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Meet Samee Bhatti – Chief Technology Officer

Welcome to another edition of Lion Gaming’s employee insights series! Today, we have the privilege of sitting down with Samee Bhatti, Chief Technology Officer at Lion Gaming. With his visionary leadership and deep technical expertise, Samee has been instrumental in driving Lion Gaming’s technological innovations to new heights. Join us as we delve into Samee’s journey, his insights into the gaming industry, and the future of technology at Lion Gaming.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? How has your iGaming career brought you to Lion Gaming?

Oh, I can certainly talk about myself. I’ve always loved casinos. The first casino I ever walked into, the Great Canadian Casino on Douglas Street in Victoria, British Columbia, had me instantly hooked. I was 18 years old and just went in to look around, no intention of gambling as I had next to no money. The vibe hit me right away, and within 15 minutes I asked one of the dealers how they got their job there. I applied on the spot, took the two-week training course, bought myself a couple of tuxedo shirts and some black pants and for the next 18 months I worked as a casino dealer, dealing all of the table games we offered aside from roulette. Roulette dealers were paid more per hour and it’s a much harder game to deal than the others, so you didn’t even get a sniff at the table until you had put in two years.

The next stretch of my career was actually working in finance. I was fortunate to join a company based in Manhattan that gave me the opportunity to work on technology development and trade equities at the same time. For about a decade, I worked exclusively on Fintech projects in different parts of the world like Dubai and London. Through the course of that work, I began working for a high-net-worth individual and one of the projects he put me on was to co-manage a casino in Turks and Caicos. That project only lasted a few months, but it reignited my passion for gaming. Shortly after that, I started working for a group that was launching an iGaming brand back in 2019. I joined them first as a consultant, and then officially joined as both CTO and CMO. Early in 2023, I became aware of Lion Gaming and was instantly drawn in by the dynamic leadership and their ambitious goals in the iGaming space.

Some of our readers may not know about your passion for sports. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that passion has translated into your career in tech and iGaming?

Yes, I think it’s safe to say I’m a bit of a sports junkie. I grew up in Edmonton during the Wayne Gretzky years, so being a huge hockey fan was a given. I was one of the kids that would set up a homemade rink in my backyard in the wintertime, and pretend I was on the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup Finals every night. I also played baseball, basketball and rugby in high school. I am a diehard fan of the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto, Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Mets. And it’s not just playing and watching, I also have a huge passion for collecting sports memorabilia. I’ve been doing it for years and I’m running out of room to put all of my items. My most notable pieces are a basketball signed by both Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, and a tournament-flown pin flag signed by Tiger Woods from his first-ever PGA win at the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996.

The way that my love for sport brought me into technology was mainly my fascination with the production of live events. I was almost as big of a fan of some of the broadcasters, as I was of some of the players. At one point in my life, I had a goal of working in sports management and production, and even had an internship with the Toronto Raptors where I assisted their offsite broadcast team. Other opportunities pulled me away from a career in sports, but I never stopped thinking about it. When iGaming showed up on my radar, having a passion for sports stood out as an advantage right away. It just makes it easier to create something when you are also a user. I’ve spent countless hours as a user on online sportsbooks and casinos and for many of our brands I would be the ideal target customer.

What aspects of Lion Gaming’s technological vision attracted you to the company?

Lion Gaming is all about taking things to the next level. After speaking with Duncan about where he wanted to take the company and the autonomy he was prepared to give the tech and marketing departments, joining Lion Gaming was a no-brainer.

The big standout for me was how hard we were leaning into crypto and web3. I’ve been into cryptocurrencies for the past seven years and have worked on multiple projects in that space. It’s quite easy to see how good of a fit crypto and iGaming are, and the opportunity to be part of a company that would lead that charge was a dream situation for me.

On top of that, we have a fully proprietary platform that has been in development for over a decade. That project was led by a skilled developer who is still with us today. Having a robust and solid foundation to build on a team that knows the tech stack inside and out is an ideal situation.

What recent technological advancements have influenced the iGaming industry, and how is Lion Gaming adopting/championing those advancements?

