SBC Leaders - Issue 15

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ISSUE 15 • JUNE 2021

NEW TRENDS

The future for ad tech in the US OLD HABITS

Desktop makes way for mobile FACE LIFT

bet365's new affiliate programme ONE TO WATCH

IGT's tribal gaming footprint

Maarja Pärt

Expanding the Coingaming ecosystem


6-16 Sports Betting

• Maarja Pärt: Pushing boundaries to expand Coingaming ecosystem • BetConstruct: Embracing the switch to less traditional betting content • JKR’s journey to success as a B2B partner of the industry

CONTENTS JUNE 2021

18-28 US Market

• Sportradar: How ad:s meets marketing challenges for US sportsbooks • IGT’s tribal influence: Driving sports betting growth in Indian country • Sports IQ: The limitless potential to innovate in US sports betting

30-32 LatAm Market

• Hipódromo de Palermo: The first online experiences in Buenos Aires

34-44 Casino

• Spribe and Fantasma Games on the rise of mobile gaming • Pariplay couldn’t ignore the ‘untapped potential’ of the US market • SlotBeats' Slot of the Week Winners Review

46-55 Marketing

• Catena Media and Better Collective react to bet365 Partners launch • The impact of the BGC’s football social media code of conduct • Sky's the limit: Marketing and sponsorship opportunities in the WSL

56-62 Payments

• Bojoko on alternative payment methods for US online casinos • Why balancing AI and the human touch is key to AML approach

64-66 Lottery

• Fourth UK National Lottery Licence Competition - The story so far

67-70 Events

• Live events return: We’ll meet again… in Malta and Barcelona

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, Ted Orme-Claye, Martyn Elliott SALES TEAM: Rasmus Sojmark, Alyona Gromova, Conall McCabe, Ross Main, Jan Willem Volbeda, Richard Deacon, Bob McFarland 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 • JUNE 2021


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INTRO Luke Massey Head of SBC Media

W

elcome to the third edition of SBC Leaders for 2021! Technology - a saving grace or the bane of your life? Well with an overwhelming sense of zoom fatigue, slow internet connections and so many instances of ‘you’re on mute’ in the last year that I’ve lost count, it’s safe to say that technology carries its own set of challenges. But alongside those all too regular ‘have you tried turning it off and on again?’ moments comes the increasingly important role that tech has played in maintaining the teeniest, tiniest degree of normality in the last 18 months. So when it came to minimising the disruption from the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the betting and gaming IT’S NO SURPRISE industry turned to online THAT THE BETTING technology in its hour of need. AND GAMING Over in Argentina, INDUSTRY TURNED TO we learned how the ONLINE TECHNOLOGY Hipódromo de Palermo IN ITS HOUR OF NEED covered all operational expenses after being issued with a remote gaming licence - something which enabled the racecourse to offer online gaming at a time when many land-based casinos remained shuttered. The fact that so many land-based casinos were off limits has of course accelerated the rise of online gaming, but has a mobile-only approach emerged as the way forward for 2021? As part of our Casino section, Spribe’s Shalva Bukia and Fantasma Games’ Fredrik Johansson discussed mobile’s impact on game development, the need for one-hand-play optimisation and whether desktop has become a thing of the past. Meanwhile for Sportradar, ad tech has been a key focus for its US offering as it whets the

4 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Erin Gallagher SBC Leaders Deputy Editor

appetite of a ‘thirsty’ marketing space. Mike Smith reflected on the growth of digital outof-home marketing, before highlighting why Sportradar’s ad:s is helping the company rise to the challenges in the post-PASPA market. Rising to the challenge was a key theme for Coingaming Group’s Maarja Pärt, who gave SBC Leaders a run down on the ways in which she is pushing boundaries in her new role. Discussing cryptocurrencies, fintech, new technologies and investments, the CEO was also keen to stress how the ‘ability to collaborate effectively as one team’ has always been a core part of the Coingaming DNA as she outlined her plans to ‘reach for the moon’. Now it might not be targeting the moon, but Pariplay too has big ambitions for expansion as it seeks to capitalise on the growing number of US states embracing online gambling legislation - an opportunity which Andrew Maclean believes ‘could not be ignored’. Bojoko, meanwhile, is yet another of the companies in this edition of SBC Leaders eyeing up US opportunities, as is IGT who continues to flex its muscle in both the tribal and commercial sports betting segments. But for BetConstruct, at least for the time being, attention has been on France after it received the necessary approvals to enter the French market. Vigen Badalyan explains why it opens new doors for the company, before discussing the shift towards ‘less traditional betting content’. Take a quick hop back over the Channel and gambling operators are getting creative with sponsorship activations here in the UK, where the popularity of women’s football is skyrocketing and the search for the fourth National Lottery operator is entering the home straights. So whether you’re reading this on your phone, tablet or desktop - we hope that you enjoy this edition of SBC Leaders!



