Ivan Montik: new technologies promise significant benefits for gaming sector

SOFTSWISS founder and business leader Ivan Montik on how AI can protect operators by detecting suspicious user behaviour and fraud

Ivan Montik
Ivan Montik

Ivan Montik is a well-known figure in the iGaming world, recognised for founding the multi-award-winning company SOFTSWISS, and for his pioneering work integrating innovative new technologies.

Drawing on years of experience in software programming, journalism, economics and business management, Ivan has successfully led SOFTSWISS to become an industry leader, employing over one thousand employees around the world and offering an extensive portfolio of products and services. MaltaToday sat down with Ivan to discuss SOFTSWISS, emerging technologies, Malta’s iGaming industry and the war in Ukraine.

Can you start by telling us more about SOFTSWISS, and what makes the company unique within the industry?

SOFTSWISS is now known as an iGaming expert, a recognised leader in the development of software solutions for the industry, and the first company to start using cryptocurrencies for online casinos. It was founded in 2009 as a small software development company focused on custom IT projects for various industries, and, through a chain of lucky coincidences coupled with wise management decisions, has since turned into an international product company. 

Today, we employ over 1,200 people, and have a presence in Malta, Poland, Georgia, Belarus and other countries. Our client network comprises more than three hundred brands.  

What makes our company truly unique is that we offer a one-stop service for launching a successful gaming project. It’s not just about the software platform, the games or a sportsbook solution; it’s about having all of that under one roof, developed in-house according to the highest standards of quality. This, combined with our ready-to-use infrastructure and consulting services, makes it very easy for our clients to jump into iGaming, whether that involves building a strong brand from scratch or giving an existing business a fresh start.

Always being at the forefront of innovation, we invent new technologies and set industry trends that other gaming providers aim to replicate. SOFTSWISS was initially founded as a software development company, not an iGaming one, and this is something that has become our competitive advantage. Learning about the industry — with all its challenges and obstacles — was difficult and time-consuming, but we mastered it. 

It would have been a much tougher task to create a high-quality online casino solution without having a strong engineering background. I’m proud of the numerous industry awards that our products are getting, and happy to see our client brands succeed with these products. 

Since the introduction of the Remote Gaming Regulations in 2004, Malta has enjoyed almost two decades of growth in this sector. In your view, what is the secret to the success of iGaming in the country? 

Aside from the enjoyable climate, rich cultural heritage and convenient infrastructure, Malta has many other things to offer our industry. It is an extremely economically competitive country and demonstrates a very high level of digitalisation. Many other EU and non-EU countries are lagging behind in that area, which makes them far less attractive to such a high-tech industry as iGaming. 

For instance, Malta is known for its achievements in cybersecurity due to wise digital policies. Over half of the country's population has basic software skills, and the number of professionals with a university degree in IT is growing. This means that one can more easily hire local specialists who possess both the necessary qualifications and an excellent level of English. 

In addition, the country’s iGaming regulations are both transparent and flexible, encouraging innovation and supporting emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies and blockchain. This is vital for providers and operators and the sustainable development of their business. I wish other jurisdictions would follow Malta’s example by creating conditions that not only allow businesses to thrive, but also contribute to their countries’ well-being.  

You have considerable experience incorporating emerging technologies such as AI and the Blockchain into iGaming platforms. How important are these technologies to the future of the industry? 

These technologies are the future of the industry. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain have been the most popular trends in iGaming development over the last couple of years, and, despite some fluctuation, have remained on top. They revolutionise the way online casinos function and bring a huge number of benefits with them. 

Traditional methods of payment and financial information storage have proved to be ineffective, expensive and slow. Cryptocurrencies offer the advantage of immediate payment processing and help save costs associated with external payment providers, while blockchain guarantees complete transparency and easy monitoring of transactions. These also offer enhanced security to both players and operators. 

From the players’ perspective, this creates an environment of safety and fairness as it is impossible to change the outcome of a blockchain-based game. From an operator’s perspective, there is no risk of fraudulent cashbacks because cryptocurrency payments are irreversible. This is a perfect combination for effective operation of an online casino. I’m glad that we gave Bitcoin a try in 2013, and were actually the first company to implement cryptocurrency processing for its casino platform. Now, at a time when blockchain adoption is in full swing, we are able to offer the most technologically advanced solutions to our clients, and keep them up to date with industry trends.  

AI [Artificial Intelligence] technologies are also amongst our key priorities. Our Research and Development department is fully dedicated to the analysis of current methods of implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into online casino operation. Gathering data on human behaviour and using this in casino management has already shown great results. 

Now, we are able to customise games and approach players individually, offering them unique gaming experiences based on their preferences. With the use of AI, we can also protect operators by detecting suspicious user behaviour and preventing fraud. Finally, we can save an operator time by having smart assistants engage in customer support. Of course, AI won’t completely substitute human employees, but I believe that in several years it will be present in up to ninety percent of casino management.

