Dean Gourlay has been to a far few gaming exhibitions in his time but for him, nothing compared to last week’s ICE. OKTO’s UK Country Manager reflects on the record-breaking show, on his first six months in the role and explains how the OKTO brand is poised to transform the digital payments experience.
CS: What are your overall impressions of what was a record-breaking edition of ICE? What were the highlights, what stood out for you?
DG: In all of the many years that I’ve been attending gaming industry exhibitions, last week’s edition of ICE was by far the biggest and the most impressive. The OKTO stand was adjacent to one of the hall entrances at ExCeL and as soon as the show opened at 10 am on Tuesday visitors were streaming in. Exhibitions aren’t normally like that: you expect a trickle of people at the start, but this was more like Black Friday – everyone was raring to go and to re-engage with people face-to-face. It was so busy that it was impossible to get off the stand certainly for all three days such was the level of interest in what OKTO was presenting and the sheer numbers attending ICE. To give an indication of the full three action-packed days, there were over 200 meetings held on the stand over the three days with retail and online operators and gaming brands from throughout the world.
CS: From an OKTO perspective how much planning went into ICE, and how did you prepare for it?
DG: To make the most of the ICE experience you have to start the planning process months in advance which is exactly what happened. The entire international team met in Athens to run through the product portfolio, plan our meetings and share insights with colleagues from around the world. All of the international team were present alongside experts from OKTO’s compliance and technical teams. It was the best preparation for an exhibition that I have ever been involved in – hugely professional covering every possible question and eventuality. And this is exactly how OKTO approaches every project whether that be participation in an exhibition, a release of a new product or a launch of our solutions with customers.
CS: OKTO.DIRECT was a big talking point – can you explain how it works and why it’s being described as a game changer?
DG: The term ‘game-changer’ is over-used but that really is the case with OKTO.DIRECT because it delivers cashless payments for retail environments without the need to download an app. All players’ do is scan a QR code using their mobile. The QR code directs them to a web link – a payments gateway, where they follow a few steps to choose their preferred payment method from multiple methods offered to complete the transaction payment. It’s straightforward, simple and frictionless at the same time as meeting all of the safer gambling measures. Operators can easily add OKTO.DIRECT, enabling players to top-up and withdraw using Apple Pay, Debit Card, Instant Bank Transfer or their OKTO wallet. All players have to do is use their mobile and scan a QR code – it’s really that simple.
CS: How big a market is the UK for OKTO.DIRECT and what sectors will benefit most?
DG: OKTO.DIRECT is the result of many thousands of hours of R&D and it’s relevant across international markets of which the UK is right up there in terms of importance. Since news of the launch broke in the lead-up to ICE I’ve had UK operators contacting me to find out more. OKTO.DIRECT appeals to the broadest market of machine players and in general retail gaming, entertainment and leisure which includes Pub, AGC, Bingo and Casinos. It’s ready to go, it’s simple to use, it meets all of the really important safer gambling undertakings that OKTO is well known for, and the industry doesn’t have to wait for any possible legislative changes to work their way through, in other words, it’s a system for the here and now. OKTO.DIRECT will particularly appeal to casual machine players and I think it’s a method of broadening the player base by appealing to the notoriously hard-to-reach millennial demographic.
CS: Does the restricted access to cash which is being reported make the various OKTO solutions including OKTO.DIRECT even more timely?
DG: Totally. Which? the consumer organisation released some statistics which show that banks have axed more than 5,000 sites – that’s 53 per cent of all branches – since 2015 with 662 disappearing last year alone. Fewer and fewer pub-goers are paying with cash across the counter and there’s a real absence of notes and coins. We are noticing this with our OKTO.WALLET which is installed on 3,000 pub machines and where the adoption rate is increasing on a month-by-month basis. OKTO.DIRECT addresses the needs of pubs themselves and most importantly the needs of their customers.
CS: What does the UK market look like for OKTO – what inroads have you made since you joined the brand and what does the future look like?
DG: OKTO has made a big impression on the UK industry. I became Country Manager in September and during the last six months, we’ve grown our market share and entered into a number of exclusive agreements with retailers and brands including Light & Wonder which gives OKTO exposure on all Light & Wonder machines sited in the UK. It’s important to note that OKTO is FCA accredited – this is a key point of differentiation and is really important to businesses of all sizes because you cannot compromise on the safety of funds. My aim is to make OKTO the gold standard for digital payments in the UK.