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ISSUE 12 • DECEMBER 2020

Fabio

Schiavolin Leading through change

BETTING ON POLITICS

A missed opportunity CASINO STREAMERS

Engaging next gen players

ITALY

Finally ditching the cash?


6-16 Sports Betting

• Fabio Schiavolin: Showing resilience in a time of adversity • RTSmunity on esports in 2021: Get ready for a ride • Italy: Navigating the political storm

CONTENTS DECEMBER 2020

18-28 US Market

• IGT: Serious about sports betting and service • Political Betting: A missed opportunity or public risk? • Tide continues to turn against illegal bookies

30-32 LatAm Market

• Gambling as a sustainable activity is the ultimate LatAm goal

36-46 Casino

• FunFair: Casino streamers can bring gaming communities together • Slot of the Week: Winners Review • Black market risk: Limited thinking in Sweden

48-59 Marketing

• The unconventional rise of GiG’s World Sports Network • Oddschecker breaks down 2019/20 Premier League campaign • Public trust is ‘waning’ in the online gambling industry

60-66 Payments

• Scan N Play: Trustly brings digital payments to land-based gaming • MuchBetter: Is Italy finally ditching cash to embrace digital money?

68-70 Lottery

• The UK National Lottery: what next?

The SBC Leaders Magazine is brought to you by SBC - Sports Betting Community: EDITORIAL TEAM: Luke Massey, Erin Gallagher Andrew McCarron, Craig Davies, Ted Menmuir, Joe Streeter, Chris Murphy, James Ross, Lucia Mouriño, Conor Porter, Holly Hunt SALES TEAM: Rasmus Sojmark, Alyona Gromova, Conall McCabe, Neil Judson, Reece Calderbank, Ross Main, Jan Willem Volbeda, Nancy Bishop DESIGNED & DELIVERED BY Better Mags (bettermags.co.uk) All material is strictly copyrighted and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of Sports Betting Community Ltd. Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, Sports Betting Community Ltd cannot be held responsible for any errors it may contain. Sports Betting Community Ltd cannot be held responsible for the loss or damage of any material, solicited or unsolicited. The views in the publication are not necessarily the views of Sports Betting Community Ltd or those of the advertisers. Produced and published by Sports Betting Community Ltd REGISTERED ADDRESS: Sports Betting Community, 103-105 Brighton Road, Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 2NG, UK TEL.: +44 (0) 161 367 1250 EMAIL: sales@sbcgaming.com WEB: www.sbcgaming.com

2 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


INTRO

The election coverage was somewhat inescapable, but according to Smarkets’ Sarbjit Bakhshi, political betting - still not permitted in the US - is a huge ‘missed opportunity’ for stateside operators. All bets were off on who would be next to call the White House home.

Luke Massey Head of SBC Media

W

elcome to the sixth edition of SBC Magazine for 2020, which will now be known as SBC Leaders.

2020 will go down in the history books as a year of struggle, as coronavirus swept the world leading to restrictions on day-to-day life, reduced travel, hospitality closure and the cancellation of sports, combined with yet more regulatory drawbacks for the betting and gaming industry.

Yet in the US, it looks like igaming operators - and particularly those in New Jersey - missed the memo. With record revenues and landmark acquisitions, POLITICAL as well as more and BETTING - STILL more states opening NOT PERMITTED their doors to legalised IN THE US - IS A betting, the post-PASPA HUGE ‘MISSED market is booming (even OPPORTUNITY’ with its own spring lockdown downturn) FOR STATESIDE and it’s showing no signs OPERATORS of slowing down. So with all eyes on the US, it’s no surprise that IGT is capitalising on new opportunities that have arisen over the past few months. In this edition of SBC Leaders, IGT tells us why it’s serious about sports betting and maps out some of the challenges, but more importantly new opportunities, as we move into 2021. And as we emerge from the coronavirus mire (vaccination news at the time of writing is wholly positive), it looks like next year could be the time for sweeping economic, regulatory and political change in the US.

4 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Of course, the election garnered huge interest across the world (it is said to have attracted in excess of $1 billion in bets worldwide), especially across the pond in Western Europe, where strong leadership and resilience to enforced change was top of Fabio Schiavolin’s agenda as the Snaitech CEO discussed his ascent through the industry. COVID doesn’t seem to be the only thing that people in Italy are adapting to in 2020, however, as MuchBetter explains why Italians are ‘finally’ ditching the cash in favour of digital payments. This change won’t happen overnight, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on as the world returns (hopefully) to some form of normality in the build up to Christmas. And, while it might not be the case for everyone, Christmas to me is family and football. So it's also interesting to look back on the ‘record breaking’ numbers for Oddschecker from the longest ever Premier League season, and a few predictions for the 2020/21 campaign. Santa, if you're reading, let's have a successful festive period for United!


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Snaitech’s steep learning curve

FABIO SCHIAVOLIN: SHOWING RESILIENCE IN A TIME OF ADVERSITY THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF SNAITECH spoke to SBC about

the challenges that he has faced as a leader during the pandemic, and how Snaitech plans to continue on its path to becoming a leading operator both in Italy and also further afield

I

n discussion with SBC’s Managing Director Andrew McCarron, Schiavolin reflected on his ascent through the industry, speaking about how his experience of different roles in the betting industry - both within Snaitech and elsewhere has formed the foundations for his response to the global pandemic. “My experience with Snaitech has helped me every day during this ongoing crisis,” he said. “With the situation that we’re in now, we have to stay cool to avoid being nervous. We were among the first to close our shops, and the last to reopen in June –

6 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

but judging from the current trends in infections, we’re going to experience another lockdown. It’s a tough job for our industry, and it’s been tough to manage.” The focus soon turned towards the steep learning curve that Snaitech has faced over the last few months as it adapted from being an operator with a historical retail focus to a leader in the online space, primarily looking at how Schiavolin has had to adapt his leadership style. “In a way, COVID has taught us to think flexibly, react quickly using all

the possible tools in a creative way,” he said. “Of course, all of that is just considering our offering. We’ve had to be realistic on the cost side of things. We accessed all of the government support available, state aid and financial aid to keep on track and help our network of partners.” When it comes to being a leader during a global pandemic, Schiavolin reflected on his own identity as an Italian, pointing out that resiliency is something which has been ingrained in him since he was a child. He noted that this lesson has been integral to navigating the numerous obstacles that he, and Snaitech, have faced in the last few months: “Resiliency is one particular aspect which we, as Italians, learn as little kids. We’re in a beautiful country with lots of amazing things but it has an economic situation that is constantly changing. “This is also what is happening in


SPORTS BETTING

RESILIENCY IS ONE PARTICULAR ASPECT WHICH WE, AS ITALIANS, LEARN AS LITTLE KIDS

COVID HAS TAUGHT US TO THINK FLEXIBLY, REACT QUICKLY USING ALL THE POSSIBLE TOOLS IN A CREATIVE WAY

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Snaitech’s steep learning curve

our industry now. We recently had a Prime Ministerial decree, who is now using COVID measures - which will be valid until the middle of November - to limit the gaming hours from 8am to 8pm. “The measures are also allowing the regional authorities to apply for certain measures, which is happening in Lombardy. We have to face a situation which we are called to make quick decisions and to react to the changing situation very quickly to what is happening at that time. We must also manage a very long value chain. “With a company like ours, we have to react promptly to this situation. From a management perspective, we’ve been working to keep our core department open during the lockdown and also to provide all of our colleagues with as many work facilities as possible to keep the business on track. “We had a big loss, but despite those losses in revenue, we came up with a lot of solutions to support our dealers. It’s our mission to provide all of our network with the support

8 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

they need, but to also guarantee the economic viability of the business.” Looking towards the future, despite all the doom and gloom that appears to be dominating the world headlines at the minute, Schiavolin expressed his confidence that Snaitech can continue on its path to becoming a leading operator not just in Italy but also further afield.

FOR ME, BEING A LEADER IN THE GAMING SECTOR MEANS ALSO LEADING THE TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION RACE “For the sake of being positive, we need to be focused on our strategy pillars,” he continued. “Again, looking at a corporate level, one of the main goals for us at Snaitech was to grow beyond our national borders. We have demonstrated that we are a top player, a leader in Italy, we've been able to combine different companies Cogitech and Snai and to get the best from the two of them. But now we have the resources and the know-how to expand internationally.

“Since we're part of the Playtech group, we can also rely on extending the international network that Playtech has in its portfolio. So we want to continue on the path of innovation. That's one driver. It is very important to also expand outside of the border, to bring our experience. This is an innovative partnership that we embarked on and it has made it possible for us to gain a position of leadership. “In the online sector, we are now the number one operator in any digital space in Italy overall, covering both sports betting and casino. Over the last few months specifically, technology has become a truly competitive variable in the market in which we operate. So for me, being a leader in the gaming sector means also leading the technology innovation race.” Expanding beyond the borders of Italy, Schiavolin was pressed on whether the UK could be a key market for expansion. But while the competitive nature of the UK market was identified as a reason to stay away, the Snaitech CEO reflected on


SPORTS BETTING

some of the lessons that could be learned when it comes to advertising and self-regulation of the industry. “The UK market is one of those courtyards to keep away from, or to keep in the distance because it's too competitive,” he explained. “Of course, I'm talking about the B2C division. “There are many other jurisdictions in which I do think that our knowledge in terms of product and our technology path can be helpful for us to try on our journey of expansion of course. We don't want to be like 'one of the others' - we want to be one of the leading operators in the countries that we expand into. “What we've seen in many other jurisdictions is the ability to self regulate. That's one thing that is not very good in Italy, we've not been able to self regulate unlike other jurisdictions such as the UK which was able to self regulate before a regulator was introduced. For example, the advertising ban in Italy, which we had to experience, was introduced after two growing problems in the Italian market: the first was related to the crowding of commercials. “We had advertising, it was everywhere - pre-match, post match, and even on televisions on the pitches and at the stadiums. And that, of course, has weakened customer perception. Now, the public perceive gambling in the same way that the media did. “The second issue that we saw was that in our case, the industry has not been able to regulate its communication style, showing the content and what we are saying in the commercials. And I think from this perspective, the UK is again a good example, because I think that together, UK operators have been able to anticipate those problems. “Businesses must grow, but they must ensure that they always put the customer first. In the gambling industry, I do think that respecting ethical codes is possible, it's also sustainable. “We have to focus on gaming being perceived as a form of entertainment - that’s the meaning of gambling. Being perceived as an entertainment

WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON GAMING BEING PERCEIVED AS A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT industry is one of biggest challenges for this industry in the future. We want to rewrite the codes, and to become an industry that is on par with cinemas, theatres, sports and any other kind of entertainment. “For our part, I think we have to do the utmost to promote a conscious,

healthy and responsible approach to gaming, educating and informing the players. We must also commit to working on systems and software which detect problematic situations and intervene on them. “We have to research and understand gaming behaviour, and respect regulation of the sector. Because there is an increase in the negative perceptions of the gambling industry in the media. It's a kind of movement against gaming, which we have to anticipate by changing our attitude.” •

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On the upward trend

ESPORTS IN 2021 - GET READY FOR A RIDE YOU MIGHT THINK THAT 2020 has been a remarkable year for esports betting but the main boom is still ahead of us, says RTSmunity Senior Business Development Manager Ondřej Šilhavý, who makes his 2021 predictions for the sector 10 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

L

et me take out my crystal ball and do some predictions for esports in 2021. And don't worry, we rely on data much more than on any crystal ball. After all, we are an esports data analytics company, and making sense of data is what we do best.

Esports betting in the top five Esports are slowly but surely climbing their way up the ladder of the betting business. If you ask operators today, usually they will reply that esports are somewhere in the top seven sports they offer. For 2021, this will move to the top five, which is already the case for operators approaching esports correctly.


SPORTS BETTING

ESPORTS WILL MOVE INTO THE TOP FIVE SPORTS FOR 2021, WHICH IS ALREADY THE CASE FOR THOSE APPROACHING IT CORRECTLY those operators that invested earlier? They already see esports on the way to the top three. Maybe not in 2021 yet, but definitely in the next three to five years.

Esports betting will become a separate product

There are multiple reasons why this upward trend will continue. The first one is simple - demographics. Young fans between 18-25 already spend more time watching esports and video games content than traditional sports. Every year further down the road will only increase this gap between millennials or GenZ and older generations. The second reason is that the pandemic forced a lot of operators to have a fresh look at their esports offer - and many of them came to a logical conclusion, that the boat might leave without them. That's why they invested in new esports products and they will collect the fruit next year. What about

With every new operator looking closer at esports, one thing is becoming clearer - esports betting deserves a separate vertical approach. Traditional and esports customers are becoming increasingly different in their needs, and operators should respect that. When you transfer those needs into product requirements, you will arrive at a different betting product than most operators have today. Just look at top things esports fans look for when watching esports. Betting focused content, transparency, statistics, analytics and social aspects like chat - all those things can be developed by operators, which of course costs time and money. Or they can integrate an already existing esports betting platform, where they already have all those things. One way or another, it makes no sense to hide esports between golf and basketball. With both demographics separating, offer them the chance to use their own product.

