Interview with Steven Grech of Yako Casino

Author: Otto
Last Updated: November 26, 2015
Steven Grech, CEO of Yako Casino
Steven Grech of Yako Casino

Hi, my name is Steven Grech and I am the CEO and co-founder of Yako Casino. Besides my day-job of running the business, I also lead the casino’s product design & development and data strategies – one juggles many hats in a startup!

Before YakoCasino, I worked at NordicBet.com (Betsson Group), however, my first taste of the online gambling industry was in 2005/6 when I had worked on the website design and development of PKR.com. I spent 12 years working in the UK leading user experience design and development projects for multinational companies across different industries such as Nokia, The Economist, Universal Music, D-Link, Channel 4, Euro Tunnel and Credit Suisse.

Did You Know

  • Yako the ParrotWe have a parrot named Yako – he’s super friendly and hangs out with us in the office and on our terrace when the sun is shining which is most of the time here in Malta. He’s still learning the ropes so isn’t that involved in our day-to-day casino management :)
  • We are the first personalized casino product on the market. We give each user a unique experience based on their game play and their preferred device. Yako Casino’s casino lobby recommends various games based on game play behavior, their location and their device. Our players love it as it helps them discover games that they would have never found or heard of.
  • “Yako” means “Your” in Swahili hence our personalized product and our marketing strategy focuses on the individual rather than the masses. Given that Swahili is spoken by 150+ million people, YakoCasino.com may venture into the African market one day – watch this space!
I see that Yako Casino is licensed in Malta. What makes this jurisdiction such as sought after destination for online casinos? What were the operator's biggest challenges and how did it manage to overcome them?

Malta is one of the largest online gambling jurisdictions within the European Union and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) offers some great advantages and incentives to both operators and customers. Online casinos come to Malta for many reasons.

One of which is tax incentives for both the operator and employees along with the sunny climate on the Island! Yako Casino’s biggest challenge came in the form of doing something new, something different to challenge this already busy industry.

The challenge was to develop an online casino that has a simple yet highly intuitive user interface with fun and engaging branding whilst offering our players a unique customer experience online. This unique experience came in the form of a personalization strategy. Basically it “listens” to what customers play, on what device and from where and recommends games based on their game play preferences.

So for example, if a player plays different games on their mobile device to their desktop, they will see different recommendations across their devices. Recommendations such as “top picks for you”, e.g. “because you played Starburst” and “trending now” on their device in their country of registration.

Balancing technological innovation with user centred design principles will always be a challenge. Seeing your product come alive and reading the very positive feedback from both our customers and affiliates fills me with pride and huge excitement for what lies ahead.

In line with our stringent transparent policy. Who are the owner/s/CEO of Yako Casino? And, what's each member's responsibility/ies within the Company?

Yako Casino’s founding member Kurt Rossi is a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur of Maltese origin with activities in Europe, CIS & Latin America. Kurt has started up multiple businesses across different industries including the iGaming sector.

Our CEO and co-founder Steven Grech, as mentioned above, spearheads the Group’s product design, development and data strategies whilst defining the Group’s vision and strategy. The company's CMO and co-founder, Sarah Psaila leads the casino management and marketing strategies. Previously she led marketing and casino management for Tipico, Mr Green and Garbo.

Our team specializes in the fields of iGaming, e-commerce, data mining and specialized user interfaces ensuring our customers always get the best experience they deserve on any device – be it their laptop, PC, smartphone or tablet.

Please give us an overview of the operator's promotional offers and what is its main selling point to players at this stage? Why does the sign on bonus have a cap of $5,000, any particular reason for this? How are loyal and VIP players rewarded?

Promotional Offers

YakoCasino offers a large variety of promotions - deposit bonuses, reload offers, free spins offers, casino races, cash prizes, you name it, we’ve got it J. Being operational for close to 4 months, I would say that the selling point is still focused on the welcome bonuses, that’s why we have come up with a great selection for our new players! We used to have a cap on winnings, however this has been removed.

Why The Deposit Bonus Has A Max. Win Cap

We had it to start off with as we simply wanted to limit the amount of abuse with bonus players. We have seen many new online casinos targeted by players who are trying to abuse the system rather than sit back and enjoy their game play on their favourite device – the operator is fully responsive i.e. we have designed and built our product once and it adapts neatly to any device from mobile up to desktop.

