With Ontario’s iGaming market going live, a lot of development is expected in the newly regulated market. For iGaming merchants and their affiliates, making connections in a new iGaming market is critical. In this episode, we will discuss how expos such as SiGMA support the business development of iGaming merchants through networking, education, and awards.
The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce, is a podcast that will analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations.
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Varad Mehta: Hello everyone. And welcome to the sixth episode of The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And in this podcast, we analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations. In today’s episode, we will discuss how iGaming expos such as SiGMA support the business development of iGaming merchants through networking, education, and awards with Eman Pulis, the Founder and CEO of the SiGMA Group. So, without further ado, let’s get the show rolling. So, Eman, I usually begin the podcast with a few simple, fun questions. So I’m going to ask you three quick questions. You can answer them however you like. So the first question is, you are a scuba diver, if I’m not mistaken.
Eman Pulis: I see you have stalked my LinkedIn.
VM: Yes, I have. So, first of all, that is really, really cool. But my question would be, or what has been your most memorable diving experience?
EP: That’s a great question. It has to be a night dive on a shipwreck in the beautiful island of Malta in the Mediterranean sea. That was a really cool experience, where you have to go by torch and you only have certain visibility. It’s a great bonding experience between friends.
VM: That is amazing. At night? That’s pretty cool.
EP: Night dive. Yeah. And night dive and shipwreck. So you combine those two, you have a winning formula of thrill. You do it on Halloween, it’s even better.
VM: Like a treasure hunt. Sounds amazing. My second question would be, if you could create a cryptocurrency based on your favourite tennis player, what would the name of that coin be?
EP: Great question. Look, the only tennis I watched was when I was a young kid. So it will probably have to be something like Agassi Coin.
VM: Okay, I like it. And lastly, you bring so many celebrities and innovative leaders to these SiGMA events. So who are maybe your top three celebrities that you would absolutely love to get and be a part of SiGMA?
EP: Yeah, CZ has done tremendously good for the industry. He behaves exceptionally well on social media. I like his style, and I would like to see more of him. I’m more than happy to give him my platform where he can reach out to our audience. I love Anthony Pompliano. He’s on Twitter as well. And the guy I have never seen someone so persistent in his message. He’s exceptionally well in advocating for Bitcoin specifically. Third, he should get more credit. To me, he’s a celebrity. And I’m talking about Professor Scott Stornetta. This professor, so when Satoshi Nakamoto wrote the famous Bitcoin white paper, if you look at the back of this Bitcoin white paper, you see eight references to this paper. Three of those references are by Professor Scott Stornetta. So if you think about it, it’s mind blowing, right? Satoshi Nakamoto, the person who he referenced the most to write the famous Bitcoin whitepaper was Professor Scott Stornetta. I’ve had him before at one of my shows and he’s probably arguably the most eloquent, knowledgeable professor I’ve ever seen on stage.
VM: All right, so I guess we’ll shift into the topic that we’re here for today. So let’s just begin with you telling us a little bit about yourself and how you sort of started working with the iGaming industry.
EP: I was never really in iGaming. I was always an events guy, so I used to organize parties and concerts and I was pretty good at it. But what happened is the gaming industry was flourishing really well in Malta. And those were the people who spend the most money on my tables at my parties. So I had this little eureka moment where I said, I’m not enjoying it anymore, right? Why am I organizing parties for 10,000 people when I can focus on organizing a conference for these 200 people who come to my party? That’s the iGaming crowd that are paying the most money. Anyway, that’s how it started. One thing leads to the other. Before you know it, 2014, I had the first conference for iGaming with 1000 people.
VM: Wow. And was that SiGMA? How did SiGMA start in that process?
EP: Yeah, that was SiGMA 2014. It was the first conference and I had 1000 people. It was mostly a national show. Right? So anyone in gaming in Malta decided to tag along. But slowly, slowly, the show grew. So we have 1000 people year 1. 2000 people, 4000, 8000, 12,000. We’re expecting close to 25,000 people this November in Malta. So the show just kept growing and growing without signs of slowing down.
VM: That’s amazing. And at that time, what was the main goal for SiGMA? As you mentioned that you were seeing this specific group of people who are maybe linked to the gaming industry. But for you, what was the main goal of starting something big like SiGMA?
