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SBC Digital Summit: pragmatic solution brings together WFH betting and gaming community

By - 9 April 2020

With further details on the inaugural SBC Digital Summit from April 27 to May 1, G3 speaks to Andrew McCarron, Managing Director at SBC, about the forthcoming virtual gaming event. 

Could you tell us more about the Digital Summit? What are your expectations for the event?

The current conditions related to the Coronavirus pandemic have seen all physical events postponed, but have also made the knowledge sharing, discussions and connection that conferences and exhibitions provide even more important to the betting and gaming industry than usual. So what we’ve tried to do is create a virtual event that has as many of the key elements of SBC’s physical events as possible – albeit in a very different format!

We’ve put together one of our strongest ever speaker line-ups with 140 experts – including a host of CEOs from major international operators, senior figures from the lottery sector, leading affiliates and payments specialists – taking part over the five days.

The agenda is focused on now; so how businesses can survive the current crisis and bounce back stronger than ever is the central theme of the conference element of the event, although each of the seven tracks also have sessions on some longer-term issues and opportunities.

The Leadership in Betting, Leadership in Gaming, Lottery, Payments and Digital Marketing tracks are scheduled for the working day in Europe, while the LatAm Market and Betting on Sports America tracks are both on local time for those regions. That’s part of the flexibility that going digital has given us, along with the fact that replays of the panels will be available for delegates to view very quickly if they miss the live showings.

Away from the content, we have a 50-stand virtual exhibition hall that allows leading suppliers to showcase their latest products to delegates around the world. The experience will feel very different to that of a physical exhibition hall, but it’s a great way to make new contacts and demonstrate products during a period when there are so many hurdles to doing business.

And because we know how important the networking opportunities at our normal events are to attendees, we’ve worked hard to add a networking element to this online experience and we’ve come up with something people will find very useful.

We firmly believe that the SBC Digital Summit will be a really valuable event for both operators and the supply chain. The interest levels we’ve seen since it was first announced have been phenomenal and we expect thousands of industry professionals to join us from their remote offices around the world.

Whose idea was the Digital Summit? What was the rationale behind the decision?

The rationale came from us speaking to a few industry CEOs and their desire to share their experiences and learn from other people’s experiences during this Corona crisis. Once we suggested staging a digital event, there was an extremely quick take up from some of the most senior people in the industry and we realised this could be extremely important for the whole community. So we moved quickly to try to deliver something in a timely manner.

How will the Digital Summit address the industry-wide challenges posed by COVID-19?

We’ve got some of the leading lights of the industry, the best brains, sharing their vision of what they’ve done so far and what they plan to do when it’s all over. That’s the real value to anybody who is trying to plan their way through it.

We’re looking at areas of betting, gaming, lottery, payments, digital marketing, and the nature of the beast is that every single session will be dealing with this new reality. That should be of value to every executive and every single employee, to give them something to work towards.

What technical challenges have you faced in organising an event of this magnitude in such a short space of time?

The problem was finding the right platform that is robust enough and provides what we deem to be an acceptable experience for an SBC event. We’ve always tried to provide the best, and finding the best software and conference facilities has been a challenge at a time when everyone is trying to do the same thing.

But we’re confident we’ve found the right solutions. We’ve invested in two pieces of software that should help us to put on the biggest digital event our industry has seen.

Which speakers and panels are you particularly excited about?

Each day begins with a panel focusing on how the CEOs of the biggest companies in a particular market have adapted to the current disruption. These are really the key sessions for our audience and we’ve assembled really strong line-ups for each of them.

The betting industry panel features George Daskalakis (CEO, Stoiximan / Betano), Tim Heath (CEO, Coingaming Group), Jesper Svensson (CEO, Betsson Group) and Shay Segev (COO, GVC Holdings), who can offer perspectives about the impact of the crisis from a huge number of international markets.

Similarly, the opening panel of Lottery Day will see Niels Erik Folmann (CEO, Danske Spil),
Sami Kauhanen (VP Betting, Veikkaus) and Sam Depoortere (Business Director Sportsbook, Nederlandse Loterij) sharing their experiences of how lotteries have adapted to these unprecedented market conditions.

There may be a slightly different feel to the gaming industry session, as it will look at how online casinos have reacted to the slowdown in live sporting action. The panel has four leading CEOs – Alexander Stevendahl (Videoslots), Ariel Reem (Genesis Group), Alex Tomic (Slotsmillion) and Itai Zak (GoWild Gaming) – offering some valuable insights into how consumer behaviour has changed in recent weeks and whether it may continue once sport returns.

Away from those opening panels, we have great keynotes lined up with some of the best brains in the industry, such as Carsten Koerl of Sportradar and Stuart Simms of XLMedia, talking about this crisis.

And in another first for us, two of the four LatAm Market panels will be in Spanish to help reach an even wider audience in the region. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction to those two sessions, which are about opportunities for European operators in South America and the lessons from Colombia’s successful regulated market.

How will the event attempt to replicate the networking opportunities and events SBC is renowned for?

That’s partly down to our search for the best virtual exhibition software. The one we’ve selected has helped us to take what is an alien concept and make it look as familiar as possible.

We have a virtual venue with a reception area as you come in, with signage to take delegates to the conference rooms. Or they can head to the exhibition hall, which will have up to 50 stands that work in much the same way as a normal exhibition – you can pick up a leaflet, see a product demonstration or click through to speak to somebody from that company.

There are also specific networking rooms that people can go into and start talking about some of the issues that are of interest to them, and whoever is in that room can pick up on that chat. Delegates can also individually message each other, search to see who is attending the event and who is present at that moment.

There’s a big emphasis on connection. It might not be as exciting as face-to-face networking, but it should have a certain novelty that makes the meetings memorable, and it will allow people to make the kind of connections they need to further their business.

Should the event prove a great success, would SBC consider hosting another virtual event?

If it is a success, it certainly brings the idea up the agenda. Obviously, we’re in unique circumstances today where the only way people can go to a show is remotely in this way.

Hopefully it will bring down some barriers for people and allow them to experience what can be done online. If that proves useful we’d be fools not to replicate it.

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