“When I first started working in the gaming industry, there were no regulated online markets,” says Arcangelo Lonoce, European head of business development at Habanero, when recalling his journey through the industry and looking at the ever evolving regulatory landscape.
In his latest conversation with CasinoBeats, Lonoce documents the transformation in content, changing operator requirements and commercial plans for the immediate future.
CasinoBeats: Can you tell us a bit more about when, where and why your career in the gaming industry first started?
Arcangelo Lonoce: It all started back in 2003. My first gig was at a call centre for a large company, before I was promoted to the position of VIP host. After taking a product management job in 2011 at Winga (now LeoVegas Italy), I took a similar role at BetVictor a year later.
I discovered Habanero during the six years I spent in that job and was hugely impressed by the sophisticated mathematical models undergirding its games. Following an integration deal between BetVictor and Habanero and with me needing to relocate to Italy at the time, I had the pleasure of joining the latter company.
Since then, thanks to the stellar achievements of our talented product team, I have seen the flawless maths that first caught my eye being matched by even more appealing UIs.
“Gamification also started in earnest a few years ago and has become more and more important”
CB: How has the regulatory landscape developed during that time in some of the markets where Habanero is present?
AL: When I first started working in the gaming industry, there were no regulated online markets. The regulatory landscape has come a long way since then, with legislation now in place throughout the main jurisdictions across the globe. In my view, that’s a good thing: serving not only to make gambling safer and more enjoyable but also bringing ample benefit for national economies.
The industry began to self-regulate during the decade after 2000, with Italy becoming the first major market to introduce formal and thorough regulation for the online casino space in 2011. The framework now in place is comprehensive, progressive and robust. In the period since, many others have followed suit in Europe and beyond – with close to 20 regulated markets now online.
CB: And how would you say the industry has changed from then to now when it comes to the content on offer?
AL: Firstly, there weren’t as many content studios back then as there are now. The market revolved largely around two or three suppliers, who produced games in the mould of those found in the land-based sector while progressively innovating a new breed of content specifically conceived for the endless opportunities of the online environment.
As for product quality, huge strides have been made when it comes to graphics, mathematical modelling and personalisation. Gamification also started in earnest a few years ago and has become more and more important in the intervening period.
“Demand for mobile-first games rose in line with the spread of internet access”
The biggest evolution of all, however, has been the proliferation of mobile-oriented content. For years, our industry failed to optimise its offerings for mobile, but from around 2012 onwards (and with the arrival of HTML5) the floodgates opened for multi-channel products.
Demand for mobile-first games rose in line with the spread of internet access and the improvement of connection speeds, as well as the adoption of smartphones, so the shift was inevitable. We are now consistently looking at a vast majority of online casino bets being placed on mobile devices.
CB: As somebody who used to work for an operator yourself, how do you see operator requirements evolving in the years to come?
AL: Going forward, it’s clear that many operators will need to cut costs to develop a leaner operation. The proliferation of regulations and the tightening of regulatory restrictions we’ve seen across the board means that operating a casino has become more expensive.
Restrictions on marketing and promotional activities mean that your product and CRM strategy both need to be absolutely impeccable, and building a technology platform which is resilient and scalable requires top talent – which, of course, also comes at a price.
Therefore, both casinos and sportsbooks must get better at offering the kind of AI-powered personalisation deployed by companies such as Netflix and Amazon, where customers are presented with a tailored offering as soon as they arrive on the landing page.
“We are tremendously excited to have entered the new German market”
This needs to be matched by a scientific approach to business and data intelligence with a clear goal of maximising value while keeping costs sustainable.
CB: Finally, what are Habanero’s commercial plans for the near future when it comes to new markets?
AL: We are tremendously excited to have entered the new German market, going live on day one thanks to our partnership with Löwen Play Digital. We expect the DACH region to be among our top priorities in the coming months, and also look forward to going live in Spain, a market which shares many similarities with Italy, where we’ve enjoyed tremendous success.
We’re especially accustomed to helping our partners navigate regulatory restrictions given our experience in Italy – and we’re ready to start talking solutions with our new Spanish friends.
We’re also gearing up to enter Scandinavia with our games already certified in Denmark and Sweden, and I’m very much looking forward to announcing the operator deals we’ve got in the pipeline there.
Last but not least, the Latin American growth territories also continue to be promising, especially Panama, Argentina and Colombia, so it’s safe to say that Habanero’s exciting plans stretch right across the globe.