Challenging the status quo

MAARJA PÄRT: PUSHING BOUNDARIES TO EXPAND THE COINGAMING ECOSYSTEM “RANK IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THE ABILITY TO COLLABORATE AS EFFECTIVELY AS ONE TEAM”. The

clearest insight into the blueprint for success at Coingaming Group, driven by CEO Maarja Pärt

I

n September 2020, a leadership reshuffle at Coingaming Group saw former COO Pärt replace Tim Heath in the role of CEO. But how has Pärt’s made the transition from customer support to leading the group? What is she doing to exploit the recent crypto boom? And why does the company’s focus now extend way beyond gaming? SBC Leaders put these questions and more to Pärt, who predicts that banking and fintech solutions will soon play an increasingly prominent role in the Coingaming ecosystem. SBC: Thank you for talking to us. Let’s start with a little bit about you. I know you held a few roles at Coingaming before becoming CEO, so I wanted to ask - how has your time with the company shaped the leadership style you show today? MP: Absolutely, it’s certainly made its mark on me. I have been with the company since 2010. And in fact I started out in customer service when there were only six of us in the team. I’ve always been very data driven with my financial background. Being able to put myself in the customer’s shoes and really understand the desire for the best experience has

AS WE ALL KNOW, WE MUST ALWAYS KEEP THE CUSTOMER AT THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING THAT WE DO

6 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

been crucial on my journey from the customer support department to the role of CFO, to COO and now CEO. As we all know, we must always keep the customer at the centre of everything that we do. Since 2014, we have obviously grown the business. In fact, we’ve gone from 15 people to nearly 600 now. Being able to witness and to be an active part of this from day one has certainly given me an edge as a leader of this business. Going through all of the verticals throughout this business, since the very beginning, I know the business back to front.

Tim Heath

SBC: Over the years you have overtaken a lot of people in terms of seniority, and even become the boss of those you had previously worked with on the same level. How do you deal with that? MP: Rank is not as important as the ability to collaborate as effectively as one team. I’m arguably doing more work on the ground today than I’ve ever been throughout my tenure. Indeed along with the other six people I started with, the majority of them are very much still active within the business even today. I would say that our core values remain the same because we know each other so well there is this trust between us that has certainly helped us along the way. Because you are right in saying that the circumstances as well as the overall direction of the company has completely changed, but the important thing is that we continue to work together, work hard and push the boundaries. SBC: Okay, so I won’t ask you any more awkward questions about your own leadership. If we take it to the sort of present day, and with crypto gaming booming, what are you doing as a company to maintain this growth? MP: This is actually a really good question, because it’s something we face every single day. First of all, it’s important that we continuously challenge ourselves, we can’t stop here. If you look at the industry; you are moulding together the gaming and crypto worlds that are fast moving anyway. If you stop, or if you stand still, you’ll get left behind. What we need to do is continue challenging the status quo, pushing forward. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We like to push the boundaries and expand our current group production portfolio, or actually, our ecosystem as we call it. I think it’s extremely important to make the most of this journey. How can we keep it fun, fast and fair, which is one of our main


SPORTS BETTING

YOU ARE MARRYING TOGETHER THE GAMING AND CRYPTO WORLDS THAT ARE FAST MOVING ANYWAY. IF YOU STOP, OR IF YOU STAND STILL, YOU'LL GET LEFT BEHIND

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Challenging the status quo

mantras, as disruptors of the industry. You need to enjoy that title to be able to live up to this and, actually, speaking about this, the people and the culture side is extremely important. For me, I do think that we have a lot of rockstars in Coingaming, and I want to make sure that I can support them, mentor them in the same way that I have been mentored throughout my own journey. SBC: So if we keep it to B2C for now, it’d be quite easy to focus on taking the Bitcoin casino or Bitcoin sportsbook to different markets and widening the net for people involved

in crypto gaming, but what about your existing player base? Has anything changed about what they would expect from your products? MP: There certainly have been changes. As we go on, our customer base becomes more educated. And we’re not just talking about the gaming industry. We did start out as purely a gaming operator and it would be easy for us to simply stay as another casino operator or as another sports betting site that can be copied with relative ease, as you can see in some slow-moving operators in the industry. Such is the state of the B2B market that you can

easily take a white label and put it live, and in no time you have become yet another operator with very little brand distinction. What we have tried to do is much more than this. Our ecosystem, in reality, is like a puzzle. We’ve got B2C brands, we’ve got B2B services sitting on top, we built our own games, we launched our own live dealer studio, we’re building a land-based casino, we’re doing all of the sponsorships. We’re also building our own live chat software, accounting software, we’re exploring investments in the banking industry. And now if you put all these puzzle pieces together, it becomes a network of vastly interconnected products. And this can’t easily be replicated. SBC: You mentioned the banking industry. Investment in products like this comes through Yolo? And what does this mean for the future of Coingaming - does gaming always play the biggest part or does it ultimately take a backseat to other services?

IF YOU PUT ALL THESE PUZZLE PIECES TOGETHER, IT BECOMES A NETWORK OF VASTLY INTERCONNECTED PRODUCTS. AND THIS CAN'T EASILY BE REPLICATED MP: Yes, so we established our venture capital arm called Yolo. And I think the brand name is actually important in that it’s out there and pretty self explanatory. You only live once. And it’s certainly there to explore those boundaries and push the group as such even further. How do I see the balance? I would say that, for us to be able to continuously expand, we do need to extend the remit of the overall group. And it simply does mean going far beyond just gaming. We’ve already heavily invested into other industries and we have been developing our whole ecosystem by doing so. By starting out in the gaming industry, then adding crypto to the mix, this has taught us to explore further opportunities. SBC: Is this something that you could ever have foreseen? Or is this a clear

