Exclusive interview: InterGame and Martin Storm
Exclusive interview between InterGame Magazine and Martin Storm, Executive Chairman and CEO of BMM Testlabs International and BMM Innovation Group “BIG”
InterGame: Martin, thanks for joining us in 2023, which we hope is another exciting year for gaming worldwide. What casino gaming industry trends can we expect to continue into the new year?
Storm: Thanks, it’s always a pleasure. 2023 should be a year of growth for all gaming industry participants. The industry has seen land-based gaming records in the United States and online gaming records in Europe over the last two years. Africa and South America have been much stronger, as has Australia and Asia. On the land-based side, not all the spending has trickled down to all participants, but it is beginning. We are also seeing new market opportunities beckon in Brazil and Japan.
InterGame: How did the pandemic affect BMM as a business and as a team of people?
Storm: The pandemic was and still is a human, social, and economic challenge. Hopefully now, with vaccinations, targeted boosters, and appropriate social behaviors, we are learning to live with it more effectively. At BMM, these were important factors in how we managed, structured, and built our business between 2020 and 2022. Luckily, with great thanks to our staff and leadership, we got through it safely as a team.
From the business perspective, the largest impact has been the churn of staff throughout the gaming industry. There was also a shortage of available resources, and the resultant increase in wages in local markets due to unmet demand. Thankfully, BMM has managed its churn well and we continue to grow, having hired about 50% more staff since January 2020. In 2022 BMM saw its sixth consecutive year of record revenue and EBITDA. BMM continues to be a leading force in the global gaming testing and certification market.
InterGame: From the laboratory perspective, what is happening in the global gaming product segments?
Storm: There has not been a great deal of innovation in the land-based games product segment since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. However, we are seeing a lot of interesting hardware and more complex math in games, particularly from the major gaming equipment manufacturers. Given our growth, BMM has invested significantly in our mathematical engineering groups around the world. In line with that, we have invested heavily in software tools that advance our math testing and certification.
In addition to innovation, manufacturers have placed a greater focus on land-based markets outside the traditional Class III and Class II offerings. Historical Horse Racing is a great example of a product segment that has grown over the past few years from just one or two suppliers to almost every major manufacturer supplying their products to this expanding market segment.
In the online space we saw massive growth between 2018 and 2021, which moderated somewhat in 2022, although BMM’s growth rates were still high. Throughout that period, BMM has grown from the number six to the number two supplier of online testing and certification services in a marketplace more fragmented for gaming laboratory suppliers (particularly in Europe). The unique pieces in online product certification are the security testing and audits. BMM has grown significantly in this segment and has since responded by establishing new dedicated teams and expanding the existing teams around the world.
The North American market has seen its most significant expansion primarily in the sports wagering segment, and, to a lesser extent, the online casino segment. Because of this growth we have seen some of the most well-established suppliers from overseas and many new market entrants take advantage of this opportunity. BMM has had the pleasure of helping these suppliers navigate the myriad of new regulatory frameworks to successfully launch their products in North America. In 2023 we are already seeing proposed legislation to expand sports wagering and online casino gaming to even more markets throughout the United States.
InterGame: BMM Testlabs opened two new laboratories in 2022. How were BMM Slovenia and BMM India established?
Storm: Yes, we have formally opened our Slovenia and India testlabs. BMM Slovenia came about because of the demise of SIQ in gaming. The top half of their gaming laboratory employees came to BMM, including their previous senior management team and senior testers. This opportunity was very exciting for us because people we have admired for a long time, with over 20 years of gaming product testing and certification expertise and experience, joined our company to build a new central European presence. I believe GLI acquired the residual SIQ staff. In India, BMM has been establishing green shoots since late 2021 and now has a team growing so quickly that we are looking for a second laboratory location in the region. We are already busy undertaking work for key parts of our business around the world. We hope to grow this team to some 500 engineers over the next two to three years. Astonishingly, we had over 50 media outlets cover the launch of BMM India in late 2022. The addition of our Slovenia and India testlabs have grown our global coverage to fifteen established gaming businesses.
InterGame: In addition to your two new laboratories, BMM established the BMM Innovation Group in 2022. What differentiates BMM and BIG, and what can you tell us about BIG Cyber and RG24seven?
Storm: We formally established BIG, our BMM Innovation Group, to address opportunities outside of our traditional business segments of gaming testing, inspection, and certification at BMM. We are working on a variety of initiatives but have so far brought to market our cyber defense solutions through BIG Cyber and our free-to-market employee training solution, RG24seven. Both offerings are best-of-breed solutions tackling major risks in the gaming industry. Business defense for cyber intrusion and staff education and readiness for specific gaming industry knowledge are central to our commitment to support and protect the global gaming industry and the public who participate. We are positive about progress so far and will continue to drive these businesses, globally. Excuse the pun, but it really was a ‘BIG’ year in 2022.
BIG Cyber provides protection to the gaming industry by helping commercial and Tribal casinos improve the security and integrity of their network infrastructure and understanding their cyber vulnerabilities. RG24seven provides world class, virtual gaming training presented by industry experts on key topics, including responsible gaming, anti-money laundering, corporate social responsibility, Tribal gaming, sports betting, and more. We will have more exciting announcements from the BMM Innovation Group coming in 2023.
InterGame: BMM Testlabs hired new senior staff members throughout 2022. Have these hires been international, or primarily at the BMM Headquarters in the United States?
Storm: BMM added wonderful talent and experienced leaders to our global team throughout 2022. Amit Sharma is the new CEO of our BMM Innovation Group (BIG) business. He comes to us with a strong technology and solutions focus, combined with a long-term gaming industry background. Sharma is based in Las Vegas in the United States, BMM’s global headquarters. We have also added the very experienced Damjan Semec to lead our business in Slovenia, Reena Varma to lead our business in India, Dan Ghita to lead our business in Romania, and Adrianna Samuels to lead the digital market development in the United States. We also promoted several senior management positions throughout the company during 2022. At the end of the day, we are still a people business, so we work hard to find the best talent, develop them, and let them shine.