Mark Woollard, Business Development Director at Pragmatic Solutions, reflects on some of the company’s big breakthroughs for 2019. This includes getting the UK certification for its PAM platform, as well as its GLI-19 certification – a “gold standard stamp” which covers best practice standards across a number of key regulated markets.
Meanwhile, Woollard also explains how Pragmatic Solutions can minimise some of the key challenges facing operators in 2020, specifically reacting quickly to regulatory changes, before teasing that it will be announcing “quite a few flagship deals” in Q1 2020.
SBC: How would you sum up last year for Pragmatic Solutions?
MW: It’s been a very successful 2019 for Pragmatic Solutions. We’ve certified the platform in new markets including the biggest one for us, the UK. We’ve also gained the GLI-19 certification, which is basically the gold standard stamp for platform solutions. And then we’ve really been going out into the market trying to change, or enlighten people, as to what Pragmatic Solutions is.
We’re owned by the same group as Pragmatic Play, a company people are very aware of, so we’ve been going out and showing people that we can give the same level of comfort and quality as the Pragmatic Play content, but on the platform side. It’s been a lot of demos for the platform, a lot of conversations and we are confident these will turn into landmark deals with big tier-1 operators in early 2020.
SBC: What does the UK certification of your PAM platform mean for the business?
MW: The UK certification is big for us, because it opens up the possibility to work with many more operators. Many either started in the UK, or are UK-based, especially historic sportsbook operators so being able to serve that market or take these operators into new markets is a really positive step.
In previous conversations, it was a hurdle for us that we had our Malta certification and GLI-19, but when the question of the UK came and what we could do there – that was a stumbling block which we are now over. We can now offer the full package, not just taking them into new and exciting markets but also overhaul their existing platform in the UK which is still, obviously, one of the biggest markets in the world.
SBC: Why have the big breakthroughs come in 2019?
MW: The platform has been in the development process and start-up phase since 2016. Platforms are a very technical business to get right so what Pragmatic Solutions wanted to do was go into the market with a few key operators that had either been with the business or operating for a while so we could develop the platform.
And then 2019 has been the real push to go out and start selling the platform to more operators and onboarding new clients. But also creating some awareness as to what our strong selling points are and how we’ve built a product that is purely client-driven – which is quite a rare occurrence in this market.
It’s for sure a long sales process for a solution because an operator will usually take around six months to decide who they want to go through a tender process, how they want to operate, what markets etc.. And then there’s obviously a period of time where you’re migrating from your current platform to a new one.
It’s a much longer process than in the games business, so what we’ve been doing in 2019 is going out to shows and demonstrating what we can do, how we can help and start that process with an operator. We’ve had quite a bit of success with that, so in Q1 2020 we will be announcing quite a few flagship deals.
SBC: How much of a help is the connection to Pragmatic Play in the sales process?
MW: The companies work extremely separately, so there’s no crossover between a Pragmatic Play employee and a Pragmatic Solutions employee. They’re owned by the same group business but what Pragmatic Play has done for us in 2019 is just help the awareness of who runs the company on a whole, which definitely helps when you’re talking to operators.
But they’re run by very separate businesses – for example one of the cornerstones of the Pragmatic Solutions platform is that operators choose their own pathway to what they want to do – they’re not locked in to working with a specific sportsbook or casino provider. That rings true for Pragmatic Play too, if people want to take this content it’s of course integrated, but if you want to take content from a direct competitor it’s completely your choice.
So it’s definitely helped with awareness, and potentially opened up some conversations, but it’s not something we actually use in the sales process because they are such separate businesses.
SBC: On the sportsbook side, which suppliers do you have agreements with?
MW: It’s purely customer choice but we do have BetConstruct and Altenar integrated in the platform which can be offered to customers – that’s because two of our clients requested those sportsbooks. But an operator decides who they want to work with for any of the products – sports, bingo, live casino etc. We then go out on an operator’s behalf and integrate that into a platform for their use.
They do the direct deal with that product provider and we integrate very quickly – it’s trying to give operators much more comfort that they can go out and work with who they want, and they’re not locked in to working with what we could call a home product system.