EP: Well, look, events are in my DNA, right? And I felt Malta at the time was the center of iGaming in Europe. Most gaming companies were based in Malta because of the regulation. But I felt there were conferences all around Europe. In London, in Barcelona, in Italy, in Amsterdam, in Germany, in Berlin. But Malta, despite it being the hub for gaming, did not have a conference to celebrate this once a year. So to me it was obvious, right? But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So I had to do the show because no one did. And it took off like wildfire. My theory was proven right. And the gaming industry was very happy to meet up in Malta at least once a year. Malta was very happy to have this spotlight on it, showcasing iGaming in Malta once a year. And I think that was the not so secret source to the success of SiGMA.
VM: Yeah, I guess it was probably a necessity at that time when something like this was flourishing. Right. Would that be safe to say?
EP: Oh, absolutely.
VM: And this year, I have to say I attended SiGMA Americas in Toronto. It was brilliant. It was amazing. It was so fun to be there. I got to see Fat Joe being such a big fan, my father being such a big fan. It was just so amazing to see and walk around and have so many amazing exhibits and stuff like that happen. But why was it important to have SiGMA Americas be held in Toronto this year?
EP: Yeah, great observation there. So the show SiGMA focuses on online gambling, internet gambling in regulated markets. We have another conference called AIBC, which is a conference that focuses on blockchain frontier technology, emerging tech, fintech, DeFI, GameFI, NFTs and so on. We organize these two shows in the same venue, in the same city on the same date, because we believe the cross pollination between the two is unlike anything else. So I’ll give you an example. Someone like CZ, which we mentioned before, or someone like Anthony Pompliano or someone like Professor Scott Stornetta, they would come to our frontier tech show. They would never go to a digital gambling show. But because you have these two audiences under the same roof now, they end up rubbing shoulders with each other, and the opportunities for business are really really good. So we organize these two shows together. Why did we choose Toronto last June? It’s because Ontario finally decided to regulate online gambling. It became legal with an Ontario license to operate an online casino or an online sports betting site in half of Canada. And we wanted to be there to celebrate this momentous victory for the iGaming industry with a conference to bring all the stakeholders together in Toronto.
VM: Definitely. And can you maybe tell us about some of the work that you and the SiGMA team had been doing prior to putting the show together in Canada? Because as you said that you mixed one tech and one gaming thing together and it just worked perfectly. But even to do that, it takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of planning. So can you tell us about the work that you had been doing prior to bringing the show to Toronto?
EP: Well, we’ve been doing the show for eight years now. Right. So it has built a reputation of being quite a matchmaker. So we had delegates flying to Toronto from all over the world, from Europe, from Africa, from the east. We have a lot of substantial Asian community as well. And interest in North American markets is huge. It’s very likely going to become the number one iGaming market worldwide. It will overtake Europe in the coming years, which is a very mature market because it never was illegal to gamble in Europe. There was always some form of regulation. But we’re anticipating huge M&A activity. And the appetite for North Americancompanies to acquire mature companies out of Europe is going to be phenomenal in the coming years. And we want to be there when this happens, right.
VM: For sure. And you mentioned that so many leaders, so many people from Europe, from all over the world were basically in Canada at that point. What were some observations you made at that time about, I guess you just mentioned it in such a great way that it seems like that the North American space is going to slowly take over or become partners with the European side of things. But what were some thoughts you heard from leaders or some observations you noticed during that specific event in Toronto?
