Aspire Global and the stateside opportunities18th October 2022 6:57 am GMT
NeoGames’ acquisition of Aspire Global has created a one-stop shop for iGaming, lottery and sports betting products. Aspire Global US managing director Quincy Raven explains how the deal has opened up opportunities for him across North America
It’s fair to say that Quincy Raven’s day-today job has changed quite a bit since NeoGames completed its acquisition of Aspire Global, since joining the executive team in August 2021 to ignite the supplier’s expansion into North America.
Aspire Global, founded in 2005, has a strong history as a B2C operator and B2B supplier. Over the past few years, in pursuit of more of the iGaming value chain as a premier supplier, it acquired Pariplay for content and aggregation, BtoBet for sports, took a stake in End2End for bingo, and sold the remaining B2C brands to US-based Esports Technologies for €65m.
The US was already a key focus for the company after entering New Jersey and West Virginia with its subsidiary Pariplay, which is now also licensed in Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as Ontario, Canada. Aspire stepped it up a level and brought in experienced B2B gaming executive Quincy Raven to spearhead its US expansion.
Prior to joining Aspire, Raven held leadership positions at leading suppliers Scientific Games and Aristocrat, as well as Global Cash Access (now Everi) and Blackhawk Network.
“It’s all about the convergence of the landbased player to online,” explains Raven. “What’s different in the US market is that our gaming industry was built first with casinos then to integrated resorts. Whereas in other markets such as the UK, across Europe and other jurisdictions, online tends to lead the brand and is very well known by the players, and for the number of online brands out there, there are so few land-based brands. The exact opposite is true here in America.
“My approach is always start with the property, their brand coupled with player trends and preferences, to determine what we can do to build on the brand and grow the player base.”
Within six months of Raven joining, NeoGames made a €420m offer to acquire Aspire Global.
“My whole world just changed. Let’s just jump back to pre-acquisition, what was my focus? What was I doing?” Raven asks rhetorically. “We took a state-by-state approach, working with operators, talking to regulators, detailing the roadmap, timelines, etc… Well, case-by-case that takes time.”
“Now, I walk into those same meetings, and we don’t spend much time talking about licensing and compliance… it’s all about platform capabilities, managed services best practices, and the path to profitability online”
The NeoGames connection
NeoGames was initially spun out of Aspire Global seven years ago and the spin-off returned to acquire a much large business in a bid to establish a one-stop shop for lottery, sports betting and iGaming. The deal was announced in January. It completed just five months later.
“We are buying a very, very different company to the one we left in 2014,” NeoGames CEO Moti Malul told Gaming Intelligence following completion of the acquisition in June. “When we spun out of Aspire, almost 65 per cent of its revenues came from B2C and it had no sports betting and no content aggregation. Now, we are buying a company that is purely B2B and has bought two very nice and important assets in the last three years.”
A number of Aspire’s senior management team were at NeoGames all those years ago. Adrian Bailey was responsible for creating Aspire’s B2C group within NeoGames. A spell at Caesars would follow before becoming managing director at Pariplay and being acquired by Aspire.
Dima Reiderman was CRM manager at NeoGames before leaving with the Aspire team and is now COO of the company’s sports betting division Btobet. Aspire CEO Tsachi Maimon, who continues to lead Aspire as NeoGames’ head of online gaming, was part of the NeoGames management team prior to the spin off.
On a technology level, the companies are very closely aligned. NeoGames helped Aspire Global to develop its player account management system and continues to provide Aspire with certain development, maintenance and support services. This close relationship has been maintained, meaning that many of the technology synergies of the merger have already been achieved.
In Alberta, NeoGames signed a deal with Pariplay to be its content aggregator long before it was bought by Aspire. The pair are now live in Canada on the platform that NeoGames uses throughout the world. The content from NeoGames’ studio is also available for Pariplay’s customers in the UK and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Pariplay has integrated Btobet so that it can offer clients a sportsbook through the aggregation platform.
