High 5 Games bolsters their executive leadership team with Chief Technology Officer, Chris Armes.
Chris brings to High 5 Games the experience of having managed global engineering teams for several Fortune 100 companies over the past 25 years. Since moving into iGaming in 2017, he’s never looked back and compares the burgeoning industry today to the dotcom business during the boom in the mid to late 90s.
In his position as CTO, Chris works closely with Jerry Wilson, who is in charge of creative strategy for game content and brands at High 5 Games. Another ally Chris counts on to help him meet deliverables is Gino Fratto, who leads the product and project management teams.
We put Chris under the spotlight to answer a few questions about what led him to High 5 Games, his management style and the challenges and opportunities presented by his new role.
Could you please tell us about how you got to where you are now?
Chris: My background is in software development and engineering on large-scale international projects. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have been part of and manage many high-performing global teams across the full spectrum of the delivery experience. In every organization where I’ve led technology, my strong suit is the ability to balance product and customer needs to ensure the success and sustainability of any solution my team delivers.
How do you see your role as the CTO at High 5 Games?
Chris: I’m responsible for leading the development and implementation of the technology strategy for High 5 Games. This involves overseeing everything from building platforms to developing the technology behind H5G’s industry-leading games. Another key process I must carefully manage and oversee in my CTO role, is taking fresh products and features through the rigorous phases of testing and deployment before they are brought to market for our customers.
What is the best way to build and nurture a technical team in the iGaming space?
Chris: As a leader of a tech organization, you and the business are only as good as the team you build, which is why building the best technical team is your key to success. iGaming today reminds me a lot of the dotcom business during the boom when business differentiation was by finding people with the right kind of experience to join their team. Having a globally dispersed business is an opportunity to build a more talent-diverse team but close collaboration must be a focal point to get the most out of every individual.
How do you approach the challenge of aligning your engineers and developers with the broader objectives of the business?
Chris: The best way for teams to see the value of their work and how it contributes to the company’s vision, is to communicate these goals across the entire organization. This communication should be ongoing so that it forms part of the culture and everyone is aligned with these objectives. The biggest challenge often lies in balancing technological innovation with time to market. Engineers and product managers must be adept at delivering solutions through a phased approach. Being agile helps to ensure continuous innovation while at the same time preventing bottlenecks when a final product can’t be delivered all at once.
How do you balance the need for innovation with the stability and reliability required in a tech environment?
Chris: It’s important to have a regular release cadence for products and features which accounts for factors such as quality and time. If a technical solution is not ready for release, it’s often better to hold off and prevent a negative customer experience. The ‘tech debt’ that can accumulate when choosing an easy quick-fix over a better, more time-consuming solution, is another key consideration when project planning. I strive to create a team environment where we are not only solving problems but continually disrupting, so time is built into sprints for not only addressing the unexpected but innovation as well.
“As a leader of a tech organization, you and the business are only as good as the team you build, which is why building the best technical team is the key to success.”
Viktoria Soltesz: the Online Payments Pro Teaching Us How Money Moves
Viktoria Soltesz is a Payment Consultant, BusinessWoman of the Year 2023, and now an Author, with her book “Moving Money – How Banks Think”, being published on all Amazon stores since early January 2024.
Viktoria is the founder and CEO of PSP Angels Group – an independent payment consulting firm with a vast understanding of the payment market, and an extended network of banks and financial providers, offering personalized payment consulting services, helping clients operate their business globally.
In her book, “Moving Money – How Banks Think”, she walks the reader through the history of transactions and financial systems, offers a detailed explanation of basic banking principles, and delves deep into payment solutions, requirements, risk policies, and compliance limitations associated with online payments.
Viktoria, congratulations on the publication of your book, and thank you for joining us to share more information about it with our readers! In the Foreword of the book, you introduce yourself, detailing your professional background and your fascinating journey into the world of online payments. Can you please give us a short introduction here as well?
My adventure began in England, where I worked for a well-known accounting software company, witnessing firsthand the globalization of financial practices. My move to Cyprus coincided with the adoption of the Euro, offering me unique insights into the island’s financial dynamics. In Cyprus, I started working in accounting and finance, offering tax planning and managing complex global transactions. When I faced various payment and banking compliance challenges, I determined to understand the payment industry and founded PSP Angels, an independent payment consultancy. My goal with the book is to simplify the payment and banking industry, educate businesses about the importance of compliance, and foster understanding between clients and payment service providers.
