Having announced a number of high-profile deals over the past few months, White Hat Studios is now live in the US. Launching in Michigan, the company named market-leading operator BetMGM as its first customer.
Gambling News caught up with CEO Andy Whitworth to discuss the US’ legislative progress and how the company hopes to take its North American business forward as more regions regulate.
The United States and North America are exciting new frontiers for igaming content. Are you happy with the current market penetration rate in the region?
Michigan has kicked off extremely positively. BetMGM, for one, is making massive strides in the state. From a standing start, Michigan has reached similar levels to the two most mature jurisdictions in the country, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
As far as penetration of US states as a whole goes, it’s safe to say that many industry experts would have expected more icasino states to have gone live by now. With just six states allowing online casino, it will be very interesting to see when and how many more open up. There has been huge demand for sports betting, but companies have made significant losses. The world of igaming is much more stable with bigger margins, and there is a pronounced need for cross-sell for companies to become profitable.
Do you see any significant difficulties to the further expansion of igaming in North America or are things moving in the right direction?
It will just take time and patience for more states to open up. If New York does so, that could very quickly become the biggest state and the tax that it generates will get the attention of other states, as there are many that are still reeling financially from the impact of the pandemic.
If New York sets a good example, as Michigan is doing, we could see a swathe of other states come online as a result. Although each state will naturally come with its own legislative peculiarities, putting a premium on solutions that allow punters and operators alike to navigate the terrain more effectively. White Hat Gaming’s Travelling Wallet, which allows players to move from state to state and between gaming verticals, retaining their balance in each without the need to transfer funds, is a good example of this.
What product types do you see a US audience gravitating towards and how are these best marketed to ensure success?
Currently, players in the market are enjoying traditional, simple slots. We can see some innovative slots starting to get traction in the top game rankings. This will continue as players become more discerning and start to look for newer and more innovative games and functionalities.
At the moment, the market is happy to enjoy what has worked in the far more mature European landscape. But inevitably, these tastes will evolve and become more US-specific. This will become more apparent when players new to gaming start to come on board in greater numbers, which can be achieved by offering IP the players are already familiar with. Branded slots such as Ted and Deal or no Deal, which we offer, are a marketer’s dream for new player acquisition.
Lastly, we see jackpot content performing well and becoming exponentially more popular, even though the offering in the market is in its infancy. We are confident that new innovative jackpot systems such as our Jackpot Royale will take this category to the next level.
Ontario is promising to be the biggest igaming market out there. What plans does White Hat have in place for the province?
It’s been an incredible journey for Ontario to reach this regulatory point, becoming one of the most promising markets in the whole of North America. Its opening concludes almost three years of work after the provincial government revealed plans to end the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s online gambling monopoly in April 2019.
As a result, the jurisdiction hasn’t quite taken off as quickly as some had hoped, but just as with so many of the states in the US, we need to be patient and give the province some time to identify what it wants so we can supply that effectively.
Do you see White Hat investing more in Latin America any time soon?
We are currently focused on the US market, but we have some advanced discussions with leads in LatAm, as we look to enter this ever-growing and interesting region down the line. I think it’s safe to say that White Hat will inevitably roll out in LatAm.