As 2020 draws to a close, hurrah! many may gleefully declare, CasinoBeats is revisiting an unexpected 12 months full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

A month that will live long in the memory of many, and be talked about for generations, as the world slowly ground to halt amid the rapidly spreading COVID-19.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the overriding theme dominating the agenda throughout the month was that of the pandemic, in a period where jobs cuts came at NetEnt, the American Gaming Association praised progress on esports wagers, and Spooniker drew the ire of the Spelinspektionen by way of a a SEK 100m (£8.3m) penalty.

Feature of the month

For our latest roundtable, we revisited one of the first entrants in the series to delve into slots debate once more and ask does the industry lack imagination? Is originality being sacrificed? And how difficult is it to create something truly innovative?

We put the questions to Marcus Honney, managing director of AvatarUX, Dylan Slaney, SVP of casino for SG Digital, Robert Lee, commercial director of Realistic Games and David Stoveld, senior game product owner at Yggdrasil.

“Far too many companies in the industry take the easy option when it comes to slot design and use the difficulty in creating innovation as an excuse for a lack of trying. In fact, if it was as difficult as some suggest, then we wouldn’t have so many innovative products and concepts already present in the market,” Lee begins.

“Pushing boundaries takes both time and effort, but when you get it right, the rewards of that experimentation are far greater than sitting back and watching others come up with the ideas.”

In the news

It was one topic in particular that dominated the industry news agenda throughout March, as COVID-19’s global spread accelerated, and more and more jurisdictions gave into the inevitable closure orders that we have all become so familiar with.

CasinoBeats was no different, reporting from a makeshift home office as uncertainty spread from industry to industry and, to much confusion, and in some cases anger, varying degrees of restrictions to everyday freedoms were imposed.

In the UK, in a move deemed “unprecedented” at the time, land-based casinos and betting shops were forced to close their doors with immediate effect for a period of two weeks, pending further review.

The news came as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the region was escalating efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, implementing a lockdown affecting large parts of the entertainment industry.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced a number of substantial economic measures in a bid to ensure stability and safeguard jobs during the crisis.

Elsewhere, Europe’s largest poker room, the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, announced that it has banned all players who had come from Italy to its resort “to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.”

This was off the back of the first coronavirus case to be registered in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, with a pledge to lift the ban at the earliest opportunity also expressed.

In the US, Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, addressed the “uncertainty for the gaming industry and economy broadly,” as many organisations began to implement partial closures and enhanced health and safety protocols.

The country’s multitude of major sports organisations also began to respond to the spread of the virus, as the first games suspensions began to come to the fore via the NBA and MLS. Many expectations were expressed regarding the seemingly inevitable pause on competition that subsequently followed.

Recommended reading

CasinoBeats countrywatch: Spotlight on Malta

Representing a continuation of our country specific assessments, the Mediterranean island of Malta stepped into the spotlight as a panel of experts examined the archipelago’s appeal, advantages of having a presence in the region, and how to ensure that it remains an attractive place to work.

Questions were put to Ori Zilbershtein, chief business development officer at Hyperion Tech, Andrew Crosby, director of account management at Relax Gaming and Steve Cutler, CEO and co-founder of Kalamba Games.

Gaming and Corona

As the spread of Coronavirus presented the gaming sector with an unprecedented set of challenges, we reached out to a number of industry’s leaders to offer their views on the situation.

In these two examples, Tomas Backman, Hero Gaming CEO, and David Flynn, CEO of Swintt, address the new realities and if the situation would change the gaming sector forever.

Video of the month

This month, Joe Streeter, Editor of PaymentExpert, attended the Digital City Festival. Ahead of the conference, he caught up with the its director, Martyn Collins, who offered a walk through the roadmap that led to the event.