Per Hellberg: “We Build for Tomorrow from Scratch While Others Need to Upgrade from Past to Present”

PlayStar is preparing for an ambitious launch in the United States with New Jersey, one of the most competitive markets in the country, chosen as its entry point. The company has announced Gaming Innovation Group (GIG) as its platform partner, has obtained market access via a deal with Ocean Casino Resort and has a go-live date slated for late Q4.

Shifting up a gear with its plans, the company recently appointed former Catena Media chief executive and industry veteran, Per Hellberg, as CEO.  Hellberg has been tasked with steering the casino through what will be an exciting period and one that will ultimately define its future.

Similarly, PlayStar has already teamed up with Maxima Compliance, a company that helps operators with KYC and AML compliance, and also ensures that partner businesses are always on point when it comes to regulatory scrutiny and commitment to industry standards.

Hellberg is an individual that has already steered an empire to success during his stint as CEO at Catena Media, the world’s leading affiliate marketing company, and he plans to do exactly the same at PlayStar.

Q: How has PlayStar been preparing for the upcoming launch? Has anything changed since you stepped in as CEO?

The team, prior to my joining (headed up by Joel Wikell and Adam Noble), have achieved fantastic momentum from the inception of the group in Q3 2020.

In that time market access has been obtained, a platform partner secured, our compliance partner onboarded and, of course, we have continued to execute on a recruitment plan to bring key personnel on board.

What I bring to the team is the knowledge to establish efficient corporate structures and organisations, a network of great people, investors and marketing partners and most importantly, a very strong will to always do better than the rest.

That is why since I joined, a lot of focus has been spent on establishing such operational structures and bringing in the funds required for the next step in our journey which is to go live in the Garden State later this year. 

Q: How is running a casino business different than running the world’s most prestigious affiliate gaming company? 

There is a big difference but there are also similarities. It is similar because both companies are focusing on the rapidly growing US market, but it is different because the individual companies are at a completely different stage in their lifecycles.

Catena Media is a very large corporation with many years of operational experience while PlayStar is a start-up.

However, experience can be acquired by employing great staff and not having to consider any operational legacy makes us very agile and adaptable to any situation the market throws at us. We build for tomorrow from scratch while a lot of others firstly need to upgrade the past to the present.

Then, of course, running an online casino is a completely different operational model to running a lead generation business.

Q: Why did PlayStar choose to go with New Jersey, a market that is already filled with numerous iGaming brands and competitors?

It is a bit of a misconception that the New Jersey iGaming market is saturated or has too many competitors to succeed; it’s actually quite the contrary.

Think about it this way, you have one of the largest iGaming markets in the world with a cap on the number of operators who can enter the market. We knew the window to access New Jersey was rapidly closing, so we went all out to secure market access while the opportunity was still there.

There are some big names dominating the market right now, but until the last skin goes live, who knows what the makeup will be and we believe, by concentrating in the right areas, we have just as good a chance as anyone to etch out our piece of market share and become a formidable player.

Q: What do you think you will bring to the market that isn’t already there? 

A 100% iGaming focused brand. The market is dominated by sportsbooks that have casino, but with the iGaming market outgrowing the sports betting market we believe there is a huge opportunity for an online casino-only brand to enter the fray and deliver a superior player experience.

This means getting the basics right – technology, games, payments, customer service – and then adding a little magic dust to elevate the player experience and deliver something truly unique and special.

Q: Is there a key message you want to drive to potential future players?  

We’re coming to market with a heavy focus on personalization, engagement and customer experience to create an online casino experience like no other. If you want to be the star of the show, you need to play at PlayStar.

Q: How important is pre-marketing to the success of your launch this year? 

It is not so important from a consumer point of view. The majority of our marketing investments will be spent within performance-based acquisition channels which is why the product must be up and running when we start marketing to consumers so that we can onboatrd them immediately. We will, however, focus on a lot of PR-based activities to get the word out there prior to launch.

Q: Once the New Jersey launch goes through, how long would you need to assess whether expansion opportunities are feasible?

We are already moving forward in this regard and are aiming to announce additional market access agreements within weeks. We also plan to secure further market access deals in the states where it makes sense for our brand to enter.

Q: What is your biggest business hope for 2021? 

Short and sweet, but simply that additional US states decide to regulate iGaming as this is where the greatest opportunity for all stakeholders lies.

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