Read the full interview HERE

We interviewed the former Digital Delivery Director at GVC Holdings on how operators look at sourcing software suppliers to build out the stack.

We cover:

  • The technology stack strucutre of online gaming operators
  • How European operators approached building the stack over the last 15 years
  • Decision making process between insourcing and outsourcing frontend, PAM, and sportsbook
  • How GVC moved away from Playtech's IMS platform and re-platformed Ladbrokes sportsbook
  • Advantages of Kambi vs Openbet sportsbook
  • Stickiness of GAN for US operators and risks to insourcing PAM
  • Outlook on how US land operators will approach building technology

I think that’s a really important thing to mention. The IMS and the GAN stack allows you to bolt on other games, very quickly. It gives you the opportunity to look around and see what’s important for you. There’s so many out there. There are thousands and thousands of games out there now, on a gaming stack. It’s about trying to find out what’s important and what you want to look at, as well.

With the American market, for instance, everything had to go through a laborious testing process. You need to get certified and jump through a lot of hoops. For the likes of GAN and Playtech, the majority of games that they will provide you have already been certified, so it’s very much easier for you to plug and play, into your platform.

How is that different to European regulation, 10 years ago?

We didn’t have it. To be honest, there was very, very little gaming regulation, 10 years ago. It was very much evolving. No one really knew what the best practices were. The UK was a leader in the market, originally. But their gaming regulations were very different from what they are now. It’s a lot more focused on responsible gambling, know your customer, player protection, funds and all those areas that are now very important and have moved on from where they were before.

10 years ago, we wouldn’t have had those sort of checks and balances in place. But now, they are very important. Even with games themselves and the products we provide, the Gambling Commission, in the UK and all the other gaming regulators are very interested in seeing what you are providing, seeing what needs to be done and what hasn’t been done. The certification process has become more mature; we know what to do, with regards to certifying certain components of games or our sportsbook.

The regular monthly tests that we need to do, from an audit perspective, is now much more mature, so we understand that. We are moving the right way now, in the European market. But 10 years ago, we were all over the place. It’s just a learning curve.

What’s interesting though is that, even if the regulations were somewhat lax 10 years ago, all the operators still use Playtech’s games, frontend and stack, because it was just easier?

Very much so. It’s easier to just plug and play. Why would you want to spend tens of millions of pounds? At the time, gambling was still in its infancy and was still growing. Why would you want to spend so much money, building it in-house and it may fail? No one knew, at the time, if that was exactly the right thing to do. But over time, learnings have helped us work out what is and what isn’t important. The operators themselves are a bit more mature and they have a better understanding, now, of what’s important for them.

But GVC, for example, have still extended their contract with Playtech?

That’s purely on the gaming side of things. If you read the detail behind that contract, it’s very much on the gaming itself. As I mentioned before, for game development, you need quantity, but you need quality, as well. You can build 30 or 40 games yourself, in-house, no problem at all. But the demand in the market is for thousands of different varieties of games, so there’s no getting away from it. Playtech also offer things to GVC, as well, with regards to the retail side of things. They’re very much focused on some of the retail offerings they have, as well. It’s not just purely the online piece; it’s the whole package.

But they’re using the IMS stack?

No; the IMS stack has moved now. GVC stack drives have migrated, in-house. That was a project that took a year and a half and was undertaken as part of the move from Ladbrokes Coral, when Ladbrokes Coral was bought out by GVC. That was one of the main deals they wanted to do, as part of their cost-saving exercise. That’s what was deemed to be one of the most important things to be done.

What was the stack at Ladbrokes Coral before the acquisition?

That had Playtech IMS; they had SG platform, which is the OpenBet platform, as their backend and sportsbook. They used multiple feeds providers and the frontend was all in-house. The frontend was a mixture, actually. They had an in-house version, of the frontend and they had a Playtech version of the frontend, as well. They decided that was one of the most important things to tackle, to bring some of that functionality back in-house so, as I said before, they could support the business itself and have control of their own destiny.

That’s also part of the M&A synergies, that are crucial?

Yes, there are always synergies. Synergies are very important. As part of everything they did, you have to find some cost savings somewhere. I won’t go into detail about how many millions it was, but it was a fundamental cost saving, as part of the synergies of when GVC bough Ladbrokes Coral. It was very much trying to make a big saving on that platform, itself.

You had Playtech IMS, OpenBet sportsbook and then, once GVC did acquire Ladbrokes, how did you shift away from that? What was the process?

It’s a big journey; it’s a lot of work to be done and it’s no small undertaking. The migration, itself, it took about a year or a year and a half to do that and that was across every different stack. That wasn’t just Ladbrokes. It was Ladbrokes, Coral, Gala. There was a different program of work for each of those entities.

They were all using different components, I guess?

When Ladbrokes and Coral first merged, they both had separate stacks. They were very separate and there were no synergies in the stacks, themselves. The only synergy they had was around governance of those stacks, around the contractual side of things, with the likes of SG and Playtech. They amalgamated the contracts so that it became better for the business. But the actual stacks themselves were run separately.

Same suppliers and similar sort of architecture, but very much separate, because you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. They were both two separate brands. So if one brand broke or had problems, you still had the other brand running. That was one of the reasons why they kept it separate. They are still are separate, in some instances. One of the first things that we looked at, when I was there, was to move the Ladbrokes frontend away from the Playtech frontend, onto our in-house piece. That was about a year’s worth of work and we moved it onto our own in-house platform. That was one step of the program.

The next bit was the player account management piece and that was another year’s worth of development, to get done, to move all the player account information across from the IMS to the GVC stack, itself.

How difficult was that?

On a scale of one to 10, I would probably say, 11. It’s pretty difficult. It’s a lot of work, a lot of integrations. The big thing is around performance and the customer look and feel. Things like the customer journey itself. As a customer, when you first go to Ladbrokes Coral, you’re used to this way of working. Of course, when you move to another platform, there’s some quirkiness and some different ways of working. Mapping that out, understanding exactly what needs to be done. The GVC player account management system is very different from the IMS and it was mapping all those items across. There was a lot of preparation work done, to understand what we had right now, at Ladbrokes Coral, and how we move it into the GVC world. That took a long time. And understanding the maturity, as well. I’d say that the IMS stack was far more mature than the GVC version, just because Ladbrokes Coral had been, very much into the UK space and the UK space was very much more mature. GVC has been more focused on the European part of the world, such as Germany and the Benelux countries. It’s a very different model so, again, a lot of learning.

Things that we’d done in Playtech IMS, we needed to port that functionality into the GVC stack and understand how we’d do that. That’s what took a lot of the time; understanding those items, before we could actually do the migration itself. I won’t say the migration is easy; it’s fraught with problems, especially when you move customer data. The GDPR and all those checks and balances that you need to have in place, come into play, as well. It’s never easy and it’s a lot of planning and understanding, before we can actually move it across from one place to another.

Read the full interview HERE