Afifi: “I’m proud of making SiGMA a priority in my life”

In this exclusive interview, Hamza Afifi, Head of Sales at SiGMA, the renowned event creator and content producer, tells how the company saw the opportunity to reshape the future and expand its business model. Moreover, he is enthusiastic about the new technologies that will revolutionize the sector in the coming years.

He thinks the gaming industry needs to work hand in hand and come out with a unified voice, through the set-up of a strong lobby group.
He thinks the gaming industry needs to work hand in hand and come out with a unified voice, through the set-up of a strong lobby group.

What did it mean to you, on a personal and professional level, to leave your country, Morocco, and move to Malta?

Taking the decision to move from my country was a tough one. I needed to come out from my comfort zone. I decided to start a new adventure and challenge myself far from the family support. It was very hard in the beginning, with the study and managing my daily life. Things have been moving on and, with lots of work, I’ve managed to become who I am.

After almost 2 years at SiGMA Group, what is your balance of your work in the company? What do you think about Eman Pulis’ vision, and how do you ponder the growth of SiGMA during this time?

Starting from the bottom at SiGMA allowed me to understand different sides of the business. To have the perfect balance at work, I’ve made from SIGMA a daily lifestyle. I’m proud of making it a priority in my life. Eman’s vision was exceptional. We have learned that by looking after our clients and making sure they get the best customer experience. It will reflect directly on our growth.

With its expansion through different continents, SiGMA is showing the industry its relevance as a World’s Gaming Festival. However, the main event was always based on Malta, in Europe. Few days ago, a new edition took place, but with a remote digital format. As responsible for sales, how has the company been able to adapt to this transition from a face-to-face fair to an online one, and coordinate the participation of exhibitors at SiGMA Europe Virtual Expo?

2020 has been exceptional for us. SiGMA saw the opportunity to reshape the future and expand its business model just from an event company to one of the strongest media groups. Our brand-new website has just launched in six languages and we’re working on the next four, 10 in total. With the launch of all these languages, we opened to new clients in those markets. We saw that there’s a level of trust as the language-barrier has been broken. SiGMA is very lucky to have the support of our clients in these tough times. We manage to come out with the largest virtual Expo of 2020 and turned in our favor all of the odds and predictions.

What is your point of view on the current situation of iGaming in Europe? How should companies take advantage of the increase in online gambling by players during pandemic?

Europe is leading the pack in terms of regulation. However, I do believe there can be over-regulation that may push the industry underground once again. For instance, the UKGC and the Swedish regulator have adopted measures that have stifled growth and are pushing players to gamble with unlicensed operators. I believe the industry needs to work hand in hand, come out with a unified voice, through the set-up of a strong lobby group in order to persuade legislators that overregulation can have a detrimental overall effect.

In your opinion, how will the land-based and the online gaming industry evolve in the next two years, in a post-COVID-19 scenario?

The two verticals (land based and iGaming) have almost been at loggerheads with each other for many years. At SiGMA, we have struggled to bring both under the same roof at any of our networking iGatherings or the SiGMA expo itself. Emerging tech, however, is bringing the two closer together. Many land-based casinos are mitigating their risk with an online gaming offering that mimics the experience a player gets when walking through such casino premises. The use of emerging tech, be it Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, IoT, Quantum Computing, Fintech and Blockchain, is helping both land-based and online gaming to come up with innovative solutions. Blockchain tech, for instance, allows for peer-to-peer sports betting. Blockchain can also ensure that the number generation in many games such as slots is verifiably fair, therefore removing the need for games testers or even the regulator itself! With stronger computing power and Quantum, we will be able to process so much more data in the nearby future and thus offer an immersive experience, customizable to each player. The use of cryptocurrencies is making payments in certain areas more accessible. Such transactions, with proper regulation, can also assist with KYC and AML, given immutable trail. Then, there’s Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Esports betting that is immersive, and so much more. I see betting that is enshrined in the game itself, thus attracting a new generation of gamers to the betting scene. Nobody has cracked this conundrum yet because the betting industry tried to bring Esports enthusiasts to the traditional way of betting. Sky is the limit and I look forward to witness all of these changes. One thing is for sure: there’s never a dull moment in gaming.