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Socially Cool

Dermot Smurfit • Chief Executive Officer, GAN

Socially Cool

Dermot Smurfit leads a company on a mission. Smurfit’s GAN has become a significant player in the U.S. online gambling circuit and, according to Smurfit, has just scratched the surface.

The company with a history of innovation gets set to launch the next one, GAN Sports, in 2022. GAN Sports is a result of the purchase of the innovative European sports betting provider Coolbet.

“The superiority of the experience folded into GAN Sports is already extremely exciting to our existing B2B clients in the U.S., but the visceral truth is that if you bet on, it’s so much better an experience that you recommend it to your friends,” he says. “That’s reflected ultimately in the incredible financial profile of the Coolbet B2C operating division, where you can see that their marketing spend is way smaller than all the other B2C operators, because Coolbet, and what is ultimately GAN Sports, is just a better experience.”

Key features of GAN Sports include an award-winning, tailor-made user experience to maximize player engagement and conversion, along with a sportsbook platform built for speed and flexibility.

Dynamic event creation includes odds boosts, hot events and exclusive wagers, along with a fully customized user interface with regional/local content management.

Smurfit joined GAN as a director in 2003 and became chief executive officer in 2010.

The 46-year-old native of Ireland previously worked in the European investment banking team of SoundView Technology Group. He has operational and management experience in online gaming through his experience with GAN, together with M&A, strategic advisory, and private equity financing experience in the gaming technology industry. Smurfit is a qualified (non-practicing) U.K. lawyer specializing in corporate finance.

His education encompasses an LLB in Law from Exeter University, the Legal Practice Course from the College of Law (U.K.), and the Investment & Corporate Finance advisory qualification from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority.

His vision started when iGaming and sports betting weren’t even considered a possibility in the U.S.

“In 2006, GAN really began to pivot the business into games of chance rather than games of skill,” he recalls. “We launched our first roulette table game in April 2007, and I nearly cried tears of joy when I saw how much money people would generate playing roulette versus a simple skill-based game. You’d make a dollar a day from skill-based gaming; from a roulette game, you’d make roughly $70 a day.”

In 2010, Smurfit realized the company needed a platform.

“The only sustainable role is not skilled games content and generic table games (roulette, blackjack, etc.); you have to be the platform,” he says. “You get a share of every product’s revenue; you get a cut of sports betting revenue, casino revenue, skilled games revenue, poker revenue, everything.”

Four years later, GAN launched simulated gaming with Foxwoods (its first simulated gaming client), and the results were astounding.

“Despite much criticism about the ‘freemium’ model and the fear that nobody would pay for virtual credits, they peaked at about $400,000 per month in gross purchases,” he says. “Simulated gaming was absolutely the right thing at the right time, and since then, it’s proliferated. We’ve got a very vibrant simulated gaming business that allowed us to develop relationships with casinos in various states before regulation came.”

And since it did, the company continues to blossom.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.