Having held tier-one positions in industry giants including NetEnt and Entain, Andy Whitworth has taken on the role of CCO at the rapidly evolving platform provider White Hat Gaming.
Whitworth tells SBC Americas what drew him to the project, the opportunities of investing in the US and the challenges it will pose.
SBC Americas: White Hat Gaming has been around for a long time, what has attracted you to the company now?
AW: I was attracted for a variety of reasons. Fundamentally, WHG is well positioned to capitalise on global opportunities. I am driven by the high-growth transformation of companies, like we had with GVC (now Entain) from being AIM-listed to becoming a FTSE 100 company. White Hat Gaming has all the right ingredients to become a global force. In particular, the deal with Penn International to supply the PAM for the Barstool brand in the US has opened many doors.
With clever moves like this, WHG has achieved a lot so far. At NetEnt, I was always surprised how big WHG was from a casino revenue perspective, being a top-10 operator yet relatively unknown, quietly going about its business. Personally, the chance to work with the founders – who I have known for many years – was a big draw, as was the opportunity to help drive and shape the business for global expansion.
SBC Americas: What do you think is the biggest misconception about WHG? What has surprised you most about the company since joining?
AW: I don’t think many people know who White Hat Gaming are, to be honest. I would say they are the last big privately-owned B2C/B2B operator in our space. As we work on our corporate image and rebranding, we have joked that our strapline could be ‘the best-kept secret in gambling’.
We are here to change that misconception and want to let the world know how good and innovative our people and products are.
SBC Americas: WHG has taken on a great deal of new employees recently, what have these new faces brought to the team? Is there any department you have grown particularly and why?
AW: WHG was already growing fast, the existing team have done a fantastic job to get to the pace at recruitment they were already at when I joined. We are here to take the company to the next level.
We have been hiring a lot of people, as you say, and we are aware that introducing so many new faces at once can be risky. However, we are hiring the best. Luckily, we have big black books from being in the industry for so long, so most of our hires are people we have worked with previously. Each of them has hit the ground running and made an impact from day one.
We have hired in the region of 100 new staff since the turn of the year, but we’re not stopping there! We want to offer players perfection when it comes to gaming and gambling product, so we have increased the gaming and product teams as we transform the company into a product-led organisation.
This ensures that we can improve all key areas and be market leaders in all key sports and casino product areas, from front-end to CMS, portal and beyond.
We have ramped up commercial, marketing and technology teams to take advantage of opportunities that are presenting themselves.
SBC Americas: What can you tell us about the company’s strategy going forward?
AW: It is fairly straightforward. We want to stabilise EU revenue by improving our offering to mitigate our way through regulatory headwinds. We will focus on markets that offer the highest potential and move away from less efficient markets. An example of this is the recent surrender of our Swedish licence.
Compliance and player protection are at the forefront of our thought process, so this is a key strategy to not only comply but to offer best-in-class regulatory compliance and player protection.
Our overall strategy is to work with a few select key partners to deliver high growth. We want to ensure we are a true partner to our customers, so will not spread ourselves too thin. We will continue to focus on the US, specifically supplying and operating our PAM in all legalised states.
As new states open we plan to go live in all of them as quickly as possible. We have some key expansion strategies, but all I can say is watch this space for now.
SBC Americas: What is your perception of the US opportunity? What challenges does capitalising on it pose?
AW: The US is a fantastic opportunity for all gaming companies. However, there are a lot of challenges, starting with getting the company and key individuals licensed. Everything from different state technology laws to staff being in different time zones must be taken into consideration.
The US opportunity is massive and we are just starting to see the tip of the igaming iceberg there. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are good markets now that they have started to mature.
What excites us is that, from a standing start, Michigan is already the size of far more established states, which means there is an appetite from players there. The US is a long way behind the EU in terms of content offering, casino management and marketing retention so there are a lot of growth opportunities.
As a new market, one of the biggest challenges will be recruitment. There isn’t a lot of experience on the ground in the US, which in turn will create challenges for EU companies as staff are poached by the US giants.
SBC Americas: What does the rapid post PASPA growth in sports betting mean for online casino in the US?
AW: It can only be good news, as sports goes live. In all likelihood, ‘igaming’ will follow in the coming years. Both products can then be enhanced by cross-selling.
Currently, igaming is only live in any meaningful way in four states, which means there are 46 to go. And if a state such as Texas or California opens up, we will all need to submit for our green cards as the demand will be exponential!