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The Rules of Engagement

By - 27 April 2020

Thomas Graf is the driving force behind Novomatic’s digital business, Greentube. In an exclusive interview with G3, he discusses the role Greentube is playing in international markets and the regulatory framework that guides every aspect of the company’s engagement with operators and players.

Thomas, your role has recently changed with regards to Greentube and Novomatic, could you describe your current role and how it differs from the past?

My new executive role within the Novomatic Group is centred around growing the digital business. Greentube is the driving force of this digital growth and as the company’s CEO, I am focusing on four main strategic areas: expanding the reach and scope of content distribution to all regulated and soon-to-be regulated online gaming markets; helping Novomatic build a network of competitive B2C online casino and sports betting operations in all relevant jurisdictions where they already have a land-based presence; growing our mobile apps universe of social casino and entertainment products; and last but not least, breaching the gap between land-based and online technologies via 360-degree, single platform gaming solutions.

How is Greentube evolving and adapting to the shifting market as we see so much regulatory change, consolidation and disruption at this present time in the industry?

Constantly adapting to regulatory changes has always been a part of our business, but the online gaming sector in particular has recently seen increased scrutiny around the globe, making compliance more relevant than ever.

Due to the regulatory fragmentation in Europe, companies need to constantly evolve and adapt their technological solutions to comply with these changes, and this is an area in which Greentube is heavily investing. Responsible Gaming (RG) is also playing an increasingly significant role in all major regulated markets, and Greentube has undergone a comprehensive RG certification process to offer its customers state-of-the-art solutions.

Could you explain how Greentube has become one of the most geographically expansive suppliers in the market?

A few years ago, Greentube’s B2B focus was primarily centred around the two largest European online gaming markets, the UK and Germany. Since exiting Germany in 2017 due to regulatory changes, we had to refocus our B2B efforts on all other relevant markets that offered a legal framework for online content supply and where Novomatic games were already established and popular with major land-based operators. This included Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as some countries in Scandinavia and the Baltics. We also focused on most Central and South Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

Outside of Europe, opportunities came up in South America with Colombia regulating the online space and Mexico being another sizeable opportunity in the region for Greentube’s expansion. We keep an eye on regulatory changes worldwide and we will continue to expand into new regulated markets, if the opportunity arises to ensure our future growth.

Greentube has recently announced a series of key content deals in Croatia, Sweden and Switzerland – how important are these jurisdictions and why are so many falling into place right now?

Sweden has always been a relevant online gaming market, and when it introduced a local licensing regime in 2019, it became an obvious target for Greentube to mark its entry into the highly competitive but rewarding Scandinavian marketplace.

In Croatia, Novomatic holds a dominant market position via its numerous slot arcades and live game casinos, as well as the thousands of Gaminator video slots, which are amongst player favourites. This made it an attractive market for Greentube to launch online gaming, as players are already familiar with the content.

Switzerland regulated online gaming last year, but only licensed land-based casino operators are entitled to offer online casino games in partnership with suppliers. Novomatic holds a market-leading position in Switzerland with its slots and electronic roulettes available in the country’s casinos. We have been very pleased with the initial performance of our online games there, and we believe they will continue to grow in popularity this year. Overall, these three jurisdictions play a significant role in expanding Greentube’s European footprint and will help cement our position as one of the most relevant and innovative game content suppliers with a firm foothold in land-based gaming.

What are the most important markets for Greentube? Where’s critical for growth and expansion and what specific product development is being conducted to meet market needs?

The most important markets for Greentube are defined by different principles: this includes the regulatory framework, taxation levels, market size and earnings potential, competitiveness, level of saturation, investment stability and ultimately their relevance for Novomatic from a strategic point of view.

The most relevant market is likely to be Germany, once it has set up a clearly defined and consistent legal framework that allows businesses to offer competitive and commercially rewarding online B2B and B2C products and services. Product development will always have to be market-specific when it comes to platform functionality, and game content will have to be localised to meet different player preferences.

Take Germany as an example: Book of Ra has been the most successful land-based title ever launched to date on more than 100,000 gaming machines and it is no coincidence that this game and its distinct mechanics have been imitated and launched online by numerous game suppliers.

Major product upgrades have been revealed as part of the Greentube product push in 2020. What can you tell us at this stage about the type of upgrades we’ll see?

We will introduce a brand-new remote game server (RGS), several new game features, new Software Development Kit (SDK) functionalities, new meta-level features, and new on-boarding processes for operating partners. As you can see, 2020 has a lot in store from a product point of view and we always look to innovate and develop our offering – so watch this space!

Greentube is currently investing into the next generation of its technology stack – what can you tell us at this stage about the changes to the technology infrastructure at Greentube?

We have spent a lot of time and effort modernising our technology to improve the service we offer our partners. That has involved modularising certain components of the platform architecture to make it more flexible for regulatory and market adaptations and increase speed to market. The key components are the new RGS functionality and the new SDK for development partners.

Every year Greentube has a centrepiece game for launch at the ICE show in London. What can you tell us about your big reveal this year?

At ICE 2020 Greentube showcased two brand new innovations. The first one is our latest title, Romeo & Juliet – Sealed with a Kiss, a multi-feature game centered around the Shakespeare play. The main feature, Sealed with a Kiss Respins, begins with Romeo writing a love letter to Juliet, sealing it with a kiss and then throwing it onto the first reel, after which the love letter unfolds to reveal a stacked Wild. The letter continues to move across the full five reels with every win until it reaches Juliet on her balcony, who is then able to reach out and grab the love letter to trigger the free spins round.

We also revealed Charming Lady, which is an industry-first title and part of Novomatic’s new Linked Progressive Jackpot series called Cash Connection. Diamond Link Mighty Elephant – the smash hit title which kicked off the Diamond Link Jackpot game series – and the player favourite Book of Ra Legends collection, including our 10th edition of the game, were also on display.

In your opinion, what are the major challenges facing the online games sector at present and how is Greentube seeking to find solutions to the issues?

The major challenges are as always on the regulatory front. Further restrictive measures may well be introduced across multiple jurisdictions. We have already seen stricter regulation around responsible gambling and advertising being implemented across Europe at a pace that is unlikely to slow down.

At Greentube, compliance and responsible gaming is at the forefront of everything we do, and we welcome rules and regulation that is reasonable. Greentube will continue to develop solutions around any development and adapt.

What are your plans and goals for 2020?

In 2020, our goals are very much centred on strategic market expansion and the broadening of our online casino portfolio.

One of our aims for this year is to become the leading B2B supplier in the newly opened Swiss online casino market. We are also preparing to launch our famous landbased game content with Totalizator Sportowy’s “Totalcasino”, the monopoly operator in Poland. In 2020, we will further prepare for two of Novomatic’s key markets to open up for online gaming, Germany and the Netherlands, as legislation will be enacted in 2021.

Across the Atlantic, we are set to launch our content in Canada for the first time and we are also exploring opportunities to partner with operators in regulated jurisdictions in the U.S. In Latin America, our next target market is Mexico, where we are going to introduce our most popular land-based slot and video bingo games to the major land based and online operators.

On the B2C front we are going to further expand our portfolio of online casinos in Europe with a clear focus on Central and South Eastern European markets, where Novomatic has a legacy land-based presence and maintains strong brand recognition with Admiral.

In the Social Gaming segment, we are going to launch a new social casino app, which will also be targeting North and Latin America.

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