EP: Yeah, well, it’s always interesting to observe the role that tribes in the US and First Nations in Canada play in online gambling and how the intersection between the new regulations and the way these folks operate will mature. So it’s always interesting to observe what’s going on, on that front. It’s also very interesting to see what blockchain technology can bring to the table for the online gambling industry. Right. It was very encouraging to see the regulators engage in very interesting panel discussions that advocate for, not against, the use of such technology in online gambling. So my prediction is the future is bright for the industry. Governments worldwide, not just in Ontario, but governments worldwide are realizing that their choice is not between having online gambling or eliminating online gambling. It’s impossible to eliminate online gambling from the World Wide Web. Right. So whether you ban it or whether you’re for it, you’re always going to have people finding ways to gamble online. The governments are realizing this and are realizing that their choices between keeping it on the black market and regulating it, protecting the consumer, and governments are going for this option. So a lot more states worldwide are regulating the space and they are seeing healthy tax returns which can go back to the community. And most importantly, you have a regulator now that is looking at the best interest of the consumer. You have a regulator that’s making sure that consumers do not fall victims of addictive gambling. Right. So we’re excited to be in the space. We’re excited to be in jurisdictions where governments are looking at regulated gambling, and I believe state by state, country by country, eventually the entire world, or hopefully the entire world, will embrace some form of online gambling.
VM: Definitely. And I think that’s a great point. I think it’s growing worldwide and it doesn’t seem like that train is going to stop at this moment, for sure. On a side note, are there plans to takeSiGMA back to Canada anytime soon? Because we really loved it and we would like to see the SiGMA team back again.
EP: Man, I love Canada. Any excuse for me to be back, not only with the conference, but we’ll also be back on a regular basis by hosting a number of networking dinners. We do it a couple of times a year, and I look forward to host more and more of these networking dinners in and outside of Ontario.
VM: Definitely. Just a last few questions Eman. I really wanted to know why are expos such as the ones that SiGMA holds, why are they so crucial for the development of iGaming merchants and their affiliates and really putting or like getting everyone together to maybe create more technology or better regulations? Why are expos such as SiGMA really crucial?
EP: Well, look, business is always done between people. It’s not done between companies. Right. Some naysayers believe that with COVID, we are eliminating the need for people to travel, to do business with each other. That a simple zoom call will suffice for people to learn from and do business with each other. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Right. Let me give you an analogy. It’s like listening to Coldplay on Spotify or attending a sold out concert in a massive arena. The same song, but very different outcome. Right. You’re not going to get the goosebumps you get in a concert just by listening to a Spotify Coldplay single. And it’s the same with conferences. Business is done between people, not between companies. And the role of conferences will remain fundamental for any vertical, not just iGaming, to keep flourishing. There’s one added benefit in the sense that the iGaming industry in Ontario is still flourishing. So the role of conferences when a vertical hasn’t matured, when a vertical is still in its infancy, we can play an even more significant role in shaping the way such a vertical will advance. Right. It’s like when a tree is still small, you can fix or you can help shape the direction it grows. Once the tree is mature, you can still help it grow, but the impact of the conference is more limited. Right. So we’re excited to have a conference in Ontario in the initial years that online gambling took off.
VM: For sure. And lastly, I would just love to ask what’s next for SiGMA and the SiGMA team? Are you working on new events? Anything interesting that you want to talk about that is associated with SiGMA?
EP: Absolutely. We have six main conferences per year, so we’re looking at six conferences per year. This year, we have one left, our largest show, which attracts 25,000 delegates to Malta, and it’s happening between the 15th and the 17th of November, it’s on for three full days. So I look forward to welcome you with arms wide open in Malta. But come 2023, we have six conferences that will cover the entire world. The world of gaming is represented in these six shows. January, we’re going to Kenya. March, we’re going to Dubai. June we’re going to Toronto. September to Limassol. And November to Malta. And I’m leaving one out. Yes, Manila. I’m leaving Manila out in June. So there are six big conferences attracting delegates from all over the world.
VM: Definitely. And I hope we can meet in Toronto. Once again, I really appreciate your time Eman. This has been such a fantastic conversation, getting to know more about SiGMA, about you, and the role that events such as SiGMA play in the development of such an important industry that we’re all associated with. So thank you so much for your time. And yes, I hope whoever listens to this takes a lot of information from it. Thank you so much.
EP: Thanks for having me.
VM: In new and even existing iGaming markets, industry expos such as SiGMA playan important role in supporting iGaming operators for partnerships with a variety of industries. I want to thank Eman Pulis, the Founder and CEO of the SiGMA Group, for joining us today and providing his expertise. If you have any questions for us or Eman, please do comment down below. If you enjoyed today’s podcast then do remember to, like, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you for tuning in to The iGaming Show presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And as always, keep gaming.