Following a major restructure over the past two years, CDC Gaming Reports spoke to Dylan Slaney, CEO Igaming at Light and Wonder, to find out how the group was approaching the future as a fully focused gaming supplier.
The past two years have been extremely busy for Light & Wonder. The group brought in a new management team that undertook a complete restructuring of the business, and, in early October, Matt Wilson was confirmed as its new CEO.
The corporate restructure saw the group pivot from being a lottery, sports betting, land-based gaming and iCasino games supplier to one that is now solely focused on producing land-based and digital casino products.
And for good measure, and partly as a way of drawing a line under its hitherto broad range of activities, it also changed its name from Scientific Games to Light & Wonder in March.
The streamlining project over that two-year timeframe saw the company sell its lottery business to the Australian private equity group Brookfield Business Partners for $5bn while its sports betting solutions provider OpenBet to IMG Arena’s parent company Endeavor Holdings closed last month and saw Light & Wonder net another $800m.
The transaction proceeds will be used to cut down leverage, with the group announcing that its debt ratio was now at 3.1x EBITDAm, firmly within its target range of 2.5x-3.5x. Third quarter results showed that revenues rose 20% to $640m and EBITDA was up 16% to $235m.
Let there be light
For Dylan Slaney, CEO of iGaming at Light & Wonder, the corporate restructuring of the past two years means the group is “now completely focused on gaming, which can only be a huge long-term benefit to both our partners and their players”.
“Ultimately, it provides us with the increased resources required to focus on product enhancements and build on our strategy to become the world’s leading cross-platform global games company.”
This focus on content is apparent in the group’s recent acquisitions. It acquired Lightning Box in August 2021, live casino provider Authentic Gaming in November, ELK Studios the following month and games studio Playzido in May this year. Slaney says those companies have allowed Light & Wonder “to broaden our overall offering and offer customers fresh and exciting new content”.
Omnichannel has been a theme across online gambling for some time, but, for Slaney, the fact that players are already aware of Light & Wonder’s land-based content is “a huge advantage in building digital player experiences based on the same IP and brands that players already know and love”.
He adds that growth has also come from “digital native content that has been successful in the UK and other European markets” and Lightning Box now records “close to 70% of its gross gaming revenues from the U.S. and Canada”.
Delivering the ultimate omnichannel experience is “our core strategy”, says Slaney. “As an industry, we need to find ways to elevate the overall experience that doesn’t cannibalize either land-based or online revenues, but instead complement each other for a unified player journey.”
Slaney says the digital transformation is already underway and is centered on the player experience. “Cashless payments, digital wallets, jackpots that cross-over between land-based and gaming, content that is shared across multiple channels, these are all player experiences that are already live today and there is more innovation to come in this space.
“The key is to now build on that user journey and make it more seamless. We’re constantly exploring avenues that will take the experience forward, including the development of game-changing products that will enhance our omni-channel offering.”
For online casino to grow, however, regulation will be required in the U.S. Does Slaney feel optimistic about further legalization efforts? “iGaming regulation will continue in the U.S., but we know this will take time. Each state has its own nuances and it’s about finding the right balance that will benefit existing land-based operations, while also facilitating a digital platform that is safe for players to access. As we’ve seen in other U.S. states, regulated markets provide the best opportunity for players to feel comfortable in engaging with our products,” he says.