Hanan Greenberg, Executive Manager at Globaltrafficmedia for the Marketing Division of mrplaypartners affiliate group and its brand, gives an exclusive interview to SiGMA News.
With years of experience backing up their venture, mrplaypartners is a force to be reckoned with in the iGaming industry. Whilst others are standoffish in regulated markets, they are Hanan Greenberg's bread and butter - follow his story below.
How did your business take off? And is iGaming your only vertical?
We were a small group of industry veterans who got together to build something new. We were able to launch our start-up in 2017, after a lot of planning and hard work. iGaming is indeed our focus and only vertical, and we plan to become an important player in the field.
How did you first get into the operator space? And were you always focused on the iGaming space?
Both our investors and I have been in the industry from its early days – they since 2001 and 2003, respectively, and I got my start in 2008. We’ve always focused on iGaming, and we’ve participated in different successful ventures. We’ve immersed ourselves in almost everything part of the iGaming ecosystem as affiliates, operators, suppliers, etc.
I got my introduction to this world in an indirect way. At the time I was working at an educational institute in Israel, having spent a few years abroad. My sister convinced me to go and meet someone who was about to start a new digital venture called Winner.com. I shared offices with many other young people from different cultures who spoke a variety of languages, and the rest is history.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We are a unique white-label, held 40% by a PLC (Aspire Global International) and 60% by private investors. We’re always on the lookout for the next new opportunity, either to invest or acquire a service. Our ultimate goal is to become a major player in regulated iGaming markets and take ownership of a greater chunk of this ecosystem.
What can affiliates do to increase support with operators?
They can focus on good communication and ensure compliance and transparency. These are the foundations of any good operator-affiliate relationship. Once these three are established, we can be incredibly successful together.
How can operators be more unique in their approach?
The aforementioned applies to operators as well. In addition, it’s incumbent on the operator to share knowledge and information with affiliates – to introduce them to the latest trends the operator sees from the landscape and the traffic the affiliate refers. This helps affiliates succeed and allows them to earn more in real-time.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
We’re not looking to sell; we have very strong financial backing. We’re not looking to bring in new investors, either. However, we are always on the lookout to acquire smaller brands and integrate them into our affiliate programme. We strive to offer our partners an increasingly wide selection of brands operated by one body who takes care of conversions for them, offers rewards, and provides the best possible tools to promote its offering.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an operator team/business?
There is a broad range of qualities that I hold essential, including patience, the ability to think outside the box, and experience in the online gaming niche. You must have deep analytical and affiliate management expertise, and it’s crucial to have an in-house traffic source. You need to have quality marketing tools and maintain a clear line of communication with both players and suppliers.
What sets you apart from other operators?
Our decades’ worth of cumulative experience, and the fact that we always think ahead, for the long term.
The things we did at the beginning for affiliates has also paid off: for instance, we charge the lowest admin fees among our competitors, and this has helped our affiliates with an element of revenue share in their deal to earn more over time. And there’s, of course, the mr.play moustache. When people see our logo, it puts a smile on their face, and they know that – as our motto says – it’s time to play!
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
We always strive to be innovative, especially in the way we measure data and arrive at our conclusions. We have built and developed internal tools that allow us to manage both are white-labels and affiliate relationships in a much better and more efficient way.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the operator industry in 2020 and beyond?
My understanding is that the evolvement of data science using machine-learning algorithms will have a great impact. It will enable casino operators to make accurate predictions on trends and player value. For instance, we’ll be able to predict whether a player will become a regular or even VIP or if he’ll churn, and we’ll get a sense of his future deposit habits. Machine-learning will help enhance the BI dashboard and allow us to rely more on concrete data as opposed to our hunches. Being able to make data-driven decisions will have an important effect on the way we operate.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
Unlike other affiliate programmes that avoid taxed markets, at mr.play Partners we have chosen to make them our focus. For mr.play Casino and our sportsbook mr.play Sport, our core markets are the UK, Ireland, and Germany. With the MGA licence, we also target Canada, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, and more. At the same time, we’re always looking to expand our horizons. For instance, with our Regent Casino brand, we’ve increasingly focused on the Gulf countries and Japan and India as well. The request to enter the GCC market actually came from some of our affiliates, and it’s very important that our partners understand this: If they’re interested in a particular market, we’re here to listen and make it happen. We’ll draw up a strategy and provide them with all the tools they need for that market. Just get in touch with us.
