It’s not uncommon for conference organisers to develop a session around a specific speaker who they feel has useful information or a unique perspective on a particular topic. In the case of the ‘Century of iGaming’ panel at the upcoming Malta iGaming Seminar (MiGS), organisers have secured a full panel and moderator that have an astonishing 100 years of combined iGaming experience that they will draw on in order to underscore and headline the event’s theme of ‘Past, Present & Future of iGaming’. The seventh annual conference and networking event, MiGS is being held over the 16th-19th of November at the Corinthia Hotel, St. Georges Bay, Malta.
The Internet of twenty years ago was a far different environment than what we think of today. Email was a relatively new technology and online poker for money didn’t even exist until 1998 with the advent of PlanetPoker.com. Consumer interest in online gambling resulted in a riverboat gambling print publication launching an online version of the magazine in 1995, edited by the now internationally recognized Sue Schneider. “It was an exciting time and we were truly pioneers making things up as we went along. I was particularly interested in the efforts to keep a ban from passing the US Congress so it was a time of organizing the companies in the industry into a trade association. It was a lot like herding cats,” says Schneider of her early experiences in the industry.
As moderator of the Century of iGaming session, Schneider brings this unique perspective to draw out a raft of lessons learned by the panelists that were all involved in the industry in those early, heady days and continue to work in the business today. While she concedes that today’s online gaming industry is nothing like it was in the early days, there are relevant messages that can provide insight into potential solutions to current industry struggles as well as predict where future successes may be realised.
As an owner of two retail betting shops in the mid-90’s, Century of iGaming panelist Mark Blandford landed in the industry with a bit of serendipity. “We had a real cold snap which caused all the horse racing to be cancelled. I bumped into a neighbour that morning who told me she had just been employed by a new internet company and she thought I would find it interesting. So I went to visit her at work where she showed me how to operate a (Netscape) browser. Being very into what I was doing my first two searches were ‘Sports Betting’ and ‘Bookmakers’. Once I saw the results it was like a light bulb going on”. Leaning on his 20 years of experience, the founder of SportingBet and current venture capital investor has a unique perspective to share with the panel and MiGS’ attendees.
Joining Mr. Blandford on the panel are four other industry luminaries whose resumes are also very impressive. Franz Wohlfahrt is the retired CEO of industry giant Novomatic and an expert on international gaming law who oversaw that company’s evolution into one of the world’s leading integrated gaming groups. Pontus Lindwall is the current CEO and President of Betsson AB, but he started his online gaming industry career in 1992 at Cherryföretagen and founded Net Entertainment (now NetEnt) in 1996. From the establishment of NetEnt until end of 2014, the combined revenue stream from Betsson and NetEnt has increased from EUR 50 million to EUR 400 million. Paris Smith was the COO of industry pioneer World Wide Tele-Sports (WWTS) from 1995 until 2006, when she moved to Pinnacle Sports as CEO. Pinnacle Sports was one of the first operators to offer odds on eSports (organized multiplayer video game competitions) in 2010.
Together, the panelists possess a wide breadth of experience in the industry from which to drawn from for the session’s anticipated themes. Topics Ms. Schneider wants the group to touch on range from new online gambling products like eSports and Daily Fantasy Sports, new geographical markets opening up to the industry, their ensuing regulatory nuances and requirements and efforts towards consolidation of major brands and what to expect from other anticipated mergers.
By harnessing the diverse backgrounds of the group of speakers, the Century of iGaming session will provide MiGS attendees with a uniquely perceptive discussion. By harkening back to the early days of a nascent industry and using those experiences as a platform to analyze current industry dynamics, a pattern for the future will unfold.
As part of the comprehensive programme put together by MiGS organisers, a Century of iGaming will certainly be a highlight and a session not to miss. For more information, including a complete conference programme and schedule of networking events at MiGS, visit the event website at www.maltaigamingseminar.com and follow MiGS on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.