Date: 24.06.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

“The original idea behind SBC was connecting people”

In the interview with iGaming Express, Rasmus Sojmark, Founder & CEO of SBC, shares his perspective on the evolution of SBC since its inception in 2009, and his views on the dynamic changes within the iGaming industry. Rasmus also discusses SBC’s upcoming major events, including the SBC Summit 2024 in Lisbon, and provides insights into his vision for the future of SBC and the industry at large.

iGaming Express recently recognized you as one of the most influential people in the sports betting and iGaming industry. How do you perceive this recognition?

It’s always nice to be recognised for the efforts that you put into the industry. We see it every time we hold one of our Awards ceremonies. People are really excited to have their name called out and go on stage to pick up the trophy as it’s vindication for the hard work that their team has invested in a project.

It’s also why we started the Hall of Fame back in 2016 to make sure people who had made a lasting impact on the industry. It was important that they get recognised for their lasting contribution and also gives the rest of us the opportunity to thank them.

But to be honest I see this listing more as a recognition of the people at SBC rather than a personal endorsement for me. We’ve developed a great team where I don’t need to be the central figure in order to provide a fantastic service. We put a lot of emphasis on personal relationships at SBC and that’s what helps us reach the heights we do.

You founded SBC in 2009, and it has grown significantly since then. Can you share the initial vision you had for SBC and how it has evolved over the years?

The original idea behind SBC was connecting people. We started off hosting networking parties to make it easy for people to meet other like-minded professionals in the industry. It is why we put so much effort into our networking parties during our events – we know how important they can be to business given our 15 years of experience. We’ve constantly pushed the boat out when it comes to entertaining the industry in order to make memorable experiences alongside making meaningful connections.

An important second element came when we started to produce conference tracks in which gaming professionals could educate each other and share best practices on a range of important disciplines. Combining the experiences of connection and education has proved to be an important part of our growth and that of the industry too.

In 2024 we are bigger and stronger than ever with a multitude of large-scale industry events such as SBC Summit in Lisbon (with an event that will be bigger than ICE was in 2024),SBC, Summit Rio (similar size as G2E Vegas), and SBC Summit America which is similar in size to the other large industry events.

Today we are close to being the main organiser and content hub for the entire gaming industry, or you can also argue we are the biggest organiser today based on the size of our regional events

How has the iGaming industry changed over the years, and what has impressed you the most?

The acceptability of gambling as a legitimate entertainment and how that ebbs and flows over the years. I moved to the UK almost 20 years ago where gambling is way more visible than in other countries because of its long legal standing.

For so long that was the opposite in many markets, especially the US. When UIGEA was passed in 2006, I was at an event in Las Vegas and the hall was half empty as a result. The long term prohibition on online gambling was in stark contrast to what was happening in other countries. But the industry never gave up and managed to get PASPA repealed in 2018 and transition from offshore operations to regulated white markets.

It’s a pattern that is being repeated in other countries as the rule makers are finally persuaded that it’s better to regulate an activity than force people to the grey and black market. The key is to make it sustainable.

There is a backlash in some of the more established markets now – but that tends to be where the industry has over-marketed itself which tends to be one of the consequences of competitive markets.

However one area of the industry that is totally unrecognisable compared to 10 years ago is around player protection. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that when the industry was emerging, it didn’t spend nearly enough time on the issue. However the safeguards and analysis that have been developed in the last decade are truly groundbreaking and there is still innovation happening in this sector.

It is one of the reasons why we introduced Player Protection Forums into several of our events; to provide an important platform to discuss progress and best practice when it comes to reducing gambling harm.

What do you consider to be SBC’s greatest achievement during its operation?

I’ll be honest, our greatest achievement will be this September’s SBC Summit in its new home of Lisbon. In many ways the event is going to become the most important annual gathering of industry people in the world. It’s going to shake up the established order.

While we haven’t yet hosted it, behind the scenes the work, support and EXCITEMENT about the project is off the scale for what SBC has done before and it’s not as if we usually approach things in a timid way.

