Mor Weizer Playtech CEO
Mor Weizer Playtech CEO
In part 2 of our exclusive interview, the Playtech CEO discusses Italy, the US and the future
In the second part of our exclusive interview, Mor Weizer, Playtech CEO, talks about regulated poker in Europe, the potential in Spain and the possibility of regulated poker in the US market
IPB How much growth is there left in the crucial Italian market?
MW I think there’s still some growth left. And now casino games are allowed, they will be introduced within poker, which will enable operators to attract more players. I think in Italy the market is dominated by local operators. Like in any other market, the first participants were the obvious ones, the sports betting operators, the gaming companies and lottery operators. Now it extends beyond that. On the back of that success many other quasi-game operators are now looking into online gaming and we definitely see that as an opportunity to grow the business by adding more licensees in Italy.
IPB Is Italy’s importance overstated?
MW We indicated to the market sometime in 2011 that if you compare the revenues in Italy before it was regulated and the revenues we generate today, it’s about eight or nine times the size it was. So I don’t think it’s overstated. However, I think there is a difference between Playtech and other companies. While for some operators regulated markets are always tricky because they have to compete with local brand names, in Playtech’s case, once we make the first investment preparing the market and certifying the product we can partner with local companies and create growth opportunities. So for us, the importance of Italy is not overstated and proves how important regulated markets are.
IPB How disappointed are you with what’s happened in France?
MW Within the context of the regulations we’ve done what we could. We can’t force licensees to penetrate France especially given the fact that other markets are opening up and they have limited marketing budgets. It was out of our hands and out of the hands of the operators so the only lesson for us is what I’ve stated before which is that we need to partner with local operators. I think that it’s a tough market but we remain optimistic that if certain things happen in France, it will create a big opportunity for operators. We are monitoring the situation closely in order to ensure that if and when it changes, Playtech will be well positioned to attract businesses that will want to participate in France.
IPB What is the potential of the new regulated markets, such as Spain?
MW Spain is a very important market. We were the first company to partner with a local partner in Spain in Madrid. We are actively looking for local partners because we know they will dominate.
IPB What are your hopes and expectations for the online poker and gaming market in Europe in terms of regulatory development?
MW I believe that given the current status of certain economies across Europe and the big incentives of tax and the tax revenues around gaming that regulation brings, there are opportunities for countries and operators. Over the next 18-24 months there is a window of opportunity for a lot of markets especially off the back of the success of leading markets like Italy. This is a positive time for all participants in online gaming.
IPB How optimistic are you about poker in the US?
MW Obviously there was a positive sign coming from the Department of Justice clarifying its position with regard to the Wire Act. This is good for all companies that decided to pull out of the US before UIGEA. I think we still need to better understand what it means but it definitely creates a window of opportunity for certain states to consider regulating certain products. I’m the most optimistic I’ve ever been about the US.
IPB Do you have a preference for state or federal regulation?
MW As a software provider we don’t favour one or the other. There are initiatives for both but at the end of the day it’s not something we have a view on. The only thing I can do is refer to the hard facts we know currently that most, if not all, the gaming activity done in the US (casinos, poker rooms, bingo halls, lotteries) is on a state level. For us, however it evolves we will participate and position ourselves as the leading suppliers in the US.
IPB What were the steps that led you to launch a freeplay poker site with the Copa in California?
MW We realised that in the medium to long term there was a likelihood the US would regulate online gaming. Some companies decided to become more active including Copa, which is a consortium and it took a bit of time for that to be built and for the participants to agree all the terms. Once it was established, they were looking for the right partner. Given the appetite of the consortium we realised that we would have to put a lot of effort in order to start establishing ourselves and we also realised that California is one of the most attractive states in the US in terms of poker. I’ve mentioned that local operators are very important and they usually dominate the market and in Copa’s case, it processes 75% of the offline activity in California. Therefore, we believe that once regulations are introduced, Copa will become a very important force within the context of offline poker.
IPB How does Playtech plan to differentiate itself from its competitors in 2012?
MW Our plans are divided into two but they co-exist. The first is to ensure that we provide the best products and services to our licensees by continuing to heavily invest in our products. In order to maintain our position, the idea is to create a one-stop shop which will allow us to offer a best-of-breed product in each category. I think there’s no doubt that Playtech has the most attractive casino offering out there, that’s been reflected in some operators migrating to us from other competitors. The other element is regulated markets. We are the only company which provides services in each and every regulated market, and in some, such as Serbia and Finland, we’re the exclusive provider. So we’re going to further penetrate regulated markets, by trying to establish ourselves as the leading supplier and partner in those regions.