Esports live events will be back. Or will they? The point is, it doesn't matter, because esports can handle both. Don't get me wrong, live esports events are better than the online ones. But if we can't do live events even next year, esports will still shine. Looking at football, not only is the experience without fans a bit boring, there are also questions about integrity. For example, why is European competition played when some of the teams are banned from standard training and playing in their local league? We all wish to come back to normalcy, but it's better to not be fully relying on it. The same goes for betting.

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On the upward trend

Esports have passed $100 million of traded volumes on Betfair Exchange. The best results ever, all while traditional sports saw no betting possible for weeks and months. All operators who want to hedge against any future issues should, therefore, have a look at esports. And if live events are back? The prize money for the biggest live tournament in Dota 2, The International, is already sitting at a $40 million prize pool and counting. League of Legends World Championship 2021 will be played in China in bigger stadiums. One way or another, esports will have a great year.

New top names will enter the scene David Beckham, Sergio Aguero or AC Milan. Those are just some of the names and brands which decided to step into esports in 2020. With their money and brand awareness, others will likely follow. If I should guess some names, Dwayne Johnson would be one of them. He already touched the topic of esports in his HBO show Ballers, so it would be no big surprise if he started an esports venture.

DAVID BECKHAM, SERGIO AGUERO OR AC MILAN. THOSE ARE JUST SOME OF THE NAMES AND BRANDS WHICH DECIDED TO STEP INTO ESPORTS IN 2020 Football clubs also want to join the party. Just take a look at Schalke 04 in LEC. The Bundesliga team is behind Bayern Munich or Dortmund in terms of money or fanbase, but they were the ones who snapped the opportunity to join the European League of Legends franchise, and they finished amongst the playoff contenders this summer. So the blueprint is there, and I expect others to follow. Let's see how many predictions will fulfill. Maybe all, who knows. But what I know for sure is that esports is here to stay. Compared to almost any other industry, it came through 2020 stronger than ever, and it is in prime position to dominate in 2021. So strap yourself in, and enjoy the great ride that esports is on. •

12 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

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A recovery to where?

ITALY: NAVIGATING THE POLITICAL STORM ITALIAN BETTING OPERATORS had

earmarked 2020 as a year of relative calm following back-to-back political storms. But will the remainder of this year be plain sailing, or is there more trouble ahead?

D

espite the controversy that erupted following the approval and implementation of Italy’s federal-mandated ‘Dignity Decree‘, behind the scenes licensed operators had accepted that they would simply have to swallow the blanket ban on gambling advertising, sponsorships and tougher compliance conditions. Yet no one could have prepared themselves for the gut-wrenching scenario and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems that as Italian gambling made a plea for help, the industry was dealt another dose of political blows. After four months of observing Europe’s toughest lockdown, Italian betting re-emerged to the news that the Giuseppe Conte’s government had sanctioned a temporary 0.5% turnover tax across all betting verticals as part of the country’s emergency ‘COVID Revival Decree’. Enforcing the market’s third tax rise in four years, licensed operators had to bite the metaphorical bullet and absorb Europe’s highest betting duties - with the temporary 0.5% turnover tax equating to a 15% increase in net duties. Unsurprisingly, after months of retail closures - compounded by the measures in the Dignity Decree - this news was met with widespread frustration from the betting industry as operators were

14 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

WE ARE TOLD EACH YEAR THAT CONDITIONS HAVE SETTLED, BUT THE BOUNDARIES JUST KEEP CHANGING, MAKING IT HARDER TO OPERATE forced to restructure their operations and market expectations yet again to accommodate another round of regulatory enforcements.

Italy’s betting future was among the key focal points at SBC’s Betting on Sports Europe - Digital in October, as panelists attempted to dissect the possibilities of what may lie ahead. Alessandro Allara, Chief Digital Officer of Gamenet, expressed his exasperation over the shifting boundaries which are adding increased pressure on Italian betting companies. “We are told each year that


SPORTS BETTING

conditions have settled, but the boundaries just keep changing, making it harder to operate,” he said. “Each time that the law changes, we have to make instant changes to our products in order to serve customers.” Allara also disclosed that the operator had to make significant modifications to its online platforms to accommodate Decree restrictions, explaining that the regulations on traffic sources meant that they ‘no longer have Facebook, Instagram, Google or PPC’. Notwithstanding the constantly changing regulatory environment, the government had expressed its intentions to significantly reduce the market size within Italy by 2023. This blow was dealt by Marcello Minenna, who the Conte administration appointed to the position of DirectorGeneral of Italy’s ADM Custom and Monopolies Agency. Tasked with imposing a new fiscal registry on all licensed operators and overhauling the market’s licensing concessions, Minenna underscored that he had been given the mandate

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ITALY TO FINALLY ESTABLISH THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN ALL STAKEHOLDERS… ITS LICENSED HOLDERS, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES to ‘eradicate gambling corruption’, for which the ADM had formed a new task force with Italy’s Carabinieri (federal police) to shut down ‘non-compliant businesses’. Ludovico Calvi, President of the Global Lottery Monitoring System, recognised that the government had appointed a hard-nosed taskmaster to lead reforms. However, Calvi underlined that following a raft of restrictions, Minenna faced tough choices in how

to balance the market against the threat of the black market. “We have seen foreign and domestic companies spend millions towards safeguarding the industry,” he added. “15 years ago, the black market owned over 50% of the market share, and that figure was reduced into single digits… No one wants a situation where that comes back.” For the GLMS President, if the Conte government is serious about its intentions to eradicate black market threats, ministers should introduce long-awaited reforms on market safeguards while also removing Italy’s fragmented regional policies. “What is most critical is that the new ADM not only reviews the regulatory framework from a fiscal perspective, but also from an operational standpoint," Calvi remarked. “Now is the time for Italy to finally establish the rules of engagement

ITALY HAS 80 LICENSED OPERATORS, BUT COVID WILL CHANGE THAT. WE EXPECT A FAST-FORWARDING OF CONSOLIDATION AS THE TOP 10 OPERATORS ACCOUNT FOR 80% OF THE MARKET’S GGR

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A recovery to where?

between all stakeholders… its licensed holders, the federal government and local authorities. This will safeguard the consumers and the interest of companies that have invested in the market.” While observers have accepted that Italian gambling will undertake a further round of radical reforms, Marco Tiso, Digital Director of Sisal, highlighted that changes in market size would be dictated by market forces as opposed to any government dictum. He noted: “Italy has 80 licensed operators, but Covid will change that scenario. We expect a fast-forwarding of consolidation as the top 10 operators account for 80% of the market’s GGR. “In the next two to three years, we expect the market to significantly reduce to around 30-40 licensed operators, this will be decided by mergers or exits.” Tiso explained that consumer behaviour changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic had

THE PANDEMIC HAS ACCELERATED ITALIAN ONLINE GAMBLING BY AT LEAST FIVE YEARS

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SPORTS BETTING

been even more pronounced in Italy when compared to other European countries, as the pandemic had established online gambling as the key battleground. He continued: “Up to September, the online gambling market has grown by 30% month-on-month, whilst in previous years, online gambling maintained a market share growth rate of one percentage point each year, with online gambling accounting for 10% of the Italian gambling

marketplace. “The pandemic has accelerated Italian online gambling by at least five years, as online gambling now makes up for 20% of the marketplace.” Tiso concluded that the ‘digital acceleration’ of Italy’s gambling scene was mirrored across all walks of life, adding that a nation that has traditionally shunned online engagements for day-to-day retail and commerce transactions has accepted its new normal. •


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Positioned for growth

IGT: SERIOUS ABOUT SPORTS BETTING AND SERVICE AS THE US SPORTS BETTING INDUSTRY continues to

grow, IGT reflects on why the company is in the prime position to take on new opportunities

A

s legalised sports betting continues to gain momentum in the US, the IGT PlaySports platform continues to hold its position as a leading B2B sports betting solution in the market. With IGT’s proven sports betting platform, products and comprehensive trading services coupled with partnerships with some of the largest

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sports betting operators in the world, it is clear to see that IGT is serious about sports betting. IGT leveraged its decades of experience with betting outside of the US and was well-positioned for success with its sports betting platform technology prior to the US Supreme Court repeal of PASPA in May 2018.

Since then, IGT has built a customised solution for the US, award-winning hardware, and brought together a group of talented professionals comprised of sales, marketing, operations and an exclusive in-house trading team. The customer-first mentality has long been essential to its entire business throughout lottery, gaming and digital and now it’s a vital component to its growing US sports betting offering. The company has long-term contracts with some of the largest lotteries in the world and holds more gaming licences than any other gaming


US MARKET

Matteo Carli, IGT’s SVP Global PlaySports, ETG and Poker

supplier around the globe, all backed by positive relationships with regional operators and regulators. IGT is much more than a technology supplier; it works hard to build and maintain strong relationships with customers and serve as their growthdriving partner. IGT’s PlaySports team knows that trusted customer service is one of the most important drivers for its continued success. “As legal US sports betting continues to take off, we know that our PlaySports customers are in need of even more than a proven platform and award-winning products,” said Matteo Carli, IGT’s SVP Global PlaySports, ETG and Poker. “They are looking to IGT to provide our knowledge, expertise, and excellent service to make sure their sports betting operation is as successful as it can be. And that’s exactly what we do. Our US-

based service team is committed to helping our customers optimise their PlaySports technology for the best possible player experiences and performance outcome.” One of the ways that IGT is helping customers take full advantage of their PlaySports investment is through IGT’s innovative Sports Betting Academy. While IGT offers comprehensive in-person training for all operators, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the academy solely online. This web-based training program is available to all operators who leverage the PlaySports platform

IGT’S CUSTOMER-FIRST MENTALITY HAS LONG BEEN ESSENTIAL TO ITS ENTIRE BUSINESS

and its content is customised to match each venue’s specific business model. “The ease and flexibility of the PlaySports virtual training tool has proved to be extremely useful in the last six months given the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon IGT and our customers,” added Carli. “With restricted travel, size limits on gatherings and budget constraints, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of our PlaySports customers utilising the extensive Sports Betting Academy to train their staff in a safe and convenient way.” Casinos, lotteries, and racetracks of any size can all benefit from IGT’s Sports Betting Academy and its customised content. Recently, PointsBet took advantage of the academy when their retail location went live in Illinois. The IGT PlaySports team was with them every step of the way providing

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Positioned for growth

US MARKET

guidance during the program and ensuring the PlaySports platform could accommodate and support highvolume betting and a smooth launch at the Hawthorne Race Course in September. “The IGT Sports Academy team complemented the online course work with live webinars and Q&A sessions for the trainees which proved very helpful during the training and at the point of go-live of operations,” said Jenn Saragnese, PointsBet Delivery Manager. “The IGT Sports Academy team provided outstanding support and availability throughout the pretraining and training phases for the entire PointsBet team.”

IGT CONTINUES TO GROW ITS US SPORTS BETTING BUSINESS EVERY DAY, AND DESPITE THE PANDEMIC, IS WELL POSITIONED TO TAKE ON THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN 2021 Once IGT designs the property and position-specific program, PlaySports customers can walk through a complete online, multimedia curriculum tailored to the individual’s specific role within the sports betting ecosystem. For instance, front-of-house service employees, traders, and compliance would all be assigned different training programs. Saragnese added: “For its retail launch in Illinois, PointsBet enrolled its new hires and trainees in the IGT Sports Academy several weeks in advance of go-live. The courses were organised and segmented well, allowing users to enroll in the correct courses for their job role.” When an individual completes their self-paced online training modules, they will have the opportunity to test their knowledge through a series of online quizzes in which the pass/ fail threshold can be set by the employees’ manager. People managers will have visibility to the subject matter individuals most readily miss and also that which is most quickly comprehended. In addition, IGT’s Sports Betting Academy can be accessed on mobile devices, serving as a quick

20 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

resource for PlaySports questions and troubleshooting at any time. After a sportsbook employee completes the online training, all course material is available to serve as a resource for common questions, technology troubleshooting, and a quick review of past training. The material is strategically organised by topic and easy to navigate so that individuals can quickly source critical information at a moment’s notice. PointsBet said that they appreciate having the course materials permanently in the Sports Betting Academy so that it's available for their new hires on an ongoing basis.

