Meet Henri Kukkonen, Head of Content at Game Lounge Ltd
“The industry deals largely with technology, but your contacts and relationships are always going to be your biggest assets.” We met Henri Kukkonen, the Head of Content at Game Lounge Ltd, for an interview about Suomi Casino and Game Lounge’s way of doing business.
Hello Henri, how are you? How’s the summer looking like for you?
Hi Marius, I’m great. I’m lucky as my summer is bookended this year with the Affiliate Grand Slams in Tallinn in April and in Bucharest in September. Also, the whole Game Lounge team just got back from Vegas where we soaked in some of that Big World Casino Atmosphere!
How did you come to enter the online gaming space?
My background is in Journalism and I’m a big sports fan so it felt natural for me to enter online gaming through Sportsbook. I started with a big British operator, but quickly moved to a Scandinavian company where the company culture and the challenges were more suitable for me.
Can you tell us a little about how your company business is structured?
Game Lounge has an office in Malta and soon we’ll be opening another one in Poland. We have strong casino sites in around 10 markets and we are looking to open more market areas all the time. We also co-own a couple of white label brands. The online gaming space evolves all the time and Game Lounge wants to be at the forefront of that development.
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
This was very much expected. Other industries have gone through similar cycles of rapid growth and the following consolidation. Game Lounge was, of course, in on the action early on – we acquired nettikasinovertailu.info and Cherry bought a 51% stake in Game Lounge back in 2015. Both deals made our operations stronger and helped us grow significantly.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
Yes, we have. We got stakes in a couple of white labels in the Cherry deal. Adding the white labels into our portfolio was a great eye opener to us and helped us to be better affiliates too.
Developing unique content is a key pillar of your strategy. What will be your primary focus on this front over the next 6 months?
We’re strengthening our content strategies across the board – every player has unique needs and we’re working really hard to answer those. Our content writers are 100% casino professionals, but it’s almost as important for them to know the culture and people of their market area. We’re also really excited about a video project that we’re working on with some key partners.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
At the moment we are live in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Japan and Netherlands. We’re more than excited about a couple of new markets that we can tell you about very soon.
How do you find the Nordic markets and the competition?
The Nordic casino markets are booming, but the years of exponential growth are starting to be behind us. The competition is fierce and upcoming changes in legislation make the risks greater. But the player value is there, you just need to be able to unlock it. And we at Game Lounge know how to do that.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your sites?
I would guess that most SiGMA readers already know at least our Swedish site Sveacasino.se. It represents our sites beautifully – strong organic rankings on some of the biggest keywords, robust but flexible database to keep our data in order combined with beautiful graphics and an in-house content writing team that writes a novel’s worth of text every day. If you have good campaigns for us, we have the tools to push them globally.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
It obviously creates a lot of extra work as designers and programmers have to tailor our products for different devices. We follow our users behaviour all the time and basically never take our products off the assembly line.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
The industry deals largely with technology, but your contacts and relationships are always going to be your biggest assets. So the first advice is: Respect others by keeping your promises.
The second advice is specialisation – you need to find your niche. What can you do better than the competitors? Do you know your market better than others or do you have new, superior technology at your disposal? Should you do casino, sportsbook, bingo, lotto or all of them? You need to find an edge against the big, established players and that happens if you can do things better than them. The latest example of this is streaming, where new fresh companies are showing the older ones the way.
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
I have played a ton of slots at work in the last three to four years. Vikings are the new vampires in TV and the same trend is clearly visible in the casino lobbies.
I would probably invest a big jackpot win in an index fund and enjoy the modest proceeds for the rest of my life like it was a second salary; here’s hoping!
Are you ready for Affiliate Grand Slam Bucharest and SiGMA17?
I’m really excited to see the new SiGMA venue and I can’t wait to meet all of our old and new friends in Bucharest.
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