David Copeland, CEO of Findmyexpert, shares his thoughts on what the new year will have in store for the global iGaming industry…
As we approach the end of the year, it is a perfect opportunity to reflect upon a fantastic 2018 and look forward to all the possibilities that 2019 will bring.
2018 was arguably the most significant 12 months the gaming industry has undergone in a decade.
The undoubted highlight came in May, when the Supreme Court of the United States repealed PASPA, the federal ban on sports betting.
To describe this as a seismic shift in the global gaming landscape would be an understatement; this has opened up a market that will eventually become the largest in the world for sports betting.
But the action in 2018 was not restricted to the United States. In the UK, all eyes were on regulatory developments as the government reduced the maximum stake on FOBTs to two pounds and also mulled over the introduction of an advertising ban.
Elsewhere in Europe, Sweden prepared for the launch of its re-regulated market, while gaming jurisdictions as varied as Denmark and Colombia continued to enjoy strong growth.
Beyond the headlines, 2018 was a particularly big year for us as we launched and went live with Findmyexpert.com.
The platform was built to service the always evolving recruitment ecosystem, particularly within the gaming space.
Having spoken to hundreds of gaming execs over the past few years, it was clear that staffing up – especially in emerging jurisdictions – was their biggest challenge.
While the internationalisation of gaming was presenting exciting new opportunities – such as in the United States – it was becoming increasingly difficult to capitalise on.
The changing political landscape worldwide has threatened freedom of movement, making relocation of even C-level talent troublesome in many places.
Our solution was to build a custom-made platform that links up gaming companies with experts on a project-based consultancy basis.
The benefits of this are multifold. For one, it provides instant access to world-leading expertise without the need for expensive visas and relocation packages.
It also provides greater flexibility; experts can be brought onboard to upskill your team in a new area, and then return at a later date to further develop the project.
Since launching the platform earlier this year, we’ve been amazed by the response from both experts and companies looking for consultants. We are already pairing experts with operators and suppliers around the world, and look forward to the next step in our development over the coming year.
The FME crystal ball
So while 2018 was a big year for both Findmyexpert.com and the industry as a whole, now is the time to turn our attention to 2019.
Of course, it is never easy to predict what is coming next in a field as vibrant as gaming, but by studying some of the underlying trends, including those we are exposed to on a daily basis via Findmyexpert.com, here are our five predictions for how the sector will develop over the coming 12 months.
Ten more US states to regulate
It has been a remarkable achievement to see eight US states already live with sports betting despite the federal ban only being struck down in the middle of May.
The likes of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania join previously established Nevada in a market that is growing quickly; New Jersey alone took more than a quarter of a billion dollars in wagers in October, for revenues of $11.7 million.
We expect this upward trajectory to continue and even accelerate into 2019. With eight states live in 2018, we’d expect to see a further ten states accept their first legal sports bet over the next 12 months.
Four states to keep a close eye on are Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee; each has pre-filed sports betting bills for the 2019 legislative session, and all are hopeful to make progress towards full regulation next year.
Others are also expected to move swiftly once the legislative sessions reopens. These included the likes of Connecticut, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland and Indiana.
And there is also a chance that some of the biggest states will make progress. New York is hopeful that it will have legal sports betting regulated next year. California may be a slower process, but it is also worth watching closely.
It is tough to say exactly who will and who won’t get sports betting live in 2019, but it would be surprising if the current batch of eight states with legal frameworks in place is not doubled at the very least.
Ceuta to emerge as a new gaming hub
The regulated Spanish market has been growing encouragingly over recent years, particularly since slots were added to the list of permitted online products in 2015.
In Q3 2018, gross gaming revenues soared 29.9 percent to an impressive €181.8m, driven by a particularly strong performance from online casino.
Even poker, a vertical struggling for growth in just about every jurisdiction, was up 35.1 percent on the same quarter of 2017.
Against this backdrop, the Spanish government seems keen to grow its gaming sector and become a European hub for operators and suppliers.
Amid the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations, Spain has moved decisively to unveil plans to challenge Gibraltar with its own gaming enclave in Ceuta.
Legislators have built a new framework for the autonomous city, which is just 20km from the Spanish mainland, aimed at attracting gaming companies to set up shop in the jurisdiction.
These include a 10 percent gambling tax rate, compared to 20 percent in mainland Spain, a reduced corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, compared to 25 percent in the rest of Spain, and a 5 percent VAT rate, compared to 21 percent in mainland Spain.