They said being able to refer back to the training materials will ease the onboarding and training process in the long-term. IGT continues to grow its US sports betting business every day, and despite the pandemic, it is well positioned to take on the opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead in 2021. One thing is certain: IGT will continue to demonstrate its deep-rooted sports betting knowledge, excellence in technology, innovative hardware and customer-focused service through programs such as the IGT Sports Betting Academy. •


The new American Dream?

US POLITICAL BETTING: A MISSED OPPORTUNITY OR A RISK TO PUBLIC INTEREST? UP UNTIL WORLD WAR II,

America had a highly active market around betting on the outcome of political events. But a modern day reluctance to give the go-ahead for legal political wagering is seen by some industry observers as a missed opportunity

T

he votes have been cast and new US President-elect Joe Biden waits in the wings to take his place in the White House, keeping a careful watch in the meantime on a mounting series of legal challenges from Donald Trump as to the veracity of the voting process. While Trump may well be questioning the integrity of the election and the sources of Biden’s winning votes, there is no doubting the scale of global fascination around the event which manifested itself in one of the biggest betting markets ever witnessed. What was widely touted as the most important American Presidential Election in decades, managed to attract in excess of $1bn in bets around the world according to some estimates, none of which were wagered legally with US bookmakers. When we say ‘none’, there are two exceptions when it comes to betting on US politics. United States residents who want a flutter on the presidential election can do so via the Iowa Electronic Markets or via the website PredictIt, both of which have the blessing of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

22 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


US MARKET

Thanks to ‘No Action’ letters issued by the Commission, the two can offer election markets for educational purposes. But other than that, the very thought of allowing political wagering seems anathema to state policy makers who fear that it could have, among other things, repercussions on voter activity and turnout. Even Nevada turned down a proposal to introduce it in 2013. But is all this hand-wringing creating a missed opportunity? According to Sarbjit Bakhshi, Head of Political Markets at Smarkets, absolutely. Speaking during a high-profile panel session at the recent Betting on Sports

ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE STOPPING IT BEING LEGAL IN THE US I THINK ARE MISTAKES

Europe – Digital event, Bakhshi joined Matthew Shaddick, Head of Political Betting, GVC Group, to address how the election was playing out and how markets had responded to the tumultuous political US landscape. The Smarkets man was clear in his view that should political betting go legal in the US, it would be an enormous product, adding that it’s almost only by mistake that wagering on elections is banned stateside. “It’s like the Wire Act or consumer protection,” he explained. “They don’t seem to match the political characteristics of political markets or trading. People bet on horse races because there are so many of them and they bet in high frequency and have all kinds of issues sometimes with those. Politics don’t. “These are big, slow moving markets. The payoff is very delayed. There’s not a dopamine rush you get when you bet on an election that’s going to happen

PEOPLE ARE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN THE DATA THAT WE PRODUCE FROM OUR MARKETS in six months’ time or a year’s time. All the things that are stopping it being legal in the US I think are mistakes and if you could recognise political betting as its own thing, the dynamics of its customer base and the movements of it would be very different.” Aside from the player protection issue, Bakhshi considered the role that political betting would play in creating more wealth for states. “I think that the scope for tax revenues is enormous,” he said. “We know that in countries where it is illegal somehow gambling does take place so getting organised crime out of this would be fantastic. I think it’s a win-win.”

sbcmagazine.com 23


The new American Dream?

Bakhshi was also quick to emphasise the knowledge value inherent in betting on political outcomes. He noted: “People are genuinely interested in the data that we produce from our markets. We are talking to news media from around the world including the US who are interested in what the markets are saying and adding it to their existing sources of information that they have. “Why not make it legal? Why not let Americans take part in it? I think it’s a fantastic opportunity – it is billions of dollars of revenue that we’re talking about. And it would be fascinating for the rest of the world to see what Americans think about all kinds of political bets.” GVC’s Shaddick agreed, saying: “Billions and billions of taxable pounds is how I would describe it. The US

24 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

I THINK IT’S A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY – IT IS BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF REVENUE THAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT political system is almost a dream for bookmakers the way it’s set up. I mean – you’ve got primaries for both parties for every congressional senate seat, governors’ race and presidential election. You can probably bet down to state level in some of the bigger states like California and New York I imagine. “Some of those state elections would generate enough media interest to offer betting markets

THE US POLITICAL SYSTEM IS ALMOST A DREAM FOR BOOKMAKERS THE WAY IT’S SET UP

on. It would be an enormous nonstop product because once the presidential cycle is out of the way you’ve got primaries coming up for midterms. You’ve got governors’ races and speculation about what Trump’s going to Tweet about and so on. No doubt in my mind it would be a huge opportunity.” Opportunity or not, it is highly unlikely that policy makers’ appetite for political wagering will alter any time soon. Yes, potentially there are big bucks to be made and some significant budgetary gaps that need filling across most US states. But as of now, it’s just not deemed to be in the public interest. •


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Fighting the legal corner

TIDE CONTINUES TO TURN AGAINST ILLEGAL BOOKIES BUT THERE REMAINS WORK TO BE DONE THANKS TO THE ACTIONS of the American Gaming Association and responsible stakeholders, the illegal betting market in the US is on the wane. But while the tide is turning, a sea change remains a distant prospect

D

espite a rampaging pandemic and the distraction of a bitter Presidential Election, US sports betting has managed a comeback of Lazarus proportions during recent times, with monthly revenue records continuing to tumble. But while this is all good news for the fine upstanding purveyors of legal betting, how is the fight progressing against the illegal bookies who remain out of sight, but everpresent? For a quick sitrep we turned to Casey Clark, Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications at the American Gaming Association. The first thing we needed to understand

was how the industry is performing in its fight to turn sports bettors away from the illegal bookies? Is it doing better at this stage than expected and what’s being done to reinforce the message that the legal option is the right one? He responded: “With the expansion of legal sports betting, consumers are steadily moving toward the legal

AGA RESEARCH FOUND THAT AVERAGE SPENDING WITH ILLEGAL BOOKIES DROPPED 25% LAST YEAR IN STATES WITH LEGAL SPORTS BETTING

market. AGA research found that average spending with illegal bookies dropped 25% last year in states with legal sports betting. With more than $28bn having been wagered legally in the US since the court invalidated PASPA, it is pretty clear that consumers are migrating to the safe, regulated, legal markets that have opened closer to home. According to Clark, the AGA’s research indicates that while 74% of bettors say it’s important to exclusively bet with legal operators, 55% unknowingly wagered with illegal operators last year. Clearly there’s still work to be done. “Playing with legal, regulated operators is a key part of responsible sports wagering, so we have resources available so everyone can see what options are available to them in their jurisdiction,” he advised. “The AGA is also leading an industry wide educational effort through our 'Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly' public service campaign, which educates consumers on not just where, but also how to bet responsibly. “We are proud to partner with the NHL and NASCAR on this important initiative and look forward to partnering with more leagues and teams as they embrace the shared responsibility that comes with the sports betting opportunity.” The COVID pandemic has been disruptive in all areas of the business, specifically regarding the cessation of sporting events which created huge pressure on bookmakers to identify new markets. We asked Clark how this might have hampered efforts to keep bettors away from the black market? “First, I’d say that the legal market

26 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


US MARKET

55% UNKNOWINGLY WAGERED WITH ILLEGAL OPERATORS LAST YEAR

has done a good job, as it always does, in being nimble and finding ways to engage American sports bettors,” he said. “Regulators permitted new bet types, and operators across the country worked to offer innovative entertainment opportunities people come to them for. “This was true during the total sports shut down, and certainly the record handle numbers we’re seeing in September and October are indicative of a legal industry serving a growing

customer base. We estimate that the amount Americans have legally bet on sports through mobile channels has more than doubled year-over-year in every month since July 2020, while US

THE AGA IS ALSO LEADING AN INDUSTRY WIDE EDUCATIONAL EFFORT THROUGH OUR HAVE A GAME PLAN

igaming revenue has more than tripled every month since April.” Clark acknowledged that during the sports shutdown caused by COVID-19, illegal, offshore operators tried to fill the void by offering bets on everything from the weather to shark migration patterns. “These unregulated operators took advantage of unknowing consumers by pitching mainstream media to give the appearance of legitimacy,” he

sbcmagazine.com 27


Fighting the legal corner

commented. “It may make for good clickbait to entice people to bet on the likelihood that their friend’s marriage survives the pandemic, but mainstream media outlets linking to offshore books is a problem to say the least. “That’s why part of our work is focused on educating reporters and media outlets about how editorial coverage of offshore operators perpetuates predatory, illegal markets.” While any form of federal involvement in sports betting has been considered anathema by some industry stakeholders and observers, there are some who suggest that they have a part to play in that they have far more considerable resources to chase down illegal operators. Clark believes that while the regulation of legal sports betting should be left to the industry’s 4,000 experienced state and tribal gaming regulators, the federal government plays and should play an active and important role in combating illegal gambling. He noted: “The AGA works with federal law enforcement to enhance

28 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

US MARKET

our collective understanding of the illegal market, and we encourage the federal government to continue prosecuting offshore operators, as they have successfully done over the last two decades. “The Department of Justice has also made clear that it is illegal for companies to accept advertising revenue from illegal operators. This is another important enforcement mechanism that should be utilised

message be to delegates ahead of the event? He answered: “The entire sports betting ecosystem - from operators and media to sports teams and leagues - shares a responsibility to promote responsible gaming and educate consumers on the importance of betting only within the safeguards of the legal, regulated market. “This means holding ourselves accountable as an industry by

THESE UNREGULATED OPERATORS TOOK ADVANTAGE OF UNKNOWING CONSUMERS BY PITCHING MAINSTREAM MEDIA TO GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF LEGITIMACY at the federal level, as limiting the visibility of illegal operators is important to continuing to diminish their market share.” Keeping America’s bettors safe through responsible gambling initiatives and driving out illegal operators will be a big talking point at this year’s Betting on Sports America - Digital. In conclusion, we asked Clarke what would the association’s

investing in responsible gaming research and education, making responsible gaming programs widely available, and self-regulating when it comes to responsible advertising. “The success of the sports betting market is dependent on our shared commitment to responsible gaming, and our partnerships in Have a Game Plan are a great step forward in collaborating to educate consumers about how to bet responsibly.” •


Betsson’s long-term LatAm future

GAMBLING AS A SUSTAINABLE ACTIVITY IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL IN LATIN AMERICA THE RETURN OF FOOTBALL IN LATIN AMERICA is part

of a new golden era for the sport that each person in the region has in their DNA, said Andrea Rossi, Betsson Commercial Director for Southern Europe and Latin America

W

hile sportsbooks take hold in the region, encouraged by a new regulatory wave, football is taking advantage of adding a new entertainment dimension to expand its popularity in the age of digital transformation. The momentum that football and the betting industry experience in Latin America gives a glimpse to operators and teams that there might be a longterm future for both to coexist, even if 2020 was unexpectedly full of chaos. Representing the betting sector, Betsson celebrates its road to recovery and expects “a 2021 of resilience and full of sports events, such as the Copa América and the Eurocopa”. “Logically, the relationship between bookmakers and sports teams is extremely important as a source of investment to maintain and further develop the sport and escape the crisis together,” said Rossi. As a sponsor of Peru’s Liga 1 Movistar, and having signed advertising agreements with regional media to boost the brand’s exposure during both the Copa Libertadores and CONMEBOL’s qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup, Rossi assured that the “Latin American market has no reason to envy

30 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


LATAM

Andrea Rossi, Betsson Commercial Director for Southern Europe and Latin America

the European one”. “Perhaps, from the point of view of the player’s value, Europe stands out. But on a potential market level and sports fans, Latin America exceeds expectations,” he added. The Swedish operator emphasised the relationship with the regional markets. Recently, the Suaposta brand in Brazil rebranded to become Betsson, while the group also acquired a 70% stake in Colombia’s Colbet, reinforcing its territorial reach across the continent. “Just like in other jurisdictions from the region, Colombian clients prioritise localisation and product personalisation. This builds trust and boosts transparency,” explained Rossi, adding that Betsson is applying a multibrand strategy throughout the continent to focus on each market. Several countries have already started opening their markets and Betsson is ahead of the trends to build brand awareness once the regulations are in place. “We’re already well positioned in some markets, but in others we are still moving forward,” Rossi confirmed. “Latin America is big and not all countries have mature regulations.” Rossi also highlighted that entering these markets should be seen as a long-term goal and “not just a race.” He