8 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021


SPORTS BETTING

example of evolving and seeing where the gaps are? MP: There’s not a chance that I would have foreseen this 11 years ago when I started out. And I think that this is actually the beauty of it, we need to embrace the journey. To be honest, I can’t guarantee where we will be in a few years time or what that exact focus will be by then. But what I will say, again, is that we certainly wish to challenge all of the traditional ways and just continue disrupting across a number of industries. I think we’ve been extremely lucky to be in a position to be able to do so. So I would say that this is only the beginning of our story. SBC: One of the things that strikes me is that those involved in crypto - rather than just with a traditional betting or gaming business - feel a responsibility for the perception of the concept. Is it in your interests to push the wider take up of cryptocurrency as much as for your own products? MP: Absolutely. When we first launched our sites, crypto markets in general were very niche. One Bitcoin was worth probably €100. But in essence for us, it doesn’t matter what’s the exact currency, it’s always been about offering the customer that opportunity. And I think crypto in general has unlocked a lot of opportunities as such. But you’re right in what you are saying. We feel that as well. We’re on a mission to be able to educate our customers, both existing and new ones actually, about the potential of cryptocurrency simply to expand their horizons. SBC: And if we just go back to some of the gaming products you’re looking to launch this year, you mentioned the land based casino - is this the Bombay club project? MP: Yes, it’s already in the works. This has been our long-lasting dream, probably for the past five years at least. And it’s simply the next step forward for us to combine a seamless experience between online and landbased. It’s an interesting mixture and adding our live dealer studios to this mix is just another layer that we’ll be adding to our ecosystem. Considering that everything that we have been doing for the past few years has been online, we are also building

with bricks and mortar, and putting up something that I can walk into and put my hand on the wall. A tangible physical asset! SBC: Let’s talk compliance if we can - a hot topic in the gaming industry at the moment. Do you think that this works in your favour in terms of the fairness of the games you can demonstrate? Or in fact, considering the necessary focus on KYC and AML checks, are people still suspicious about how it works in practice? MP: Well, there’s certainly been some negative public perception, especially

in the past. We’ve had to go through a very lengthy process to educate the various authorities, regulators and legislators around us. But the reality is that crypto operators need to perform even more stringent KYC and AML processes than traditional gaming operators would. And actually, blockchain offers so many opportunities to support this. I’ve got a perfect example from a few years back when we were setting up our Estonian gaming licence and we wanted to pay the equity in Bitcoin. And this was in 2015 or 2016. I had to teach the auditors from scratch, from what blockchain is to

WE'RE ON A MISSION TO EDUCATE OUR CUSTOMERS ABOUT THE POTENTIAL OF CRYPTOCURRENCY

how to validate the Bitcoin, Bitcoin value, how to use the wallet itself, how to make transactions. It was quite an experience, if I think back to this, but it’s just something we have to do. SBC: So this was accepted as payment for the licence? MP: Yes, we were successful in this. It is about introducing opportunities to people around us because cryptocurrencies and blockchain is not going anywhere, it will only get bigger. SBC: Okay, so outside of Estonia where else do you currently have licences?

MP: Within the group, we actually have a number of different licences. We are licensed in Estonia, UK, Malta, the Isle of Man, Curacao and we’ve just recently launched Moneyball that’s licensed in Australia. SBC: And just a final question for you. I know you’ve said that fast changes dictate that you can’t predict the future with any certainty, but best guess what does the Coingaming ecosystem look like in five years time? MP: Hard to predict, but based on what we are focusing at the moment, I would say that our banking and Fintech solutions will become a crucial part of our group - after all, money is the plotline of everything. And if we can own the financial part of an ecosystem, then the sky’s the limit. In fact you could say that we’re reaching for the moon... •

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Eyeing up new opportunities

BETCONSTRUCT: EMBRACING THE SWITCH TO LESS TRADITIONAL BETTING CONTENT VIGEN BADALYAN, CEO AND FOUNDER OF BETCONSTRUCT,

explains how adding new products has helped the company to overcome the challenges of 2020

I

n the last 12 months, there has been no doubt that operators have had to consider adding new products to their portfolios as a way of staying afloat. With tournaments cancelled, betting shops closed and an evident shift towards the online space, many operators began to add virtual sports, esports and casino products to their offering. Speaking to SBC Leaders, Badalyan explained that 2020 presented new opportunities for many of its operator clients to ‘give esports a go’, while new additions to the supplier’s games roster helped BetConstruct to tap into

a whole new range of players. He also touched upon the reasons why the French market is ‘opening more possibilities’ for BetConstruct in the future before hinting at upcoming plans for 2021. SBC: Over the last 12 months, many operators were forced to refocus their offering towards esports, virtual sports and casino products. How has BetConstruct helped ensure it is delivering the best possible experience for its partners during this time? VB: Indeed, the operators switched to less traditional content which are

virtuals and esports. Though these markets reached pretty high grossing rates over the last few years, the more conservative bettors hardly gave any preference to alternative sport types. Ironically, for the best virtual sports experience, the most realistic approach and visuals are needed. That’s what BetConstruct provides across its nine in-house developed virtual sports. Additional authenticity to the graphics, especially for man-played games, will be given via motion capture technology. The absence of regular competitions, empty sportsbooks and, perhaps, the loud headlines such as “Esports thrives during absence of traditional sports” are what soothed the scepticism among some players and pushed them to give esports a go. Taking the global situation with the virus outbreak, we increased our coverage to 22,000 esports matches to

IRONICALLY, FOR THE BEST VIRTUAL SPORTS EXPERIENCE, THE MOST REALISTIC APPROACH AND VISUALS ARE NEEDED

10 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021


SPORTS BETTING

THE LOUD HEADLINES ARE PARTLY WHAT SOOTHED THE SCEPTICISM AMONG SOME PLAYERS AND PUSHED THEM TO GIVE ESPORTS A GO

sbcmagazine.com 11


Eyeing up new opportunities

SPORTS BETTING

help our operators keep their business afloat. The headlines didn’t lie. As a result, there was a 300% growth in the volume of bets, a 90% turnover increase since March 2020 and stable growth so far.

are middle eastern card games and by developing PvP skill game versions for them we help our operators garner the interested player segment. As a result, we registered very evident growth in both player and operator counts.