Over the last 2 to 3 years, there are two major themes that have, to my mind, swept the industry. Crypto and AI. To be more specific, using crypto to target an entirely new audience, and using AI to take localisation and personalisation to the next level. At Lion Gaming, we are well ahead of the curve. Our platform is full of crypto and web3 features. Of course, we have the standard crypto payment methods and integrations with all of the major wallet providers, but at Lion, we’ve taken it a step further… Several steps further actually. Airdrops, on-chain wagering, token integration, NFTs. We’ve developed the capability to supply all of these features, and there are several more in the works.

Are there any examples of recent technological breakthroughs or projects that have impacted our product roadmap that you can share with our readers?

Oh yes, easy one to answer. We recently launched Jack’s House, a brand which is focused mainly on crypto users and gamers. There are a few things that make Jack’s House unique to our platform. Firstly, it has a React.js front end, which opens many new doors for us when it comes to functionality. Secondly, we’ve managed to collaborate with Jack’s House’s development team and allowed them to create custom components and pass them to our team for integration. As a result, we have a custom CS2 Open Crate experience, Battle Pass loyalty program, and several other components in the works!

What do you think about “crypto-washing” in iGaming – the phenomenon of companies including crypto and blockchain terminology in their messaging without using blockchain technology to its fullest extent?

First of all, I love the term crypto-washing. As someone that has watched and worked in the crypto space for several years, I have seen this phenomenon creep into practically all industries, not just iGaming. When I attended ICE in London in 2022, crypto washing was rampant. Almost every booth had the word crypto on it somewhere, and most of the time when I enquired about the product it was in beta, pre-launch or “on the roadmap”. I just came back from ICE 2024, and the situation has mildly improved.

What place does on-chain wagering have in the current iGaming landscape? Do you think traditional players will eventually adopt this technology?

Let me zoom out a little and take this beyond iGaming for a moment. I believe that eventually transactions will go on chain. Whether it’s purchasing a house, a car, or a cup of coffee, that is all going to go on chain. for our industry, it will become the standard. It’s no secret that there is a big push across iGaming for increased transparency. From an operator perspective, I anticipate on-chain wagering will take a lot of the pain out of compliance and accounting. From a player’s perspective, there are many benefits, the main one being trust. With smart contracts involved in the deposit, wagering and withdrawal processes, the player can have 100% confidence that they will be treated fairly. And that’s really what Blockchain technology is all about. Zero trust required to transact with unknown third parties. A smart contract doesn’t have feelings or emotions, and will execute its instructions perfectly every time.

What’s one piece of iGaming technology you believe has the biggest potential to impact the industry in the next 2 – 5 years?

Clearly, the answer to this is AI. If utilised correctly, the quality of the player experience will take a massive leap. AI will allow us to go beyond simple, localisation and personalisation. It will allow us to create a dynamic offering that is perfectly suited to each individual player from their actions and adapt accordingly. Every user will land on your site and see the content. They want to see it laid out in the way they want and the technology to achieve this already exists, but it’s up to us to apply it. I’m proud to say that at Lin Gaming, we’ve had AI tools for several years. For example, we use AI to dynamically generate landing pages in certain situations. This was way before ChatGPT and the like. With the massive leaps recently in AI technology available to the public paired with the incredibly skilled and talented technology team at Lion Gaming, big things are on the way. Watch this space.

It’s the year 2030. What technologies have shaped the iGaming industry and how has Lion Gaming embraced them?

I’ve got another two letter answer for you. VR. Actually, let me make that four letters, AR/VR. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. With companies like Facebook and Apple, diving in headfirst into the Metaverse, I fully expect this to be a place where a lot of attention is focused in the not-to-distant future. The only thing holding it back right now is the hardware. When wearing an AR/VR headset is the same experience as putting on a pair of sunglasses, they will be as common as smart phones are today. With that in mind, it’s easy to picture getting together with a group of friends in a physical space, putting on our sunglasses, and playing some augmented reality poker. It’s equally as easy to imagine, sitting at home in my living room, going into VR mode and feeling like I’m sitting in the anchor spot on the high limit blackjack table in Monte Carlo.

At Lion Gaming we recognise where this is all going, which is why we acquired Mammoth XR, a company immersed in AR/VR. They now operate as Lion Gaming’s in house game studio and are leading our own Metaverse project.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Yes. On October 23, 1993, with two strikes against him, Joe Carter hit a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth-inning to win Game 6 and clinch the second consecutive World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays.

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