Interview with Petra Maria Poola

Interview with Petra Maria Poola

Before we begin the interview, we would very much like to thank Petra Maria Poola for her time. Lenny greatly appreciated talking with you. If you want to reach Petra Maria about anything or everything, hit her up on LinkedIn, or drop her a line at [email protected]

LENNY: Petra, how are you, and what are you up to these days? And what on earth is OneTouch?

Petra: I was recently appointed as Head of Business Development and Operations at the premium mobile-first games studio We are a cutting-edge developer that operates under Coingaming Group’s umbrella. Launched in 2015, OneTouch has developed a suite of industry-leading HTML5 table games that perform flawlessly on all handheld and desktop devices.

Our product range includes the world’s best mobile Baccarat (with a squeeze), Blackjack, Roulette, Hold’em Poker, Andar Bahar, Russian Poker, and Sic Bo. OneTouch’s vision is to lead the industry by providing the best mobile gaming experience in a fast and flexible way which both engages players and adds value for our operator partners.

LENNY: Congrats on your promotion! Always pleased to hear talent getting recognized. Now we know where you are, but where did you start? How did you end up in the online gambling industry of all places?

Petra: My interest in gaming started around seven years ago when I began working with live poker festivals. We hosted events throughout Europe and spending long days in the casino eventually piqued my interest in the industry itself. After moving to Malta three years ago, I started working at SiGMA as a Senior Account Manager.

Working there for two years helped me to understand the markets and get to know the clients. The significant industry experience I received opened up some great opportunities, one of which was my new position at OneTouch. The team here is fantastic, and I hope to develop many new working relationships with operators and platform providers in the igaming industry.

LENNY: And except for the world-class cocktails and the ever-shining sun, what makes you stay at the island (and the industry)? How come you don’t jump ship and join a fancy Silicon Valley startup? Which ich does the industry cure for you?

Petra: iGaming has so many different elements, which makes it a fun and exciting environment in which to work. The closeness of the igaming community in Malta is a fundamental part of why I started. I love working with people, and it’s that closeness that makes networking even more enjoyable.

It is also exciting to work in an industry that is developing at such a fast pace. With so much innovation around, and new markets continuing to evolve at every turn, there are always interesting game providers, operators, and affiliates bursting onto the scene.

– Be bold, ambitious, pursue every opportunity possible!

Petra Maria Poola's advice to women

LENNY: You have managed to accomplish something many dreams of. However, many, and in particular sadly women, seem to leave the industry before they get the keys to the corner office. Do you have any advice to women who are dreaming of becoming a leader in iGaming?

Petra: iGaming has been dominated by men for a long time now. Take a look at the senior management of our industry’s biggest companies, and the problem of gender inequality becomes glaringly apparent. What’s refreshing, though, is the growing number of women who are making a name for themselves in gambling.

Being a woman in our industry still means that you have to work harder than your male counterparts in order to be treated equally. Even though it is true that the iGaming industry and higher positions involve mostly men, I think it is wrong to assume that as a woman it is harder to make it to a leadership position. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, it all comes down to the results and ability to work hard. Enough effort and ambition combined with confidence and knowledge about the industry will pay off and get the results.

Personally, I do not let being a woman define me or the work I do. Having most of the colleagues as men have always motivated me to push myself to work harder towards my goals.

The best advice I can give to my female colleagues in the world of gaming is as follows: be bold, ambitious, pursue every opportunity possible, and build a great network for yourself.

This industry is fast-paced and has so many sides to it that it might seem a lot to grasp all at once, however, I believe that keeping up with the market trends and having a great network is the key to success. As I am based in Malta, which is the so-called iGaming hub, the best way to be successful is to network and create as many working relationships as possible through the events. The industry is vibrant and the community itself is really fun, which makes the work even more entertaining and enjoyable.

COVID-19 closes one door but opens many new virtual one’s

LENNY: As we are all bitterly aware of, we are currently riding out a global pandemic. Many have been redundant, others have been hospitalized, and all of us are experiencing the repercussions of this invisible enemy. How do you foresee COVID-19 will continue to impact the gambling industry over the next year?

Petra: I think that the past few months have shown us the impact on the market. Among the parties most affected were sportsbooks – with many strongly impacted by the postponement and cancellation of live events.

On a positive note, many customers gained an interest in virtual sports and casino games, bringing in revenue from other verticals. It was definitely a hard time for some sports betting companies, which is a shame as that also meant letting go of staff.

Another big impact on the industry has been and will continue to be, the effect on in-person networking. All exhibitions, networking events, and gatherings have been postponed. It’s great to see the majority of events companies moving into virtual conferences, however, the virtual events will not guarantee the same amount of business as live events. Assuming that postponing live events will create a big cap in the networking might be correct, however, most companies do not feel comfortable sending their staff to attend big exhibitions. For obvious reasons, it is a great responsibility for every employer to fly their employees anywhere in the world, which most of them aren’t ready to take. It is great to see that most event organizers have evaluated the risks behind live events and have adjusted with the situation, launching the virtual exhibitions instead.

Adapting to the pandemic may have been a challenge at first for some companies as they were forced to shut down their offices; though, for many, this change has had a positive outcome. With employees working remotely for months, many realized that the productivity levels didn’t drop and some employers may now be rethinking the need for large rented office spaces.