Wrapping up the success, but also opening more possibilities for us in the future, was the official establishment of SoftConstruct Limited, the IT developer and also the parent company of BetConstruct and VBet.

SBC: In the last few months, BetConstruct has enhanced its product portfolio with the addition of a virtual in-play tennis product, your ‘homework’ sportsbook promo campaign and new games such as Crash, Hokm, Pasoor, Okey and Penality; how have these helped you expand your network of partnerships? VB: All games target different player profiles. Virtual tennis, developed last year with the motion capture system, brought added levels of realism to our virtual sports portfolio. In the context of the pandemic, it attracted more players toward alternative betting markets. Homework for Sportsbook increased the activity on betting websites of our partners engaging players in daily rewarding tasks. Crash and Penality, RNG prediction games, quenched the thirst for quick bet-on timewasters. With Hokm, Pasoor and Okey things are a touch more intricate. All three

ANY MARKET THAT PRIORITISES PLAYER AND OPERATOR SECURITY AND IS READY TO PROVIDE LEGAL ‘CITIZENSHIP’ TO AN IGAMING PROVIDER IS AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR US

SBC: Are there any new markets or regions that are presenting new opportunities for BetConstruct? VB: Any region, any market that prioritises players’ and operators’ security and is ready to provide legal ‘citizenship’ to an igaming provider is a new, highly anticipated and exciting opportunity for us.

12 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

SBC: You recently announced a new President for BetConstruct France alongside an extension to your partnership with Partouche. What would you say has been the key to your success in the French market? VB: A well-connected business relationship is our main key to success in France. The result of it is BetConstruct securing approvals from the French regulators, proud to have our operator VBet doing perfectly well in the region and our partners BarrierBet and PasinoBet too.

SBC: And looking forward to the remainder of this year, what exciting announcements can we expect from BetConstruct? VB: As always, the well-being of our operators is what comes first for us. For that, we are very keen to obtain new licences and push to new markets, explore more player tendencies and preference to craft new games or quench the existing demand. We keep our pace up and continue delivering a strong powerful platform bursting with products, services and solutions. •


0. 30. 24.

Human minds lacking the concept of time presumably bring a state of chaos to the world dependent on time.

Fusing the old with the new, nature and technology and the strange with the known alleviates disquieting effects.

The results of certain actions are sometimes explicitly accelerated, but - for this - very effective.

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Partnerships first, then investment

THE KEY TO JKR’S SUCCESS AS A B2B PARTNER FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY JKR INVESTMENT GROUP

has become a key partner for international betting companies including BETER and Betegy

S

BC Leaders spoke to the company’s CEO Alexander Gusev and Nikola Teofilovic, JKR’s new Senior Investment Manager, who stressed that its success can largely be attributed to strong partnerships, industry expertise and a customer-first approach. SBC: So Nikola, you joined JKR back in April as the new Senior Investment Manager. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to join JKR? NT: As you know, I joined Catena Media in September 2016 when I took responsibility for AskGamblers which we acquired in April of that year.

The Setka Cup is powered by BETER

14 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

When I first started, AskGamblers had a team of less than 30 people and the team has done an amazing job in scaling the AskGamblers division. I was then promoted to Executive Management, my title was Vice President for AskGamblers. I actually had a lot of offers over the last two years - I was incredibly happy at Catena Media and never really took any conversations further. Then JKR reached out to me and I saw it as the next step in my career to move to the investment side of things. I really liked the people at JKR. I visited their offices several times and really got to know the partners and the JKR team. I was given the mandate to make a difference - I guess the timing

I'VE GAINED LOTS OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SUCCESSFUL ACQUISITIONS - AS WELL AS KNOWLEDGE ABOUT NOT SO GOOD ONES

was perfect really. So I left my job at Catena Media on 31 March 2021, and since then a lot of things have changed! SBC: How will the experience with your previous employer help inform investments in your new role? NT: I think over the last few years I’ve gathered a lot of experience when it comes to scaling a business organically. The team was really successful within AskGamblers and Catena Media did more than 40 acquisitions. From that, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about successful acquisitions - as well as knowledge about not so good ones. I’ve also seen a lot during my time in the entertainment industry. Since Catena Media is the largest igaming affiliate alongside Better Collective, I’ve also been following other companies and their M&A activities. I do think that this is my strong suit. I’m very operational and active in management. I do have a background in finance,


SPORTS BETTING

Nikola Teofilovic (left) and Alexander Gusev (right)

and so being on the executive management team at Catena Media has helped me to gather a lot of important experience and knowledge - not just from the affiliate industry but also from the operator side too. SBC: Taking a closer look at the M&A side of things, what are your expectations for how this moves on for igaming, esports and even sports data; do you think the current wave of M&A activity is here to stay? NT: So, what I think we’re going to see in the next few years is consolidation. I think that this is already happening as we have seen with companies such as Evolution which has been quite aggressive on the gaming provider side. But also, M&A activity on the affiliation side too. Then there is the operator side - for example, the Entain and Enlabs deal. There is also a lot of SPAC activity in the US market. Usually, when an industry has been really immature and then matures, we begin to see a consolidation phase. I think we’ll probably end up with even larger players in the market with even bigger market shares. SBC: You’ve mentioned investing in

companies you believe can scale; what are the other key factors helping you determine which companies to partner with? NT: I personally have been investing for more than 20 years. What I have learned is to invest in people. From my perspective, a business has to be viable and have potential for growth, but the important factor is the team - who is going to be executing the vision?