We are working on strengthening our exposure in regulated markets because, as I’ve mentioned, we’re here for the long run. We understand the challenges, which are often great, and we know that others tend to stay away from these markets, but we enjoy these challenges and don’t shy away from competition, either.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business?
As I’ve said, they are our bread and butter – 80% of our traffic comes from regulated markets.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for operators?
It’s part of our plan, and we’ve been testing the Asian markets with our brands. We’ve recently decided to give it a go and introduce Regent Casino in Japan plus the Gulf countries – the latter in order to test the waters in the Middle East region as well.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I wish I’d foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic and had the winning lottery numbers. But to give you a serious answer, I’ve been in the industry for so long, and the only thing I regret is that I didn’t start mr.play earlier.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been a nightmare, and I think I’m not alone in saying this.
On a level more personal and unique to our business, the launch day of the new mr.play website was quite nerve-wracking. We had decided to develop our own website and not use a template from a supplier once the mr.play brand hit the 6-month milestone and had huge loads of traffic. It was a brave but also terrifying move, and I’m glad we pulled it off.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?
To provide entertainment for our new customers. Due to COVID-19, we’re seeing many new players who’ve never played online and are used to land casinos or betting shops. We want to give them the best possible service and ensure that they have a fantastic experience and continue playing with us.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
I expect to see several synergies and mergers, and more countries to take control of regulation and dictate the terms, in order to reap the tax benefits of such a sophisticated industry.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
There are tremendous benefits to these events, and aspects that I greatly enjoy: networking, face-to-face meetings, attaching a face to what’s only been an email signature before, recruiting experienced personnel you meet at a show, receiving real feedback on your services from colleagues around the world. And of course, getting out of our daily routine.
In terms of what can be improved, I think I’d like to see SiGMA a bit better organised. I’ll explain what I mean. Time is probably the most important resource at a conference. We all fly in from different countries to attend, and everyone wants to make the most of their time while there. Better organisation and a clearer distinction between attendees would help us with our networking efforts. To know who’s who before you start talking to someone – what company they represent, whether they’re operators or affiliates, that sort of information should be apparent from the start.
And in general, I’d like to see less waste, less plastic at events. It’d be nice to see an effort to be more environmentally conscious at industry conferences.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I attended the very first show and never missed one since! Eman [the founder of the show] really blew us away with the last one. We were very impressed by both the size of the event and the quality of the meetings we had.
Malta has been the main iGaming hub in the past decade, and SIGMA is the main reason behind this.
Have you picked up any new hobbies lately?
I know a lot of people started baking bread under lockdown.
I’m normally all about work, I live and breathe the industry, so it’s not an easy question for me to answer.
I did start cooking! I haven’t attempted making bread, but I’ve been cooking multiple-course meals. I’m not getting any Michelin stars anytime soon, but my kids aren’t complaining.
I really enjoyed NETFLIX’s Michael Jordan documentary series, ‘The Last Dance’.
And just before COVID-19 got here, I’d picked up handball again, after a three-year hiatus. I’d played pretty much all my life, and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the court as soon as we’re allowed.
About SiGMA Digital Summit:
The SiGMA Manila expo might have got postponed to May 2021 but that won’t stop SiGMA Group from bringing gaming scenes closer together. From various gaming sectors to an outstanding line-up of speakers we’ll be having a look at how the main markets across Europe and Asia will adapt and thrive. SiGMA Digital, in partnership with ICE Asia, AIBC and MGS Entertainment Show will take place on the same week of the original show dates, 8 – 10 June 2020. Register now to be part of this global digital revolution!