We found that we outgrew the space we had in Barcelona and Lisbon has proved to be the perfect city in which to develop the vision even further. We are going to transform what large scale industry events are able to achieve in 2024.

As the SBC Summit 2024 in Lisbon is set to be one of the largest events in the betting and iGaming industry, what are some of the key features and innovations attendees can expect from this year’s event?

Where to start really? We do have some world renowned guest speakers and performers lined up but I can’t go into that just yet. What I can promise is this:

  • Expect an impressive increase in attendees, with over 25,000 potential new connections (compared to the 15,000 last year, a 66.6% increase), including over 5,000 operator reps and several thousands affiliate leaders.
  • Witness an expansion of the entire event & expo floor to 110,000 square metres at Feira Internacional de Lisboa (compared to our previous space of 40,000 square metres at Fira Barcelona Montjuïc). This sets the stage for the largest-ever industry event by square metre space. With more than 600 exhibitors lined up for this year, the growth is truly massive.
  • We’re Introducing three new Summits: Affiliate Leaders Summit (which showcases our commitment to this very important vertical), Payment Expert Summit (as we grow the connections in the payments and fintech sector), and the ESI Summit (held in collaboration with SBC’s sister company, Esports Insider). All of this alongside the usual dedicated zones for sports betting, casino & iGaming, and Player Protection.
  • We’re adding Media Headquarters; journalists and media companies from around the world will gather in Lisbon this September, so this will be the industry’s largest gathering of international media (including our own). The journalists will use the HQs to cover the event, as well as host press conferences.
  • You will hear from over 450 speakers as we gather some of the greatest minds of the industry on the stage. We will have eight conference stages, including the grand Super Stage at the MEO Arena, which is the 3rd biggest indoor arena in Europe with space for 25,000 people. This is where we will have the keynote speakers presenting (and host the SBC Awards on Thursday evening)
  • It’s important to also mention the VIP dinners and networking parties we are organising across the week. We have a total of 10 networking dinners and parties lined up for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • We will also have a Startup pitch competition and Startup zone, which is a great place to meet new startups with fresh ideas and a lot of potential, and host multiple networking opportunities on the expo floor (some country/region-specific ones too to cater to the interests of all the audience members).
  • We are introducing special events to enhance the delegate experiences such as the SBC Football Championship at Benfica Stadium, and the SBC Poker Championship at Casino Lisboa

Apart from SBC, are there other projects or initiatives you are now particularly proud of? Can you tell us more about them?

Historically, the way we traversed the pandemic as an events company still takes some beating. To be able to continue to connect the industry when everyone was stuck in their houses was very hard work, but very satisfying. The whole company pulled together to build and operate our own digital events platform with fantastic support from the industry.

Looking ahead we have two massive new look events in 2025. Our second SBC Summit Rio is going to be five times the size of our inaugural event in March 2024. SBC Summit Rio 2025 will move to Riocentro on 25-27 February and is already selling out fast.

Our other big project is SBC Summit Americas, which is being held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on 13-15 May. This new event combines the experiences from SBC Summit North America and SBC Summit Latinoamerica in one venue, which should appeal to a wider audience than ever before.

Fort Lauderdale offers us so many opportunities to do more around the event than our legacy venues, so we are looking forward to showing people what we can do there. Also with people frequently complaining about there being too many events, hopefully this takes some pressure off the cabin luggage.

Looking ahead, what are your primary goals for SBC in the next five years?

There’s always room for growth but it’s important to do it in a sustainable way and maintain the SBC ethos of a quality event. There are other geographies where we have only skimmed the surface and as legislation changes, we can be there to provide our events and media services on the best ways to do business.

But there are also a lot of parallel sectors to gambling which we want to reach out to and embrace further as the stigma behind igaming as a vice industry erodes and it is recognised for the entertainment that it brings to its customers.

I am looking forward to our first SBC Summit on The Moon too. We’re just waiting for a suitable transportation and better venue options.