Blending personal anecdotes, real time stories and my professional experiences, I describe the challenges businesses face in navigating the evolving landscape of online payments. The book aspires to contribute to making online payments more efficient, secure, and understandable, while encouraging open discussions within the industry.
In the book, you speak of “Financial Literacy” and “Payments Literacy”, and how this fundamental knowledge is not taught in schools. Can you give us a brief summary of the key points that businesses should be aware of and take into consideration when setting up their financial operations? What are the basics of “Financial Literacy” and “Payments Literacy”?
Finance is the language of business and understanding the basics of accounting, taxes, and financial expressions is a must for every business. Financial Literacy is the knowledge to manage money effectively, and plan for future financial goals. Knowing the financial terms and concepts helps businesses to make informed decisions regarding savings, investments, and debt. On the other hand, Payments Literacy is often neglected and misunderstood. The concept of “how money moves” globally is not taught in schools, however today all businesses need to understand how to navigate various payment methods, systems, and processes. Payments Literacy encompasses a range of topics related to financial transactions, including online payments, electronic transfers, and traditional banking methods. It is essential for businesses to understand cybersecurity, the various compliance and regulatory environments, plan banking and payments ahead and source and select the relevant providers for these transactions. All international companies need to be aware of diverse payment methods to align with local customer preferences. Payments Literacy is complementing Financial Literacy and they are both vital for effective business operations.
As you describe your journey into payments and how the problems you encountered lead to understanding, you share instances of complicated structures, early financial compliance attempts and rigid bank processes around the mid ‘00s to 2010s. How has the landscape evolved by now? Would you say that compliance has found its footing, have the banking and payments processes become more clear and friendly to businesses and consumers alike?
I believe that challenges in payment and banking have become more complex and will continue to evolve. With the increasing shift of businesses to online platforms and their expansion into international markets, complexities in payment and banking processes are on the rise for everyone involved. Maintaining transparency, ensuring compliance, and managing the risks associated with uncertain territories and service providers has become a challenging task. The emergence of new technologies, such as crypto payments, and the variety of currency and asset management options add an extra layer of complexity to these challenges. Not to mention the various cybersecurity and data protection requirements, too. Businesses today not only need to be experts in the traditional financial structures but also have to adapt to the dynamic landscape of digital payments, banking, and payment methods. Successfully addressing these multifaceted challenges requires heightened awareness, strategic planning, and a commitment to staying informed about evolving technologies and about the ever-changing regulatory landscapes.
How has Fintech played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of the payment market, and what key contributions or innovations has it introduced over the course of its history?
Fintech became a powerful force reshaping the traditional banking and payment market. Innovations in such a conventional industry was much needed and have significantly improve the efficiency and accessibility of financial transactions. One noteworthy contribution is the introduction of mobile payments, enabling individuals and businesses to seamlessly conduct transactions through their smartphones. This shift to mobile-centric solutions not only simplifies the payment process but also promotes financial inclusivity, reaching individuals who may not have had access to traditional banking services. This has opened up new markets for global trade.
Fintech also brought us the digital wallets and peer-to-peer payment platforms, facilitating fast and secure fund transfers. These innovations have transformed consumer expectations, placing emphasis on speed, convenience, and heightened security in financial transactions. Fintech has driven progress in data analytics, enabling more sophisticated risk assessment and fraud prevention measures. The integration of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) has played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between financial institutions and Fintech entities. This interconnected ecosystem has resulted in the creation of diverse financial solutions, ranging from automated budgeting tools to advanced investment platforms.
Speaking of Fintech, in practical terms, how are Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies currently being utilized in everyday applications within the payments system, and what impact are they having on traditional payment methods?
