As a year in which normality has returned for many draws to a close, and increasingly fleeting glances begin to be taken towards what lies ahead, CasinoBeats is once again revisiting an unexpected 12 months full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

As many looked forward to end of yet another year of distinct challenges, despite the immediate future appearing bleak to many as Omicron continued it global spread, the UKGC penalised yet more social responsibility and AML failures, Playtech continued to be a key topic of conversation, and as one transaction was finalised a merger fell through.

Feature of the month

Evolution’s Bonanza slot continued to outperform Scientific Games’ 88 Fortunes across North American online casino jurisdictions, reported Eilers-Fantini.

The two continued to occupy the top slots in the group’s latest ‘Online Game Performance Report’ for December, which also saw the former’s Extra Chilli title round-off the three places at the summit of slot ranks.

As a wave of games surged into the top 25, such as Double Da Vinci Diamonds by High 5 Games and SG’s Dolphin Reef, only Tiger Lord and Big Piggy Bonus by AGS and Inspired, respectively, became the only new entrants to the slots charts.

On an overall basis, International Game Technology’s Blackjack continued to lead the way, ahead of the aforementioned Bonanza as well as Live Dealer Roulette by Evolution, which boasted seven titles in the top 25.

New entrants both come via the Evolution group as First Person Blackjack and Blackjack Surrender, from the firm’s NetEnt brand, joined the list.

The Eilers-Fantini Online Game Performance Report collects monthly game performance data directly from online operators to track how games perform in the region’s igaming ecosystem, with an ambition of growing the database similarly to that of its land-based game performance index.

December’s analysis utilised data from 25 online casino sites across Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia, and had grown to track 22,682 games.

In the news

The UK Gambling Commission was once again in the headlines through December after initiating regulatory action against Buzz Group, which was ordered to pay a £780,000 fine after social responsibility and money laundering failures were discovered.

Furthermore, the company, which operates the gaming portal, also received a formal warning for the failures, which the regulator said occurred between October 2019 and December 2020.

As Playtech approved the sale of the company’s financial trading division, Finalto, to Gopher Investments, meeting one of the key conditions of Aristocrat Leisure’s prospective buyout of the firm, JKO Play was handed a deadline of 5pm on January 5, 2022, to either announce a firm intention to make a takeover bid or withdraw.

Elsewhere, Fertitta Entertainment paid $33m to Fast Acquisition following the mutual termination of a merger agreement, as Broadway Gaming agreed a deal worth $50m to acquire 888 Group’s B2C bingo business, along with its B2B counterpart, Dragonfish.

Recommended reading

In the first of a pair of countrywatch spotlights Romania become the focus, with a population just shy of 20 million, boasting one the world’s fastest average internet speeds, and a well-established land-based gambling sector, the country has, at first glance, all the right conditions to be one of the most attractive in Europe.

To get the lowdown on the latest updates, trends, and opportunities for online casino that lie within the region, Catalin Negoita, commercial manager at Kalamba Games; Vladimir Malakchi, chief commercial officer at Evoplay; Robert Lee, commercial director at Realistic Games; and Michael Probert, director of commercial strategy at iSoftBet; delivered an update.

India also became a focus through the final month of the year, with the region having the potential to be one of the largest online gambling markets in the world, but it is not without its challenges. 

Patchwork regulation, a vast country with huge cultural differences and unique player preferences are just some of the hurdles that need to be cleared. 

CasinoBeats spoke to Andrei Beu, CCO of Gamingtec; David Mann, CCO of Swintt; and Pang Goh, business development director at Ezugi; to take a closer look at the current state of play in the country and what operators need to do if they are to unlock the full potential of the market

Videos of the month 

Soo Kim, chair of Bally’s Corporation and keynote speaker on day one of SBC Summit North America, told SBC why this is a special time to be in the gaming industry, how the group will stand out from the crowd in the New York market, and what to expect in 2022.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, talks responsible gambling being core to the industry’s success, goodwill with the American and political public, why he’s never seen anything move as fast as sports betting, and what’s to come for the industry in 2022.