USUALLY, WHEN AN INDUSTRY HAS BEEN REALLY IMMATURE AND THEN MATURES, WE BEGIN TO SEE A CONSOLIDATION PHASE JKR does have some checkboxes – at the moment we are focused on B2B companies in the entertainment industry. But otherwise, it’s all about investing in the right people that will make that overall idea or dream come true. AG: When we talk about partnerships, we first and foremost have to find common values. Only then can we partner with a company. A person or

company can join us if they are in line with our values at JKR. For me, trust is very important. I can divide trust into three aspects. Firstly, I can trust someone as an expert in their field; the second is that I can trust someone as a partner or as someone who can take care of a project. The final element is that I can trust someone never to deceive our company. Any partner must also have a fire inside - it is the motivation for growth to move our companies further. Similar to the first law of thermodynamics, heat is a form of energy and can be used to fuel growth. This principle can be applied to nearly all businesses! SBC: Okay, so we’ve spoken about what it is you look for when partnering with a company. But in your opinion, what would you say is JKR’s USP - why do companies want to partner with you? AG: First of all, we have a wide network of people from all over the world - each of whom have different perspectives in various fields. Whether one needs to attract capital, sell their product, or acquire some expertise, they can reach out to us and we will

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Partnerships first, then investment

help fill the gap using our network. We have accumulated a wealth of experience. I don’t necessarily just mean hard skills or expertise - but also philosophy. It is not easy to acquire this sort of knowledge. NT: I believe a lot of companies want to partner with us because we have industry knowledge and experience but also have a really strong drive. As I said, we call ourselves entrepreneurial investors. We haven’t lost that drive, hunger or happiness to succeed. We do everything in our power to succeed. We pick up the phones, we make calls, we do whatever it takes to support our investees and help them grow. Money is an important factor, but from my previous investments

experience, there needs to be that hunger and drive to succeed. At the end of the day, that drive helps the dream of our portfolio companies come true. SBC: While JKR is still a relatively young investment group, you’ve managed to build and secure partnerships with the companies that are now known and secure partnerships and locked a number of blue-chip clients. How do you feel about it? AG: I would describe our international investments as two arms. One arm is focused on strategic management, as is the case with our BETER investment. We

16 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

have built this company from scratch. In the case of Betegy, this company has been built by an external team and we made an investment. This is our second arm. I believe that these two arms reinforce one another - we are people who can build a business, and we can also use our own money to grow a business even further. We use our investment knowledge to grow BETER. We also know how to build a company, so we have used this experience to enhance Betegy. It’s like a reinforcing circle. Sometimes you can encounter people who are either an investor or a venture builder, and more often they do not understand one another. But at JKR, we’re different and knowledgeable.

SBC: Nikola, you mentioned taking a global approach to your investments. When looking at the entertainment industry on a global level, where do you feel that deeper investment is required? NT: I would say that there are a lot of niche investments that are needed across the industry - for example, you mentioned customer support

WE PICK UP THE PHONES, WE MAKE CALLS, WE DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO SUPPORT OUR INVESTEES AND HELP THEM GROW

SPORTS BETTING

THESE TWO ARMS REINFORCE ONE ANOTHER WE CAN BUILD A BUSINESS, OR WE CAN USE OUR OWN MONEY TO GROW A BUSINESS EVEN FURTHER and compliance. However, the areas which will need major investments are data and R&D - for instance, AI for optimisation processes. There is so much data out there but there is still a big opportunity to filter the right data and use that for real wins. It’s not just about using data for reporting. Data can be used to increase ROI in order to increase your overall margins. AG: For me, I believe there needs to be more investment in customers. At JKR, we have a motto: first we build relationships, then we build companies. This philosophy is central to our business because so many companies are so concerned about their product, their marketing. But they often forget about their customers. If you have a strong relationship with your customers and with your partners, your company will continue to grow - making a much more sustainable business model. SBC: The entertainment industry technologies have become targets for SPAC - is this a point of concern for JKR and traditional investors? NT: SPACs are just venture capitals in public markets. So a SPAC is basically a vehicle for a company to raise a substantial amount of new capital and deploy that towards the business’ purpose. For me, SPACs are just one alternative among many other investment types. I think they act as a complement more than anything else. AG: I definitely believe that SPACs present a new opportunity. We all know the benefits and risks associated with SPACs - companies need to weigh up the reasons as to whether this is the way they want to go public or not. I’m interested in the opinions of people who view them as a point of concern. From my view, when you attract a sponsor to a SPAC, you not only attract new capital but also expertise. You need to find that expertise somehow, and maybe a SPAC is a good way to do this. •



Data-driven marketing

HOW AD:S IS MEETING THE MARKETING CHALLENGES FOR US SPORTSBOOKS THE MARKET IS THIRSTY

for something beyond the banner ad, said Sportradar's Mike Smith, who discussed the future for ad tech in the US sports betting space

S

mith, who is Sportradar’s Head of Advertising, US, spoke to SBC Leaders about the growth of digital out-of-home marketing as fans return to games and why changes to third-party cookies clears the path for endemic sites to play a larger role in the ecosystem. He also explained how the acquisition of Fresh Eight has enhanced its ad:s platform, which distinctly provides US sportsbooks with unique media activations and vendor consolidation, backed by a team with the responsibility and expertise to safely bring sports betting to mainstream audiences. SBC: Sportradar recently enhanced its ad:s platform through the acquisition of Fresh Eight. Why was this such an important acquisition for the company? MS: The acquisition of Fresh Eight complements ad:s’ highly targeted programmatic advertising capabilities and further bolsters one of our key points of differentiation, which is personalisation. Having a sector-specific demand side platform (DSP), like we do, has already proven to be valuable to our customers to efficiently reach both existing sports bettors and potential sports bettors. With the Fresh Eight acquisition, we are able to drill down further because of their personalised messaging platform, especially within the paid

