Allan Auning-Hansen was appointed chief executive officer at CEGO in early August, bringing a wealth of experience to the operator. His new role finds him at the helm of the company’s flagship iGaming brands Lyckost and Spilnu which have been looking to expand beyond their home market of Denmark.
CEGO’s global push has already begun, with the company obtaining a license from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) and Auning-Hansen settling in nicely. He has been looking to take a more hands-on role after being a part of the company’s board prior to his promotion, and now he has the opportunity to steer the future of what he describes as an incredible organization.
Today we sit down with Auning-Hansen to discuss CEGO’s growth strategy and how far the company is willing to go in the international iGaming market. As he points out, he’s keen to take CEGO to the next level. Read our conversation below and find out what’s next for CEGO.
Q: Is CEGO an exclusively Danish brand these days or is the focus shifting towards other markets in Europe and beyond?
A: CEGO made its debut in Denmark with the launch of spilnu.dk in 2012. We entered the market with a different proposition to our rivals by focusing on casual and recreational players. It proved to be a formula for success and the national owned operator Danske Spil invested in the business in , it was then that CEGO started to deliver and integrate games on Danske Spil Casino. Danske Spils ownership prevented us from expanding into additional markets. However, the former owners bought the business back in 2019 which gave us the opportunity to expand geographically and that is exactly what we did by debuting lyckost.se in Sweden in . Lyckost.se takes the same approach as spilnu.dk, which is to focus on casual players. Sweden is a challenging market with a lot of limitations, but we have generated incredible traction and that has given us the confidence to look at additional markets with the UK next on our list.
We are not shifting focus away from Denmark but rather taking the experience and success we have had in this market and rolling out the same concept with new brands in additional regulated markets where we believe our product and offering is a good fit.
It is worth pointing out that our main USP is that we develop our own games; around 80% of GGR comes from our in-house developed slot machines. These games have been designed specifically to appeal to casual players and deliver long playing sessions from low stakes while still enabling us to be highly profitable. While these games were initially developed to appeal to players in Denmark, we are now having to ensure they have more international appeal as we continue to enter new regulated markets.
Q: You have secured a license from the UK Gambling Commission. What is next and what timeline are you looking at before launching operations in the market?
A: A significant advantage that we have is that our proprietary platform is powerful and scalable. This means it is easy for us to enter new markets but of course we have to ensure that we are fully compliant in each – we only operate in regulated markets. In the UK, we are taking the lessons we have learned from Denmark and Sweden and are using them to ensure the launch process is as smooth and seamless as possible.
We are in the final phase of testing and fine-tuning our UK brand – HappyTiger – and plan to soft launch to players in the fourth quarter. We will then analyze the insights we get on player behavior after soft launch to ensure that HappyTiger delivers the absolute best player experience when we fully launch the casino at the back end of this year or early next year.
We believe that it is important to understand what players are looking for and then make sure we deliver a product that not only meets but exceeds their expectations. We have been improving this process since making our debut in Denmark and as we prepare to enter the UK we are confident that our roll-out engine is performing at its absolute best. Based on data insights on customer behavior we constantly try to understand and adapt to customer needs.
Q: When you were appointed you mentioned that you have enough data to pursue a country-by-country approach and deliver a tailored product for each. How many new markets is CEGO looking to break ground into today?
A: The number of markets we operate in is not the ultimate goal. For us, it is more important to succeed in the markets where we are active. This is why we continue to fine-tune our roll-out machine as we want the launch and early days of being live to be as seamless as possible for us but even more importantly for the player. This is how we build the foundation for long-term success.
I believe that our proposition, proprietary technology, and in-house developed games – as well as our focus on casual players – gives us a scalable business model, especially in the current climate of tightening regulations. Our casinos do not rely on bonuses and rewards to engage players, instead, it is our unique content that drives acquisition and retention.
We take a considered approach to enter new markets, focusing on one at a time to ensure that we get our product right before moving on to the next one. That being said, we do have a wish list of markets that we would like to enter, and the US is high up on that list. Again, this is a market where we believe our focus on casual players combined with our own technology and in-house developed games has great potential.
Q: Do you see markets with a huge untapped potential that CEGO would seek to explore or are you rather going to pursue the established ones first?
A: I have not been in the CEO seat for that long and I haven’t spent too much time exploring markets with un-tapped potential as I have been focused on our UK market launch. Moving forwards, we will continue to focus our efforts on regulated markets and those that are established as this is where we see the greatest opportunity for our proposition. Of course, any regulated market presents opportunities and is our playing field. We will explore these as we continue to expand our geographical reach.
Q: What do you mean when you say that you are going to take the company to the next level?
A: I have been tasked with taking the company from a local Danish player to an international operator. We did an incredible job in Denmark and have gained significant traction in Sweden. This gives us the confidence to take our concept and proposition into additional markets such as the UK. Ultimately, I think our focus on casual players will enable us to continue to grow and enter new markets regardless of the regulations that are put in place. Our ethos is to deliver a fun and entertaining experience where players are encouraged to play responsibly at all times, and this aligns with wider efforts around safe gaming and still allowing us to be very profitable. CEGO’s DNA is built around players enjoying high levels of entertainment from low stakes and this is what will allow us to reach the next level over the coming months and years.
Q: How does CEGO stand out from the rest of the iGaming operators in 2021?
A: Our focus on casual gaming, our in-house proprietary platform, and in-house developed games combine to deliver a unique player experience. Unlike other operators, bonuses are very limited at our brands and instead we attract new customers through our seamless user experience and the long playtime they can enjoy from low stakes. We are constantly improving our proposition and games, and this is achieved by learning lessons and fine-tuning what we are doing. Sure, we make mistakes along the way, but we have the full value chain in-house and can quickly adjust and improve our product as a result. This is why we have enjoyed the success we have and why I believe it will continue for many years to come.