Vermantia CEO George Fotopoulos took time out with SBC to share the company’s latest plans and ambitions. The goal, he said, is to form a powerful business that unlocks multiple new projects alongside a brand-new approach to media rights and broadcasting, as well as UK expansion.
What are your vision and key goals as the new CEO of Vermantia? How will your long experience on the operations side of the company help shape your strategy in the new role?
The vision and mission and consequently the goals for Vermantia go hand-in-hand with what Vermantia is – a key player in content distribution technologies for the retail gaming industry and its further development in that area. This is part of our DNA, an integral part of our offering, having the likes of major operators in Europe. The pinnacle is going to be within 2023 when we will have the spotlight on next-gen solutions for retail that put the power of content distribution and management in the hands of the operator. We want to make sure that we’re fully prepared and provide the personalised experiences our operator partners wish for their players. In one sentence, the goal is to dive deeper and innovate with problem-solving solutions for digitalisation and personalization in the retail environment.
Expansion in existing markets cannot be missed from the equation, while also in the plan are emerging markets like those of LatAm. With the full merger with ARC, there are also numerous product synergies between the two companies as we are moving forward, with plans to form a powerful business that unlocks multiple new projects and a brand-new approach to media rights and broadcasting as well as expand in the UK.
Leading the operations side of Vermantia has equipped me with a deep knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each product vertical, the power of technology built in-house as well as customer relationships. The next day for me with a new role was a challenging one, but having the right people in the key positions in sales, technology and administration, as well as keeping a base of exceptionally satisfied customers, made the transition smooth.
How did being acquired fully by ARC impact Vermantia? What was the driving factor behind the completion of the acquisition and what distinctive strengths can be leveraged in this context?
ARC has been a major shareholder in the Vermantia business for several years and the completion of the acquisition reflects the ARC Group’s commitment to growing the content distribution business, utilising Vermantia’s cutting-edge distribution technology. We have been cooperating with ARC for quite a long time. Back in 2017 we started the distribution of ARC’s premium horse and greyhound racing content as well as the production of the European Racing Channel, a complete offering with top-quality thoroughbred and greyhound races, among other racing channels which are all available via satellite and streaming services of Vermantia.
Being part of a larger group and one that is established and well-known further elevates Vermantia’s leadership through its scale, including a larger global presence, unlocking even more capabilities of our technology like bespoke versions of channels as well as product synergies. I come to double down on what I previously mentioned that this brings a brand-new approach to media rights and broadcasting
What can Vermantia bring to the table when it comes to UK retail betting, an industry that some may argue has required some innovation for some time?
The UK retail betting industry has not yet recovered from the turmoil caused by the changes in the betting legislation, with tougher rules applied on preventing harm leading to a decrease in the number of betting shops. The trend started back in 2019 with restriction of the maximum bet from £100 per spin to £2 and the pandemic shut down. Now with energy prices set to soar, LBOs are facing another big challenge.
Vermantia’s retail solutions respond perfectly to this; blending the latest in technology to increase footfall, engagement, and customer experience with cost and operational efficiencies.
The future of retail gaming in the UK – as it is in all big high-street betting – is about delivering bespoke services to suit each betting shop and its audience. When it comes to content, horse racing and even dog racing are very popular. But of course, there is a wide range of live sports and games as well as virtual games that have been adopted by the audience, depending on the specific location of the shops, so they’re diversified and have rich content in this aspect.
Diversified content is critical, and thanks to our technology, we can ensure that operators can create the right product mix on a per-shop level, being ready for their customers’ expectations and adapting rapidly to any changes. Focused on the needs of operators in retail for digitalisation and personalization in a fast, efficient, and simple way, we designed a cutting-edge solution that can be a real revenue booster for any retail operator in the UK, while keeping it cost-efficient.
Innovative new technology has flooded the retail sector, particularly mobile-first solutions. How have operators reacted?
For operators, it’s all about omnichannel. Delivering a digitised betting experience, especially when it comes to mobile in-store, is a great way of targeting customers both old and new. Those who have capitalised on this early are already reaping the rewards. Bridging the best of offline and online has proven to be an excellent asset for enhancing overall brand awareness and customer loyalty. We expect to see plenty more getting in on the action soon enough.
However, operators should be warned, innovation for innovation’s sake should be handled with care. Omnichannel is not a silver bullet when it comes to retail’s revitalisation, and no matter what alternative you offer, many demographics will already be happy with their preferred gaming, racing or sports content in the channel available in the high-street shop. And this should be fully personalised. Whether that be for online, in-shop or in the digitised middle ground, operators need to get the basics of delivering the customer UX right first. And this is where we are fully committed.
What’s on the horizon for Vermantia over the next 12-18 months?
I believe the retail gaming market has an exciting future. Of course, our offering is not limited to retail, but it has the majority stake. We’re able to provide a one-of-a-kind retail experience thanks to advances in technology and our dedicated team. It is already proving to be a real hit. We believe that blending the speed and efficiency of new distribution technologies with the thrill of top-quality content will always be the key to the future of retail betting.
From bespoke betting channels bundled with action-packed live racing content or any other content operator wish to the next generation of distribution technology – whether that be streaming or broadcasting – operators will be able to attract a far broader range of customers to their shops than ever before. So our commitment for the next months and year is helping them deliver that and more.
When it comes to expansion, we are going to emerge very strongly in Central and South Europe. There is a lot of action going on with operators in these markets, including our home market Greece, where we are looking to leverage our market-leading position. Within the next 12-18 months you can expect to see a lot coming from emerging LatAm markets as well as from the UK.
We are also working on some specific products that are both innovative and we believe we will be the first to introduce them in Europe and that will be a game changer.