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  • Writer's pictureKevin Jones

From Operational Challenges to Engineering Solutions: Insights with Matthew Jacobs

Gaming Eminence sat down with Matthew Jacobs, Senior Vice President of Operations and Engineering at White Hat Studios. During our conversation, Matthew delved into the complexities and triumphs of scaling operations in the competitive US market. He discussed the challenges of regulatory compliance, the integration of customer feedback into product development, and the strategic importance of operational excellence. He emphasises the company’s keen focus on customer-centricity and innovation, outlining how these principles have propelled White Hat Studios to success. Additionally, Matthew provides insights into future trends, particularly the role of AI in analytics, signalling exciting developments ahead for the online gaming sector.



GE) Moving from your role as Head of Integrations & Gaming Services at White Hat Gaming to Director, then SVP of Operations and Engineering at White Hat Studios, what were the key challenges in scaling operations for a rapidly expanding portfolio in the US market? How did your previous experiences prepare you for these challenges?


MJ) Transitioning from my role as Head of Integrations & Gaming Services at White Hat Gaming to Director, then SVP of Operations and Engineering at White Hat Studios presented unique challenges, particularly in scaling operations for our rapidly expanding portfolio in the US market. We went from one customer to over 50 operator deployments in 18 months. One of the primary hurdles we encountered was navigating the intricate landscape of regulatory compliance, which is notably stringent in the US compared to other jurisdictions.


Drawing from my extensive operational experience in the US market, I recognised the critical importance of establishing a robust and agile support framework to facilitate the smooth deployment of content for operators. Throughout my career, I have witnessed firsthand the difficulties operators face when grappling with regulatory requirements and the absence of responsive support systems. My previous roles, including working with a leading content aggregator, provided invaluable insights from both supplier and operator perspectives, enabling me to anticipate and address these challenges effectively.


At White Hat Studios, I spearheaded the development of a tailored operational structure centred on customer-centricity and compliance. By prioritising these key areas and leveraging my insights and expertise, we established a framework that not only streamlined operations but also expedited the delivery process. This strategic approach has proven instrumental in our ability to scale operations seamlessly and successfully navigate the complexities of regulatory compliance and speed to market challenges that are prevalent in the US market.


In essence, my prior experiences equipped me with the knowledge and foresight necessary to implement a framework that not only met but exceeded the demands of the rapidly expanding US market. By focusing on operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and regulatory adherence, we have positioned White Hat Studios for sustained success and growth in this dynamic and competitive landscape.


GE) Your role often intersects with product development, especially in ensuring operational efficiency and the integration of customer feedback into the product roadmap. Could you discuss a specific instance where operational insights directly influenced a new product or feature launch?


MJ) My role often involves closely aligning operational efficiency with product development, ensuring that customer feedback is integrated seamlessly into our product roadmap.


Throughout the development process, our focus has been on scaling our offerings to new markets, rather than merely introducing new platform features. We recognised that operational tooling was crucial to maintaining the quality and speed of delivery for our products.


For instance, during the initiation of our US market entry project, our priority was to ensure that reporting and reconciliation systems met stringent regulatory standards. While perhaps not the most glamorous aspect of product development, establishing this framework and implementing the necessary tooling laid the groundwork for several critical outcomes.


Firstly, it enabled swift certifications, allowing us to navigate regulatory processes efficiently and bring our products to market in a timely manner. Secondly, it facilitated prompt responsiveness to both customer and regulator inquiries, enhancing trust and reliability in our services. Lastly, it ensured seamless scalability, allowing us to adapt quickly to evolving regulatory requirements without compromising on operational efficiency.


By prioritising operational excellence in product development, we not only met regulatory standards but also enhanced our overall competitiveness and customer satisfaction. This approach exemplifies how operational insights can directly influence the launch of new products or features, driving success in dynamic and demanding markets.


GE) Given your extensive experience in operations and engineering across different jurisdictions, how do you navigate the complexities of regulatory compliance, particularly when launching new games or entering new markets?