You recently announced a suspension of SOFTSWISS marketing activities in order to provide additional financial support to organisations offering assistance to civilians in Ukraine. How are these efforts progressing?

It was the only possible decision for SOFTSWISS when we realised the scale of the tragedy. Together with other partners from our industry we took immediate action to organise various forms of support: from sending funds for the purchase of ammunition to Ukraine, to helping families quickly leave dangerous regions. 

Besides donating to organisations coordinating humanitarian efforts, we provided targeted help to people in need. We managed to safely transfer several Ukrainian families — some of them with three or four children — to neighbouring countries and then on to further locations, taking care of accommodation, clothing and food. 

We will continue to provide financial support to refugees until there is the possibility for them to return to Ukraine and begin rebuilding their country. We know all the families we are supporting and receive many words of gratitude from them and from Ukraine officials, but we are not doing it for appreciation. By providing this help, we are making our contribution to the fight for freedom, democracy and the basic human values which are now being threatened. 

What impacts do world events such as the current crisis in Ukraine have on your industry in particular? 

I believe that today, it is more important than ever to refer to things by their real name, so let us call this a war and not just a crisis. When there is a war in Europe, it affects all markets and industries. Ukraine is an important location for many IT businesses, and iGaming is no exception. Just like Russia and Belarus, it has a wide pool of highly-qualified IT professionals, and many international companies — including those based in Malta — have, or used to have, development offices in the country.

All of these companies are now facing difficulties. They are working to transfer their development centres to safer regions, but that is a very time-consuming process, and, for many companies, will result in certain delivery delays and profit losses. For SOFTSWISS, it is luckily not that critical because we had few employees based in Ukraine. 

I’m glad that we have created a network of locations in different countries where our employees can live and work. Unfortunately, today we need to think about minimising geopolitical risks as an essential part of business strategy.   

Malta is now recognised globally as a European iGaming Hub. What have been the effects on business growth in Malta as a result? 

It's no secret that Malta has been experiencing significant growth thanks to its status as an iGaming Hub and the favourable business conditions the country has created. The figures speak for themselves: the contribution of iGaming to the national economy in 2019 was over €1.5 billion. That was a record year, and, during the pandemic, although iGaming taxes dropped, the industry still plays a central role in Malta’s economy. 

Other major industries such as retail, hospitality and other professional services also benefit from having so many iGaming companies operating in the country, conducting industry events and enhancing business tourism. Finally, it’s about creating new jobs directly in iGaming and affiliated sectors. With total employment in gaming exceeding 12,000, the industry definitely has a very positive impact on the country's economy.

In a recent interview, you said that “human capital is our most valuable asset.” To what extent do you think your company values have been significant in developing the SOFTSWISS brand? 

Company values are extremely important at all stages in a company’s development. You can only start a business with people who share the same human values and set the same goals. 

As a company grows and the number of employees reaches several hundred, it can become quite challenging to communicate corporate values to every colleague and to check if everyone is on the same page, but that’s absolutely essential for successful brand development. 

For SOFTSWISS, human capital is indeed our most valuable asset, and we try to build our corporate culture around it. We appreciate each and every employee and support their professional development and initiative, and we also pay great attention to the mutual respect and support within teams. 

Transparency and straightforwardness in communication between colleagues are important, and not only in terms of creating a comfortable atmosphere. It results in quicker decision-making and faster achievement of corporate goals. Quick decisions are absolutely critical for a company of over 1200 employees, and SOFTSWISS employees know that their initiative in decision-making is always welcome. 

While putting SOFTSWISS people at the centre, we never forget about the importance of our clients. The company's success depends directly on how satisfied our clients are, so we work together to keep them happy and loyal, and to make their businesses grow. This is achieved through two major factors: offering top-notch quality products and providing excellent service. We are in the same boat with our clients, and that’s something we always communicate to our employees.   

What can we expect to see from SOFTSWISS in the near future? 

We will continue creating powerful solutions for iGaming and enhancing our products with new unique functionality. In the near future, our clients will have the opportunity to try out many novel and exciting features within SOFTSWISS’ Casino Platform, Sportsbook, Affilka and other products. 

We will also expand our geographical reach and enter new regulated markets, as well as initiate a number of local projects in Greece, Serbia and Nigeria. This will necessitate further growth of the company, so we will continue to expand our presence in Poland, Malta and Georgia, hire more local specialists and may even add another SOFTSWISS location to the world map. 

Another part of our growth is investing in promising projects, as well as acquiring companies that help strengthen our business and expand our capabilities both in the iGaming industry and related vertical markets.

At the same time, and in addition to business growth, we are also focused on implementing social initiatives in countries where SOFTSWISS has a presence. Our team is also working on several projects dedicated to the education and support of talented youth, the preservation of cultural heritage and various other social enterprises. 

To learn more about SOFTSWISS, visit their official website