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Evoke plc chief growth officer Jeffrey Haas believes the gambling industry must further boost its focus on the entertainment factor.

He shared his insights last week during the NEXT Summit Valletta, participating in a panel titled “Navigating Business Challenges & Adapting to Market Changes,” which was moderated by event host Alice Nordin.

In response to Nordin’s question about strategies for maintaining relevance and improving user engagement in markets facing increased competition and saturation, Haas highlighted the significance of fundamental factors such as sales strategy, product promotions, placement, and proposition.

He stressed the need for all of these elements to resonate with consumers.

“I just started in my role about three months ago, and one of the first things I looked at was the competitiveness of our pricing, which wasn’t quite at the point where it should have been,” Haas said.

He added that his team has been working to create greater resonance with consumers “to have them entertained, because ultimately, we are in the entertainment business, and quite often, we haven’t been as entertaining as we need to be,” he said.

Tattoos and brand building

Haas also stressed that “brands really matter. Consumers care about them and sometimes in deeply passionate ways,” he said.

“I spent seven years working for PokerStars. At some of our live events, people would walk up with PokerStars tattoos on their body, which I thought was insane, but it gets you to really appreciate the brand that your team is building,” he told the audience.

He added that newly rebranded Evoke has three “world-class brands: William Hill, 888 and Mr. Green” but stressed that localisation is important to ensure relevance to the group’s diverse customer base.

For instance, he cited the popularity of aviator and crash games in Africa, contrasting the engagement levels with those in Europe.

He explained that evoke plc always ranks the games of its proprietary studio against those of other suppliers “to figure out where optimal margins exist, but also to see where the optimal engagement occurs for our customers.”

Addressing the greatest challenges confronting the business, Haas acknowledged:

“We have a phenomenal business, which is very profitable, but we’re highly leveraged and the majority of free cash flow is being used to service that debt.

“We have to reduce our leverage at the same time as growing in a capital efficient manner, which creates a lot of challenges for us.

“What we’re trying to do is focus and execute well and utilise the phenomenal talent we have in the business to create more fun, compelling products that more customers around the world want to be playing.”

Open to tech acquisitions

Haas also believes that there’s “much room and opportunity for innovation and new ideas, both in respect to top line, bottom line and margin efficiency.”

“We see really interesting businesses emerge in and around AI right now,” Haas said, but added that it’s also about intelligent automation and driving customers to the right product.

“We’re of course building a lot of these things internally, but we’re very happy to buy if there are great products out there,” he concluded.

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