Ondrej Lapides, CEO at Tom Horn Gaming, talks to CasinoBeats about expanding his company’s reach into the regulated Portuguese market, working towards similar game certification in Spain – “the strongest growing market in Europe” – and adding a sports betting product to its portfolio in 2020.
Why is it so important for Tom Horn to focus in on regulated markets?
Ondrej Lapides: We’re pleased to see the rise in a number of countries introducing new gaming laws as this is a clear indicator of the direction the igaming industry is headed to.
Regulation of gaming is inevitable for the industry. It defines the standards for operators and providers, protects consumers, ensures fair markets and competition while letting innovation and businesses flourish.
A fair and effective regulatory framework builds trust in the industry, establishing a firm set of rules for responsible gaming that are used to fight illicit operations, AML, exploration of players, fraud and so on.
We see a big advantage in having a geographical spread as this enables scalability of our services. Therefore, regulated markets, with their stable and increasingly responsible gambling culture, represent one of the most exciting long-term growth opportunities for our company.
It is of utmost importance to invest in research and development of products that are fully compliant with the toughest industry standards in order to offer them to players in as many jurisdictions as possible.
As part of our concentrated push into regulated markets, we’ve recently completed certifications of our games in Sweden and Portugal, with more to follow suit later this year.
Tom Horn is notoriously strong in the Baltics; what have you learned from these markets to guide your international expansion, particularly across Europe?
OL: In addition to the more tried-and-tested markets such as the UK, we’ve positioned ourselves firmly in smaller jurisdictions such as those in the Baltics. The region offers many exciting growth opportunities and our games have been performing beyond expectations there.
“A fair and effective regulatory framework builds trust in the industry”
At the same time, the small markets get saturated quite quickly, therefore in order to achieve success you need to have a clear and effective business idea, you must enter the market at an early stage and have to be flexible enough to adapt promptly to differences in the dynamics of the customer behaviour and specific requirements of business partners.
At Tom Horn, we focus on players and operators, always listening carefully to the needs of local punters and always making sure to meet the business expectations and objectives of our operator partners. We are dynamically developing additional incentives, promotional tools, bonuses tailored to operators to boost their revenues and player engagement.
How excited are you to see your games live with operators in Portugal?
OL: Online gaming in Portugal is on the rise and we see a lot of potential there. We have several significant deals in the pipeline and we will announce them in the coming weeks. A lot to look forward to with exciting times ahead of Tom Horn.
What are the key player demographics and habits that you need to consider when tailoring content for a Portuguese audience?
OL: It is very important to follow trends and learn about new demographics before entering any new market. As part of our strategy, we aim to create content to cater for every type of player. Our portfolio features a wide variety of games, themes, the volatility, maths models and we always fully localise games for markets we enter.
There is something for everyone and we believe that Portuguese players will find many games that will hit their sweet spot. In addition, we’re always happy to come up with bespoke content or add a slight twist that will spice a reassuringly familiar theme up.
“The region offers many exciting growth opportunities and our games have been performing beyond expectations”
What is the potential in your view for this gaming market? Has the more punitive tax on sports betting helped online casino growth in the country?
OL: A tax disparity in Portugal has long been criticised by gaming professionals and we’re hoping that a universal tax rate will soon be introduced by the Portuguese government.
Compared to sports betting, online casino revenues have significantly improved over the past few months, and the taxation system might be one of the reasons why operators offering sports betting services are reluctant to enter the market under such unfair conditions.
Now that you are ready to go in Portugal, we understand that you are working towards certification in Spain? How different is this process?
OL: We certify our games for any market our customers desire or where we identify a sustainable business growth for Tom Horn Gaming. Spain is one of these regions. It is a big market and its complexity has been translated into a rather complicated application process.
Having said that, our commitment to finalising our certification is stronger than ever as the gaming industry in the country has been growing significantly with gaming revenues, as well as the number of active players increasing every day.
“It is very important to follow trends and learn about new demographics before entering any new market”
The Spanish certification is an important step in our continued expansion in regulated environments and we can’t wait to have it in place and start offering our products to players and operators in the country.
It was reported this month that only 13 per cent of all games in Spain are online, compared to 50 per cent in Sweden; does this explain the level of opportunity in Spain?
OL: The approximately €1bn Spanish market is the strongest growing market in Europe. The local online segment is experiencing strong growth as more and more operators are moving online and players will follow suit. This is an opportunity we have to grasp. Our strong and attractive content coupled with a technology focus and player-oriented approach are sure to make us one of the favourites in the territory.
And finally, we understand that you are working on adding a sports betting product to your portfolio in 2020? Can you tease any of the details?
OL: Correct. We’ve been working on a proprietary sports betting product that will enrich our product offering and broaden our reach in markets we’re present and beyond.
Sports betting accounts for a high percentage of gaming revenues and it is only obvious one wishes to venture into this vertical. Still, this segment is hugely competitive, so we will only introduce our services when they’re in tip-top condition and ready to take on the competition!