GamTech: the recruitment challenge in gambling

GamTech: the recruitment challenge in gambling

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 Posted by Totally Gaming
Chris North from GamCrowd talks to Rick Brownlow from Geektastic

One of the most interesting panels during the recent GamCrowd TechWeek conference in London in mid-June was our look at the problems the sector faces when it comes to attracting talent. The session featured the thoughts of Robin Beattie from recruitment specialist Mortimer Spinks, Helen Walton from Gamevy and Mitsuya Fujimoto from Asian gaming outfit Ganapati Media and Rick Brownlow, the founder of Geektastic.

Brownlow is an excellent voice for change in the way that any sector goes about hiring the best people to ‘do the tech’. His company works alongside employers and recruiters to help them measure a candidate’s actual coding ability via a set of technical challenges and software skill sets in order to filter final candidates quickly.

“I think the fundamental problem gambling companies face is the same as any other tech company - the lack of supply of quality talent,” he tells GamCrowd after the conference.

 “This is compounded by the fact that the industry has a stigma attached and is heavily regulated, hindering the ability to innovate, both of these factors reduce your available talent pool even further.”

He points out that anyone who has worked for any period of time within the gambling sector knows all too well that the industry tends to be one which is afraid to either move fast or break things (as Facebook famously did). He says the shackles of regulation that necessarily surround the sector are a big part of the problem.

“Regulations handcuff innovation; they handcuff the ability to test and learn, they handcuff tech teams from doing what they do best,” he says.

 “I worked in the industry from 2002 until 2014, from my experience on both sides of the fence (supplier side and operator side) the industry has been too reliant on third-party tech. This is in part driven by regulations. Handling regulations is expensive, being a B2B supplier gives you economies of scale enabling you can shoulder the cost where individual operators can’t.

“If you look at the big players like Ladbrokes, William Hill etc. they all came from bricks-and-mortar environments; they licensed software from turnkey solution providers and have been married ever since.

As he adds waspishly, “how happily I don’t know.”

For Brownlow, the majority of successful online business stories, inside or outside of gambling, have a number of things in common and one of the most important is that their core tech is handled in-house.

“It’s in their DNA, it's the fabric of their business,” he says. “Some, like Amazon, do it so well they’ve even spun out multi-billion dollar businesses harnessing that tech (AWS). Unless you bring tech in-house, your tech team are just plumbers, they become API experts plugging one bit of third-party tech into another. However much you sell the dream and try to get everyone excited with the crazy transaction volumes, you will not attract the best talent.”

This is also about more than window-dressing and simply looking the part. “Also, just because you open an office in Shoreditch with a fancy ping-pong table and free snacks doesn't make you an attractive tech start up. It just means you are now competing against every other 'cool tech start up' for very expensive talent.”

“We surveyed 100s of engineers on our platform, geektastic.com, asking them to rank the most important things that influenced them when looking for their next role and guess what came last on their list – ‘free snacks and ping pong tables’.”

Instead, the most important factor was salary – quite obviously – and then came the nature of the actual tech they would be working with. Next up came people, then flexible work hours and finally the ability to be mentored and genuinely learn on the job.

 “This is what companies need to be focused on if they want to attract, and even more importantly keep, the top talent,” Brownlow concludes.

Totally Gaming says: As Brownlow says, what attracts talent to top start-ups is the freedom to work on new tech, to learn, to experiment – the challenge is how you do this within the constraints the industry has imposed on them through regulation and operation structures.

If you are looking to further understand the opportunities that new technology could bring to your business then you might be interested in GamCrowd and Totally Gaming Academy's Digital Transformation Academy which will take place this September. Click here for more information.

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