The SBC Barcelona Summit (19-21 September) will showcase the most dynamic agenda and speaker line-up, examining all disciplines impacting the future of the global gambling sector. Led by SBC Director of Conferences and Relationships Jonathan Whelan, 2023’s Barcelona agenda will provide fresh perspective on the industry’s adjustment to new challenges in light of continued regulatory and macro headwinds…
Of distinction, Whelan outlines that this year’s conference will offer a unique perspective on emerging technologies intertwined with new business strategy ,focusing on their practical applications to deliver real end-to-end utilities for operators and consumers.
SBC: SBC will celebrate the third edition of its Barcelona Summit in September. Why should global gambling stakeholders consider this event as one of the most important and must-attend conferences?
Jonathan Whelan (SBC Director of Conferences and Relationships): I think you’ll meet a new crowd at the event—fresh and, most importantly, diverse.
While SBC events have always been a gathering place for industry leaders, this year’s SBC Summit Barcelona goes a step further by bringing together leaders from every function within the sector.
This inclusivity is crucial because with the current economic climate and inflationary pressures, along with the real application and impact of disruptive technologies, we are operating in such a dynamic environment. The industry faces immense opportunities and significant challenges, so navigating through this landscape requires a collaborative effort from all departments, not just the boardroom.
This is precisely what SBC Summit Barcelona is all about—a summit where leaders from every facet of the industry can put their heads together to address these pressing issues.
As we witness the convergence of various factors and the rapid evolution of our field, being a part of the industry at this moment is truly exciting, and SBC Summit Barcelona sits perfectly at the heart of this action.
SBC: 2023 has been a further disruptive and transformative year for global gambling. As such, how are the industry’s current issues and concerns reflected in the conference agenda of SBC Summit Barcelona?
JW: A lot of the event is about offering a unique perspective on the transformative technology now being applied in the gambling sector. The two-day conference agenda offers extensive content for those interested in exploring this topic further.
What’s particularly exciting is that this year, we have a greater presence of industry professionals discussing the practical application of emerging technology, rather than solely focusing on future developments. However, as usual, we recognise that the landscape is ever-evolving and still include discussions on upcoming trends.
The significance of this issue is evident in the fact that the theme of applying emerging technologies to meet industry needs is not limited to a single stage dedicated to emerging tech, metaverse, and blockchain. It is woven throughout various tracks, including marketing and affiliation, sportsbook and casino product, and compliance matters, among others.
Additionally, when we talk about tech, we do need to understand that more platforms for open communication where attendees can really get into the nuts and bolts of the conversation are needed. This is why, at the end of the day, we have roundtable sessions where delegates can really deep-dive into the practical realities and what all this tech talk means for the day-to-day work.
Overall, the agenda strikes a delicate balance between acknowledging challenges and showcasing how our industry excels in transforming them into opportunities.
So, for example, while we do address the economic operating environment in Europe and the impact of inflationary pressures, we will explore the vast opportunities present in the Americas and other emerging gambling markets, which is also in line with the global focus of this conference.
SBC: As a conference producer what unique industry topics/conflicts have caught your attention when developing the agenda?
JW: Until now, I avoided mentioning it, but we had to start over with the initial agenda draft when the Open AI ‘arms race’ dominated the discourse just a week after we had begun. It has been fascinating to observe its progression, and I’m excited, though not surprised, by the numerous Open AI projects emerging in our industry.
Shifting gears, there is a renewed push for communication and cooperation between operators and regulators, a theme we have incorporated into our engaging sessions prepared for the SBC Summit Barcelona audience. What intrigues me most is how this relates to the structural considerations of gaming businesses. With rapid expansion into new markets, the industry often ends up with a tangled web of questions and technology, making it challenging for operators to provide clear answers to new regulators.
It’s important to note that frequently, the same information has already been requested by another regulator, albeit in a different manner. Thus, navigating this landscape and realising that answering their questions might be easier than we anticipate is key. Effective communication between operators and regulators is crucial, as is knowledge sharing among regulators.
Communication is a significant area that requires attention in our industry, as we tend to silo ourselves. I’ll stop here since I believe I’ve already mentioned the word ‘communication’ five times….
SBC: 2023 sees Artificial Intelligence impact all business sectors. How have you explored and dissected this intriguing challenge for global gambling stakeholders?
JW:I believe it’s important to break down AI into its various components, which is why the agenda will delve into the different technological tools available to us that fall under the umbrella of AI. It is also evident that AI is significantly impacting the affiliate and marketing sectors of the industry. Content creators have felt a certain level of pressure, but this situation also presents a tremendous opportunity to scale high-quality output and enable creatives to engage in diverse projects.
The CRM aspect also warrants attention. I can’t claim to fully grasp how AI will revolutionise this particular aspect of the business, aside from acknowledging that it will and that the ‘big boys’ in the industry are already working on it. I will definitely sit in some of these sessions to gain a better understanding.
However, as mentioned before, the AI question permeates across all tracks, as it is a pervasive theme that affects most of us. The summit offers something for every department to sink their teeth into.
SBC: As tier-1 operators expand into new markets, how is that impacting gambling’s value chain and their existing relationships? What is the industry’s underlining business scenario?
JW: If I could provide a definitive answer to this question, I would probably already be running a tier-1 operator…However, I believe the key lies in recognising that the value chain is evolving as the gambling industry matures and expands into new markets.
The easy and obvious response would be to align with the prevalent rhetoric in the sector and embrace a more mainstream approach by basing your business model on entertainment as markets and regulations progress. However, that only answers part of the question. The real question is how we are behaving differently in these new markets.
It is true that things tend to progress rapidly in new markets (as seen in the example of the United States), but I see many familiar patterns repeating themselves from when Europe first began opening up.
I’d like to hope that as an industry, we can strengthen our focus on player protection and become more savvy in building sustainable and forward-thinking business models. It remains to be seen how this unfolds.
In summary, my honest response is ‘I don’t know.’ However, we do have two days of compelling content and a series of C-suite panels on the main stage, where people who are smarter than me will attempt to unravel this complex question for our delegates.
SBC: Can you provide more information on the Barcelona Summit’s keynote and headline speakers?
JW: Dan Taylor, Flutter’s international markets ‘talisman,’ will deliver the opening keynote on day one. We’ve been trying to get Dan and the Flutter team on the SBC stage for quite some time now (for obvious reasons), so we are all incredibly pleased to have secured Dan as our keynote speaker, especially after discovering how down-to-earth and open he is. Flutter has some significant announcements to share at the summit, which I’m sure will set the industry press aflutter (pardon the pun).
I’m really eager to hear Dan’s insights into the various markets Flutter operates in. I believe he is one of the key figures in this industry who might just have a compelling answer to the previous question.
On the second day, Matthew Ball, the author of the book ‘The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionise Everything,’ and a renowned metaverse trailblazer, will open with his keynote. While we’re extensively discussing Open AI, it’s important not to overlook the new era of Web 3.0. Matt will provide us with the framework on which these new emerging technologies are being built. With his progressive thought process and the technological world entering its next phase, he is the ideal candidate to take us to the balcony and offer a bird’s-eye view of the creation process. Very excited to have him at the summit.
SBC: Finally, as a conference producer what would you like Barcelona Summit delegates to take away from this year’s conference?
JW: I just want people to have numerous “wow” moments when they listen to our speakers. I hope this agenda will prompt attendees to consider the problems and opportunities they face in their day-to-day work from a fresh perspective and inspire them for their next project.
It’s an optimistic agenda that gives a voice to a lot of segments within our industry, so I hope it resonates with each and every attendee.