The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.
However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials in how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know you network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.
In our latest edition we hear from Henry McLean, co-founder and commercial and marketing director at 4ThePlayer, who touches upon increases in compliance and responsible gaming, asks how emerging black market threats can be properly policed, and elaborates on ditching a career in Hollywood.
CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences that have been gained outside of the gambling industry? Could your career have taken any different paths?
Henry McLean: I have been in the gaming industry for over 16 years, starting back in Ash Gaming before it was even called Ash Gaming – it was Ash Luecker when I started. It was a multimedia agency that did work for BBC Bitesize and built online slots, which isn’t a mix that would exist today!
Before I worked in gaming, I had my own side business running affiliate sites and SEO projects – something I still do today. It’s an area that is very complimentary to gaming as I can use it as a testbed for marketing ideas, while keeping myself up to date in web tech and trends.
The other thing I could have done – and still might do one day – is work as full-time support for the neuro-diverse. I currently volunteer with Mind every week, supporting various service users, and it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
Alternatively, I could have made it to Hollywood – ha! When I was at Uni I did a lot of acting, and was even a regular supporting artist and ‘small part’ actor on shows such as Casualty, Holby City, The Bill, and Judge John Deed. One of my biggest roles was on Eastenders, believe it or not. It’s funny as sometimes the programs are rerun and I get messages on WhatsApp saying “I’ve just seen you on TV”… well, yeah!
Both acting and volunteering have given me life skills and human skills that I use every day in my gaming role!
“It’s such an exciting fast-paced industry that I cannot see myself working anywhere else”
CB: What was it that eventually led you into this industry?
HL: When I was at University, I had the option to take a gap year in industry. I approached what was then Ash Luecker and worked there during my placement year. The company then split, with one part going into digital media and the other – Ash Gaming – concentrating on gaming. Being a gambler myself, I loved the gaming side so I went along with Ash Gaming and the rest is history!
I have now gone full circle, working at Ash Gaming and then Playtech, before coming back to co-found the 4ThePlayer startup!
One of the great things about 4ThePlayer is that we are doing things differently to a lot of other studios out there. We’re a boutique rather than a factory: every game has a purpose, and we’re not just taking an approach of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”. Players and casinos have really noticed this difference in approach, especially in our latest titles such as 90k Yeti Gigablox.
CB: How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers, or any stand out experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?
HL: I love the gaming industry! It’s such an exciting fast-paced industry that I cannot see myself working anywhere else right now. And I’ve had a brilliant progression during my career.
Working at Playtech gave me the opportunity to work across a huge range of products and markets. I got an amazing insight into almost every area of the industry. It does sound cheesy but all that experience has been funnelled into what I do today at 4ThePlayer. That’s one thing I really love about startup life: we make the decisions based on our past experience.
“There is a fine line between regulation and over-regulation”
So without all these roles, I would not be where I am today. Looking back, without Ash Gaming I absolutely would not be where I am today – that’s where I met the cofounders of 4ThePlayer, Andrew (CEO) and Chris (business development director)!
Some of the stand out projects at Playtech I ran were the Warner Bros-branded projects at Playtech: organising the branded game launches – including at the ICE London stand where I had to arrange for the original Warner Bros costumes and props to be flown from Hollywood to the UK for the event (and back again!).
Unsurprisingly, Warner Bros treat these original costumes and film props like pieces of art, flying them in unmarked crates and sending along a special Warner Bros team with gloves and masks to unpack and assemble everything on the stand inside protective glass cases.
And then there were the vehicles, which would come from the Leavesden studios. They’d be carried down the motorway on low loader HGVs with a motorcade and secretive protective covers, because no one is allowed to see the vehicles being transported or unassembled! It was surreal but brilliant to work on, and there were plenty of planning and logistical challenges to overcome.
CB: What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.
HL: The industry has evolved unbelievably since I started. The biggest changes have been the increases in compliance and responsible gaming. Despite the challenges these bring, I believe in doing the right thing: protection of the player is very important. There is a fine line between regulation and over-regulation, but that’s a conversation for another time!
Regulation does also bring amazing opportunities, though. For example, entering the US is super exciting and we cannot wait to be granted our license and go live Stateside. All of the barriers and high cost to entry make the opportunities so much greater.
CB: If you could ask the 100 Club any questions, or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?
HL: How can the industry support the regulators to ensure that any black markets that are emerging due to regulation are properly policed? How can we create a level playing field for the operators and suppliers that want to play by the rules?
If you would like to tell your story, or be considered for the CasinoBeats 100 Club, please email us at [email protected]
Launched to give a voice to the industry on a range of key issues, the CasinoBeats 100 Club tackles the tricky questions and shares members’ views across the CasinoBeats network. Have your say by joining the 100 Club.