FOR PLAYER VALUE, EUROPE STANDS OUT. BUT ON A POTENTIAL MARKET LEVEL AND FOR SPORTS FANS, LATIN AMERICA EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS said that it’s necessary to build trust, work on localisation and understand the local culture - all things that need both attention and time to develop. Echoing these thoughts was Andre Gelfi, Managing Partner at Betsson Brazil. He said: “From a unique internal position, with a local team and a 100% dedicated business, we make a difference in terms of positioning and customer base development. We gain experience in advance learning and adjusting to a unique value proposition that’s interesting for each country.” In addition to developing anticipatory strategies, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in these markets is user distrust in online transactions. However,

COLOMBIAN CLIENTS PRIORITISE LOCALISATION AND PRODUCT PERSONALISATION. THIS BUILDS TRUST AND BOOSTS TRANSPARENCY

Betsson - nominated for 10 prizes at this year’s SBC Awards - has taken this factor by offering multiple options, as well as possible retail solutions, to generate the highest brand confidence. “We’re sure that as time goes by, those markets with little access to the online world are going to go deeper, it has already happened in other regions,” said Rossi. Confidence can also be bolstered by industry awards, which highlight the most outstanding companies of the year and those preferred by players. “Having 10 nominations for the SBC Awards makes us proud, it recognises the hard work that we do at Betsson every day,” Rossi continued. “Our mission and ambition is to offer the best gaming experience in the industry. Receiving such recognition is proof that we’re going in the right direction.” The company’s increased diversification has not only achieved promising results in a year of cancellations and closures, but it has also attracted new players.

sbcmagazine.com 31


Betsson’s long-term LatAm future

LATAM

Andre Gelfi, Managing Partner at Betsson Brazil

In addition to integrating different streaming solutions from giants like Betgenius and SIS, esports has emerged as one of the go-to verticals in Betsson’s offering: “It was a segment that we started promoting to customers during the lockdown, looking for something to offer, and we had a very good response from our customers. It’s something interesting, a new product with great potential.” The positioning of the brand will also depend on the ability to adapt to the regulations of each jurisdiction. Rossi believes that there are no tricks in terms of compliance, but rather a clear strategy. “We have an active, hard-working team dedicated to the regulatory side,” he said. “The important thing is to be able to adapt to what is asked in each case, and that’s why a transparent relationship with the authorities and regulators is important.” Gelfi added that “interacting and understanding legal needs and concerns is something that is done locally, dialogue is essential in order to shorten the reaction time as much as possible”. Betsson’s experts also analysed the possible consequences that the region is facing with regards to advertising and

32 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

IT’S TRUE THAT LATIN AMERICAN MARKETS SEE SPAIN AS AN EXAMPLE, WHICH HAS A VERY VALID AND EFFICIENT FRAMEWORK, BUT I HOPE THEY OVERSEE THE NEGATIVE PART sponsorship restrictions, similar to those that came into force in Spain. Taking into account that Colombia’s regulation replicated some of the measures in Spain, and that there are several Latin American countries that could follow this trend, are operators facing a similar challenge in Latin America? “It’s true that Latin American markets see Spain as an example, which has a very valid and efficient framework, one of the best out there. I hope they oversee the negative part, which are these new proposals regarding marketing limitations,” said Rossi. “These restrictive measures expose

players to illegal sites, where there is no way to educate and raise awareness on how to play and the available tools to control gambling and manage spending in order to avoid problematic behaviours. “Betsson knows how important this is – at the upcoming SBC Awards, Betsson is shortlisted for both Socially Responsible Sportsbook of the Year, and also for Socially Responsible Casino of the Year.” Gelfi added: “The greatest challenge for the regulator is to expand the market in a way that channelises revenues into the regulatory framework - which is the basic goal of every government - in a healthy way. Gambling as a sustainable activity is a great goal. “There are alternative ways to control without harming sports and licensed operators. In Brazil, the vision is to allow the development of the market with advertising and sponsorship to generate resources and make it a thriving regulated local industry.” •

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FOR THE REGULATOR IS TO EXPAND THE MARKET IN A WAY THAT CHANNELS REVENUES INTO THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK IN A HEALTHY WAY


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Dual perspective

CASINO STREAMERS CAN BRING GAMING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER DRIVEN BY THE LIVE STREAMING BOOM,

casinos can now bring communities together on-site and in-game. FunFair Games and CasinoGrounds combine to provide the games developer and streamer perspective

T

he live streaming market is growing at an extraordinary rate. Across all sectors it is projected to more than double in growth by 2021 and generate more than $70 billion. In the casino world, however, it is arguably just emerging as a new and powerful means of engaging players to the huge volume of content available. Here are the thoughts of FunFair Games COO Lloyd Purser and CasinoGrounds CEO Tobias Svensen.

Purser - the games developer perspective The impact of casino streamers in the last two years has rapidly grown and today, an increasing number of brands and suppliers are turning to individual streamers or streamer networks to promote their games to a carefully curated and highly engaged, next generation player audience. Many of whom are under 35, and therefore the ideal target market. With many of us now spending more time at home, we are also online more often across the day and constantly connected via a host of different devices. This has led to a further acceleration in casino streamers’ influence across both traditional online and social channels such as Instagram.

36 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Lloyd Purser, FunFair Games COO

Gen Y and Z players are equally looking for different sources of entertainment and streaming offers a unique and immediate insight into a product, particularly as streamers themselves are within the same age group, often seen as ‘experts’ and crucially as a trusted source. Streamers have recently led the way in creating engaged communities of next gen players and have woken much of the gaming industry up

to the potential of bringing these communities together. At FunFair Games, we believe we have the knowledge, expertise and games that will also bring communities of next gen players together, both onsite and in-game. Our experience in crypto has been vital to this thought process and we have learned a great deal about players and what they want. One stand-out difference is that many


CASINO

crypto players want a different style of casino game and the same can be said of Gen Y and Z casino players. We call these types of games multiplayer to single outcome, with the most popular example being ‘Crash’, also known as ‘Moon’. These types of games offer a very different experience to standard single-player games in the traditional casino space, such as slots, or even live casino games. Therefore, we are now in the process of developing both crash-inspired games as well as several alternative concepts based on the core foundations that attract this demographic. Our aim is to focus on multiplayerfirst content that really builds a sense of community within the games, with other players’ activity on view, both in real-time and historically. In addition, we will include features which allow players to express themselves through emojis, for example. Much like streamers that have a realtime game display and a simple view of the individual so that they can talk and engage with the virtual audience, we don’t need complex visuals or

mechanics to keep players interested. Simplicity and enabling players to choose a single layer of outcome is vital for an audience of under 35s. In more detail, our games require players to make decisions as an active part of the game. The RNG always delivers the result, however players have still made a choice to win or lose, and by how much. With the added ability to set their own RTP and level of risk, players also have a clear choice, another significant draw for this audience. And all this is delivered as simply as possible, meaning the mechanics remain highly compelling and exciting, with the entertainment remaining focused on the ‘gamble’ – the core entertainment element. Streaming has turned slot play on its head, bringing it out of the shadows

STREAMERS HAVE RECENTLY LED THE WAY IN CREATING ENGAGED COMMUNITIES OF NEXT GEN PLAYERS

as a single-player, solitary experience into a shared one, and multiplayer games are, and will, continue to do the same by driving new levels of community and engagement. For the time being, the multiplayer sector is relatively untapped, however we firmly believe it has as much, if not more, potential to grow within the casino world as streaming.

Svensen - the streamer perspective Brick-and-mortar-casinos bring anticipation to the table. This then creates a topic of interest talked about, before and after being there. The events, the highs, the lows, and the stories derived from these experiences help cement landbased casinos as ‘go-to’ places for entertainment. Then you have the online casinos. The players log in, make a deposit, then play for a bit and that is it. How many of you reading this article ever heard someone say ‘I’m going to play at an online casino this weekend?’ The only time that mainstream media mentions online casino today is

sbcmagazine.com 37


Dual perspective

CASINO

if someone wins or sometimes loses large sums of money. It’s not right. What about the players who log in, deposit and play? What happens when they win big? For some, a big win is 100 times their stake, while for others it’s a thousand times. Where do they then go to brag, who do they tell, and how do they share their stories? Where is the personal touch in all this? A player might receive an email from a casino with a generic, sometimes ‘personalised’ offer, but given how blasé most are about ads nowadays, it’s a different ballgame, and a completely different world from the ‘good old’ brick-and-mortar venue. In what may have looked like a barren field of nothing for some, others saw an opportunity. A small group of casino players turned on their webcams in 2016, created a forum and simply started sharing their online gambling experiences with likeminded people.

Tobias Svensen, CasinoGrounds CEO

WHAT USED TO BE AN EXPERIENCE YOU WOULD ONLY SHARE WITH THOSE CLOSE TO YOU IS NOW BORDERLESS, AND CONNECTS WITH THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE INSTANTANEOUSLY Fast forward to 2020, and casino streaming has become a platform where the industry, players, viewers, game developers and others all stand on equal ground, sharing experiences. The earlier reference to the talk around the table, the anticipation and the stories that have come from visiting a brick-and-mortar venue has now been replaced by big win stories shared on some of the world’s biggest gambling communities. The issues, problems and challenges, alongside requests and questions are also brought in front of everyone to see and talk about. What used to be a good story someone told their friends is now just seconds away from being published, shared and viewed thousands of times within a matter of hours. What used to be an experience you would only share with those close to you is now borderless, and connects with thousands of people instantaneously.

38 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Today, casino streaming is a vessel that puts anyone in the driver’s seat, and a platform that facilitates a level of engagement around brands paramount to other channels. As a streamer, you share your experience, talk about the games you like to play, where to play them, the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’. As a player (or viewer) you get a glimpse of what to expect, answers to all your questions, and a community to

discuss all of it with. As a brand – be it a game developer or an operator – you simply have a fast lane to communities where you bridge the gap between yourself and the players. Real money streaming has a great future and, the more we continue to work with innovative online casinos, we believe its potential to engage and grow communities even further is limitless. •


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Slot of the Week Winners

BGaming

Elvis Frog Basic Info: The 5×3, 25 payline slot has a free spins round which includes an endless potential of respins and a Coin Respin feature which can activate the three jackpot wins and bonus round. Elvis Frog is a Wid symbol, which substitutes for all symbols in the winning line, except Scatter and Coin symbols. If the player lands three Star Scatter symbols on reels one, three, and five, they are awarded with five free spins. During the free spins round, the reels two, three, and four

Reels: Five Payline: 25 Volatility: Medium to High RTP: 96%

make one special reel with spinning Giant symbols. Moreover, the game includes a Coin Respin feature which is activated when six coins appear on the reels in a single spin. During the Coin Respin feature, a player can hit either a mini, major, or mega jackpot.

Marina Ostrovtsova, Product Director at BGaming, said: “If we speak about regular expectations of players, this will be huge winnings and frequent bonuses – the game is designed in a way that it keeps players involved and entertained. “If we are talking about supplementary details for every slot – we would say songs like Elvis did it. This is our personal touch and adaptation of the great legend. “Elvis became a very stable hit, something you do not need to explain. Players love it, and the title itself is quite clear and understandable.”

Relax Gaming & CasinoGrounds

Iron Bank

Basic Info: Three bonus symbols trigger Free Spins, which presents players with a choice between different heist strategies, each bringing varying levels of volatility. When four, five, or six bonus symbols land, a win of 20x, 200x or 2000x the stake is awarded respectively. Players can then select either Sticky Mystery Symbols, Expanding Re-Spin Wilds and Progressive Multiplier Wilds

Reels: Six Volatility: High RTP: 96.2%

depending on their risk appetite, while a buy feature can take them straight to the height of the heist.

Simon Hammon, Chief Product Officer at Relax Gaming, commented: “Working with CasinoGrounds on this project has been a fun and explorative experience that has proven the value in listening to the wants of the player community. “The team’s enthusiasm was infectious and we’re proud to have brought their ideas to life. The result is a game that is one of the most feature rich slots on the market with high levels of suspense and a captivating storyline that will no doubt appeal to a wide range of player demographics.” Tobias Svensen, CasinoGrounds CEO, added: “As slot enthusiasts, designing our very own casino game is a real dream come true and we’re grateful to the Relax team for turning our vision into reality. “They’ve been a pleasure to work with, listening intently to what we wanted and making sure our ideas translated into a game that would meet the expectations of our community. If you’re looking for a slot that is as action-packed as it is fast-moving, then Iron Bank is the game for you.”

40 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


CASINO

Big Time Gaming

Chocolates

Basic Info: During the base game, Chocolate Boxes increase the player’s payline, with up to 65,536 during the free spins round. Boxes open to reveal up to four Chocolate symbols. Meanwhile, all boxes become Sticky Boxes during the free spins and one or more triggering scatters turn into Sticky Boxes. Each reel with four Sticky symbols awards an additional three free spins and up to 12 extra free spins can be awarded in total.

