Game On! Interview with Megabet Plus President & CEO Dominique Laconico

Born in the Philippines, raised in Silicon Valley, and currently residing in Cyprus, Dominique Laconico, President and CEO of Megabet Plus, talks to GOLD about the company’s evolution, his managerial attitude and the island’s investment prospects in the sector.

The company that has evolved into Megabet Plus was established 35 years ago.What was its original purpose and how have things changed over the decades, apart from the emergence of online gaming?
Megabet Plus was originally a chain of betting shops. It has since grown rapidly across the cities and villages of Cyprus into a single platform for customers, offering a wide variety of events and markets that had never been offered to players until now. Our customer-centric approach has continued over the years and now, with a new face, a new platform, new shops and agents, our efforts remain focused on our customers, to whom we want to provide an entertaining experience, with more diverse choices and a wider range of events throughout the day.

What does Cyprus have to offer as an investment destination for companies like Megabet Plus and how does it compare with other EU jurisdictions?
Cyprus is an attractive investment destination in general, as the country provides an ideal business environment, with a strong rule of law and a stable government. Having worked in the US, Asia and Europe, I have experience of many jurisdictions, most of which had an established infrastructure well before the National Betting Authority of Cyprus (NBA) was created. However, while other jurisdictions may have had longer experience in gaming regulations, their procedures are often more cumbersome and they can be slower to react to the market. The NBA’s relatively new formation means that it is less bureaucratic and more dynamic. In the gaming sector, the regulatory authority’s work is crucial in ensuring a level playing field among competitors and making sure that it doesn’t stifle innovation. There are other EU jurisdictions which have much more experience in the sector and, because of the rules and regulations in place there, they have become international centres that attract software and fintech companies active in the gaming sector. Cyprus can analyze its framework relative to other jurisdictions in Europe and their way of expanding the gaming business, so that the island’s economy can benefit from even more activity than it is currently seeing.

How did COVID-19 affect your work and how well have you coped with it?
COVID-19 had a huge impact on the gaming and entertainment business, as retail shops stayed closed for extended periods of time, which, in turn, sent many customers to online gaming, which is a vastly different experience from engaging in a shop. Megabet Plus has been investing in the online sector in the past few years and the COVID-19 pandemic increased the company’s focus on customers’ online experience. At the same time, we took advantage of the downtime by completing a total redesign of our brand (with a streamlined logo) as well as an upgraded online image and we are in the process of reimagining the image of all of our shops throughout Cyprus, offering a much better environment and a revamped experience to our customers. My Human Resources background has taught me that an organisation’s strength lies with its personnel. A healthy working environment has always been a top priority in all the companies that I have managed. It promotes teamwork and an esprit de corps that attracts and retains the best and the brightest talent. The pandemic reinforced this managerial approach and prioritising my team galvanized our organisation. Instilling this in my senior leadership team has succeeded in differentiating them from the competition.

The online betting industry has continued to grow but, in addition to competition, so have cybersecurity threats. How do you shield your company and elevate your services and what are the global sector trends you expect to see over the coming years?
Megabet Plus is at the forefront of technology and security, as it stores and protects the valuable data of its thousands of customers with customized solutions and protected servers. We are constantly experiencing attempted cyber-attacks but our servers and firewalls are robust and resilient. We maintain military-standard protocols and technology, which keep us at the forefront of IT security in Cyprus. We expect to see innovations and new tech in the global gaming space, which we will implement in Cyprus. We monitor and implement the best practices of the leading companies around the world and we attend all of the major gaming and tech shows to maintain our position as innovators and market leaders in Cyprus.

What can we expect from Megabet Plus in the future?
Megabet Plus has a bright future. By taking advantage of the pandemic to boost our infrastructure, upgrade our software and implement the new face of our company, both online and in our offline shops, we have already started building the foundations of an exciting next phase. With the customer at the core of our business, we are enhancing their experience by offering more products, more services and more opportunities to be entertained and engaged with our brand, either in our hundreds of shops throughout Cyprus or via their mobile smart device anywhere and everywhere. At the same time, we are always looking into new markets, new industries and new opportunities, where the successful Megabet Plus model can be applied and lead to the same level of success and growth.

What made you decide to become professionally involved in the gaming sector?
I grew up in the Bay Area of California, in the US. Growing up and living in the Silicon Valley led me to obtaining an Engineering degree. I grew professionally in an environment of technology, especially during the tech boom. My father had a tech engineering company that served Hewlett Packard and Apple and I have over 20 years of experience in the full range of HR and development services. Before I moved to Cyprus, I served as the COO of a publicly listed gaming company in Asia and I was on the board of a publicly listed company in the technology & gaming sector. So, my experience covers almost the entire globe, as I have managed gaming companies in the US, Asia and now in the EU. I view the gaming sector as a leader in technological innovation and one that has brought about a true revolution, helping whole industries develop such as eGaming with millions of players and, at the same time, it is fertile ground for innovation, combining cutting-edge entertainment technologies with fintech solutions and products.

How would you describe Cypriot society and your life here?
From the first moment we arrived, my wife, our children and I fell in love with the country and its people. I am delighted to call Cyprus my home, as it’s a very hospitable country full of warmth and a friendly atmosphere. We love the Mediterranean way of life, the tastes of the region and of course, the climate here is incomparable. We are looking forward to our future in Cyprus. It is such a blessing to raise my family in such a wholesome country, where family and quality of life are prioritised. These values are exactly what I want to inculcate in my young children and that has led us to call Cyprus home.

Dominique Laconico, Megabet Plus President & CEO