EEG Interview With Eman Pulis and Dennis Dyhr-Hansen
First of all we would like to know more about you guys. How did you end up in the gambling industry, and what are you plans for the future? Eman? Dennis?
The gaming industry in Malta has been strong for over ten years now, with some 300 gaming companies based on this tiny island state, around 500 gaming licenses and a strong workforce of 9,000.
How did you meet each other and what was the idea that lead to SiGMA? And what is SiGMA really all about for you personally?
Our backgrounds are different but complementing at the same time. For the sake of SiGMA, they match perfectly! Whilst Eman has extensive experience in B2B as well as events management, Dennis is versatile with most reputable operators and affiliates.
For the past number of years we have been noticing the three distinct pillars within the industry – B2B, Operators and Affiliates – coming closer together. Today’s affiliate, for instance, is fast becoming a successful operator within months. With SiGMA we wanted to offer a 360° igaming showcase in Malta that reflects this trend.
As we know, SiGMA was a huge success in 2014 and it came as a surprise to the online gambling world. How does that feel? Has it taken you guys a huge effort to build it?
Quite frankly, feels great! It took a lot of hard work, but we believed in the concept, that it makes perfect sense to host an igaming show in Malta. The biggest challenge was to persuade exhibitors to trust our idea and take part on our first year. A lot of exhibitors did, in fact, trust our project. Others, for any reason, could not make it last year, but after seeing what we delivered, have already made commitments for this year. So we are looking at a SiGMA’15 which is roughly twice the size of last year’s.
I know that you haven’t made anything public yet about SiGMA 2015(venues, parties, etc.) but judging by last year’s lineup, it will probably be a huge attraction. Could you share 5% of this well-kept secret? Maybe a venue or a speaker?
We will soon let the proverbial cat out of the bag! We have a press conference and networking drinks planned for mid-April where the industry can meet up and find our more details about SiGMA15.
We also noticed a huge interest shown by the top level operators, has that been a success for them? Is there a high number of feedback?
Indeed. We go that extra mile to ensure that the crème de la crème of the affiliate world attends SiGMA. We approach top affiliates and invite them over to Malta, expenses on us. We also have a number of competitions for new affiliates, were we will be giving out a number of flight tickets and VIP treats. SiGMA is organized by a different team of motivated individuals, which means that we have different leads, we know different affiliates. This, in itself, is a guarantee that operators won’t be meeting the same faces over and over again.
Referring to the affiliate side of the event. How can this crowd of professionals benefit of the knowledge that was and will be shared at SiGMA?
We invest a lot in getting the best SEO experts and most successful affiliates, including the likes of Ory Weihs of XLMedia, who is arguably the biggest, most successful affiliate to date, with his company public listed on the Stockholm Exchange. Some speakers do not shy away from debating controversial topics, such as black hat SEO and sharing their insights about the latest trends. We had an outstanding lineup of speakers last year, which helped raise the profile of SiGMA. So we will double our efforts this year to being some new personalities.
In your words, Malta is host to some 300 gaming companies and strong workforce of 9,000, do you think that any Eastern European country has the potential to grow and become maybe a contender? We ask this question because we have seen a huge increase of interest shown in opening operations in Eastern European countries due lower salaries and highly skilled professionals.
The market is certainly becoming more competitive because regulators are fast catching up. Furthermore, lower salaries play a crucial role, especially for big companies, which gives Eastern European countries a competitive advantage. Ultimately, a company must carry out a meticulous SWOT analysis before relocating. Factors such as political stability, regulatory framework, taxation, talent pool, and quality of life come into play.
In the case of Malta, both major political parties seem to have agreed to pull the gaming line in the same direction, giving big companies such as Betsson, the peace of mind they request. Malta also offers a tax regime of 5% based on a rebate scheme, which is very attractive for high earning companies. The EU state also offers a strong talent base, thanks also to the newly set up Malta Gaming Academy, which is set to produce more graduates in this field.
In summary, each company must look at the gaming industry from a holistic point of view in order to determine which state it will call ‘home’.
What do you know about EEG? Could you give us your thoughts on our mission, the one to build a bridge between Western and Eastern European Gaming world?
We think this not only a wonderful idea, but one that is needed and should enjoy the backing of many. As salaries continue to rise all across East Europe, the demand for quality gaming will increase, making East Europe a more attractive market to tap into. You focus on getting news, legal updates by region as well as affiliate programs for both East and West Europe. This is really beneficial to affiliates who want to tap a specific market.
Ok, here comes the fun part. What is your favorite food and if you would have to pick a country in Eastern Europe to travel to, where would you go?
Has to be Danish food for Dennis; fried, uncured bacon with parsley sauce, and Maltese food for Eman; rabbit stew. We do love the occasional borsch too!
I (Eman) am currently spending some time in Riga, Latvia, which means I get to travel to neighboring cities and enjoy the charms of East Europe. Let me tell you one thing; East Europe has a lot – a real lot – to offer! I enjoyed the cold winter season, which was pretty mild this year – no rain, no winds, no below 20 temperatures, no heavy snowfalls, which meant you could walk outside hassle free.
Then, the architecture, the clean city center and Old Town, the good quality restaurants and impeccable service, the theater, opera and live music concerts, the hockey matches… all within walking distance! The list is endless! I even got to try bobsleigh in Sigulda and shoot various types of Kalashnikovs at a shooting range in Riga!
Riga is a charming place to live in and also network with big companies such as Evolution Gaming, EcoPayz, xCFD, OlyBet from Olympic Casino – which is soon opening a land based in Malta) and others.
And as a closing question, which is not really a question, more like an opportunity to spread the word, fire away … advertise your event.
Thank you for the opportunity. Following SiGMA14, we identified six main reasons why anyone in the gaming industry should consider SiGMA.
1. INDUSTRY TREND: The three distinct pillars within the industry – B2B, Operators and Affiliates – are coming closer together. Today’s affiliate, for instance, is fast becoming a successful operator within months. SiGMA is the only 360° igaming showcase in Malta that reflects this trend.
2. TRUST: Virtually all our exhibitors from 2014 will exhibit again in 2015. SiGMA also won the trust of many exhibitors who did not take part in 2014.
3. LOCATION: Different format. Different organisers. Different crowd. Different affiliates. Different deals. We can guarantee both quality and quantity with 1 Expo – 4 Conferences – 40+ Affiliate Programs – 60+ speakers – 100+ Exhibitors – 3,000+ participants.
4. KNOWLEDGE: Following feedback, SiGMA15 will feature four conferences: Conference 1 – Regulatory Briefing; Conference 2 – Payments & Financial Technology; Conference 3 – Affiliates & SEO Trends; Conference 4 – Gamification
5. VALUE: A free admission policy for affiliates and a low entry fee for all other participants is indicative of a solid turnout. Not bad for a show that enjoys worldwide coverage thanks to an exhaustive list of media partners.
6. NETWORKING: Great Weather in November calls for free, open air networking events close to the venue itself. SiGMA15 will include networking pre-registration drinks, networking poker tournament, conference open bar drinks, closing party.
Feel free to drop us a call on +356 9926 3626 or email [email protected] for details.