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, although holding significant promise, currently face challenges in practical application within everyday payment systems. Unfortunately, these technologies have become vulnerable to misuse and scams due to the absence of regulation, undermining their positive potential. Despite their increasing adoption, the tarnished reputation blocks widespread acceptance. In every country, authorities worry that unmonitored transactions may facilitate tax evasion or criminal activities. Although efforts are underway to implement regulations and bring order to the landscape, the current situation remains complex, still providing opportunities for creative individuals to exploit gray areas. The potential benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, such as enhanced security and transparency, are unfortunately still overshadowed by instances of misuse. Achieving widespread adoption necessitates not only technological advancements but also a coordinated effort to address regulatory ambiguities. It is crucial to educate users about the legitimate and responsible use of these innovations. Until a balanced and well-regulated approach is established, the transformative potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies may be hindered by their association with illicit activities. This underscores the critical need for a comprehensive and carefully regulated integration into mainstream payment systems.
Readers will have the opportunity to meet you and get their book copies signed at the Prague Gaming & TECH Summit, on 26-27 March 2024; you will be participating as an expert speaker in two panels: “Navigating the Future: Integrating iGaming, AI, Fintech, and Advertising with Compliance and Data Privacy”, and “Capital Navigation: Expert Strategies for Securing Investment”. Can you give us a sneak-peek of the key points you will be discussing?
In the upcoming discussion, I’ll be sharing practical tips to help the audience navigate common challenges with banking and payment pproviders and their products, digital assets, and other payment methods, mainly present for the iGaming sector. My focus is on providing valuable insights into more cost-effective and secure banking and payment providers. Unfortunately, the iGaming sector is still facing serious payment and banking challenges, and complexities of global fund transfers. I’ll offer advice on executing these transactions in a safer and more economical manner. The aim is to deliver substantial content value to the audience by offering real-life tips and conducting workshops that empower individuals to navigate the intricacies of financial transactions with confidence.
In ‘Moving Money – How Banks Think, you mention that your goal is to introduce a new approach in both payment planning and execution. What are the key insights that businesspeople and everyday individuals can gain from your book, and in what areas can they seek your professional consultation?
In the book, I’ve distilled years of experience into a practical method outlined in the Strategy section, serving as a step-by-step guide to minimize risk and optimize costs for any online business. My consultancy work aims to bridge knowledge gaps by providing a detailed explanation of basic banking principles and fundamental economic concepts. I assist businesses by offering insights on staying updated about emerging payment and banking trends. My work helps clarifying various aspects and benefits of online payment solutions, positioning for innovation, seizing growth opportunities, exploring global payment methods and their impact on customer satisfaction, acquisition, and retention. I also provide guidance on understanding various regulations and compliance for navigating legal landscapes, ensuring data security and protecting consumer rights. My 20+ years payment and financial experience helps businesses creating effective payment plans for their complex online payment and banking flows. This comprehensive approach is designed to empower businesses with the necessary knowledge and strategic insights to successfully navigate the intricate world of payments.
Thank you for your time and this riveting interview, Viktoria! We look forward to seeing you at the Prague Gaming & TECH Summit this March, learn more about the exciting updates in the ever-evolving world of payments, and get our books signed!
Super Bowl – how have providers approached the 2024 edition?
Super Bowl LVIII is upon us and will undoubtedly be one of the biggest betting events of the year. Operators and their third party vendors are sure to have been busy preparing for the Big Game, so we caught up with Callum Broxton, Head of Operations at Checkd Group, Kevin Nunn, Head of Trading – Americas at OpenBet and Mark Nerenberg, COO at Simplebet, to find out how they’ve approached the 2024 edition.
How does the Super Bowl differ from other US sports betting events?
Callum Broxton: There is no event quite like the Super Bowl in the US. Over half of the country will be tuned in to watch the game. Every other sporting fixture pales in comparison and not only does betting on the game attract great interest, but it is the only event in the US where novelty props can catch attention from bettors.
Only during the Super Bowl will fans be betting on whether the national anthem will go over or under a certain length, or on what song Usher will be performing first during his half-time performance. The 49ers are favorites with the spread currently sat at -1.5. The Super Bowl is such a unique event compared to any other due to the intersection it causes between the dedicated and casual sporting fan, many of whom will be placing a bet for the first time.
Kevin Nunn: The Super Bowl is the single largest and most wagered-on betting event in the United States. It combines the pinnacle matchup of the most popular sport with a plethora of side bets that keep fans of all interests engaged. It is not just a football game – it is a massive entertainment event.
This year, we’re elevating our content with 500+ markets, which appeal to existing bettors and those who simply want to enjoy the fun of Super Bowl wagering with limited knowledge of the game.
