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.

As the year hurtled towards its climax, and the realistic proposition of a restriction laden Christmas and New Year, two more virtual SBC offerings came to the fore in the shape of the Digital Summit CIS and our very own Slots Festival.

It was very much a month dominated by in-depth feature content led by a comprehensive Safer Gambling Week series, as the UKGC issued a licence revocation, the US awarded the green-light to several casino developments, and further COVID impacted shutdowns had to be implemented.

Feature of the month

Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment documented two significant expansion projects earlier this year, with developments in Washington and Athens detailed amid much excitement by the group.

The latter sees the developer and operator vow to launch a new era of tourism and economic growth for Greece and Southeast Europe, after receiving an operating licence by the Hellenic Gaming Commission regarding the development.

Inspire Athens, which became the winning bid in partnership with Gek Terna, proposes a facility that includes a luxury hotel, premier entertainment venues, convention centre, shopping, dining, casino, and a comprehensive mix of premium amenities.

Following a long period of interest in the region by the group, Mario Kontomerkos, Mohegan Gaming an Entertainment president and CEO, expressed delight at finally securing confirmation: “A significant part of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s strategic growth plan and business model is creating opportunities for generational success,” he says.

“Southern Europe is an extremely fruitful market and naturally, we are very excited for the opportunity to bring MGE’s unique culture and world-class entertainment offerings to a city with such untapped potential like Athens.”

In the news

As the entry of AC Milan in the esports ecosystem grabbed attention, the Betting and Gaming Council vowed to press on for the full and safe reopening of UK casinos following a reprieve for betting shops.

Also in the UK, the UK Gambling Commission revoked the operating licence of Silverbond Enterprises, which runs Park Lane Casino igaming entity.

The regulator says that the decision was made due to a change in corporate control at the operator, with concerns expressed as to the suitability of the new controller “because of its unsatisfactory history in providing information requested as part of the Commission’s enquiries”.

The UKGC also imposed a series of tougher licence conditions on Boylesports, as well as issuing an official warning and a £2.8m financial penalty, after an assessment revealed a series of money laundering failures.

In the US, Philadelphia’s Rivers Casino announced its closure until at least the first day of next year, after the Pennsylvanian city published its ‘Safer at Home’ restrictions.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, the city and Department of Public Health have announced changes to restrictions on businesses, events and gatherings, and other activities to help flatten the epidemic curve, prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths.

As Penn National Gaming debuted its first retail Barstool sportsbook with Colorado’s Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk, four Virginian cities voted through the construction of one casino property each.

The decision to allow casino gaming was made in Norfolk, Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth, with operating partners on those developments to be the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Caesars Entertainment, Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming, respectively.

Recommended reading

What one billion slots spins tell us about casino players in 2020 director Vladimir Negine explores 2020’s most important slots trends by taking a deep dive in the content aggregator’s huge sample of data.

Countrywatch: Embracing regulated igaming in Germany

News that online casinos can continue to accept players from Germany ahead of regulations coming into force next year saw operators breathe a sigh of relief. However, that relief could have been short lived – in order to remain active in the market, they had to ensure compliance with the new rules without delay.

This roundtable looked at some of the challenges operators will face over the coming months, and how by working closely with all stakeholders they can be overcome.

CasinoBeats spoke to Rebecca Forrest, business development executive at Amber Gaming, Leon Thomas, commercial director at Microgaming, Matej Novota, head of data and complaints at CasinoGuru, Stefan Esch Schulte, a managing director for Betsson Group, and Tom Galanis, managing director of First Look Games.

Safer Gambling Week

The annual campaign was first rolled-out 2017 to unite all sectors of the gambling industry, with 2020’s edition taking place this year from November 19-25. Estimations suggested that over 100,000 staff at more than 9,000 gambling venues and online sites will have participated.

Spearheaded by trade associations the BGCThe Bingo Association and the British Amusement Catering Trade Association, who were joined again this year by the Association of Irish Bookmakers, ‘Let’s Talk About Safer Gambling’ remained the strapline for this year.

To coincide with the week, CasinoBeats reached out to a number of industry incumbents to delve into a multitude of key conversations, the most notable of which being ensuring that the conversation continues year-round.

Microgaming: PlayItForward is fully embedded in our culture

Microgaming is certainly a prime example of one company whose rich history is scattered with a number of corporate social responsibility initiatives, particularly via the PlayItForward program.

During Safer Gambling Week 2020 alone the organisation has extended its support for the Gordon Moody Association, as well as donating social media safety packs to all Isle of Man schools and colleges with a view to helping protect the island’s youngsters from online harms.

With all of this in mind, Kimberley Broad, Microgaming director of compliance, delved into some of the standout moments of 2020: “PlayItForward encompasses all aspects of Microgaming’s longstanding CSR programme, aiming to change the game for people, place and planet,” she said.

Videoslots – We have a commercial & moral interest in doing the right thing

Videoslots officially debuted its responsible gaming bar, asserting that the move represents a “UK first” as the operator strived to enhance its player safety protocols during the pandemic and beyond.

The bar, which was being launched a day ahead of the region’s Safer Gambling Week, will always be visible after a player has logged on to their account, including in-game. It features an 18+ badge, a session timer, and direct links to Gamstop, the company’s responsible gaming page and the Gambling Commission.

“We made a sustained effort to boost our responsible gambling tools over the years and have implemented a raft of changes to make players safer,” Amina Norgosanow, head of responsible gaming at Videoslots, said of the implementation decision.

CasinoBeats Slots Festival

From experiencing the wild west to futuristic landscapes, Las Vegas to Ancient Egypt, solving crimes in Miami with Horatio Caine, discovering whodunnit via Cluedo Cash Mystery, and pimping your ride, it certainly was a Wednesday out of the ordinary in mid-November.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is a rather elaborate lockdown checklist, but it merely describes a smattering of what was on offer during the inaugural CasinoBeats Slots Festival.

As slot machines pinged, reels began their endless revolutions, the bright lights shimmered, a multitude of musical melodies roared into action, and the day began.

Boasting a selection of more than 100 slots, with an impressive 13 unreleased titles available for visitors to play, for free, for the first time, we also had Megaways, Megaclusters, Infinity Reels, Splitz and much much more.

SBC Digital Summit CIS highlights

CIS economy and the impact of gaming regulations

Maxim Afanasyev, CPO of Liga Stavok, noted that Russia is not exempt from the general trend worldwide of tougher regulations as he debates the impact of gaming regulations within the CIS economy.

Speaking on the first day of the SBC Digital Summit CIS as part of the panel ‘Impact of Gaming Regulations on the Economy’, Afanasyev discussed the impact gambling regulations have had in Russia.

Asked what the Russian government could have done better in relation to sports betting and gambling regulations, Afanasyev highlighted the growth in Russia over the last 12 years.

Operators mistake the Baltic states as ‘culturally the same’

Veiko Krunberg, managing director at Olybet, claimed that operators often make the mistake of thinking that all countries in the Baltic region are culturally the same.

Speaking on the second day of the SBC Digital Summit CIS, Krunberg was participating on a panel titled, ‘Operating a Gaming Brand in a Multi Cultural environment’, sponsored by Singular, which delved into the challenges businesses face when expanding on a multinational level and discussed the importance of marketing, consultants and company culture.

Jesper Kärrbrink, creative director at Green Jade Games, who was moderating the panel, asked Krunberg if, culturally, the three counties in the Baltic region, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are the same or if there is a difference even in neighbouring countries?