January is the time of year when, for us gardeners, a small ray of hope breaks through the grey skies. Not long now, I think, until I can start chitting my potatoes. A few early daffodils have bravely poked their necks above the soil. I know the snowdrops will soon be on their way. Especially with the mild, wet winter we have had, spring seems just around the corner. But I know the truth. The inevitable will happen: the cold will return, February always feels long, and winter will hang around like some kind of chronic illness.
For those of us who suffer from mental health problems, winter can be a difficult time. I had my own nervous breakdown last year. This culminated in me unable to do my job – I had to take a month off work and was confined, for long periods of anxious black time, to my house. Anyone who has gone to battle with their own inner demons knows it is a terrifying fight. You feel isolated, confused, angry, and unable to make yourself understood (especially to yourself). With the help of therapy, medication, pages of self-help books, and the desire to feel “normal” again, I started on my long path to recovery. While it has been a difficult journey, nothing has lifted my spirits more, or has made me feel saner, than my garden. Working with my hands in the soil, sowing seeds, or simply cutting my grass has improved my mental health more than I can express. Though it may sound cliched, my garden has been my sanctuary.
Therefore for me, this winter has been particularly rough. As the days have darkened my mental state has also become bleaker. There have been some reports lately about how beneficial gardening is for mental health. Gardening combines some of the best advice given to people with mental health problems: exercise more, interact with nature, engage in activities you find meaningful, be creative, and seek out people who have similar interests. In short, gardening ticks numerous boxes when it comes to improving the outcomes for those of us who struggle psychologically.
I can’t agree more with those studies which suggest that gardening lifts the mood and decreases anxiety. Last year I chose a particularly good time to have a shattered mind (as if there is ever really any right time to lose your mind). It was spring. The air was just beginning to warm up as the days stretched out their long amber arms. I remember sitting on an old and splinted wooden bench in the back garden. The buds on a nearby field maple tree were ready to burst into leaf. That’s when I saw it: the first bumblebee of spring. It wasn’t an epiphany, but it made me smile. And I hadn’t done that in a long time.
While I was off work, I threw myself into my garden. I felt like the world around me was a dangerous sea and my garden was a little green life raft. I cut a new, long bed out of the grass. I worked the soil until I couldn’t find a sliver of weed root. I barrelled tons of compost and poured it all over the garden to improve the structure of the heavy clay. I sowed seeds, bought more herbaceous perennials than I could afford, and scarified the grass like a man possessed. As I worked on the garden the garden worked on me. I could feel myself, for the first time in a long time, start to relax. As the days lengthened I could feel something inside me begin to lift – literally and metaphorically the clouds were breaking and more sun was touching the ground. I remember planting out pots of sweet peas to climb up a homemade wigwam. Nearby, my apple trees were in bloom. I was wearing a short sleeved shirt and my arms were warm in the sun. I knew then why I loved to garden and that, as long as I had access to a small patch of green, I would be okay.
Yes, I am on medication which is meant to control both anxiety and depression. I have also had many sessions of therapy. Both of these things I have found invaluable to my recuperation. And no, I would never suggest that someone replaces a good doctor with a tray full of seedlings. However, there is definitely something in nature that heals the mind. Not only has gardening helped me to get through a difficult period in my life, it is something I can enjoy when life is good. What I find so wonderful about gardening is that it is both beneficial to my health and enjoyable. This seems like rare thing in life. For example, everyone wants an athlete’s body but few people want to spend five days a week in the gym. Gardening, on the other hand, is both salubrious and gratifying.
I can’t wait to properly get back out and into the garden. I can’t for the grass to dry out and the soil to become workable. I can’t wait to get my tools out of the garage and my pruning shears in my pocket. I can’t wait, because I know that the best medicine for what ails me, is right outside my back door.
Tom Smart is a secondary school teacher who found his passion for gardening in the drizzle and mists of Scotland.
VIGE2017 Post Event Press Release
With two weeks past the closing of the doors at the inaugural Vienna International Gaming Expo, the organizers would like to thank all exhibitors, sponsors, speakers and delegates for their attendance.