At Yako Casino, we’ve always focused on promoting a personalised experience and across our marketing channels. This is one of the main reasons why we do not have any “universal” campaign for VIPs and loyal players. Instead, we look at each and every player individually and reward them according to their preferences. For instance, if you are a player who prefers receiving free spins rather than amount bonuses, then expect some free spins from us! If you are a VIP that just wants to play and receive the occasional bonus – we do just that, we let you play at your own pace without spamming you.

When a player has a payment dispute with Yako Casino, which course of action must the player follow?

Yako Casino related matters should be immediately brought to our attention via the Support channels provided – chat, email or phone, all accessible across mobile, tablet and desktop. This will allow us to look at the case and assist and guide customers accordingly. The above applies not only to payment related issues, but anything that a customer feels should be referred to us. It could be an opinion, feedback about the site, bonuses etc.

Which deposit methods are popular with players? What's the max. withdrawal limit and how long does it take before a withdrawal is cleared? To speed up the withdrawal process which documents must the player provide?

Our most popular methods to deposit with are: Credit cards (VISA & Mastercard), Trustly, Euteller and Neteller. The maximum withdrawal limit is 10,000EUR per day. Any withdrawals are normally processed after 2 hours from the request. A customer would need to be verified with the following documentation: A valid ID is requested, along with copies of the payment method they have used and proof of address which is not older than 3 months.

Which responsible gambling tools are available to the player and how does the self-exclusion option work?

Responsible gaming is very important to us, and for this reason we’ve made sure that our players are able to self-exclude at any time. Customers are able to choose any amount of days or months really e.g. 7 days, 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year or permanently.

Should the player like to go ahead with any of these options they will need to get in touch with one of the operator's Customer Experience Agents via chat, email or phone from any device. Our friendly support team will guide them through the process. They will be able to return to casino once their exclusion period has expired should they wish to do so. Players are also able to set deposit, loss, session and wagering limits directly through their 'My Account'.

Customer support is vital to any casino operation. How can customers contact the support staff and how long does it normally take before support responds to a player query?

Customer Support is one of the key elements of our business – a strong dedicated in-house customer support team that handles customer contacts between 09:00CET to 00:00CET seven days a week. During 09:00CET and 00:00CET emails are answered within 15 minutes on average.

Chats and telephone calls are taken care of as soon as they come in. Customer support is currently available in Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and English.

What's the average payout percentage for all the casino games? Which slots machines (name 3) offer players more bang for their buck? Is the software of the operator tested regularly for safety and transparency and by which firm?

On average the payout percentage is around 95%! As for the games, it is difficult to say, there are many out there that have brought substantial winnings to plenty of customers.

All games are certified for randomness and fairness by the providers – NetEnt, Microgaming, Evolution Gaming, NYX, Leander and Play'N Go. We are supplying games from these certified providers who have a guaranteed % of payout and their software is regularly tested by accredited independent testing institutes.

Which affiliate conferences are your favorite? What do you like about them and what are the burning issues normally discussed at them?

Both LAC (London Affiliate Conference) and BAC (Berlin Affiliate Conference). They keep their focus on attracting the best affiliates and providing a relaxed and fun environment for networking, meeting new affiliates, fostering relationships with your key affiliates and discussing ideas.

At BAC our affiliate team met up with a number of affiliates. We mainly discussed how we can work closer together to drive traffic and conversion, brainstorming new ideas on landing page design and conversion optimization through the funnel from registration to first deposit.

Do you have any role model/s within the iGaming industry and what have you learned from them so far?

There are a large number of talented individuals and teams in the industry who have achieved a lot in the past 10 years, especially on the mobile front a lot more recently.

So it will be hard to pin point a role model here. What I’d like to see is more innovation that is 100% customer led, giving players what they want and when they want it no matter the device they’re using. This is a key focus for us to treat our players on an individual basis and be customer and data led in everything that we do.

Regulation is key. In your honest opinion, would you say that the online gambling industry is properly regulated? Please substantiate your answer.

Hot topic at the moment…well, it’s always been right? My short answer is no, it’s not properly regulated, although regulation is key to the growth and success of our industry.

Firstly, the Internet is a global entity and this is what the regulatory bodies around the world haven’t yet acted upon – one global voice on regulation that supports both the player and operator. Too much to ask for?

Secondly, there is far too much fragmentation amongst regulatory bodies and there needs to be more cooperation between operators, both large and small, down to the start-ups like Yako Casino, and the regulators.

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