Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
Others | Europe | Malta

A distinctive brand in Malta at the heart of the Maltese gaming industry

4 years ago

Mr. Bo Wänghammar, CEO of Mr. Green Ltd.
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Mr. Bo Wänghammar

CEO of Mr. Green Ltd.

The Upper Reach Team interviewed Mr. Bo Wänghammar, CEO of Mr. Green Ltd., and asked him about the Malta’s burgeoning iGaming sector and about the reasons for Malta being the European capital of the iGaming industry. He stressed about the importance of responsible gaming and how the company managed to build a strong brand in very few years.

This is a year of celebrations for Malta, not just of how far you have come in the last 50 years of independence but also many other celebrations. Many countries in the European Union are going through hard times, while Malta is doing very well. I would like to ask you, what is the recipe for success in Malta?

I am interested in history and I know that when the knights of Saint John came here in the fifteen hundreds they were a bit disappointed. The island is not very fertile and it doesn’t have a lot of natural resources. However, it has the best natural port in Europe. So on an island like this you have to be creative and inventive in order to succeed and to flourish. The Maltese are doing just that. I don’t know the details, but I know that their ports and supplies for ships are contributing greatly to boost the economy.

The government is also very business oriented. When I met with Joseph Cuschieri, Executive Chairman of Lotteries and Gaming Authority, for example, I was impressed by the fact that this is an authority, but still is very business focused. The culture of the Maltese is to be smart, to be business oriented and to be creative in order to build an economy on this island. 

Let’s talk about the sector; it is around 12 percent of the Maltese economy, which is a lot. Besides the fiscal incentives, there is a theory that it is a matter of credibility on the island, its institutions and the regulator. Do you agree?

I do. Malta is viewed as a country you can depend on. In any business, uncertainty and risk is a big issue. Malta is viewed as a very stable location for businesses. On top of that, the quality of living is important for gaming companies that want to have a Pan-European online gaming license; there are a few jurisdictions to choose from and, in comparison to the others, Malta offers a quality of life not only for the people working in the business but also for their families. It is also English speaking and has an economy outside of gaming, which means that the opportunity for wives or husbands to get jobs here is going to be good. And infrastructure is also very good.

Regarding Mr. Green, can you please tell us a little about the history of the company and particularly since you came here to Malta? 

The company’s founders actually started one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. But they left and asked themselves if they wanted to start another gaming company and said: “If we do, it has to be something special, something that we are exceptionally proud of”. It was based on the notion of Green Gaming; that is taking responsible gaming to a whole new level. I actually had a good discussion with Joseph Cuschieri, regarding how we can cooperate with the LGA to take responsible gaming to the next level.

So Green Gaming was a cornerstone. The second cornerstone was that this had to be a brand that people could relate to. There are so many gaming companies called BetX or CasinoX. We wanted a creative brand that had life and that people could relate to. The brand, Mr. Green, is a gentleman and reflects our focus on responsible gaming and in our gentlemanly approach to our customers.

And what would you say differentiates Mr. Green from these other brands?

We are a true brand and most other companies are not. We also live our brand. The recent company event focused on that, on how we live our brand, our core values and the promise to the costumers.

You offer, for example, the mobile platform. I would like to ask you about the investment regarding this mobile platform and how it has affected your whole business?

Mobile use for gambling or gaming has increased dramatically. Two to three years ago, only about 3 -4% of all players used a mobile device when playing online casino. We believe that the mobile share will soon be massive. So, the mobile share of services consumption is going to change dramatically and we will continue to invest. In our business plan we have mobile in the forefront of everything we do.

We made a massive in-depth study of who our customers are. We did interviews, home visits, and talked to people and what we see is that people tend to multitask. They are watching TV and they have their iPad on their lap and they might actually play casino during the commercial brake of a TV show. So, the consumption pattern has changed and people multitask, they use their mobiles while they are doing other things.

Regarding this change in the consumption pattern, I would like to ask you about the new brand Garbo, which is related to women playing casino online. Where did this idea come from and how is it working?

We were looking at the market and saw that there were no brands directed at women. Many casino brands are very cold and impersonal. Casino should not be about that. It is about paying for light entertainment. We found that very few sites had the understanding of what women wanted and what kind of environment women wanted to play casino in. So we started Garbo, and it is working really well. Of course, we get men playing there as well, but it is mostly women. We are now tweaking the concept and looking at how to bring it to the international market. 

Which are the main challenges you are facing while operating here in Malta?

I don’t think that operating in Malta is a challenge at all. I think operating in Malta is actually an advantage. I initially thought it would be hard to recruit people to Malta, but found that once candidates visited the island they changed their mindset. This happened several times. I was recruiting key people and they said: “The company sounds great, the position is great and the culture is great but: Malta?” They had never considered living in Malta; most of them had only an approximate knowledge where Malta is. But once actually here, Malta actually becomes a plus in their equation; even for families with small kids.

So the challenge for the industry right now isn’t about Malta at all. The real challenge is that it has been an unregulated market in Europe and now we are quickly moving into a situation where the online casino market is being regulated and taxed in most European markets. Also, the regulatory setup is different in every market. This brings a certain level of complexity, but we are welcoming regulation very much.

The UK is one of the biggest markets for gaming in Europe. Tell us about your relationship as a company with the United Kingdom?

We have applied for a license in the UK and the process is now ongoing. We hope to get a license in the UK and we see the UK as a key market. It is the biggest single online casino market in Europe by far. Within this month we should get a notice from the gaming authority in the UK saying that we have a provisional license. This temporary license is valid until the full licensing process is finalized.

I see you are a young company, with mostly young people working for you. Tell us about your expectations for the near future here in Malta.

We are outgrowing the competition by far, so for young people in a company like this, both Maltese and non-Maltese, the opportunities are fantastic. In fast growing companies, new positions open up and you become experienced very quickly. So we see lots of opportunities opening up. The company is also very open to ideas and new initiatives, leaving lots of room for people to be creative.

You have won many international gaming awards. So you are doing well.

We are doing well. My job is to make sure we get prepared and we execute well in this new environment that we are entering into. All the casinos and online gaming companies have to grow up now and become efficient and increase the efficiency across all their processes.

You have also reduced your dependency from the Nordic region…

Yes, we have. When we started Mr. Green there was always the question of whether this brand would work internationally. It worked in the Nordics, but would it work in continental Europe and the UK? During the past year or so we have really gotten a stamp of approval from all these markets that the Mr. Green brand works.

We usually ask Maltese people what it means to be proud to be Maltese, which is one of the titles we are considering for the report. In your case, you are not Maltese.

But I feel proud about being Maltese. I live here! And both my wife and I are really proud of living in Malta. Before we moved here we got mixed reviews from people that had lived in Malta. But when we came here, it turned out that a lot had changed in this country in five years.

The country is going through a transformation, catering to an international audience and international business so fast that I think people living here five years ago have a totally different picture of Malta.

What would be your final message regarding Mr. Green and the fact that you are operating here in Malta?

I would say for the British audience: Get ready; we are coming to serve you. And I would say Malta is a great place to visit as a tourist, it is a great place for retiring and it is a great place to do business. I think Malta has all the different dimensions that you need, regardless of what your purpose is. My message is: visit Malta! Because, like I said before, when people actually come here, you discover how much the country has to offer!




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