Reels: Four Paylines: 2,401 increased to 65,536 with Sticky Boxes in the Free Spins round. Volatility: High RTP: 96%

Regular Wilds and Golden Ticket Wilds substitute for every symbol except Scatters and Boxes. A win is multiplied by six for each Golden Ticket Wild that substitutes within it.

Big Time Gaming CEO Nik Robinson said: “Chocolates is one of my favorite games yet and it’s got all the hallmarks of a hit. We work hard to make each release more engaging and exciting than the last, and fans will love this vibrant new offering.” Leon Thomas, Commercial Director at Microgaming, added: “Big Time Gaming’s slots are always fresh, innovative and popular with players, and we are delighted to collaborate with Nick and his team on this exclusive launch. “Chocolates is another great game from a company that keeps on delivering, and we look forward to treating our customers and their players with exclusive early access to this exciting, feature-rich title.”

Gaming Realms and Eyecon

Slingo Fluffy Favourites Basic Info: Lauded as its most ‘eyecon-ic’ slot, the title combines the Slingo grid mechanic and all the original features of the Fluffy Favourites series yet offers a twist by generating wins through the bonus games, rather than through line wins, which are all taken from various Fluffy categories. During the base game, players must complete five slingos to activate the first bonus round. They will then advance up the bonus ladder with each additional slingo they achieve while getting the chance to unlock more bonuses as they go.

Reels: Five Payline: 12 Volatility: High/Very High RTP: 95.5%

As players move up the slingo ladder, players get the chance to play enhanced versions of each bonus which will award more prize picks once triggered by a greater number of slingos. The Toy Grabber and Coin Pusher bonuses offer enhanced prizes when they are triggered by 10 and 12 slingos respectively. The final bonus round within the title is the ‘Hook-aFluffy’. This awards three or five picks when triggered with seven or 10 slingos, with the player selecting a toy as it floats past the screen with each toy revealing a prize.

Mark Segal, CFO of Gaming Realms, said: “This is a hugely exciting time for Slingo Originals and we’re honoured to be working with such an iconic brand. We hope that fans of Slingo and the phenomenal Fluffy Favourites slot will enjoy this new collaboration combining the iconic slingo format with the best bonus games from the Fluffy Favourites catalogue.”

sbcmagazine.com 41


Slot of the Week Winners

CASINO

Silverback Gaming

Mystery Stacks

Basic Info: The 3×5 reel slot takes its inspiration from the classic fruit machine with cherries, berries, oranges and lemons among the symbols incorporated in the title. Alongside classic symbols the slot will also have a Mystery Coins circulating the reel. If the Mystery Coin symbol lands on the reel then it reveals a symbol, increasing your chances of landing a winning combination or triggering the Mega Coin, which

Reels: Five Payline: 10 Volatility: Medium RTP: 95%

guarantees wins. When that Mega Coin appears, the reels will be filled with one randomly selected symbol resulting in a cluster of combinations and the chance to win up to 500x your original stake.

Raphael Di Guisto, Founder and CEO at Silverback Gaming, shared: “We’re delighted that Mystery Stacks has been named SlotBeats Slot of the Week. Being recognised by an industry leading publication is the icing on the cake of what has been an awesome week for us here. “The team at Silverback Gaming is committed to making the most entertaining slots for our players and we are thrilled to see the response. We have a lot more in the pipeline so watch the space. “Our philosophy is based on creativity, simplicity and elegance – and Mystery Stacks ticks all the boxes. This striking slot might have a classic feel and simple gameplay, but the design, soundtrack and fast-paced action elevate it to another level.”

Yggdrasil and AvatarUX

CherryPop

Basic Info: During the base game, players can trigger the free-spin mode if they fully unlock all reels through popping wins, before unlocking three levels of the free-spins bonus, with higher multipliers and more reels possible. Furthermore, players also have the opportunity to gamble their free spins, potentially winning more, using the Gamble

Reels: Five Payline: 243 Volatility: High RTP: 96.1%

Wheel. In certain jurisdictions, players can also go straight to the free-spins round with the Buy Bonus button.

Stuart McCarthy, Head of Partner Programmes at Yggdrasil, said: “We’re thrilled to be releasing our third title with AvatarUX. With their innovative Popwins mechanic proving a real industry hit, we’re really excited to launch CherryPop to the market. “Our YG Masters program continues to go from strength-to-strength and our partnerships have never been stronger with members.” Marcus Honney, Managing Director at AvatarUX, added: “CherryPop takes our mechanic and adds a thrilling theme with impressive win potential, and we can’t wait to see how it is received by operator partners across the globe. “Since joining the YG Masters programme, we’ve been able to focus purely on our game design which has led to our Popwins titles becoming very popular throughout Yggdrasil’s distribution network. The end-to-end integration through GATI has been effortless, and with a record fast implementation. GATI is the studio developers dream.”

42 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


www.bigtimegaming.com


Heightened restrictions

SWEDEN – LIMITED THINKING? THE SWEDISH MARKET has been at the forefront of many

an agenda during recent years, however, following re-regulation at the start of 2019, the period that has followed has been anything but smooth sailing

T

his seemed to be exacerbated somewhat during the early stages of 2020, when the country’s government introduced proposals for further restrictions on online gambling as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

been revealed that an extension to these series of ‘temporary measures,’ such as a SEK 5,000 deposit limit for games at online casinos as well as time limits on play and SEK 100 limit on bonus offers, could well be extended until the end of June 2021. As the Minister for Social Insurance

Subsequently, many industry stakeholders urged a reconsideration time and time again, with numerous parties highlighting a sharp increase in black market activity. In recent weeks, however, it has

THE ‘TEMPORARY RESTRICTIONS’ AREN’T GOING AWAY, THAT NEVER HAPPENS

44 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Ardalan Shekarabi highlighted his concerns of ‘continued risks in the area of ​​gambling,’ Sweden’s Branschföreningen för Onlinespel - the Trade Association for Online Gambling - has urged the government to withdraw its proposals to extend current restrictions on the online gaming industry. Responding to Shekarabi’s proposals, BOS has hit back at the government’s ‘erroneous’ claim that more players have used online casinos during the pandemic, and has demanded that the memorandum be withdrawn. Earlier this year, when examining new regulations that entered the sports betting ecosystem, Fintan Costello, Managing Director of BonusFinder, touched upon igaming and offered a prediction on what the remainder of 2020 could bring. “The ‘temporary restrictions’ aren’t going away, that never happens,” he said. “And, you know, once somebody has got a taste of victory then you just expand, so you could easily see this being rolled-out to all products, maybe with the exception of lottery


CASINO

I AM VERY PRO LICENSING, AND WE SHOULD ALL BE VERY TRANSPARENT ON WHO’S OPERATING IN THE MARKET and horse betting. But that’s a different story. “So, I definitely see that happening. I think the B2B licensing makes perfect sense; I don’t think B2B licensing fixes the offshore market. There’s plenty of software providers out there that will never get a Swedish licence and will have no exposure to Sweden but will happily service the offshore industry targeting Sweden. “But I am very pro licensing, and we should all be very transparent on who’s operating in the market and who is dealing with customers. So, I am totally pro that, but it doesn’t fix the channelisation issue.” Costello pointed to research previously conducted by the firm earlier in the year as evidence of the detrimental effect he believes such an extension could bring, with the investigation, using Google Trends, showing that the number of searches for unlicensed casino brands targeting Sweden had risen by 305% during the reporting period. The research also revealed that searches for ‘casino utan licens,’ or without a licence, saw a 710% increase, this was compared to a 173% uplift in ‘online casino’. “Let’s play the cynical game, if you’re the historical state monopoly and you’re sportsbook heavy, it’s in your best interest to actually introduce, because you already have all the players in your database pretty much, so your marketing costs are pretty limited,” Costello added. “If you introduce, or lobby, for very strict sports betting rules that forces a bunch of people out of the market, does it really affect your profits? Probably not. Does it lower your marketing costs and your overheads and everything else? So, personally speaking, if I was a sportsbook operator, I wouldn’t be relying on former state monopolies to protect my best interests.” The comments came at Betting on Sports Europe, where an expert panel

Fintan Costello, Managing Director of BonusFinder

convened as part of the ‘Betting around Europe’ track to look at the progress - or lack thereof - in the country, as well as what effect these proposals would have for sports bettors and bookmakers. The 40-minute discussion, titled Sweden – Limited Thinking, took a number of twists and turns, including

YOU COULD SEE THIS BEING ROLLED-OUT TO ALL PRODUCTS, MAYBE WITH THE EXCEPTION OF LOTTERY AND HORSE BETTING

looking at just how short-term the ‘temporary restrictions’ currently in place will actually be, with much scepticism expressed, as well as the level of reliance that operators can place in the hands of former state monopolies. To kick-things off Victor Schultz, associate at Wiklund Law and moderator for the session, offered an overview of recent developments: “In September of this year the Swedish Gambling Authority announced new regulations for sports betting, targeting match fixing within soccer and prohibiting betting on penalties

sbcmagazine.com 45


Heightened restrictions

CASINO

Maria McDonald, Partner at Nordic Gambling

and games in lower divisions,” he explained. “This regulation is to come into effect on 1 January 2021. Further, due to the pandemic, online casino operators have been hit with stricter requirements for player protection. While temporary in shape, the SGA is pushing to make some of these prohibitions permanent. “That’s a position that will most likely be supported by the gambling market inquiry which is to present its finds in December of this year. “In addition to this, we have also seen decreasing numbers in channelisation on the Swedish licensed market during 2020, so, all-in-all I think these factors raise questions under the circumstances in which sports betting will be offered on the Swedish market in the upcoming year. “For example, to what extent

WE HAVE A BLACK AND GREY MARKET WHICH IS GROWING

46 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

strict regulation relating to player protection will affect not only online casino operators, but also betting operators.” What followed was a breakdown of the market at present by each of Schultz’s fellow participants, dissecting current issues being experienced and identifying problems that they believe need to be addressed. Asking for a general view on the current state of the market, as well as how it has coped with the pandemic, Maria McDonald, partner at Nordic Gambling, offered her perspective. She said: “I think we have, from where we were two plus years ago when we anticipated the re-regulation and a very positive inquiry where the market would allow operators to get licensed and be a competitive market, to where we are today where I see operators either giving up their licences or, indeed, withdrawing their licence applications, because they do not see the market as profitable or as positive as we were all initially hoping for.

WE HAVE ALSO SEEN DECREASING NUMBERS IN CHANNELISATION ON THE SWEDISH LICENSED MARKET DURING 2020 “I think we have a problematic market right now, we have previous monopolies dominating the market, for whatever reason that may be, but we also have a black and grey market which is growing. “Both because it’s actually allowed to accept Swedish players as long as you don’t target the Swedish market, but also because we have operators who do not have a licence who offer their services in Swedish to Swedish people. “But this leaves a smaller and smaller market share for privately licensed operators, and the tough enforcement from the SGA on various rules has contributed to fears from the industry of doing anything out of the ordinary, and it makes it harder to market and to acquire customers.” •


GiG’s rising star

THE UNCONVENTIONAL RISE OF WORLD SPORTS NETWORK (WSN) THE SPOTLIGHT HAS BEEN

on GiG’s flagship affiliate site World Sports Network (WSN) for some time now. Now present in 10 US states, the site is quickly becoming a contender as one of the up-and-coming players within the US market

W

ith WSN.com, GiG Media has taken an unconventional go-tomarket approach by focusing nationwide and investing in highly engaging content mediums such as video and podcasts with the sole purpose of building a strong brand asset that the company can capitalise on in the future. WSN was described as one of the company's key operational highlights in GiG’s Q3 financial report released earlier this month. The journey to becoming one of the stars for GiG Media, said the company, is an insightful story of hard work, determination and one which has maintained a key focus on sustainable growth. It has taken a couple of years and a lot of expertise to bring the site to its current level, which is continuously strengthening its position within the US market, allowing GiG to expand its global footprint and stay on path as an influential player within the betting industry. SBC Leaders spoke to GiG Media’s Managing Director Jonas Warrer and Milorad Matejic, Director of SEO & Publishing, to find out where it all started and how they shaped the journey of WSN from a somewhat

48 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Jonas Warrer, GiG Media’s Managing Director

neglected, but valuable three letter domain to the rising star of GiG’s media and publishing business. Warrer said: “We bought WSN. com from Gambling.com in 2013 with a company called Rebel Penguin

that GiG Media later acquired. We had a dream about building a site to compete with espn.com and sportsline. com, dreaming big while being a small company. “We had to borrow money to make


MARKETING

the payment and then ended up being occupied with several other initiatives after the transaction. Without having a clear plan for the domain at that point, we never doubted that the domain would be an asset when the US opened up, and so we pushed for the acquisition. Sometimes you have got to just jump at the chances offered to you.” The chances for success were enhanced in October 2017 when GiG acquired Copenhagen based affiliate business, Rebel Penguin ApS. At that time, GIG had completed several acquisitions that placed the company's Media arm amongst the bigger players in the industry. The USA had also been the talk of the sports betting industry for many years based on the speculation of market watchers who anticipated the repeal of PASPA. When the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018, the doors to a legalised sports betting industry were opened. This marked the start of a gold rush within the iGaming industry, which subsequently resulted in an abundance of mergers and acquisitions.