With the post-Brexit status of Gibraltar still unsure, we expect to see several gaming companies take up the offer in 2019.
Malta to let out its last remaining office space
While the likes of Ceuta – not to mention the fast-growing operational centres of eastern Europe – will emerge as major players in 2019, don’t write off Malta just yet.
The move towards a dot country regulatory model in Europe was, many said, going to spell an end for the Mediterranean island’s thriving gaming industry, but that has not come to pass.
Instead, it has gone from strength to strength. This is in large part because of the existing infrastructure and talent pool; simply put, there is nowhere that can compete in terms of depth of expertise, and this means it remains an appealing base for multinationals and start-ups alike.
We expect the last remaining office space to be rented out in 2019. The big question then is what Malta does next?
With the government keen to grow its blockchain sector, and with a thriving fintech industry already in place, gaming is in competition not only for office space but also talent on the island.
With demand rising, I would expect to see new construction and more people being tempted to move to Malta throughout 2019.
Africa to establish itself
When we talk about emerging markets in online gaming, we normally refer to those of eastern Europe, southeast Asia, and, more recently, Latin America.
The next 12 months will change that discussion, with Africa prominently entering the conversation.
The signs that Africa is becoming a region that iGaming execs should be paying closer attention to have been building for some time.
In Kenya, for instance, a thriving gaming sector has grown up in recent years, powered by the innovative M-Pesa mobile payments solution.
Other markets, such as Tanzania and Nigeria, are not far behind.
In October, the inaugural ICE Africa conference was held in Johannesburg, a sure sign that the industry is quickly waking up to the opportunity.
With margins being squeezed in Europe’s mature markets, and competition high in other emerging markets, Africa offers real potential for gaming operators large and small.
Expect it to be very much a part of the conversation in 2019.
Operators and suppliers to turn to remote experts
The difficulties of staffing up and upskilling new teams to capitalise on igaming opportunities in diverse jurisdictions – each with its own unique regulatory, product and marketing demands – is the single biggest challenges the industry currently faces.
Against a backdrop of Brexit and President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, it is increasingly difficult to move key staff around the world.
With this in mind, those who best succeed in 2019 will be the operators and suppliers who embrace project-based consulting, and lean on remote experts to power growth.
Bringing remote expertise onboard is the simplest – and often cheapest – way to gain the requisite knowledge base to grow a gaming business.
Take a simple example. A mid-sized European-facing operator wants to expand in a newly emerging African market in 2019. For argument’s sake, let’s say Kenya.
But the operator also wants to expand into at least three US states over the next 12 months, and is closely watching developments across the US.
So, how to proceed? It is not usually viable for a mid-sized operator to open new hubs in every market in which they are active. And the logistics of simultaneously setting up major operations in the US and Kenya, and hiring an entirely new team for each, are nightmarish.
Instead, the operator can supplement existing teams with project-based experts from each jurisdiction they are targeting. These consultants can upskill existing staff, sharing their knowledge and ensuring you succeed in your new ventures.
Once the project is complete, there is nothing stopping the operator inviting the expert back a few months down the line to check on its progress and address any issues.
This is the model that will enable operators large and small to expand into new territories in 2019 and beyond.
Making the most of the FME platform
The Findmyexpert.com platform is always looking for new experts to join and offer their services to the industry. With demand for consultants on the rise, there has never been a better time.
However, it is vital that those who do submit complete profiles to increase the chances of a client contacting you.
Once you are on the platform, you will enjoy the benefits of Findmyexpert.com’s growing reach. Monthly visitors are on the rise, and we have a number of initiatives planned for 2019 to ensure this continues.
A good starting point is to visit our social channels, which can be accessed via https://followus.com/findmyexpert.com.
We have spent the past few weeks interviewing more than 1,000 of our clients and experts to find out exactly what they want out of our platform.
On the back of this research, we will be rolling out some significant new features and functionality early next year, as well as a new media and advertising plan to drive further traffic.
We are also looking for some of our experts to become ‘category ambassadors’, where we will help you sell your skillset to the world. If you are interested in taking part, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are proud of what we have achieved with Findmyexpert.com during 2018, but next year promises to be bigger and better. The aim is to turn this into the go-to platform for the gaming industry when it comes to hiring expertise, and we are well positioned to achieve that goal.
So until next year, we would like to thank all our experts and clients for using the platform.