18 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

social and paid search domains. Fresh Eight has a highly effective dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) technology, which provides casinos and sportsbooks a level of targeting

THE ACQUISITION OF FRESH EIGHT BOLSTERS ONE OF OUR KEY POINTS OF DIFFERENTIATION, WHICH IS PERSONALISATION

precision they can’t receive from a standard DSP, enabling them to optimise their media investments. Incorporating this into our ad:s platform not only enhances our overall performance efficiency proposition, it also allows our customers to improve their consumer targeting, drive reduced CPAs and yield a higher return on ad spend. Ultimately, this turns us into a complete marketing arm for sportsbooks looking for a digital omnichannel performance.


US MARKET

SBC: Why do you think digital is often measured in CPA when TV, naming rights and other forms of advertising are not held to those standards? MS: With the digital tracking technologies that we have at our fingertips, you can measure almost anything a user does, accounting for each ad and set of eyes. In other traditional areas, it’s a lot more difficult to track the effectiveness of your marketing in a 1:1 fashion. The industry is used to this. These are branding channels, so there’s no need for a 1:1 direct response and no need for a concrete CPA. However, just because you can measure CPA for digital campaigns, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to quantify effectiveness and results. After all, eyes are on digital screens more than TVs and stadium facades, so why can’t digital screens be used for branding? While sportsbooks will naturally look towards CPA as an important metric to measure success, Sportradar has a more holistic view that takes the entire customer journey and experience into account.

DIGITAL TRACKING TECHNOLOGIES CAN MEASURE ALMOST ANYTHING A USER DOES, ACCOUNTING FOR EACH AD AND SET OF EYES

SBC: How much of a challenge is it to navigate the fragmented US market, where each state comes with its own set of rules and regulations? MS: We have diligent legal and government affairs teams that live and

SBC: There are lots of ad tech companies in the US market. What makes Sportradar ad:s unique amongst its competitors? MS: US sportsbooks are all facing similar marketing challenges right now:

breathe the latest developments as they pertain to regulations. We are following legislation in real time as bills get passed, so we are ready for whatever nuance we may encounter domestically. While there are differentiators within the US market when it comes to betting regulations, it’s all generally the same from state-to-state on the advertising side. The biggest outlier is New Jersey, which requires each publisher to register with a state organisation and get approval for displaying bettingrelated ads on their websites. As privacy laws tighten, and more states legalise sports betting, we will be ready in case other states decide to have unique regulations like New Jersey.

• Data – Access to valuable audience data and insights • Measurement – Understanding what’s working and why • Personalisation – Right audience, right message, right time • Inventory – Access to quality compliant inventory at scale • Technology – Building best-in-class ad-tech • Uniqueness – Activating media in • •

unique and exclusive ways in a crowded marketplace Vendor Consolidation – There are different agencies and teams for each digital initiative Responsibility/Expertise – Safely bringing sports betting to mainstream audiences

Where our ad:s solution truly stands out is in the last three buckets: uniqueness, vendor consolidation, and responsibility/expertise. The other five buckets are important, but in this sophisticated landscape, they are table stakes. In terms of uniqueness, we have access to league opportunities, premium publisher relationships and emerging technology relationships

THE BIGGEST OUTLIER ON THE ADVERTISING SIDE IS NEW JERSEY

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Data-driven marketing

US MARKET

that provide our customers access to solutions that fit their specific business initiatives. As a brand, some customers want a lot of video and some don’t want any. Meanwhile, some customers have a specific brand voice that might represent a more straightforward, aggressive approach. Whatever the approach, we are always looking for solutions that fit our customers, not customers that fit our solutions.

WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS THAT FIT OUR CUSTOMERS, NOT CUSTOMERS THAT FIT OUR SOLUTIONS At the core of our offering is our custom-built DSP with algorithms solely dedicated to optimising against sports bettor behaviours. We believe every customer can use a DSP, whether it is for CPA campaigns, CTV or private marketplaces – programmatic is a part of every strategy. However, to fit each voice, we have iterated around the DSP with an omnichannel approach, which includes direct media, programmatic, social, and affiliate marketing. We think it’s important to have this all under one roof, so each piece helps to improve the others. Finally, when it comes to responsibility/expertise, there are few companies better positioned to navigate this space on a global scale. We have a sophisticated team of privacy and compliance experts, as well as an integrity division to guard against and detect match fixing. Our marketing team has decades of digital advertising experience, as well as decades of understanding sports bettors and their behaviours. Sportradar ad:s is not just another agency; we have a vested interest in making sure sports betting grows responsibly in the US. SBC: What recent success has Sportradar’s ad:s team experienced? MS: It’s an exciting time for Sportradar’s ad:s team in the US. We just announced first-of-their-kind partnerships with the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, where we are supporting the teams’ efforts to unlock new opportunities for

20 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

THE MARKET IS THIRSTY FOR SOMETHING NEW THAT GOES BEYOND THE BANNER AD their partners in the rapidly growing legal sports betting category with programmatic advertising at the core. Additionally, we recently played an instrumental role in facilitating a sponsorship deal between the USL’s Indy Eleven and BetRivers. Most significantly, our team continues to grow and evolve, using our capabilities, experience, and expertise across the business to break new ground in the US market. SBC: Any final thoughts? What do you think the future of this space holds?