That’s the key difference between us and pretty much all of the platforms in the market – the operator can choose who they want to work with and we just integrate, there’s no opinion from us. We can offer them if we’re asked on who is good and who isn’t, but generally we try to keep agnostic in that and allow operators to make the decision.
SBC: What are the biggest operators you’ve been serving so far?
MW: The most well-known in the European space is 21.com; they’re growing extremely quickly. We will be announcing in early 2020 some quite large operators coming over to the platform but at the moment they are confidential. What we expect in 2020, especially with the UK certification, is for our portfolio to grow significantly with renowned brands which will only strengthen our current market position.
At the moment, we have about half a billion in GGR going through the platform but not through recognisable brands in the marketplace. It is now proven on a scalability level, and for 2020 we will make sure it’s proven with some big names so that people can draw comfort from the fact that they made the decision to come to the platform. It makes it faster for your smaller and medium tier operators to come over as well.
SBC: What is your assessment of the UK market going into 2020? How can Pragmatic Solutions minimise some of the key challenges facing its operators?
MW: The platform, because it’s been built in recent years, is built on a very good technical base so it’s fully API-driven, it’s very modular. If there’s changes to regulations, we can adapt and make changes extremely quickly compared with others. If you are working with a specific product, which decides not to be compliant, look at other markets external to the UK or is too slow to achieve compliance, we can integrate new products quickly.
What we’re trying to say with the UK is if things change quickly we can adapt and move with it, which we don’t feel like other platforms can replicate because they’re built on legacy code and maybe they’re not concentrated specifically on the core PAM platform. They have a sports product which needs to be made compliant before they go away and do the bit on the core platform, which makes the UK a big opportunity for us.
There’s going to be a lot of M&A still going on, a lot of consolidation across the market. For those with two or three platforms across six or seven different operators, if you were to get everything running off one system you’d then have just one technical team. If you’re planning to consolidate your other operations, why not do it with the platform too.
SBC: And what about outside of the UK, what are the other key target markets?
MW: I think markets like Sweden, where we just got certified. We’re seeing quite a lot of operators going into this market. We’re definitely looking at the North American market as well, we were out at the G2E show and had a great response from a lot of operators who have gone with other platforms, but are not necessarily too happy with what they can do with them. So we’re having a lot of conversations there.
Obviously the UK has been big for us, but not just because of the UK market but also for many of the operators that work in the UK but want to go and test out a smaller European market – Sweden, Denmark etc. They’re looking at our platform to go and do that for them.
So the European markets are obviously a target but we don’t necessarily target countries per se, we try and look at a general overview of what the market is doing and then make sure the platform is certified, but we are still operator-led so if an operator wants to go into a market where we’re not certified we try and do this as quickly as possible for them.
SBC: And finally, what is next in the pipeline for Pragmatic Solutions?
MW: We’re always developing the platform. We’ve built in the last year some very powerful segmentation tools which have gone down very well with our operators meaning you can segment players down to some very specific points of how they interact with your website.
We’re always working on bonus tools depending on what the operator wants. For example, we can apply free spins across all our game providers in the slots space as long as they allow it to be done. And we’ve also built in a leaderboard system which people seem to like – particularly the Scandi operators – so we’re trying to build out the platform.
The top-notch technology we used in the past 18 months will deliver high GGR clients and tier-1 operators to ensure a great start for 2020. Hopefully, once we release who we’re going to be working with, it’s more about onboarding new clients and helping operators to get to the scale they want.
Obviously, everyone wants to see growth on their operation and we genuinely feel like with our platform they can do that because it takes away the headache of platforms and usually how slow they are to make changes. 2020 is going to be a big one for us.
Woollard has also signed up to take part in the first SBC Charity Boxing Championship, organised in partnership with Oliver’s Wish Foundation, will see some of the biggest names in the gaming industry going toe-to-toe in the ring to raise thousands of pounds for good causes. He will be taking on Bryan Blake, CEO & Founder at Hexopay, in a three-round bout.