Milorad Matejic, Director of SEO & Publishing

JONAS AND I WORKED ON A STRATEGY FOR WSN AND HAD SOMEWHAT OF A EUREKA MOMENT WHEN WE DECIDED TO PIVOT IT TO THE US MARKET SEO guru Matejic joined Rebel Penguin in 2016 as Head of SEO and describes deciding to use the domain

to target the US market as a eureka moment. “When I first joined, WSN had not been worked on for years,” he said. “The site wasn’t even indexed in Google. For me, it was like winning a major jackpot when I first discovered it. At the time, we considered developing it into a global sports site, such as ESPN, due to it having ‘World’ in its name. We were busy with other pressing issues and the project never

sbcmagazine.com 49


GiG’s rising star

got off the ground, but it was a nice dream and something that remained a topic of conversation between us. “Together, Jonas and I worked on a strategy for WSN and had somewhat of a eureka moment when we decided to pivot it to the US market, at the time when regulation was about to take place in New Jersey. It made perfect sense. “WSN sounded like an American news network and we were confident the brand would resonate with the American public. However, we had no idea that it would become what it is today within such a short timeframe.” GiG relaunched the first version of the current design of WSN in September 2019 under the radar with a small, but dedicated, team and a careful strategy, allowing it to test and perfect the site so that they could identify clear gaps in the market for where they could compete. Matejic added: “It has taken a lot of work and continuous improvement to get to where we are today. But everything we’ve done has contributed

WE WEREN’T LOOKING FOR QUICK WINS, BUT HAD A VISION OF BECOMING A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN THE LONG-TERM

50 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

MARKETING

to WSN becoming a recognisable brand. From the very start we had to be realistic and were very aware that it wasn’t logical for us to try and compete with some of the specialty sites already running. Instead, we decided to combine information about sports events with accurate and reliable tools about sports betting in regulated states. “This approach requires a lot of resources, but even more patience. We weren’t looking for quick wins, but had a vision of becoming a household name in the long-term when the majority of US states legalise sports betting. “In a landscape dominated by huge American media networks, consistently appearing at the top of Google’s search results and in their top stories section is a testament to how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. This is a huge achievement for us, showcasing the combined skills and determination of the team we have at GiG Media.” Matejic also placed emphasis on the website's podcast series, describing it as one of the areas that adds value to the brand. “The podcast series Krack Wins, hosted by sports betting personality Bill Krackomberger, is an example of our long-term content strategy that was designed with the aim of building the brand and keeping users

WE ARE GOING TO STAY IN THE TAILWIND OF THE US REGULATION AND WILL KEEP ON SURFING THE SECOND WAVE OF SPORTS LEGALISATION engaged,” he explained. The latest affiliate licence to be obtained for WSN was in Michigan making daily picks, predictions, odds and other betting related content available in 10 states, a number which is certain to increase. Warrer added: “We are going to stay in the tailwind of the US regulation and will keep on surfing the second wave of sports legalisation. The dream is no longer to become the next ESPN but to become a top rated site for any US sports bettors. “We are confident that eventually all states will open up, and when they do WSN.com will be right behind them, providing tailored organic sports betting content to each and everyone.” Conquering the American sports betting market and being competitive in rankings with major news networks seems like an impossible task, but through hard work and determination, GiG Media has succeeded in growing its up and coming sports betting sites in the States. •


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Record breaking

ODDSCHECKER BREAKS DOWN 2019/20 PREMIER LEAGUE CAMPAIGN ‘UNEXPECTED’ IS ARGUABLY ONE OF THE BUZZWORDS that

comes to mind when discussing the 2019/20 Premier League season, with bookmakers and fans surprised at league outcomes, the length of the season and the performance of some of the league’s biggest teams

D

elivering a keynote speech on day two of the Betting on Sports Europe – Digital, James Tippett, Commercial Executive at Oddschecker, gave delegates some insight into some of the ‘record breaking’ figures that came about during the 2019/20 season.

years, which came as a surprise to some bookmakers, and Jamie Vardy’s Golden Boot also caused a stir in the market. The Leicester City striker finished the season on a grand total of 23 goals, bagging his only hat-trick of the campaign at St Mary’s. Discussing some of the data

The 2019/20 campaign, which lasted a total of 352 days, broke several records; the season was the longestever in Premier League history. Reigning champions Liverpool claimed their first top flight title in 30

THE SO-CALLED ‘BIG SIX’ UNDERPERFORMED LAST CAMPAIGN, VICTORIOUS ONLY 52.9% OF THE TIME

52 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

collected by Oddschecker, Tippett explained: “The 2019/20 campaign was the longest season in history, with 352 days between the first and last game. It was a season that no one really expected for many reasons – one being the coronavirus outbreak which ultimately affected the length of the season. Even the outcomes of the leagues at the end of the season were fairly unexpected!” Most notably, the so-called ‘big six’ underperformed last campaign, victorious only 52.9% of the time; the lowest percentage since Leicester’s title winning year in 2015/16. And unexpectedly, “naïve” Norwich City - who shocked bookmakers by beating Manchester City in September but went on to finish rock bottom ranked eighth in the profit tables. This calculates the amount of profit you would have made if you had placed


MARKETING

£10 on a team to win every one of their matches. Wolverhampton Wanderers topped this table (£158.70), with Tippett suggesting bookmakers “underestimated” the West Midlands club, whereas Brighton - who only managed nine wins across the campaign - were bottom on -£154.60 (but narrowly escaped relegation). He also talked through some of the “key narratives to emerge” last year: “Liverpool actually won the title with seven games to spare which is the earliest win in terms of matches in English top flight history so that’s a very impressive achievement. I’m sure there are lots of Liverpool fans out there buzzing with that! “Jamie Vardy’s pre-season odds were 16/1. There was a whole cohort

BOURNEMOUTH WERE THE FIRST EVER TEAM TO CONCEDE 60-PLUS GOALS IN FIVE CONSECUTIVE PREMIER LEAGUE SEASONS

of players ahead of him; he’s in his 30s now. Leicester’s 9-0 away win against Southampton incidentally was the largest ever away win in top flight history so another record there. “The pre-season odds of Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth being the three relegated teams were 72/1. Another interesting stat is that Bournemouth were the first ever team to concede 60-plus goals in five consecutive Premier League seasons.” During the 2019/20 campaign, Tippett noted that Oddschecker recorded a 12% increase in affiliate registrations, 24% more bets placed via Oddschecker on the Premier League, and an 82% boost to the total of Premier League bets placed via the Oddschecker app. He went on to explain why he believes the “one-stop shop betting experience” has had such positive results during the lockdown, when many bookmakers have struggled: “The general growth of Oddschecker last season might be put down to the fact that with coronavirus, a lot of

LEICESTER’S 9-0 AWAY WIN AGAINST SOUTHAMPTON WAS THE LARGEST EVER AWAY WIN betting shops were closed and we’re seeing a migration from retail shops to online bookmakers so Oddschecker is a beneficiary of that.” Inevitably, punters opted to bet online as opposed to visiting a retail shop, due to the pandemic. Data showed that “competitive” Unibet were the best priced bookmaker across the duration of the season (102.5% average overround), with Betfair providing the best winning accumulator value (average 37.046/1). Even though we’re only in gameweek four (at the time of writing) of the 2020/21 campaign, the race has already begun for who will become the best priced operator in terms of most clicks and best prices. Bet365 have thus far dominated the clickshare table, retaining their top spot for the third year running despite

sbcmagazine.com 53


Record breaking

a +2% decrease (19.9% to 17.6%) from the 2019/20 season. Even with the small sample size, it is striking to see William Hill in a close second with 16.0%, up from 7.0% in fifth place across the last campaign. Sky Bet, therefore, dropped from second to third, even after seeing a 3.7% increase in the number of clicks. “Clickshare is a really good thing to look at. It’s the most basic demonstrator of which bookmakers are capturing the attention of the Oddschecker user base or the punters that use Oddschecker,” Tippett justified. “There are many things that obviously influence how likely someone is to bet on a set bookmaker but for Oddschecker a very highranking variable in that will be price.”

MARKETING

THE CORONAVIRUS BREAK HAS INFLUENCED OVERROUNDS WITH THE AVERAGE JUMPING TO 105.2% (GAMEWEEK 4 OF 2020/21) FROM 104.0% (PRE-LOCKDOWN 2019/20) He continued: “The coronavirus outbreak was always going to be an important time for the return of Premier League football, giving operators the chance to capture market share. Punters were likely to be presented with a choice on which bookmakers to bet with upon returning – it was likely that they hadn’t bet in a while. “The bookmakers which gained market share were able to do so just by pricing generously. They saw value in that by gaining clickshare afterwards, attracting punters’ attention – which I’m sure they will

use to retain those customers for this season and beyond.” The data shows that the coronavirus break has influenced the overrounds with the average jumping to 105.2% (for gameweek 4 of 2020/21) from 104.0% (pre-lockdown 2019/20). SportNation has delivered the largest increase (up 2.1% from last season), while Paddy Power offered the widest pricing margins for the first four weeks of this season (107.1%). Interestingly, Unibet was one of the only bookmakers to have decreased their margins. Continuing to look ahead to likely 2020/21 outcomes (again, from the time of writing), Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side are odds-on to win the league for a third time under the Spaniard (6/4), and newlypromoted Fulham are early favourites for relegation (3/10). According to Oddschecker, Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be the first to leave his post as manager of Manchester United after a 6-1 defeat to rivals Tottenham Hotspur (2/1), and Scott Parker could follow suit at Fulham (3/1) after an early flurry of defeats.

MANCHESTER CITY’S KEVIN DE BRUYNE LOOKS A PRIME CANDIDATE TO BE CROWNED THE PFA’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne looks a prime candidate to be crowned the PFA’s Player of the Year, whilst the bookmakers have Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah at 4/1 to usurp Vardy as the Premier League’s top scorer. And finally, Red Devils’ starlet Mason Greenwood could still make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming 2021 European Championships (9/2), despite being dismissed by the Three Lions boss for breaking quarantine protocols after making his international debut in the Nations League. •

54 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020


Social responsibility standards

PUBLIC TRUST IS ‘WANING’ IN THE ONLINE GAMBLING INDUSTRY FOR MANY YEARS NOW, gambling has successfully

adopted marketing techniques seen across other industries. Inevitably, though, the pandemic has posed new questions about social responsibility. So, are we setting the right standards?

D

uring the ‘Thin Line Between Marketing and Enticement’ panel at Betting of Sports Europe - Digital, Tom Galanis, Managing Director at TAG Media, insisted that public trust is ‘waning’ and the industry is under pressure to raise its standards in social responsibility. Moderating the discussion, which was sponsored by Karamba, Galanis noted: “Public trust in the online gambling industry is very much

56 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

waning, particularly in the UK market. The industry is under pressure to raise its standards in social responsibility with a particular focus on the very broad category of marketing. “This industry has long since used value propositions focusing on bonus lead acquisitions and retention marketing campaigns, delivered predominantly by performance marketing channels and VIP loyalty programmes often towing the line of affected marketing with accusations of

enticing customers to gamble.” Joining Galanis was Vedran Karaman, Global Director of Performance Marketing at Superbet, Neil Banbury, General Manager UK at Kindred Group, Petros Troullinos, Head of Marketing Operations at Kaizen Gaming, and Vasiliki Panousi, Manager of EU Affairs at EGBA. Karaman highlighted the issues within Romania and Central Europe, where he believes the industry is witnessing similar distrust within the online market: “When you look at how people react to the adverts, when people are contacting customer service and the comments on social media it’s quite similar. “Sweden is a good example of the newly regulated market which brought a huge negativity because you are now in people’s private space. Before


MARKETING

THE INDUSTRY IS UNDER PRESSURE TO RAISE TO RAISE ITS SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY STANDARDS WITH A PARTICULAR FOCUS ON THE VERY BROAD CATEGORY OF MARKETING the market was regulated, you had adverts on different programmes and display placements. But now that it's regulated, you have adverts in their private feeds, in their Snapchats and their Facebook and when it appears there they are becoming upset and annoyed.” Switching focus back to the UK market, Galanis shared: “My experience from living in the UK is that public trust has never been lower in online gambling and online gambling operators." Banbury echoed Galanis’ view, pointing out that the UK betting industry has ‘tipped over’ in terms of public consciousness: “I think it’s a reflection of the fact that gambling has been part of a normal narrative in the UK for a long time. "It’s been a heavy advertiser after 9pm. From a casino perspective, generally every digital channel has been open and it’s been something that as the market has grown and more firms have wanted to get involved in the UK they’ve seen it as an opportunity for growth. It’s led to more brands wanting to do more advertising and I think it’s just generally got to a point where it’s almost tipped over in terms of the public's conscious of it all. “Whilst it remains highly engaged in activity there remains huge participation in online gambling. It’s clearly something that people in the UK like to do. I think we’ve got to a point now that it’s pretty clear that they don’t necessarily like to see the amount of advertising.