MS: Looking ahead, I think the market is thirsty for something new that goes beyond the banner ad. Digital out-ofhome is going to continue to grow, especially as fans return to games and leave their houses more frequently. Also, with the cookie fading, endemic sites are going to play a larger role in the ecosystem because they already know where their fans are and don’t need to rely on data to find them. Finally, content is going to be critical. Each sportsbook is trying to figure out (or buy) their way to a quality content strategy. How these books engage their customers organically, without paid media, bonuses and boosted odds is going to be something to watch closely. •

SPORTRADAR AD:S IS NOT JUST ANOTHER AGENCY; WE HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN MAKING SURE SPORTS BETTING GROWS RESPONSIBLY IN THE US


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START YOUR ENGINES Be the first to offer your customers Betradar’s new F1 content. With live data taken directly from the track on race day, you can drive increased revenue and engage your punters with our range of live odds and data products and live visualisation tools. For more information contact sales@betradar.com or visit betradar.com


Building tribal sports betting

IGT: DRIVING SPORTS BETTING GROWTH IN INDIAN COUNTRY SOME OF THE BIGGEST sports betting operators

in the US are recording growth at impressive rates, but the ‘horsepower’ of tribal gaming has yet to fully take shape

22 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

W

hen discussing the competitive and everevolving US sports betting market, it’s tempting to focus only on industry titans FanDuel and DraftKings, or even on multi-state, corporate-led programs such as Barstool Sports, BetMGM and Caesars Sports. While these sports betting providers are achieving growth and formalising commercial partnerships at impressive rates, it’s important to consider the horsepower of a very large segment of the sports betting market that has not yet fully taken shape: tribal gaming. For many years, tribal gaming revenues in the US have exceeded those of the commercial gaming sector. With more than 240 tribes, operating approximately 500 tribal casinos


US MARKET

nationwide, it would be naïve to ignore this critical component of the US sports betting market. Furthermore, tribal gaming operators have recently extended their enterprises beyond sovereign land and to the most famous gaming destination in the world: Las Vegas. While many sports betting technology providers have focused their attention only on the commercial gaming sector or have been unsuccessful in navigating tribal regulatory environments, global gaming leader IGT continues to increase its sports betting footprint and influence in both the tribal and commercial sports betting segments. “For decades, IGT has partnered with tribal casinos across the US to help them achieve growth and differentiate

Vik Shrestha, IGT PlaySports Senior Director of Business Development

their offerings,” said Vik Shrestha, IGT PlaySports Senior Director of Business Development. “These casino operators are not just ‘PlaySports customers;’ they’re IGT customers who also use our games, cabinets and systems. “These deep-seeded relationships are built on trust and performance across our entire solutions portfolio. Over the last several years, IGT has been working diligently to ensure that these customers have the ideal sports betting solutions for their long-time goals. “Our goal is to help our tribal customers understand the different types of sports betting partnerships and commercial models, so they can ultimately make the best decision for the tribe, even if it doesn’t result in a B2B sports betting partnership with IGT.” Today, IGT PlaySports technology is powering sportsbooks in 17 US states and at more than 40 gaming venues, including tribal-run casinos in six states: Oregon, Arkansas, New York, Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota. Additionally, IGT has a healthy pipeline of signed sports betting agreements in multiple jurisdictions that have yet to go live with sports wagering. The momentum and roster of

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Building tribal sports betting

achievements that IGT continues to build in tribal sports betting is impressive. For example, in Mississippi, IGT helped the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians become the first non-Nevada tribal casino to open a sportsbook post-PASPA repeal. In Arkansas, IGT helped a tribe come up with a creative way to offer sports betting while its flagship resort-casino was in development and in Oregon, IGT PlaySports powers one of the State’s few non-lottery sports wagering venues. IGT PlaySports attributes its success with tribal gaming operators to a variety of factors including the quality and scalability of the PlaySports solution, the company’s experience in and familiarity with the tribal regulatory environment and its long-term view on helping its customers establish and grow their sports betting enterprises. When speaking with representatives from tribal casinos that leverage the PlaySports solutions, industry professionals echoed similar sentiments. “The IGT PlaySports team continues to be a very strategic partner for The Mill Casino,” said Terri Porcaro, CEO of The Mill Casino. “Thanks to

24 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

IGT’s expertise in navigating complex regulatory environments and the market readiness of the PlaySports platform, The Mill Casino was able to introduce sports betting long before many other tribal casino operators. IGT is constantly helping us maximise our ROI and evolve the player experience through a range of casino products and services.”

PARTNERING WITH A TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIER WITH A STRONG FOUNDATION IN LANDBASED SPORTS BETTING WAS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL FOR AKWESASNE MOHAWK CASINO RESORT “Given that New York is a retail-only sports betting state at the moment, partnering with a technology supplier with a strong foundation in land-based sports betting was absolutely critical for Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort,” said Emily Lauzon, Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort General Manager. “It was abundantly clear that IGT deeply understood the path for

US MARKET

getting our sports betting operation up and running and was committed to our success within the wall of our sportsbook and beyond. IGT is a very important extension of our team.” Jamie Azure, Chairman of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, has been equally vocal about why PlaySports is the ideal technology for Sky Dancer Casino and how he plans to leverage the new form of entertainment to engage players. Azure noted: “The addition of sports betting will expand our casino entertainment and offer our loyal patrons and sports fans alike new ways to play. We’re always looking for ways to push into the future of gaming. “IGT is the market leader in sports betting technology, and they’ve been a strong partner for our Tribe. I am confident that with their proven experience and service, we will be able to implement and operate an exciting and successful sports betting operation.” The tribal sports betting space is certainly one worth watching for the rest of 2021. And although the pace of new sports betting regulation is difficult to predict, IGT and its proven ability to drive sports betting growth in Indian country is a sure bet.


