In the four years since Lorne Weil became chairman and Brooks Pierce was appointed president and chief operating officer, Inspired Entertainment has become a bigger player in the gaming industry. The company’s diversified product offering has played well during these uncertain times, and the recent growth of distributed gaming in the U.S. has positioned Inspired Entertainment in a great place. Pierce spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros over Zoom in November.
GGB: How has Inspired weathered the Covid-19 lockdowns?
Pierce: Like everyone in the industry, we’ve had to adjust and adapt. For us, there is a mix of our business that is both retail and online. Our retail business, as you might imagine, shut down on a worldwide basis almost overnight in the middle of March. By the middle of May, we started seeing some of our markets coming back and by the middle of June, we were almost at full capacity.
At that same time, our online slots business and our online virtuals business grew dramatically. And now that we’re back on schedule in terms of the retail business, both of the online businesses have maintained most of their increases.
Can you break down what your business consists of? There are several different aspects, correct?
Yes. There are a couple of different channels.
One is our gaming machine business. We are primarily in the slot route business. It’s server-based, and we put our machines into an establishment for a percentage of the play. It’s not primarily a sales market, it’s more of a recurring revenue market. In this distributed gaming business, it’s a large number of locations with a few machines in each location.
Then we have our virtual sports business, which is what Inspired is most known for. This year we’ve done some amazing events virtually like the Triple Crown Showdown, around the time the Kentucky Derby was usually run. And then just recently we did a virtual Melbourne Cup. We had the opportunity to do some very unique virtual sports events when there was a lack of live sports.
And the third leg of the stool is our online slots business, primarily in the U.K. but getting bigger and bigger in the states. The acquisition we made from Novomatic gave us a different distribution channel in the U.K. So in addition to the betting shops, we’re also now in pubs, holiday parks and motorway services, which are like truck stops in the U.S.
So it must have been beneficial to Inspired when real sports shut down. How did that go?
Amazingly well. We didn’t really want to take advantage of that situation but frankly, the players were demanding it. They were very interested in watching sports events, live or virtual. We did a virtual Grand National where something like 5 million people watched it in the U.K.
Our biggest product in the U.K. is football. With the Premier League being shut down, our products have really resonated with the players.
Explain what your relationships are with lotteries.
Many of our biggest customers are large lottery operations—OPAP in Greece, the Pennsylvania Lottery and others. We just went live with Sisal in Italy. Strangely enough, they have a license in Turkey, so you can now sit in your apartment in Istanbul and have virtual American football on your computer. The numbers coming out of Turkey have been astounding.
Tell us about what’s happening in the U.S. for Inspired.
We just had our one-year anniversary in the Illinois distributed gaming market. That’s been great. Virtually every location we’re in, we’ve been the No. 1 or No. 2 performing machine. We’re also working with the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, which is our entry into the Canadian market. We’re also involved in Oregon and West Virginia.
In terms of virtuals, just about all the operators in New Jersey have signed deals with us.