Tom Galanis, Managing Director at TAG Media

Vedran Karaman, Global Director of Performance Marketing at Superbet

SWEDEN IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE NEWLY REGULATED MARKET WHICH BROUGHT A HUGE NEGATIVITY BECAUSE YOU ARE NOW IN PEOPLE’S PRIVATE SPACE

sbcmagazine.com 57


Social responsibility standards

anticipated and this is something that we will welcome at this point.” The session then veered towards companies responding to the global pandemic with Galanis emphasising that putting positive social responsibility messages out into the public is more ‘achievable’ through brands and above line marketing where, he stated, there is more ‘control’. Yet, he stressed that ‘in the more important acquisition channels out there, broadly performance marketing but mainly affiliates, it’s less easy to do that’. Galanis then asked the panel to discuss what they are doing to try to avoid enticing customers and sticking more to traditional marketing communication.

WE’RE MOVING FROM THE INTERIM STAGE TO A FULLY TRANSPARENT REGULATED CONTEXT THAT EVERY SERIOUS COMPANY OPERATING IN GREECE WILL BENEFIT FROM

Neil Banbury, General Manager UK at Kindred Group

“I often see here that there’s something that needs to happen around the quantity of advertising that’s happening, and there’s been some steps in that direction with the whistle to whistle ban, but I think as well we need to try and address the quality of advertising as it’s been very ‘shouty’ and it’s been very ‘ladish’ for some brands. “I think we need to move to something that’s a little bit more sustainable, both in terms of the way the product is promoted but also customers don’t want you shouting at them, so if you want to be successful

58 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

in the marketing I think the tone needs to evolve.” The panel then went on to analyse the new regulations being introduced in the Greek market, with Troullinos stating the regulatory framework is ‘strict’ in terms of marketing techniques and communications. “The time is excellent with the new regulation in the Greek market,” he said. “Now we’re moving from the interim stage to a fully transparent regulated and structural entertainment context that every serious company that is operating in Greece will benefit from. The new regulation was much

Highlighting actions that Superbet took in the Romanian market, Karaman noted: “Basically what we do is we find a sports niche market and not just push the offer but promote it in a nice way. Other things that I think is a huge importance in that sense is to really start working very closely with a product and the product is key to where the whole industry is going. To be able to promote something that is not just ‘we’ll push the money to you’.” Winding down the session, the panel looked at VIP programmes and if there is a need to take a different approach while also looking at the tobacco and alcohol industries and asking what lessons can be learned following the media and political onslaught to marketing. Banbury added: “Ultimately VIP programmes are a hot topic at the moment. I think the industry needs to evolve its approach in that area. There's so much more information available and I think customers are increasingly understanding that when there’s questions to ask about affordability or source of wealth. “It’s important from my perspective that we retain the ability to manage


MARKETING

Vasiliki Panousi, Manager of EU Affairs at EGBA

Petros Troullinos, Head of Marketing Operations at Kaizen Gaming

accounts that want to spend at higher levels I think blanket limits is something that could be very damaging, both from an industry perspective but also from the perspective of ensuring that people are supported in their gambling activities, certainly when that becomes to be a higher risk. “I think it’s crucial that we continue to maintain close relationships with customers spending large amounts of money but equally the approach does need to evolve, and is evolving, and the more information we get about customers the more success we’ll have in a move towards the situation where there is no money being made that is harmful to an individual.” Concluding the session, Panousi expressed her distaste to the comparison of gambling to alcohol and tobacco, exclaiming: “I personally dislike it when the gambling industry is compared to alcohol and tobacco

I PERSONALLY DISLIKE IT WHEN THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY IS COMPARED TO ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE CIGARETTE IS HARMFUL FOR YOUR HEALTH because every single cigarette is harmful for your health while we actually sell entertainment and there is a lot of evidence that proves the vast majority of players do not have any gambling problems at all. “I think when it comes to marketing tobacco has lost a bit of its game but we can take a lot of ideas from the alcohol industry. The alcohol industry, like the food industry which has issues with fatty unhealthy foods, has joined the self regulatory club and done it in a smart way. Not only have they agreed to apply some rules themselves but they are very strict and consistent when it comes to monitoring and enforcing them. “In my opinion, we have a good case here. We have an example to follow. We just need to be unified and tell our story to the rest of the world who are not familiar with what we do in a successful way. I think self-regulation is a tool for the industry to move forward.” •

sbcmagazine.com 59


Is cash still king?

SCAN N PLAY: TRUSTLY BRINGS DIGITAL PAYMENTS TO LAND-BASED GAMING SAMUEL BARRETT, DIRECTOR OF GAMING AT TRUSTLY,

takes a look at why Scan N Play extends the benefits of digital banking into the land-based gaming environment and how retail operators can bring their deposit and withdrawal processes into the digital age

A

t Trustly, our mission is to pioneer a world of open payments. Since 2008, we have worked with a variety of industries, including digital gaming operators, to fulfil this aim. Since 2015, our Pay N Play® solution has become a preferred payment option with online gamers across Europe. With Pay N Play, Trustly supports operators in fulfilling their KYC requirements while at the same time delivering a seamless player experience.

60 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

With the launch of Scan N Play in the spring of 2020, we’re now making lots of connections in real life. Scan N Play extends the seamless Trustly digital experience into the realm of landbased gaming.

SCAN N PLAY EXTENDS THE SEAMLESS TRUSTLY DIGITAL EXPERIENCE INTO THE REALM OF LAND-BASED GAMING

By using Scan N Play, players can make instant cashless deposits and withdrawals at casinos and retail gaming shops. Players both instantly deposit and confirm their identity in one seamless flow. In addition to improved customer experience, land-based operators are also able to simplify compliance and administrative processes with this revolutionary new solution. Player verification, anti-money laundering and responsible gaming is all made easier with Scan N Play. By removing the need to handle cash, this digital solution also lowers cash handling costs and improves operational efficiency.

Scan N Play dethrones the cash king To use Scan N Play, all a player needs is their mobile phone, an internet


PAYMENTS

TODAY’S WITHDRAWAL EXPERIENCES IN LAND-BASED CASINOS AND RETAIL GAMING SHOPS ARE LACKLUSTRE

PLAYER VERIFICATION, ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND RESPONSIBLE GAMING IS ALL MADE EASIER WITH SCAN N PLAY connection and access to their bank’s online account. There's no app download required, so the path to user adoption is wide open. The player scans a QR code, which can be found at the cage, cash desks and tables. We've also partnered with Casino Management Systems and terminal providers, making it easier to offer Scan N Play to players at all other touch points in retail like slot machines and TITO terminals. By scanning the QR code, players are taken to the Scan N Play web application. They can then log into

their bank account and authenticate themselves through their mobile bank authentication method.

frees up time for the croupier, allowing them to pay more attention to players and worry less about administration.

Secure payment and instant KYC are a win-win

Responsible playing goes digital

With bank authorisation methods increasingly based on biometrics, the player gets a simple but safe experience. Once the player uses twofactor authentication to confirm their identity, Scan N Play creates a virtual player account in the background, and the player completes the payment. Operators get full player authentication out of the box. Not only does this reduce fraud, Scan N Play

Once the player completes a deposit, Trustly sends an instant credit notification that can then be approved or denied by the croupier/cash attendant. The value of the deposit and the player's KYC information is all accessible through the merchant application provided. Once the deposit is received and approved, the player can redeem their chips or cash voucher which can then

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Is cash still king?

be deposited directly at the tables and slot machines. Scan N Play can also be directly integrated into slot machines and CRT terminals, further enhancing its visibility across the retail gaming floor. Via Scan N Play, the cashier can access self-exclusion registries. Players can set deposit and time limits and set a loss limit on table games, helping operators comply with regulations while putting more power in the hands of the gamer to play responsibly.

Bypassing the outdated experiences of cash and cards Players want instant withdrawals – that’s true for both online and offline gambling. According to a survey on gaming preferences conducted by Trustly in 2020, instant payouts clearly boost the player experience and create more loyal players. Today’s withdrawal experiences in land-based casinos and retail gaming shops are lacklustre. Cash and card withdrawals have disadvantages for all types of players. Casual players predominantly pay by card and therefore receive winnings after waiting multiple days. That’s especially true if they’ve played during the weekend. Seasoned players are well aware of the inherent limits of cards (processing limits, delayed withdrawals, declined transactions) - as a result, these players tend to bring large amounts of cash with them.

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PAYMENTS

Restricted from using local payment methods, international players are left without much choice, so they also tend to stick to cash. Scan N Play offers operators the power to provide a new, seamless experience to all their players, both local and international.

Boosting player experience with instant withdrawals Scan N Play provides a modern instant payout solution for all players. Scan N Play withdrawals are generally sent to the same account where the funds were deposited from, without any player interaction needed and thus closing the loop.

BY REMOVING CASH AND CARDS FROM THE EQUATION, LAND-BASED OPERATORS CAN BRING THEIR BUSINESS FULLY INTO THE DIGITAL AGE As soon as the withdrawal request is completed, funds are transferred from the Trustly merchant account back to the player’s own bank account. The player walks out of the establishment and can access their money within five minutes.

Less cash, less cards, less problems Scan N Play extends the benefits of digital banking into the land-based

gaming environment. By removing cash and cards from the equation, land-based operators can bring their business fully into the digital age. Cash handling is a laborious task. By replacing cash with digital payments, the variable costs of cash handling can be decreased. Depending on the flexibility in your cash handling setup, Scan N Play can decrease cash handling costs by 25-50%. Since Scan N Play deposits are instant, operators can skip the reconciliation waiting times that often accompany cards. Scan N Play can also support operational benefits including smoother pay-out processes and reduced time spent tracking missing payments.

Scanning the horizon Since 2008, when we were founded by three friends in Stockholm, Trustly has grown to over 500 people working at 10 offices in Europe and the Americas. Operating under the supervision of the Swedish FSA, we support more than 7,600 banks across Europe, North America and Australia. Building on that momentum, 2020 has been a big year for us. In addition to the Scan N Play debut, we’ve also launched a new brand identity. We now have a new, bright green logo that’s designed to stand out in the payment environment. So, whether you’re online or on land, we hope you and your players will see more of Trustly in the years to come. •


Playing catch-up

IS ITALY FINALLY DITCHING CASH AND EMBRACING DIGITAL MONEY? DESPITE THE DIGITISATION OF PAYMENTS elsewhere

in Europe, particularly in the UK, for a long time it seemed nothing would make Italians embrace such a change. But has the coronavirus brought about a change in the landscape?

L

ike a mask-less sneeze in a crowded train carriage, many people in the UK in 2020 will be newly repulsed at the thought of handling physical banknotes touched by countless strangers. Signs saying “card payments preferred” or “card only” are increasingly common in COVID Britain. It’s also true that the UK adopted card and digital payments earlier and

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more aggressively than many other nations. British people trust their financial institutions, and they like the convenience of paying by card and contactless wherever possible. Even before the global pandemic, cards had replaced cash as Britain’s favourite way to pay. The UK may be an outlier in Europe in terms of its adoption of digital money, but it’s not the only one. At the

other end of the spectrum, and among the least digitised spenders, has been Italy. Italians do not have the same kind of trust in their banks and they love cash – not only for day-to-day spending, but for savings too. Many Italians choose to keep physical cash in a safe space at home rather than a bank account, and many shops, restaurants or bars still don’t accept card payments. For years, despite digitisation elsewhere in Europe, it seemed as though nothing could tip the balance in the favour of digital payments. The Apple Watch famously bombed in Italy, since it’s killer app (contactless payments) did not appeal to the Italian public. This could finally be starting to change, however. Recent Mastercard research suggests that one in two Italians made more use of digital payments during the COVID-19 lockdown. A quarter declared that they want to abandon cash forever. Could it really be that Italy is finally ditching cash and embracing digital money? Furthermore, does this represent a new commercial opportunity for gaming operators in the region? The answer to both questions is “yes, but”. Yes, COVID has escalated


PAYMENTS

ITALIANS DO NOT HAVE THE SAME KIND OF TRUST IN THEIR BANKS AND THEY LOVE CASH – NOT ONLY FOR DAY-TO-DAY SPENDING, BUT FOR SAVINGS TOO digitisation, but it’s likely that cash will continue to be the dominant form of payment in Italy for years to come. Yes, there is an opportunity for the iGaming industry to tap into an increasingly digitised market, but it must remember that cash is still very much in play. For the next few years, it is likely that Italians will use both cash and e-wallets to fund their gaming accounts. The rise of hybrid “cash to card” or “card to cash” solutions that bypass traditional banks will also become increasingly popular in the region. Cash deposits should, therefore, be a pre-requisite for all operators in the region when choosing new payment partners, or they will lose ground to competitors embracing the growing overlap between cash and digital money.