MJ) My immersion in the US market since 2013 has instilled in me a deep understanding of regulatory dynamics and the workings of regulators. Leveraging this knowledge, I've fostered a team culture where compliance is ingrained in every aspect of our operations, from processes to product design, and notably in our QA and delivery teams. This strategic emphasis allows us to seamlessly scale into new markets while adhering to regulatory requirements.


A recent illustration of this approach was our successful launch in Rhode Island, where we managed to deliver over 80 games ahead of schedule, navigating typical regulatory hurdles to meet the March 1st deadline effortlessly.


Game delivery poses its own set of challenges, given the constantly evolving requirements and differing methodologies across jurisdictions. The key lies in building flexibility into our processes and continually collaborating with teams to refine and streamline operations, ensuring adherence to roadmap deadlines.


Moreover, we have a dedicated compliance team equipped with a profound understanding of regulatory requirements and strong relationships with regulators and testing bodies. This proactive approach ensures that we remain ahead of the curve, preempting regulatory changes and effectively addressing compliance needs as they arise.


In essence, our strategy revolves around proactive compliance integration, flexibility in operations, and maintaining robust relationships with regulatory bodies, enabling us to navigate regulatory complexities with agility and success in diverse markets.


GE) From your perspective as SVP of Operations and Engineering, what are the key components of operational excellence in the gaming industry, and how do you measure success in this area?


MJ) From my perspective, operational excellence comprises several key components. Firstly, a highly skilled and motivated team is paramount. At White Hat Studios, we prioritise building a culture of excellence and innovation, which empowers our team to deliver exceptional results consistently.


Secondly, operational efficiency plays a crucial role. This involves optimising processes and workflows to ensure swift and seamless delivery of products and services to our customers. We constantly evaluate and refine our operational procedures to minimise bottlenecks and enhance productivity.


Thirdly, customer satisfaction is a fundamental measure of operational excellence. We prioritise constant engagement with our customers, actively seeking their feedback and incorporating it into our decision-making processes. By aligning our strategies with customer needs and preferences, we ensure that our products and services not only meet but exceed their expectations.


In terms of measuring success in these areas, we look beyond traditional metrics such as revenues and launch speed. While these are important indicators, they only tell part of the story. We gauge our success by the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers, the efficiency of our operations, and the innovative solutions we bring to market.


Ultimately, operational excellence is about continually striving for improvement and innovation, fostering a culture of collaboration and excellence, and consistently delivering value to our customers and stakeholders.


GE) Looking towards the future, what emerging technologies or trends do you believe will most significantly impact operations and engineering in the online gaming sector, and how is White Hat Studios positioning itself to leverage these trends?


MJ) As part of my expanded responsibilities, I now oversee Business BI and Analytics, a crucial aspect of our operations at White Hat Studios. While BI and Analytics are not novel concepts, they remain pivotal tools for informed decision-making and driving customer-centric strategies. This area presents significant growth potential for our business. The data we supply our commercial team already allows what our clients tell us are the best QBRs in the industry, but we know we can enhance our data offering even further.


Looking ahead, one notable trend I foresee impacting the online gaming sector is the integration of AI into Analytics. This emerging technology holds promise in revolutionising how we leverage data insights. By potentially harnessing AI capabilities, we would aim to enhance the precision and effectiveness of our decision-making processes, particularly in game development and market offerings.


One of White Hat Studios' standout features is our Jackpot Royale system - a linked pot progressive system boasting over 30 games contributing to one linked pool. Remarkably, it has awarded over $15 million in prizes to over 1,000 jackpot-winning players. While I'm unable to disclose more due to confidentiality, I assure you, we have something extraordinary on the horizon. Watch this space.


About our contributor

Matthew Jacobs is the Senior Vice President of Operations and Engineering at iGaming provider White Hat Studios. He joined the company in 2021 and led its successful expansion into the US market. Matthew has more than 15 years’ experience across the online casino industry, including senior roles at SG Digital, NYX, Amaya and bwin, and was heavily involved in New Jersey’s launch of online casino in 2013, working directly with the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) on the Amaya platform launch during his tenure.

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