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.

From one blockbuster merger in Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group one month, to Evolution’s initial steps to purchase NetEnt in the next, M&A continued to be a central theme as countless more physical events transitioned into virtual offerings.

As global COVID-19 strategies again dominated much of the agenda, Golden Nugget signalling its intention to go public also captured the attention to take the second spot during the month – behind the aforementioned potential purchase.

Feature of the month

Live casino continued to capture the attention into June, with a preview article of an upcoming ‘Live Casino: At a crossroads‘ panel at CasinoBeats Malta Digital becoming one of the month’s most notable inclusions.

With the panel session possibly heading in a number of directions, we spoke to one of the participants, namely Christos Mavridis, live casino manager at Stoiximan and Betano, now Kaizen Gaming.

Mavridis teased one possible key theme of the impending discussion, by addressing what challenges are faced in cross-selling players from other verticals to live casino: “There is a strong relationship between SB and live casino, therefore the lack of sports events was surely to affect cross selling to live casino.

“On the other hand however, new players from land based casinos were acquired by online gaming, and a part of them was obviously attracted to live casino, taking also into account the similarities and familiarity with the physical casino.

“Regardless of the COVID peculiarities, to cross sell from RNG to live was and will be a challenge, as we are attracting different player profiles. However, implementing jackpots and starting mixing up the mechanics of the traditional live games is a way to move forward.”

In the news

As we look into what made the news throughout the month, we begin with the stories that occupied the first and second places in our most read chart during the 30-day period.

First off we travel to NetEnt, and news that Evolution Gaming, before becoming known as just ‘Evolution’ later in the year, looked poised to acquire another member of the igaming establishment via an offer that the NetEnt board recommended to shareholders.

The proposed transaction saw Evolution offer 0.1306 shares for each share in NetEnt, valuing each at SEK 79.93 and all shares in the firm to approximately SEK 19.6bn.

Also occurring during the month, Tilman Fertitta and Landcadia Holdings II announced a purchase agreement regarding US online real money casino Golden Nugget Online Gaming.

Upon closing, Landcadia II, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company co-sponsored by Fertitta Entertainment and Jefferies Financial Group, announced an intention to change its name to Golden Nugget Online Gaming and its Nasdaq trading symbol to GNOG.

In the UK, land-based casinos were preparing to reopen on July 4, with strict anti-COVID standards to be adhered to, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the facilities would be one part of England’s hospitality industry that would remain closed beyond the aforementioned date.

This was compounded by news that Genting Casinos were reportedly going to keep three of its UK properties closed permanently, with redundancies expected to be announced across its remaining 29 establishments.

Elsewhere, a number of gaming firms, including Star Entertainment, Twin River (subsequently Bally’s Corporation), and Caesars Entertainment, were just some of those outlining reopening protocols as countries looked at easing lockdown measures.

Recommended reading

A sneak peek as Las Vegas casinos begin to reopen

As Las Vegas began to reopen its doors, those in ‘Sin City’ started to adjust to the reality of the new normal brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the closure of casinos in Las Vegas, which had happened over 78 days prior, operators were busy implementing health and safety guidelines and safeguards to protect staff and guests in order to resume action.

Here, we took a look through some of those casinos in the city to see how they had adapted to the change.

Björn Krantz on Yggdrasil’s ‘overwhelmingly positive’ year

It was always going to be a busy year for the team at Yggdrasil, that much was clear in January when CasinoBeats travelled to London to get the lowdown on the firm’s new publishing division from CEO Fredrik Elmqvist and head of publishing Björn Krantz.

Following that, the company embarked on a multitude on developments across variety of core strategic areas, from promoting a healthy, safe and sustainable gambling environment, pioneering the use of google cloud and inking many deals alongside igaming development studios.

In this update Krantz assesses the franchising approach, the success of those integrated through GATI and igaming retention strategies with a potential tidal wave of sporting events on the horizon.

Gamification: Getting serious about play

Gamification is something a whole generation is familiar with across a range of media, but have online casinos got the competitive, collaborative and social elements of their gamified experience right?

It is one of the subjects Karolina Pelc, strategic adviser and founder of Basic Strategy, was set to address when she chaired the associated panel at the CasinoBeats Malta Digital conference and exhibition.

Here Pelc examines the uses of gamification in the online casino sector, and the potential it offers operators looking for better ways to engage with and retain players.

Video of the month 

GVC, now Entain, aims to be ahead of the curve in regards to social responsibility, gambling compliance, sports integrity and responsible gaming, and the new launch of its Foundation US saw the brand come the the forefront of the discussion in the country.

CasinoBeats Malta Digital highlights 

Joining the gaming sector? ‘Trust your gut,’ CasinoBeats Malta delegates told

The first day of CasinoBeats Malta Digital put the Malta gaming employment market under the spotlight, with panellists telling those that want to get into the sector to not be focused solely on gaining specific qualifications.

Omar Bitar, senior HR business partner for The Stars Group, said: “Education does not equal competence. There’s a lot of position’s we have that are unique to the company. You don’t necessarily need a degree or diploma for a certain position. There’s not one specific qualification a person needs you need to be successful in gaming.

“Of course, a CFO needs specific financial qualifications, but all the different skills in gaming make it difficult for an education system to be ‘gaming friendly’. What we really need is an education system that supports the transfer of skills.”

Celebrate the beating heart of the igaming sector

GamingMalta COO Ivan Filletti called on delegates at CasinoBeats Malta Digital to celebrate the country as the “beating heart” of the igaming sector and the “drum for the sector’s resilience” in the face of COVID-19 disruption.

Delivering the first-day keynote at the event, Filletti said the gaming sector had “come of age” and “stood up to be counted” during the crisis, highlighting donations to charitable foundations, apartments being made available to front line workers, assisting staff with mental health issues, and even a CEO loaning his house to doctors free of charge.

This response to the crisis, said Filletti, was also backed up by adherence to responsible gaming protocols. He said he was “delighted to note that many operators are continuing to act responsibly and overseeing the long-term health of their customers”.