NeoGames’ player account management (PAM) system has been underpinning Caesars’ sports betting and iGaming operations for several years now, a relationship that began when William Hill acquired nearly 30 per cent of NeoGames back in 2015. Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (Paspa) in 2018, Hills turned to NeoGames to provide the PAM for its US operations, now owned by Caesars.
William Hill opting for NeoGames over solutions available from its rivals was something of a coup at the time. To be retained by Caesars following the acquisition represented a strong vote of confidence in both the NeoGames platform and team.
Pariplay has already established a significant regulated presence in the US and Canada with clients such as BetMGM and Golden Nugget, but NeoGames’ presence gives it an enhanced spearhead into North America.
“With the mother company certified across the US, Aspire just has to get its products certified,” Malul told Gaming Intelligence. “It makes them relevant overnight.”
At the time of closing the NeoGames transaction, NeoGames held licenses and was operational across multiple states and provinces in North America.
“NeoGames and Aspire coming back together as a company, the cultural fit was pretty obvious,” says Raven. “The management teams, they know each other having worked together in years past, and now what we’ve got here in North America is NeoGames live across 20+ jurisdictions.”
Serving both iLottery and iGaming, NeoGames’ NeoSphere PAM and managed services power online operators across the US and Canada.
“PlayAlberta is NeoGames,” continues Raven. “We run that. NeoSphere is the PAM that ties together player account management, payments, responsible gaming, and content aggregation with Pariplay. In Michigan we have a large operations center in Lansing, where we have product experts and analysts to support the Michigan iLottery with managed services, CRM, and dedicated customer support. Our teams are side-by-side with the Michigan teams daily focused on the customer success.
“That same service that we give at a state government level, we’re able to provide to tribal and commercial operators as well. With iGaming and sports operators, we can be that quality turnkey solution, as the B2B2C service provider for the operator. We can also showcase the fact that our multi-tenet platform is multi-jurisdictional system by design.”
Addressing the Tribal space
Raven says that the company is thinking about the whole value chain of what the ‘new’ NeoGames and Aspire Global have, covering all the categories that are required to run a successful iGaming and sports operation.
“The states and provinces, they’re trusting us as partners in their operations,” he says. “When you look at Michigan or Alberta or New Hampshire, there is a trust between the player and iLottery to deliver a safe, secure form of entertainment. NeoGames has built an incredible reputation for products, services, and delivering results.
“The fact that we are trusted by state and provincial governments, as well as some of the largest operators in the world, I think really tells that story.
“When we look at long-term success, we want to make sure that we are focussed on the right type of partner relationship. Our intention is not to shift focus from one partner to another, rather it’s to build long-term, sustainable growth,” says Raven.
“We do have a keen focus on tribal operators, we are absolutely focussed on tribes. The tribal market is under served. The tribes have access to the same technologies that the corporates do, but it’s how you implement and use that technology, and who you have as a partner to help you adapt to new and evolving player preferences and best practices.”
Raven points out that some of the tribes that started out as bingo halls on sovereign land have now transformed into world class resorts.
“They are massive,” he says. “I live in Las Vegas. I visit tribal properties across the country, and their integrated resorts are often larger in floor space by far and have expansive offerings. There are casinos in Oklahoma as an example that are larger than Vegas casinos.
People don’t think to themselves, Oklahoma – larger than Las Vegas – but it is. When I go to California, there are tribal casinos that are larger, far larger than what you see on the Strip with access to dense population centers.
“The tribes know how to address the players in their databases. They know who’s out there in their 100-mile radius around the casinos. They know how to bring them on-property, now they can take the same brand loyalty and translate that online. There is still a lot of room for improvement in our rapidly expanding industry, and we see ourselves as the right fit.
“It’s an answer to a need of quality and partnership, and we serve that.”
NeoGames’ reunification with Aspire Global has brought everything back under one umbrella. Now it’s time to deliver.