Compared to other US sports betting events, the Super Bowl means planning year-round to ensure we can guarantee a robust, scalable product that withstands the huge increase in load. Last year, we processed 65,000 bets per second, marking 145% growth in volumes.
Mark Nerenberg: The Super Bowl is far and away the biggest betting event of the year in the U.S. It is an American tradition to go to a Super Bowl party and most likely gamble on squares or prop sheets, so while betting volume is substantial, the larger opportunity is user acquisition and activation.
The Super Bowl presents a chance to attract and engage a large portion of the U.S. population that otherwise is more difficult to reach. Sportsbooks not only look to maximize exposure leading up to the Super Bowl, they also want to maximize the value of these new users by converting them to engage more often.
Similar to the Sportsbooks as a whole, the Super Bowl is a chance for Simplebet to expose a wider audience to micro betting.
Have betting trends evolved from last year’s event and over the course of the regular season? What are the most popular bet types right now?
KN: Betting trends have evolved over the years. In the past, bets were overwhelmingly on the main outcomes of the game, but we have seen a marked increase on player-based markets. Super Bowl will be no exception to this trend.
The main game lines for the outcome of the game are still the most popular, but there is a large uptick in betting on touchdowns, scorers and other player statistical categories, such as how many passing yards.
MN: I think we are still in the early stages here with new states opening up each year, so the trends that are somewhat unique to the U.S. have continued to accelerate. Specifically, Same Game Parlays (SGPs) continue to be the primary focus for operators and thus continue to grow faster than any other form of sports betting.
The majority of SGPs include player props as predicting and following individual athlete performance has been a significant aspect of sports consumption in the U.S. for decades. Unsurprisingly, player prop micro markets have seen the most growth in the micro betting category over the past year.
CB: One trend we will be keying in on during this year’s game is the advancement of in-play betting. While in-play betting has been a staple during the Super Bowl for the past decade, with improved technology and more available betting markets, this is an area that will see great growth this year.
Those bets might be focused on a team that is down making a comeback to win, whether an exact drive for a team will result in a touchdown, or even if a player will catch a pass on a certain drive. We have also seen the rapid growth of same-game parlays and this is a trend that will continue for this year’s game for casual bettors. Despite the margin being weighted more favorably towards the operator, these bets add an extra incentive to watch for the neutral and often younger bettor, who sees an opportunity to win big from a small stake as being particularly attractive.
What markets are you providing for your own operator partners to help differentiate their offering?
MN: In addition to the micro player props mentioned earlier, “Same Drive Parlays” are a unique offering where we see big potential. This combines the SGP experience with micro timeframes, allowing users to predict multiple outcomes in a singular drive. For example, “Purdy will get sacked, Kittle will catch a pass and McCaffrey will score a Touchdown” is a bet that fans can make for any 49ers drive this Super Bowl.
CB: Our SmartPicks technology, found on both the FlashPicks website and app, provides bettors with a reason to place a bet at a partner site. It’s based on the highly successful Smart Acca product we have both rolled out within our own Betting Hub app and licensed to operators in the UK. SmartPicks uses historical statistics and betting data to indicate which teams have been performing well – or poorly – allowing users to make more informed betting decisions across moneyline, spread and total markets.
It is a product that has developed quickly since launch and we have big plans to increase its scope in the coming months and years, providing further value for operators by engaging with a demographic of bettor that understands sport while not necessarily being familiar with online betting. Smart Picks makes the process of betting simple, empowering the end user to use their own judgment. The benefit to the operator is clear, too. 11,000 SmartPicks searches were made during December with users then able to click out directly to their favorite sportsbook, with the margin on these bets compounded with every additional leg a customer includes in their selection.
KN: We provide our operators with as much content as possible to appease a bettor of any interest. Whether they demand a bet that has instant gratification, player-based bets, novelties, or game outcome bets, we will make them available. One element that differentiates the Super Bowl from other events is that we will also offer large odds on outcomes that are difficult to achieve. This way, if history is made in the game, bettors have a chance to claim they bet on that certain historic moment and won, providing even more satisfaction.
Exclusive Q&A w/ Khadija El Abi, Senior Partnership Manager at Endorphina
What are Endorphina’s preparations for the upcoming ICE London edition? What are Endorphina’s expectations for the expo?
