SiGMA Europe 2023: highlights from the panels and keynotes

SiGMA Europe 2023 took place at the Malta Maritime Hub.
SiGMA Europe 2023 took place at the Malta Maritime Hub.

Some 25,000 attended the biggest edition of SiGMA Europe to date.

Malta.- SiGMA Europe 2023, the latest edition of one of the largest European exhibitions dedicated to the online gaming industry, drew over 25,000 attendees from more than 100 countries to the Malta Maritime Hub from November 14 to 17.

Hosted over a space three times larger than the previous edition, this year’s event had 800 sponsors and exhibitors and featured insights from 250 speakers, who contributed to various panels and discussions over the event’s three main days. 

See also: Focus Gaming News secures “Media of the Year” Award again at SiGMA Europe

The challenges faced by Maltese operators

One of the first events to take place at SiGMA Europe 2023 was the panel entitled “Malta’s European Odyssey: Navigating rough seas“, which focused on the challenges that Maltese operators face in Europe. Participating were Olga Finkel (co-founder & partner, WH Partners) Carl Brincat (CEO, MGA), Joseph Attard (director of International Compliance, Entain Group), David Yatom Hay (general counsel, Soft2Bet) and Abby Rachel Cosgrave (chief legal & compliance officer, LeoVegas) and George Westin (founder, Hero Gaming).

Cosgrave highlighted the uncertainty in the gaming industry’s regulatory landscape. She emphasised the navigation demanded of operators confronting diverse regulatory landscapes across jurisdictions. Westin acknowledged unease in the regulatory sphere while underscoring the industry’s resilience.

Brincat spoke of Malta’s stance on affordability issues. He dissected the contrasting approaches of the US and Europe, accentuating Malta’s relatively liberal posture, but emphasised the role of responsible gambling practices in mitigating potential risks. Meanwhile, Attard, Westin and Hay considered the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)‘s challenge in sustaining its ecosystem.

The UK Gambling White Paper

Also at the forefront of discussions during the inaugural day of the SiGMA Europe 2023 conference were the gambling reforms in Britain. As previously reported by Focus Gaming News, the Gambling Commision‘s director of policy Ian Angus expects the main changes proposed by the UK government’s gambling white paper to enter effect next year. 

In this panel, moderated by John Hagan, managing partner at Harris Hagan; Kizzie Fenner, senior legal counsel at William Hill; Roger Parkes, director of compliance & regulatory affairs at Betway; Stephanie Wong, head of policy at betting and gaming council; and Dan Waugh, partner at Regulus Partners, the paper’s implications were dissected and discussed. 

Hagan, in his keynote, noted the Gambling Commission’s focus on ‘frictionless checks’, which it expects to affect 3 per cent of accounts, with only 0.3 per cent of players expected to be required to produce bank statements. Challenges, including the absence of a single customer view and the practicality of unintrusive checks, were mentioned. Waugh said the regulator may shift its position.

The panel also discussed the proposed regulation of direct marketing, seen by Fenner as dual regulation due to existing oversight in the marketing domain. Parkes raised concerns about the Gambling Commission’s focus on protection potentially hampering consumer benefits.

As for the industry-regulator relationship, Parkes noted the commission’s inspection-centric approach. Fenner noted positive shifts but acknowledged inherent tension, citing examples of collaboration. Wong said Rhodes’ presence had improved the relationship between the regulator and regulated but that more work was needed. Waugh acknowledged that the Commission has “great people,” but questioned the extent to which it listens to industry concerns.

Motivational Engineering

Soft2Bet CEO Uri Poliavich gave the keynote on November 15 and explained how the company’s gamification features enable operators to generate boosts in revenue and engagement and compete with the social media giants for players’ attention.

Uri commented: “Suppliers and operators compete against each other every day, but actually we’re competing against the likes of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube for players’ attention. This can be done by offering personalisation features, collectables, leaderboards or City Builder mechanics that prolong players’ daily activities, but also provide long-term goals over the course of many months that they can work towards.”

Noting the financial benefits of Soft2Bet’s gamification features, Uri added: “The average GGR per player on gamified brands increased by 65 per cent and deposit amounts were up 42 per cent, but just as important, player screen time is up 300 per cent, four times higher than other operators.”

The future of igaming payments 

CoinsPaid CEO Max Krupyshev delivered a keynote on the third day of SiGMA Europe 2023, focusing on the “Future of payments for the igaming industry.” He discussed the current state of the cryptocurrency market, noting the downturn since November 2021 and the contraction in market capitalisation from US$3tn to US$1.3tn.

However, he said that amid inflation and a decline in financial markets, crypto payments have remained resilient and are gaining traction in the igaming sector, one of the fastest-growing industries adopting them. Throughout 2022 and 2023, there has been a consistent increase in processed volumes, he noted.

Bitcoin remains the preferred choice for igaming businesses, comprising 67 per cent of deposits and 34 per cent of withdrawals processed by Popular altcoins include Ethereum, Litecoin, and Tether, with Tether leading in processed volumes with 57 per cent of deposits and withdrawals.

Krupyshev highlighted the advantages of digital assets for high-risk businesses, especially in igaming. Describing them as an “ace up your sleeve,” he emphasised their international nature, irreversibility, and instant transaction processing. He said cryptocurrencies eliminate card payment restrictions, offer 24/7 accessibility, prevent chargebacks and rolling reserves, boast lower transaction fees, provide enhanced fraud protection and ensure rapid payment processing, making them ideal for the dynamic world of igaming.

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SiGMA Europe 2023