has 35 offices locally with a team of 520, as well as two offices in Limassol and Paphos in Cyprus. “The boom had been with us for a while, but every boom needs to slow down eventually,” he explains. “The pandemic sped this up a bit, but I don’t believe it is the only reason why some prices went down. Once things opened up again and our team returned to the office, it was business as usual for a while. We saw different requests, mainly focusing on more outside space and larger living rooms.” As consumer appetite has moved with the times, so has the demand for certain localities. While iGaming professionals have historically looked to the central towns of Sliema, St Julian’s and Ta’ Xbiex for rental properties close to their offices, the pandemic has inspired talk of companies decentralising to more remote parts of Malta. “We predict that Msida, Pieta, Floriana, Valletta and the Three Cities are next in line as gaming centres, especially with the flexibility of the ferries facilitating employee commutes,” highlights Michael Incorvaja, Letting Manager at Dhalia Real Estate Services. “We have also pinpointed trends moving further south to Marsascala and the Smart City areas.” Yet, as 2022 approaches, experts foresee coastal cities such as Sliema and St Julian’s will remain just as popular for iGaming professionals as they ever were. “These cities and their surroundings will still be buzzing with activity from

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Employee lifestyles with a new emphasis on well-being are another important factor in the mix, as Philippa Tabone, Letting Division Manager at Frank Salt Real Estate, highlights. “Areas like Balzan and Attard will become more sought-after. It all depends on what staff members want: being close to work or the sea, shops, restaurants or entertainment venues.” Powered by this shift in mindset and demand, new commercial and residential projects are currently in progress, and these have the potential to tap into the revitalised iGaming sector. Major developments such as The Quad and Trident Park are set to >

Photo by Rene Rossignaud




Photo supplied by Frank Salt Real Estate

WINTER 2021/2022 PROPERTY

“THE CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT IS THE MOST INTERESTING PROJECT AT THE MOMENT.” Philippa Tabone

offer new concepts in commercial real estate, as will the highly anticipated Central Business District (CBD) in Mriehel. “The Central Business District is the most interesting project in development at the moment,” continues Ms Tabone. “It will cater specifically for employees, creating a hub where they have all they need in one area, from office space, lounges and gyms to restaurants, cafés and day care facilities for children. There are also some residential complexes in the vicinity that I am sure will be popular once the CBD is in full swing.”

experience, most local agencies have also updated their websites to be more user-friendly and useful for online clientele. However, they agree that nothing beats speaking directly to experts in the industry.

So, how can today’s iGamers best capitalise on this wider reach across the island during their property search? The answer, according to industry leaders, is to make full use of the new technologies that have raised the digital game of the post-pandemic real estate sector. As well as a wealth of exclusive mobile apps that have transformed the customer

“The best way to find a rental property is to find a professional agent that you enjoy talking to and let them know what you need. Let them spend their time doing what they do best,” affirms Mr Mercieca. “Hopefully, we will beat the battle against COVID-19 soon and networking events and fairs will reopen. I believe this is what all industries, particularly iGaming, need the most,” he concludes, envisioning an evolved iGaming sector in years to come – and an even stronger property market as a result.

“PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO RETURN TO MALTA TO CONTINUE THEIR EMPLOYMENT, BUT WITH MORE FLEXIBILITY TO ADAPT TO TODAY’S REALITIES OF THE PANDEMIC.” Jeff Buttigieg

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WINTER 2021/2022 PAPARAZZI

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PAPA RAZZI As we head into autumn, let’s look back on some of the hottest highlights in the social calendar. One thing is clear: the iGaming community had a great time over the summer season!

HERO GAMING 1. Team Event: Staff were literally able to let their hair down (and adorn it with flowers) in a fun, in-person, Midsommar-themed event, set against the stunning backdrop of the Three Cities.

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2. Furry Friend: 30 July saw the celebration of World Friendship Day – and not just between humans! What better day for this four-legged friend to visit the office with its human and bring a smile to everyone’s face? 3. Always Connected : Online strategy meetings meant the team was always up-to-date! >

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WINTER 2021/2022 PAPARAZZI

PRESSENTER On 16 September, PressEnter ended summer with a difference, with a black-and-white-themed event at Olive Gardens. The artistically designed layout-turnedplayground was used for fun team activities, like life-size Jenga, chess, Connect Four, beer pong and table tennis. Colleagues finally got to connect face-to-face, as many work from home – so having name tags was a good move! Everyone got to enjoy the gorgeous view of Mdina by night during dinner, before dancing the night away with the help of in-house DJs. >

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WINTER 2021/2022 PAPARAZZI

SBC 1. CasinoBeats Summit The highly anticipated third edition of the CasinoBeats Summit was back in Malta from 14 to 15 July, with 400 senior executive delegates meeting up in person at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, and nearly 2,000 senior delegates online. The result? An innovative, integrated physical-online format. The goal was to provide valuable insight into the world of online slots, live casino and poker from top experts and industry pioneers, with a focus on product and game development. In-depth topics covered included: what inspiration is iGaming taking from the video game industry? What trends and developments are taking place in iGaming products? What can game developers learn from the video game industry? >

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WINTER 2021/2022 PAPARAZZI

SBC 2. Thursday Dinners and Game Developer Awards CasinoBeats Summit 2021 also included exclusive networking dinners at various beautiful venues in Malta. The Game Developer Awards took the cake for putting the spotlight on the studios creating the hottest and most innovative titles there are right now. >

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WINTER 2021/2022 PAPARAZZI

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PUSH GAMING

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1. iGB in Amsterdam: The Push Gaming team had a fantastic time at iGB Live! in Amsterdam, catching up with colleagues and networking with new people. 2. Push Gaming Client Event: A few commercial team members flew out to Gibraltar to finally meet clients in person again. It went down great, with some chill time by the pool in beautiful surroundings!

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3. Women in Gaming Diversity Awards London: There were some proud moments for Push Gaming, as their very own Art Director, Kajal Verma, won the Industry Achiever Award at the Women in Gaming Diversity Awards, while the Head of Account Management, Christine Parkhill, was nominated for the B2B Excellence Award and Leader of the Year Award.

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5 4. Push Gaming Goes to Egypt: The team went on an unforgettable three-night trip to the stunning Sharm el Sheikh to get to know new starters – all while sailing through the Egyptian Maldives where they got to enjoy delicious food and a spot of diving. 5. Summer Party Malta: A day out at sea gave staff the time to unwind, catch up and take in those good summer vibes.

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