Hey everyone! This is Khadija El Abi, Senior Sales Manager at Endorphina, here to share our exciting preparations for the upcoming ICE London edition J – our incredible team has poured their dedication into ensuring this edition is a resounding success! Personally, I can’t wait for the chance to reconnect with our valued clients and forge new connections!
In terms of our expectations, we are anticipating a dynamic environment at ICE London. We aim to create an engaging presence with our black-and-white stand and invite the audience to bring their creative spirit to contribute to the vibrant ambiance! Additionally, our coffee stand is set to be a hotspot for networking and conversations, fostering a sense of community within the industry! What is more exciting is that we will be offering 303 personalized gifts for giveaway, including a digital game that will add an extra layer of excitement to the ICE experience. Attendees can have their initials personalized on the spot, adding a personal touch to the Endorphina experience!
Our overall expectation is to make a lasting impression and showcase our commitment to innovation. ICE London is not just an expo for us; it’s an opportunity to connect, collaborate, and celebrate with our partners! We can’t wait to see you there!
Could you explain the significance of such events for the industry? Also, could you provide your recommendations for companies on how to prepare for these kinds of events?
Participating in industry events like ICE is pivotal for companies, providing unique opportunities beyond mere attendance. ICE London provides a dynamic space to connect with potential clients and industry peers, fostering growth through collaboration. Networking is the key to unlocking opportunities! These events offer insights into emerging trends, ensuring companies stay competitive and adapt to the evolving industry landscape. Additionally, visibility gained at such expos contributes to brand recognition, credibility, and authority within the sector.
My recommendation to companies on how to prepare for such events is to create a visually appealing booth with thoughtful branding and interactive elements, develop a robust networking strategy, utilize high-quality promotional materials, and incorporate engaging activities. Approaching events with a well-thought-out strategy maximizes exposure and fosters valuable connections.
In 2023, Endorphina introduced Joker Ra, a groundbreaking online slot developed using AI. Could you share insights about this innovative venture and the operators’ reactions? Also, are there plans for further AI-assisted projects at Endorphina?
In 2023, Endorphina launched Joker Ra, an innovative online slot blending Ancient Egypt with cutting-edge AI technology. The game features Ra, the king of creation, transforming into a Joker, creating a unique fusion of past and present. With advanced gameplay and stunning designs driven by AI algorithms, Joker Ra offers players an exhilarating and visually captivating experience. The positive reactions from operators and players reinforce our commitment to pushing boundaries. As for future AI projects, we’re always looking for ways to push boundaries and surprise our audience, J.
You have been nominated for the prestigious EGR Nordics Award in the ‘Software Supplier of the Year’ category. Could you highlight the three most significant achievements of your company that truly justify this nomination?
We’re thrilled to be nominated for the EGR Nordics Award in the ‘Software Supplier of the Year’ category! This recognition is a testament to three major:
- a) Continuous Innovation: Endorphina has been at the forefront of gaming innovation, consistently introducing engaging titles like Joker Ra. Our commitment to pushing the boundaries of gaming technology sets us apart, providing players with an ever-evolving and immersive experience.
- b) Customer Satisfaction: Operators and players consistently offering positive feedback serve as a clear indication of our commitment to delivering exceptional gaming experiences.
- c) Market Expansion: Endorphina’s successful entry into new markets and establishment as a reliable global provider highlights our strategic approach to growth and market presence.
We’re honored by the nomination and excited about the possibilities ahead. Thank you for being part of this incredible journey with Endorphina!
Could you share with us Endorphina’s plans for 2024? Are there any intentions to enter new markets, launch extraordinary projects, or undertake other significant endeavors?
2024 is going to be an extraordinary year for Endorphina! Alongside entering new markets, we are expanding our portfolio with captivating content. It’s a year dedicated to growth and innovation! We proudly deliver exceptional gameplay across 25+ jurisdictions, including LatAm, Italy, South Africa, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Germany, and more. Endorphina’s games, licensed by reputable authorities like MGA, ONJN, and ISO, guarantee a secure gaming environment. As we look ahead to 2024 – we’re energized for new market ventures and the introduction of exciting projects that epitomize our unwavering commitment to growth and innovation.
Catch us live at #ICELondon2024, Endorphina stand N7-230, for an unforgettable experience!
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