Filippos Antonopoulos our CEO explains why engaging with the digital demographic is so vital and expands on his ambitions and commitments to UK gaming.
What’s your personal background: how and when did you begin your involvement with OKTO?
Apart from a period of time spent in Investment Banking, all of my professional career has been in the global gaming industry working in a variety of roles and in verticals including Lottery, Virtual Sports and Live Racing. My family founded OKTO (Netlink at the time) in 2003, and in 2018, we re-branded and re-invested, so that OKTO could innovatively disrupt cash payments in land-based leisure & gaming, responding to gaming regulators demand in terms of player protection and fulfilling the broader safer gambling philosophy. The OKTO digital wallet is an important contributor to the safer gambling debate helping players, operators, and regulators alike, and specifically a recognition that the digital demographic – which after all is the future of every industry and sector – is seeking the ultimate digitalised customer journey and that technology answers many of the questions posed by regulators
Can you provide some indication of the OKTO business in terms of size, experience and expertise?
OKTO has been processing transactions for 18-years and in terms of value has processed over £1.5bn in payments or at least one transaction per second. Through our platforms, we have worked with famous consumer brands and household names including Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom Group companies, as well as public utilities and the Ministry of Economics (Greece’s HMRS). This type of relationship can only be secured if you deliver the highest levels of performance and only after passing forensic levels of scrutiny covering security and compliance. In terms of headcount, OKTO employs over 100 people living and working in the UK, Spain, Italy, Romania, Greece and Cyprus. With specific reference to gaming, we have a pipeline of 250,000 contractually integrated gaming machines across Europe, and in the UK specifically, we have a market-leading 60 per cent share of machines in pubs having concluded agreements with operators including Regal Gaming and Leisure, Inspired Entertainment and most recently with Bob Rudd. These partnerships accelerated and brought new collaborations with the major players in the UK casino, AGC and bingo sectors that will be announced shortly.
OKTO was established in 2003 – can you provide an overview of the progress made over what is less than two decades and what would you say have been the highlights/breakthrough moments?
In terms of recent landmarks or as you say breakthrough moments, we started the development of the e-Wallet in 2018, in 2019 the OKTO technology was certified by the Central Bank of Cyprus and we became a licensed distributor in the EU and the UK. This year we entered the key markets of the UK, Italy and Spain. Becoming the first company to transfer digital funds in and out of gaming machines in a secure and compliant way is certainly a highlight for the business, for our team and for our partners.
How much emphasis do you place on R&D?
As a technology-driven and technology powered brand, we don’t see R&D just as a division or a department – instead it runs through our culture and is in our DNA. We employ people who are curious and humble, who never stop experimenting and exploring ways in which we can improve the experience such as how to make transactions faster, smoother, more secure, and more frictionless. We work closely with our partners and actively seek contributions and insight from operators who have so much knowledge and passion for land-based gaming. Our starting point is to always ask why not? rather than why – it’s vital that our business is always curious and never complacent.
OKTO technologies are driving payment innovation for big brands in international gaming along with major household names including PlayStation, Xbox and Vodafone– how did these partnerships arise and what does it say about how the OKTO brand is perceived?
In order to be respected and accredited by both institutions and brands, it’s imperative that you put the work in on a daily basis. It’s a combination of values aligned with actions that power all brands, irrespective of their size. It is a process that includes gaining and upholding key certifications and adhering to both cultural compliance and corporate governance.
How important is the UK gaming market to OKTO and which sectors are you targeting?
The UK is a hugely important market with some sub-segments which are among the largest in Europe and we have a sincere ambition to partner with and integrate with gaming operators in the space. The agreements which we already have in place with respected organisations such as Regal Gaming and Leisure, Inspired Entertainment and Bob Rudd is a clear sign of the seriousness with which we are addressing UK gaming. Localisation is absolutely key and by working with our partners we address the needs of UK players with the key aim of making their experience fast, safe, frictionless and enjoyable. OKTO has a unique ability to provide a true omni-channel solution which means that we are covering all touchpoints and aspects of the UK gaming landscape.
How does the experience gained in retail, for example, benefit the gambling sector?
Clearly, there are significant opportunities to learn from the experience gained in other sectors. However, our strategy is to put together teams that are immersed in specific industries. Our gaming division, led by OKTO’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Dorsen is made up of gaming veterans, a factor that means we bring specialist in-depth knowledge delivered by people who are passionate about gaming and its niche demands – which is exactly the way that it should be.
Will you be attending the forthcoming UK-based exhibitions – ACOS, EAG and ICE London? How important are physical expos and face-to-face meetings to the business and what do you want to achieve?
In-person is invaluable to sustaining industries and the businesses that make-up those sectors. OKTO has been quick to attend the key gaming shows that have taken place in Europe over the last six weeks, re-starting following the pandemic break, and will be present on our partners stands at ACOS and will also have a presence at EAG and ICE London in February. At no stage did I believe that digital conferences could be anything other than a temporary replacement for in-person meetings. Live events allow you to develop relationships, explore opportunities, listen, learn, be inspired and develop partnerships even further.