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Dermot Smurfit


Dermot Smurfit


Game Account Network (now GAN) entered the U.S. 10 years ago focusing on social casinos and systems. CEO Dermot Smurfit was emphatic when insisting at that time every casino needed to have a social casino site. And he’s been proven right as online sports betting and now iGaming are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Casinos that have experience in the social casino sector have a leg up on their competitors, and GAN has been adding features and platforms over the last few years. Smurfit talked to GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his offices in California in July. VIEW VIDEO PODCAST BELOW.

GGB: You recently went public on the NASDAQ exchange. What does that mean for GAN?

Dermot Smurfit: We’re very happy with the transaction. It probably was the high water mark of corporate reorganization in the 20-odd year history of GAN. Last year we raised $167 million, not just for the IPO, but also to finance the acquisition of CoolBet, an international, very well respected B2C operator in the sports betting field with proprietary sports betting technology they built from scratch.

They developed their platform knowing the weaknesses and problems with all the other sports betting applications and systems available to them. We were asked by our clients to find something better, so we looked to the far side of the planet in a place called Europe where there were different and superior mobile sports betting experiences. We evaluated 16 different candidates—some startups, some very large. The more we learned about CoolBet and got to know the team, the more we liked them.

What makes CoolBet so unique?

CoolBet is a highly social engaging offering with some highly developed end-user features that has Jason Robbins, the CEO of DraftKings, talking about maybe developing something like that in the future. CoolBet has it now. It’s being deployed and is getting results right now. It is creating enormous player retention with the social engagement features that I haven’t seen in any other app. When we launch GAN Sports, rebranded from CoolBet, we’ll lift the bar that much higher and the industry will see how we can give our clients the competitive advantage to let them succeed in the marketplace.

You’ve announced exclusive distribution for Incredible Technologies and Ainsworth. How is that going to work?

We have the leading distribution here in the U.S. for online casino content. In this case, it’s the marriage of respective strengths of each organization. This deal between GAN and two very well respected manufacturers of EGMs will allow them to focus on what they do best, which is to create great content while GAN takes care of the technology and the “plumbing” of getting them online.

One of the weaknesses of online gaming has been the connection between the online casino and the land-based casino. How will GAN help clients bring online players into the land-based casino?

We were the first ones to do this back in 2012 when we worked with Maryland Live! and the Cordish Group to create a social casino that was linked to their loyalty program. From that we learned how to connect the rewards cards to the online gambling accounts. Everything flows from that relationship. Through that we’ve patented the GAN iBridge. We’ve seen more than 160 percent uptick in online gambling revenue from those who linked their rewards card to their online account, and 140 percent for sports betting. We connect those two worlds together in a way that is very sophisticated and ultimately creates value.

For years you’ve been saying that if retail casinos didn’t have a social casino they had to do it. Have you been able to convert those properties you’ve developed social casinos for into the real-money online world?

Yes, because over the years we’ve demonstrated the complexity of the technology. Retail casino executives have a lot of complicated technology inside their buildings and recognize how complex it is. Simulated gaming gives the same executive group the ability to understand how complex it is to operate in the online world. The online world is insanely complicated. We are as much educators and consultants as we are service providers. This is the time of one of the most exciting financial industrial opportunities and we’ve been able to help our clients take advantage of it.

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