Having recently returned from the inaugural GGA Asia, what were your impressions of the event?
To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed. I know that the reputation of the Global Gaming Awards (GGA) in the Americas and Europe is one of prestige, fairness and integrity. However, I was not prepared for how far that reputation had spread. When we shortlist a company, it is for a good reason. Then the company gets presented to the judges and published in our shortlist magazine. Of course, companies celebrate winning, but they also celebrate being shortlisted as one of the top ten in a given category. Overall, the reception was incredible, and Asia will definitely become a permanent event to add to the Americas and Europe.
How has the event evolved over the years?
Despite a global pandemic affecting most of the world, the GGA has gone from strength to strength. Every year the number of companies that self-nominate has increased. For our next event, Las Vegas in October, hundreds of companies nominated themselves and often in multiple categories. I also feel that GGA awards are now truly established as the one award that you want to win. Because of the nature of the judging panel, it is effectively the industry as a whole saying that you are the best in that category. This you can see by the way they celebrate the win: on their website, though press releases and on social media.
How do you feel the synergy connecting the three awards?
When we started the awards almost a decade ago there was only one event in Las Vegas, and it covered every country. However, with so much expansion of the industry in both Europe and with digital online play, a second European event was the obvious next step. After this it became a certainty that we would need to launch an event for the fast changing and exciting Asian region.
However, the fundamentals of the awards have not changed. There is a large number of completely independent judges, all casting a first and second choice vote. The reasons why companies are nominated for their success and achievements over the last 12 months are always published in the shortlist. There is always the same number of companies in each category, and any judges with a conflict of interest in a particular category are excluded from voting. Finally, the whole process – from the online voting system source code through to verifying the votes of specific judges and monitoring – all remain the same.
What is most exciting to you personally about the upcoming GGA Las Vegas Awards in October?
Last year we ran the event at half capacity to ensure not just that we complied with rules but also to ensure people’s safety. This year, the best thing by far will be a room packed with top level executives all hoping they get to make that trip on stage to everyone’s applause.
Coming from GGA Asia, do you feel the gambling industry is still Macau-focused? Have other Asian markets opened up more in recent years?
While Macau is a very important market, it is clear that companies are looking to other countries and the opportunities they present, whether that be Japan, Korea, Cambodia, or the current country on everyone’s lips – the Philippines.
Were you worried about whether there would be a diverse enough range of winners when starting GGA? Have you noticed a change in the spread of winners?
At first it seemed like diversity of winners may be a problem, but from the inaugural year of GGA to now, it has been clear that this is not the case. It seems a bit like a major sporting event, when one player gains momentum and wins several titles in a row. For instance, in tennis you may have an era of dominance from a Federer. But then a Nadal will come along, and after that a Djokovic – likewise there is not a monopoly on the spread of winners at GGA.
Being a judge is like having your finger on the pulse of the industry. For instance, I’ve spoken to former panelists who see interesting, lesser known companies on the ballot that’ll start to generate some buzz. Judges will hear about these and look into them and they might get some votes that year. But then the next year, they can come and sweep the awards. The exposure they gained from that first year, where they made the smaller amount of wins, really gives them momentum going into the next year.