The three-day expo was organized by EEGEvents and designed to bring together gambling professionals working for the online and land based sides of the industry with a special focus on Central Europe.
The time of the event has flown by really fast and there was plenty to see and hear during the 3 days of VIGE Seminars, which ran in parallel with the exhibition.
The exhibition floor has seen a large space where delegates enjoyed an open networking area with catering on site and free beers sponsored by Lotto Hero.
The first edition of the yearly event was organized in a rather large hall with a total of 15 exhibitors coming from various sides of the industry. The organizers mentioned that they have experimented with the large open space with the possibility of organizing a more crowded area next year. All these facts were found in the results of the survey conducted prior to the event.
Day one of ViGE featured a networking expo floor and VIGE Seminars have highlighted some of the recent regulatory topics in Central Europe with special focus on the challenges operators, suppliers and affiliates face when working in such regulated markets.
Some of the most known gaming lawyers of the industry have spoken about the current situation of the online gambling market in Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany and the recently regulated Czech Republic. The keynote speakers of the regulatory briefings which have been held in the first part of day 1 were: Dr. Arthur Stadler(Austrian Association for Betting and Gaming), Mag. Claus Retschitzegger(Austrian Association for Betting and Gaming/CEO at Bet-at-home), Hrvoje Vincetic(Casino Adriatic), Jaka Repansek(RePublis d.o.o), Arendts Martin(Arendts Anwaelte), Jan Rehola(PS Legal) and Gabor Helembai(Bird & Bird).
The first day seminars have turned even more exciting in the second part of the day when an IMGL Masterclass was held in a special panel which covered the subject of the risks and challenges for affiliates, operators and platforms working in regulated markets.
Keynote speakers have addressed their direct questions to the only regulator which was present in the panel, Ms. Odeta Nestor(Romanian National Office of Gambling). The keynote speakers of the Masterclass were: Robert Skalina(WH Partners), Assaf Dor(CELLXPERT), Yoav Dotan(Genesis Global/Affiliatecruise.com), Tal Itzhak Ron(Tal Ron, Drihem and Co., Law Firm), Morten Ronde(IMGL / Danish Online Gaming Association) and the panel was moderate by expert Dr. Joerg Hofmann(IMGL / MELCHERS LAW FIRM).
Day one at the Austria Center Vienna concluded with a special panel which was moderated and put together by Tal Itzhak Ron(Tal Ron, Drihem and Co., Law Firm) and focused on the recent marketing trends of the gaming industry(Recent Trends in Online Marketing) with interesting topics discussed by Maayan M. Dana(Tal Ron, Drihem and Co., Law Firm), Assaf Stieglitz(Odds1x2.com) and Boaz Gam(PaynetEasy).
The day has ended or for some started with the Networking Party organized by EEGEvents and sponsored by Prague Gaming Summit.
The party was held in a “chill out” atmosphere in a Viennese local lounge with great music, lots of networking and drinks+snacks covered by the sponsors.
The second day of the event got up to a slower start due to the extended partying and networking of the official party and the seminars turned their focus on more serious topics such as Responsible Gambling and Innovations of the industry.
The first part of the day was mainly focusing on the recent developments of the Responsible Gambling projects and their implementation process. The discussion extended in two panels where the experts of the Responsible Gambling project have addressed their concerns about the future of the industry.
Keynote speakers of the first Responsible Gambling panel were: Roman Nesshold(Institute Gambling and Addiction, Austria), Dan Iliovici(Rombet), Malcolm Bruce(Gambling Integrity) and the panel was moderated by Pieter Remmers(Assissa Consultancy).
The second panel was moderated by Zoltan Tundik(EEGMedia/EEGEvents) and featured keynote speakers such as Pieter Remmers(Assissa), Nikos Roumnakis(EOGL) and Zoran Puhac(EOGL).
After the two very packed panels the delegates got the chance to attend two panels which have highlighted some of the most talked about innovation of the online gaming industry.
The first “Innovation Talks” panel was moderated by Konrad Gill, founder at ViARSys. ViARSys was one of the most frequented exhibitor during the exhibition. The company created a special VR cage where you got the opportunity to test the real Virtual Reality games and most of the delegates were delighted about the experience.