The situation has also led to greater trust between employers and employees. Another benefit is it gives companies the opportunity to explore the options of hiring remote staff from further afield with geography no longer a barrier.

– The Swedish experience should, therefore, serve as a warning

LENNY: Another issue hunting our industry, is as some would call it, overzealous politicians. In an effort to protect problem players from the unregulated market, one ends up in a situation where it’s increasingly hard to stay exactly that; regulated. The latest of a series of antics from the Swedish regulators is a ban on bonuses. What are the consequences of such measures?

Petra: The regulatory restrictions recently introduced by the Swedish government could have an adverse impact on operators’ revenue streams. This will make the market less attractive to investors, and thus have a negative effect on the national economy at a time of financial hardship.

Furthermore, the added barriers are likely to drive both players and companies to the unlicensed market. This will make customers less safe because it’s impossible to ensure responsible gaming in the black market. The Swedish experience should, therefore, serve as a warning to any other markets that are considering even tougher regulations on online casino products.

LENNY: As they say; do you know why Jesus wasn’t born in Sweden? They couldn’t find three wise men. *Awkward silence* But on a more serious note; is there anything good about regulation? Does it really have any benefits?

Petra: I welcome the advent of regulation that can be observed in a growing number of emerging markets. Although complying with licensing requirements and strict regulations can be challenging, more and more jurisdictions are now starting to regulate gambling and that is a good thing.

When executed correctly, regulation boosts economic growth, creates jobs, and drastically improves player protection. Bettors are given a wider selection of content to choose from, and the customer experience is therefore elevated.

LENNY: Good points… Who will be the winners from the industry side then?

Petra: Operators who wish to drive market share within a safe commercial environment will self-evidently be among the beneficiaries of the new regulation. To succeed, though, it will be crucial to evolve with the ever-changing regulatory circumstances.

In order to do this, operators and suppliers will need to ensure that their content can be adapted to the patchwork of different legal requirements that exist across regulated markets. That means that multi-jurisdiction gaming platforms will play an important role, so platform providers are likely to prove pivotal going forward.

– The affiliate sector still plays a salient role in our industry

LENNY: Many (editor: including Lenny himself) worry that with regulation comes more opportunities to market your brand and a higher cost of administering affiliates. Will affiliates continue to be an important part of the marketing process in the next decade?

Petra: I welcome the advent of regulation that can be observed in a growing number of emerging markets. Although complying with licensing requirements and strict regulations can be challenging, more and more jurisdictions are now starting to regulate gambling and that is a good thing.

When executed correctly, regulation boosts economic growth, creates jobs, and drastically improves player protection. Bettors are given a wider selection of content to choose from, and the customer experience is therefore elevated.

Regulation is just as important for the affiliate sector as it is for the rest of our industry. If they need to obtain a license, then affiliates are more likely to develop an understanding of the rules that exist within a particular jurisdiction.

At present, most affiliates do not disclose their partnerships, which makes it a lot more difficult for regulators to cultivate a stable, safe, and fair commercial environment. That said the affiliate sector still plays a salient role in our industry, and its importance is unlikely to decline in the near future.

The operator-affiliate relationship is highly beneficial to both sides, allowing the former to minimize marketing and customer acquisition expenditures while driving brand awareness.

– India was the fastest-growing jurisdiction in 2019

LENNY: The talk of the town is new markets. What are the hottest new markets right now from where you sit?

Petra: The one to watch at the moment is India (editor: SuperLenny recently launch SuperLenny India – head over and check it out), with a number of the African and Latin American markets also looking promising. Last year, India was the fastest-growing jurisdiction and, although it is not yet fully regulated, it will certainly prove important in the next decade.

Brazil is another nation presenting burgeoning long-term commercial prospects for operators and suppliers alike. Having recently embarked on the path to regulation, it too is one to watch. OneTouch has extended its reach across the far-Eastern markets, as well as obtaining our MGA license late last year. With new operator deals on the cards in the Latin American, African and European markets, along with certification for Spain and Sweden, we’re set for a busy period.

Spill the beans!

LENNY: Ok, enough work talk. Let’s talk shop. What’s your biggest win?

Petra: I have always enjoyed live casinos and poker tournaments more than online versions, so most of my winnings have always come from land-based casinos. The biggest win I ever got was on a roulette table where one of my lucky numbers hit.

LENNY: Nice. And if you won the Mega Moolah Mega Jackpot, what would you do?

Petra: If I won the Mega Moolah Jackpot, the first thing I’d do is give a bit amount of it to my family.  They’ve been fantastic, so it would be amazing to give back.

Secondly, I would love to donate a part of it to the less fortunate and animal shelters as well as find a charity that protects the health, diversity, and sustainability of the natural world.

Thirdly, I’d most probably leave Malta and take a year off to see the parts of the world I haven’t had a chance to discover yet. I love it here and have made great friends, but there are so many parts of the world I have yet to see – winning the lottery would be the perfect excuse.

LENNY: Thank you so much Petra Maria Poola for your time and willingness to share kickass advice to women in gaming, as well as some very interesting thoughts on the state of gaming, much appreciated. And to our dear readers; did you like this interview? Who should we interview next? Send us tips at [email protected]!