Why are Italians embracing digital? It’s impossible to underestimate the impact of the COVID pandemic on Italy’s switch to digital payments. The first wave of lockdowns prompted increased use of digital payments for online purchases and home deliveries. When the country reopened again,

card and contactless payments were seen as a safer and more hygienic alternative than cash. COVID is not the only driver of change for operators to be aware of, however. Italians are increasingly looking for new ways to use and protect their money. They want secure and easy to use digital money services and are converting their cash

to e-money, abandoning their typical bank cards and switching to e-wallets. Digital money solutions are also increasingly appealing to younger demographics who are accustomed to using their smartphones for anything and everything. While digital payments were quite limited five years ago, they have advanced considerably since. It’s now possible to make secure

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPACT OF THE COVID PANDEMIC ON ITALY’S SWITCH TO DIGITAL PAYMENTS

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Playing catch-up

payments with a smartphone and a fingerprint in seconds, on ecommerce sites as well as p2p payments like splitting a bill. As mentioned previously, many Italians do not trust the bank. E-wallets have, therefore, emerged as a popular payments option, as a secure prepaid account based on a mobile app rather than a traditional bank account. Many Italians like having an account kept separate from their bank, but which offer the same kinds of functionality as modern banking apps for tracking spending and making secure payments.

Can cash and e-money co-exist? Italy won’t switch to e-money overnight, and it may never have the same kind adoption rates seen in the UK. It is likely that cash and e-money will have to co-exist for the foreseeable future, and operators should seek to gain a commercial advantage over cash options in Italy. iGaming businesses should look for e-wallet partners that have secure, compliant and low-cost cash deposit options built into their service in Italy. In much the same way that many

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PAYMENTS

people can pay for utilities or to top up their Oyster card in the UK in a local newsagent using cash, Italians can also make cash deposits into their e-wallets accounts using services like MuchBetter’s Ricarica – available instore at 15,000 venues nationwide. MuchBetter is best known for the

UNLIKE OTHER CASH TO CARD SERVICES, MUCHBETTER’S FEES ARE TAKEN AT THE RETAILER LEVEL, NOT BY THE OPERATOR security and ease of use of its service. Users make secure payments with their fingerprint and smartphone, no passwords or PINs to remember. Its patented dynamic CVV has also eliminated third-party fraud, since CVV numbers are randomly generated for every transaction. The cards cannot be used by criminals and fraudsters if lost, stolen or involved in an ecommerce data breach. To use the new MuchBetter cash deposit service, Ricarica, Italian

customers do not even need a bank account, just an e-wallet app on their smartphone – a pre-paid card or NFC device is optional. This is an ideal solution for a country that still loves cash, but for people that want to try the functionality, security and compliance of digital banking. This is the appeal to consumers, but the main priority for operators will be saving on fees – which can be extortionate for some vendors. Unlike other cash to card services, MuchBetter’s fees are taken at the retailer level, not by the operator. The service also offers free p2p transfers, a service that not all operators have been able to provide.

How to get the MuchBetter E-Wallet Any customer aged 18 or over can download the MuchBetter E-Wallet for free, and customers in Italy can now visit one of 15,000 available stores and exchange cash or card at the till for prepaid vouchers to top up their MuchBetter E-Wallet account. • Find out more on the MuchBetter website https://muchbetter.com/it/ ricarica/


Time for change?

THE UK NATIONAL LOTTERY: WHAT NEXT? FOLLOWING THE LAUNCH of the UK Gambling

Commission’s tender for a fourth National Lottery licence, three operators have placed their hat in the ring to run the UK’s ‘national treasure’. But what can we expect from the three contenders?

W

ith the current licence due to expire in 2023, the fourth licence award will build on the success of the National Lottery that has seen it collectively raise over £41bn for 565,000 good causes across the UK since its 1994 launch. This will be achieved through the creation of a framework that maximises the opportunities for players and good causes to benefit from innovation and creativity, whilst protecting the National

68 SBC LEADERS • DECEMBER 2020

Lottery’s unique status. When the tender was launched earlier this year, UK Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur disclosed that the new licence holder will gain a ‘greater autonomy’ to meet player demands, but will also become more accountable for the lottery’s performance. “The National Lottery is a national treasure,” he said. “It has a reputation for providing enjoyable games and a high degree of player protection, as

well as a rich history of prize giving and returns to good causes. We are determined to protect and build on the reputation of the National Lottery. “For the fourth licence, we will be evolving our approach to regulation to build on the National Lottery’s huge successes. In line with our outcomesfocussed approach to regulation, we want the next licensee to have greater autonomy to meet the needs of players in 2023 and beyond, whilst ensuring there is clear accountability for the performance of the National Lottery. “Throughout our market engagement, we have been encouraged by a healthy level of interest from a range of different parties and we look forward to running a competitive process.” But what makes the new licence any different from previous years? There will be a few key changes, including a fixed


LOTTERY

10-year licence, providing a clear period for investment planning and a focus on performance through the provision of greater flexibility to maximise returns to good causes, hand-in-hand with ensuring safe and fair play. The new incentive mechanism will ensure the licensee’s motives and delivery are closely aligned with returns to good causes, and brand protection will be introduced with the licensee now required to foster stronger relationships with the distributors of lottery funding to further strengthen the link between the lottery brand, its players, and good causes.

THE CONTENDERS Camelot: Starting off with Camelot, the Canadian operator has been running the National Lottery since its inception and it was almost a certainty that it would bid to retain the operating licence in the fourth tender. It was awarded a seven-year licence to run the UK lottery in May 1994, a second seven-year licence in December 2000 (which started on 27 January 2002), and a third licence period in February 2009, extending its licence for 10 years with the option to extend by a further five years. In March 2012, the National Lottery Commission extended Camelot’s Licence by four years to 2023 following the commission’s agreement to Camelot’s proposal to deliver around £1.7bn in additional lottery funding to society.

THE CHALLENGE NOW IS TO ENSURE THE LOTTERY CONNECTS WITH PEOPLE RIGHT ACROSS THE COUNTRY, MAKING IT FRESH AND EXCITING AS IT ONCE WAS Since it started operating the UK lottery, Camelot has delivered, on average, around £30m each week to National Lottery Good Causes. Combined with the Lottery Duty it pays to the government, which is £17.5bn to date, the group returns one of the highest percentages of lottery revenue to society in the world. It has handed out over £75bn to date in prize money. In terms of ticket sales, Camelot generated ‘record’ sales of £7.91bn in 2019/20, an increase of £698.3m on the previous year and a third successive year of sales growth following the company’s wide-ranging strategic review carried out in 2017. As a result, Camelot generated £1.9bn for good causes in 2019/20, making a difference to people and communities

THERE ARE CHALLENGES IN THE MARKET BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR NEW EXCITEMENT

across the UK, and it awarded £4.51bn in prize money to players, creating 355 new National Lottery millionaires in the process. Camelot undoubtedly has the experience of operating the UK National Lottery, with its sales figures and charitable contributions a testament to this. This latest tender does appear to be the biggest challenge that the operator has faced in terms of its current monopoly, however. If the suggestions that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering shifting responsibility for the National Lottery from the Department of Culture, Digital, Media and Sport to an enhanced business department or the Cabinet Office are true, this could undoubtedly result in a few bumps in the road. SAZKA: Competing for the fourth National Lottery licence alongside Camelot is the Sazka Group, which operates lotteries in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy. Sazka made its intentions known to add the UK National Lottery to its portfolio after becoming the first operator to complete the Gambling Commission’s Selection Questionnaire back at the start of October. Since its inception, the UK National Lottery has changed ‘beyond measure’ according to Sazka CEO Robert Chvatal, who - at the time of announcing its decision to enter the lottery tender -

Neil McArthur, UK Gambling Commission Chief Executive

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Time for change?

stated that the Czech operator would be ‘thrilled’ to be awarded the licence. “As a leader in operating lotteries across Europe, Sazka has made no secret of the fact that we would be thrilled to operate the UK National Lottery. The UK National Lottery is a national treasure with a proud 26-year history,” he noted. “Now it is looking forward to the next decade and how it can best serve its customers in a world so disrupted by digital transformation, the fourth industrial revolution and Covid. The landscape from when the UK National Lottery was launched back in 1994 has changed beyond measure.” “At Sazka we have a track record of facilitating the evolution of established lotteries to innovate for their successful future. We are serious about our intentions and respectful of the process we are entering into. We submitted our completed application to the Gambling Commission by yesterday’s deadline. “This was an important and exciting moment for us, marking our official entry into the competition. We trust that our submission will demonstrate our professional track record and technical capabilities.” Sazka appears to be confident in its chances to become the new lottery tender, establishing its UK team for the Fourth National Lottery Licence competition late last month by appointing Sir Keith Mills as its Bid Chair. With a wide range of experience in the sport, charity and business sectors, Sazka will draw on Mills’ expertise to facilitate change, growth and engagement for the National Lottery. One of the key challenges with this, according to Mills, is ensuring that the lottery adapts to the changing digital landscape: “The challenge now is to ensure the lottery connects with people right across the country, making it fresh and exciting as it once was, bringing new ways that are relevant for today and tomorrow’s generation,” he said. “I feel passionately that it needs to be restored to the nation’s hearts, especially in these difficult times. I teamed up with Sazka because they have a proven record of taking established lotteries, growing them and evolving them to be relevant for the future.” The last few months have taught us that operators must be clued up

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LOTTERY

on engaging with players. It will be interesting to see what Sazka can bring to a lottery which has already been operational for 26 years - but by establishing a UK team and accepting the challenges ahead, their application appears to be promising. Sugal & Damani: This isn’t the first time India’s largest lottery operator has competed for the UK National Lottery licence, after it was declared as a reserved bidder in the 2007 process. The technology arm of Sugal & Damani, Skilrock Technologies, has already established its name as a lottery provider - operational in 26 jurisdictions around the world, including some of the prominent World Lottery Association member lotteries. When Sugal & Damani entered the race to run the National Lottery last month, Kamlesh Vijay, Group CEO, emphasised his belief that the company meets “all required standards like propriety, technology, player protection, channel management, financial capability, etc.” to run the lottery.

THE NATIONAL LOTTERY IS LOOKING AT HOW IT CAN BEST SERVE ITS CUSTOMERS IN A WORLD SO DISRUPTED BY DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION, THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND COVID

“As far as the UK lottery market is concerned, it is a large one and highly reputed,” he said. “There is a huge local following and brand reputation for the UK National lottery, but there are challenges in the market too because people are looking for new excitement and there is stiff competition from other gambling products. “We believe that people have a soft corner due to the fact that lotteries contribute more towards well defined good causes, so that attitude is a big plus point. However, continued innovation is very much required in a responsible way to consolidate on this soft corner. Being an organisation with deep-rooted innovation in every sphere of our activity we are happy to be in the competition.”

WHAT’S NEXT? Now the Selection Questionnaire process has concluded, the next step for each participant will be the Invitation to Apply, which concludes in July 2021, and then, after review, an announcement of a preferred applicant to take on the fourth National Lottery licence will be made in September 2021. While the announcement of a winner is a long way off, what is clear is that there are significant changes needed to keep the National Lottery thriving and fit-for-purpose for the next generations. As the UK battles the COVID-19 pandemic, it is key that the National Lottery keeps making the needed investments to good causes across the country. •


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BETH BRESNAHAN

REBECCA HARGROVE

SALIM ADATIA

JOSEPH ASHER

MAY SCHEVE

GREG CARLIN

President & CEO MGM Resorts

President & CEO Tennessee Lottery

ADAM GREENBLATT CEO BetMGM

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Executive Director DC Lottery

CEO William Hill US

CEO Rush Street Gaming

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Chairman & CEO theScore

JOEL SIMKINS

Managing Director – Head of Gaming, Lodging, & Leisure Investment Banking Truist Securities

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SBC Leaders - Issue 12