The keynote speakers of the panel discussed the importance of using Big Data in DFS, using Artificial Intelligence(AI) in the online gambling industry and a recent innovation of the online sports betting industry called Snap Screen(an innovative app that he described as the “Shazam for Sports Betting”).
The opening remarks in the panel which has intrigued the audience were spoken by Valery Bollier, who described DFS as a threat to the gambling industry as we know it, but also as an opportunity.
The recently appointed CEO of BtoBet, Kostandina Zafirovska, who has 17 years of experience in Computer Science Engineering said that it was an obvious move for their company to bring over technology such as AI that is already being used in other industries.
She also said the gaming industry is a bit slow in adapting to new technology but that the innovation in AI is here and being delivered to the players now.
Angelo Dalli gave an insight into their newly launched Lottery software, called Lotto Hero. Dalli spoke about his innovation in lottery, a sector of the gambling industry that he said has been called “a dinosaur on the brink of extinction”. As someone who is always on top of the latest technology and challenges, Dalli decided to launch a “V.2” of lottery in the form of LottoHero.
The seasoned panel has been well attended by the audience on the event and the experts who gave speech were: Valery Bollier(Oulala Games), Angelo Dalli(Bit8), Kostandina Zafirovska(BtoBet) and Thomas Willomitzer(Snap Screen).
The second panel dedicated to the innovations of the industry also saw big names and some emerging companies that will soon shape the industry. Keynote speakers of the second “Innovation Talks” panel focused on the deliverabilty of e-mails, VR/AR, casino software innovations and Virtual Sports. The names lived up to the title of the panel and here are the names of the panelists: Martin Cagalinec(1SpinMillionaire), Sebastiaan de Vos(MailMike), Potapenko Vadim(Slotegrator), Kostandina Zafirovska(BtoBet), Konrad Gill(ViARsys) and Domagoj Marić(NSoft). The panel was moderated by Mihnea Paul Popescu-Grisogono of Casino Life and Business Magazine.
Konrad Gill, one of the industry’s biggest supporters of Virtual Reality (VR) technology comes from a land based background and is familiar with the suffering arcade gaming scene due to Austrian regulations. He founded ViARSys with the intent of providing the only turnkey solution for operators who wish to enter the arcade environment with a VR offering. Gill believes his solution will help revive the arcade scene in Austria and bring customers back to empty properties that are already fitted out for arcade and gaming use.
Domagoj Marić(NSoft) spoke about Virtual Games demands which are still on the rise and fairness of the industry when it comes to Virtual Games. His explanations shed light across this highly debated niche within the online gambling industry.
Day two concluded with a large takeaway of informations and business card for all attending delegates.
Day 3 was dedicated for the Austrian gaming industry where the agenda was dedicated exclusively to the regulatory climate in Austria.
To put it in the words of Rebecca Liggero from CalvinAyre.com: “When it comes to gambling operations, essentially a big mess complicated by politicians trying to protect a monopoly.”
Helmut Kafka, President of Automatenverband.at, told CalvinAyre.com of the pending gambling court cases addressing if the Austrian gambling monopoly infringes upon EU law.
He also mentioned his association’s 60 years of service as of 2017 and said there have been consistent ups and downs within the gambling industry in Austria for all these years. While he’s a big supporter of expanding gambling operator opportunities in the country, he cannot predict with certainty where regulations will end up in the near future.
The organizers released some of the partial results of the survey which was sent to +450 delegates and show some interesting facts. Here are some of the percentages and feedback received by the organizers:
- How likely is it that you would recommend the event to a friend or colleague?
- Detractors (14%)
- Passives (35%)
- Promoters (51%)
- Overall, how would you rate the event?
- Excellent (11.11%)
- Very good (22.22%)
- Good (48.89%)
- Poor (17.78%)
- How organized was the event?
- Extremely organized (16.67%)
- Very organized (43.33%)
- Somewhat organized (22.22%)
- Not so organized (16.67%)
- Not at all organized (1.11%)
- Was the event length too long, too short, or about right?
