Taking slots across the pond
With the burgeoning US market continuing to attract more European stakeholders, Push Gaming’s director of new business and markets, Fiona Hickey, examines the prospects for those crossing the pond to make their entry and what they face to roll out efficiently
I’ve been keeping tabs on the US market at Push Gaming for over three years and have long since understood its potential, particularly as more states have followed New Jersey’s lead and regulated online casino. We always knew back then that moving into the US would be a mid- to long-term goal, giving us time to create strong foundations before launch. Here, I’ll share some of our lessons learned when it came to getting ready for the US to help prepare other studios when making the big leap.
First up, any company should focus on entering a new market when the timing is right, when they are technically, corporately, and most importantly, compliance-ready. Over the past three years, we have invested a huge amount of time gathering relevant information and gleaning insight from partners and existing stakeholders across the US, preparing the ground for our initial market entry. A key part of that was ensuring we made the most of strong relationships we’ve built with key operators in Europe that also have experience and a strong reputation trading in the US. From there, we have also worked with established advisers in the US market around acquiring licenses, through consultants providing their analysis and comprehension of the different regions to aid in our research and eventual development.
A question I’m frequently asked is should a studio develop specific games for the North American market? Firstly, I think a generalisation that many people mistakenly make is that North America is just one market. It is of course quite the opposite, with dozens of individual markets put together with each state having its own specific idiosyncrasies. What you have, in effect, is a nation that has an incredibly diverse heritage and culture across its states, and what might work in New Jersey, for example, might not resonate further west. This can also be seen in other places (like Europe) where many igaming businesses have been traditionally focused. So, because of the parallels between the two, our preference is not to simply make games specific to one market but instead focus on the universal standard of great entertainment.
As a result, one thing I can say for sure is that players in North America, while not as mature in the igaming space as Europeans, are learning fast and beginning to see the breadth of quality content that is out there. That said, they are also incredibly astute, and when you look at what social games they have been playing, you’ll see many similarities to the features we integrate into our mechanics.
There is without a doubt more of a traditional land-based casino player to be found in the US compared to Europe because of the US’s Las Vegas-based gambling heritage, however, that is changing quickly. New Jersey, for example, which has been evolving over the past five years, has seen great success with innovative titles from studios that have made a name for themselves with players as brands that don’t adhere to the traditional approach. Brands like these will potentially find more favor in the US moving forward, and the horizon holds the promise of a particularly exciting time for the North American markets. The next 12 months will see several established and popular studios that create engaging content make their debuts there.
These studios will be creating games that are incredibly different from what the region is used to, and that’s exciting in itself. It’s a great time for the market, and I think that also helps our entry as players will become to understand the style and uniqueness available to them, not just through us (obviously) but also our competitors. This will allow the market to fully grasp the true diversity of the entertainment on offer from the titles that will be released there, which will provide the next level of engaging content, especially for the more mature markets in the US like New Jersey.
For any studio adopting the same strategy, they may see that it naturally pushes them up a gear. Moving into the US swiftly, having carried out sufficient due diligence with a keen focus on compliance, places you in a position of strength. As a business, you grow and develop to meet these challenges throughout the years, building essential momentum to help create amazing content – if you can ally that with a platform that has the potential to grow significantly, then all the better.
There are differences in every separate market, be it Michigan, New Jersey, Ontario or anywhere else, and dependent on the tools you make available and what specific angles the partners you’re established with are considering there, you get a feel for the approach that aligns best with your company ethos.
Fiona Hickey is a forward-thinking commercial leader in the igaming industry with over 12 years’ experience in the space. At Push Gaming, her role as director of new business and markets exposes her to current trends with both leading and startup operators in gaming, but also gives her a solid understanding of new and emerging markets as well as the technical and compliance requirements for each. From prospect, to implementation of integration, contracts, and ‘go live’ planning, Hickey knows what it takes to enter new markets as well as grow and build market share with her customers.