- Much too long (29.41%)
- Somewhat too long (11.76%)
- Slightly too long (17.65%)
- About right (41.18%)
- Slightly too short (0.00%)
- Somewhat too short (0.00%)
- We are planning to organize VIGE yearly and the plan is to have the next edition in March 2018. How likely will you be among the delegates at the next year’s show?
- I will attend (50.00%)
- I will decide later (38.89)
- I will not attend (11.11%)
Based on this feedback, the organizers are already planning the 2nd edition of the Vienna International Gaming Expo and promise a much greater show by learning from the essential feedback and suggestions of the attending companies and individuals.
Further information will be published on a newly released website which will strengthen the online meeting setting and interactivity among the delegates.
THE HISTORY OF ONLINE GAMBLING – INFOGRAPHIC
Since the beginning of time people have been engaging in one form of gambling or another. From our days all the way to ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Chinese, where money’s been available, gambling was right there too! It’s well known nowadays that card games and paper money originated from ancient China. Historians believe that earliest form of cards first appeared in the old continent in the 14th century, probably via North Africa, and the first land-based casino appeared in 17th century in Italy thus providing a controlled gambling environment.
Online gambling or it’s first form to hit the internet was online casinos. In the same year that the company called Microgaming was established, 1994, the island’s Antigua and Barbuda passed their Free Trade and Process act. Antigua became the first country which made it possible for operators to apply for licenses. Microgaming claims to have been the very first company to provide a fully functional real money online casino: The Gaming Club.
Online gambling, with it’s humble beginnings in the Caribbean, has already transformed into a billion dollar industry. In the year 2010, online gambling generated revenues in excess of $29 billion. In 2017, online gambling is expected to generate $50.65 billion dollars and the experts predict that this will jump to $56.05 billion in 2018. Just so that you really understand and for comparison’s sake, Disney generated $52.47 billion in 2016.
The history of online gambling is very captivating, full of all sorts of twists and turns.
Have a look at the infographic below, from Casinosonline.com which highlights this billion-dollar industry from its humble beginning to its current state.
Germany’s Leading Retail Operator bet90 to Launch Full Omni-Channel Experience Powered by SBTech
bet90 will unify its online, mobile and retail operations with SBTech’s Infinity Account, enabling customers to log in to their personal accounts via any device with a single wallet, enjoying optimised UX for each channel, with custom bonuses tailored to every player and loyalty rewards exclusive to Omni-channel customers.
With the Group’s offline division having 2,000+ terminals across its retail network, mainly in Germany, bet90 is now set to benefit from the full SBTech retail product, with advanced management and monitoring of its shop network, real-time, multi-level 360˚ player activity analysis across all channels, full operations support complete with superior reporting, and sophisticated cross- marketing capabilities. The system will also help the company adhere to the highest standards of social responsibility.
bet90 offers some of the fastest and most stable odds in the online betting industry, with huge global event coverage and very high stake and winnings limits. The company’s move into Omni-channel is born of a desire to provide seamless customer journeys to its rapidly expanding customer base.
bet90 Director, Iosif Galea, explains: “As proven innovators in the football betting space, and with a reputation for speed and expertise, bet90 has been planning to offer an Omni-channel experience for some time. After extensive research, it was concluded that SBTech is the best partner to supply the necessary systems, due both to its reliability and its focus on rapid product development. We fully expect our new powers of personalisation to drive significant growth and increased turnover for bet90, especially in the online space.”
Richard Carter, CEO of SBTech, commented: “SBTech’s Omni-channel offering delivers a unified and ubiquitous user experience for customers of companies in regulated markets worldwide, enhancing operator profits across the board. It gives me great pleasure to confirm that we will be supplying our industry-leading solution to bet90, contributing to their ongoing success.”
Registered in Malta, bet90 is a renowned sports bookmaker. It’s offline division is widely known also for the breadth of its event coverage, the stability of its odds and its high betting limits. The company has recently invested in expanding its online operations to build on its strong brand name and will over time also expand into key regulated markets across Europe.
It’s the weekend, listen to some chillout beats…
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