Technology and Expertise to Drive Your Sportsbook Success IGT’s PlaySports solution is playing a pivotal role in shaping the U.S. sports betting market. Its capacity to support a wide range of operators and move the player experience forward are driving growth for customers. Our next-generation betting engine and high-performing omnichannel platform are quickly becoming the industry’s preferred technology stack, processing the largest share of legal U.S. sports wagers placed in . Backed by scalable technology, turnkey services, and dedicated experts, operators get the inside edge with IGT’s comprehensive market-ready solutions, designed to increase ROI and enhance customer success.

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The first innings for US sports betting

SPORTS IQ’S OMER DOR ON THE LIMITLESS POTENTIAL TO INNOVATE IN US SPORTS BETTING OMER DOR, CEO AT SPORTS IQ, the provider of odds

feeds for the US sports betting industry, talks to SBC Leaders about the company’s aspirations stateside and how it plans to use $7m of funding to boost technology and product development SBC: For those of our readers who don’t know Sports IQ, can you tell us more about the company and its offer? OD: Sports IQ is a tech company that specialises in building high quality innovative odd feeds and automated trading tools. Our products help operators improve their US offering

26 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

and increase revenues. We started the company in 2018, prior to the repeal of PASPA, with a belief that the regulated US sports betting industry was about to experience significant growth. And not just in the literal sense of “territorial expansion” - we fundamentally believed that over

the next few years, a new era in sports betting would be ushered in - one in which betting becomes synonymous with the sport fan’s overall entertainment experience. Sports IQ is built by a team of mathematicians, computer and data scientists and industry professionals whose mission it is to build products that improve the sports betting experience for customers. My two co-founders have spent the last two decades building algorithmicbased pricing models and underlying technology for US sports betting products. We combine those many years of industry experience with powerful,


US MARKET

cutting-edge technology to create accurate and engaging odds feeds and automated trading tools. We are probably best known for our innovative player props. These markets have been tailor-made for the US sports betting market and look to fulfil the stats-heavy appetite amongst the growing number of US betting consumers. Sports IQ supplies a range of products to some of the biggest brands in the US regulated sports betting industry and abroad, including: IGT, Bally Interactive (Bet. Works) and BetClic. We are also very fortunate to be backed by an incredible group of investors that includes institutional capital and professional sport team leadership and gaming executives. SBC: What will you bring to the US sports betting market that is new and unique, and what role does your proprietary technology play in that? OD: Every product that we build is underpinned by a mission to help operators provide high quality, engaging betting content to consumers. This extends beyond just creating innovative products, like our live player props. It means the entire experience of betting needs to be optimal for each customer. To use a real-world example: like most consumers we have always been frustrated at the frequency and duration that sports betting lines are suspended for, or inactive altogether. Can you imagine what it would be like to watch a game on television that shut off every 90 seconds; you don’t know when it will turn back on again, or if it will at all? Not being able to engage with sports betting content in a continuous way has that similar effect. It takes away from the overall entertainment experience. This is an industry wide problem and Sports IQ has solved it. We invested considerable resources into reducing the occasions when markets are unavailable to customers. We take tremendous pride in uniquely positioning ourselves to update our lines in real-time without lengthy suspensions, both pre-match and throughout the live event. This has obvious benefits – the end consumer has a greater choice of markets to place their wagers on, at a

time that suits them, while operators increase their turnover and revenue. And with our strong technology backbone, this same philosophy extends to every product we build. From each one of our in play wagering markets to our cashout functionality and same-game parlays or “bet builders”, we do our best to deliver an entirely new experience.

WE INVESTED CONSIDERABLE RESOURCES INTO REDUCING THE OCCASIONS WHEN MARKETS ARE UNAVAILABLE TO CUSTOMERS

SBC: Can you add some detail and colour to the funding aspect of your US announcement? Apart from the obvious financial benefits, what do your funding partners bring to the table? OD: First and foremost, this group of investment professionals brings a multitude of expertise to the table. They come from a diverse background of institutional capital, professional sport team leadership and seasoned gaming executive roles. Leveraging that mixed experience in both strategic thinking and operational execution is key to Sports IQ’s continued growth. So we feel very privileged in bringing these investors

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The first innings for US sports betting

US MARKET

IN-PLAY REPRESENTS IN THE VICINITY OF 25-35% OF OPERATOR HANDLE IN THE US RIGHT NOW - A FIGURE THAT IS AS HIGH AS 80% IN MATURE MARKETS LIKE EUROPE

on board as partners of the Sports IQ journey. Individually and collectively they have accomplished great things in business and in sports. So I would say their involvement is a reflection of the culture of excellence we foster here at Sports IQ. And I don’t think you can put a value on that. It enhances the Sports IQ brand in a way that speaks for itself. SBC: With $7m of funding now in place, how do you anticipate investing that money to grow the business? OD: We strive to be the industry leaders at what we do; and to accomplish that we intend to continue enhancing our product and technology. The capital will be used to invest across all areas of our business. We are significantly increasing the size of our team by hiring for multiple new positions in our technology, data science and operations departments to enhance our ability to service new and existing customers. We will also be investing in technology and product development. We must continually create additional value for our customers through innovative and engaging products. And finally, we will look to further our commercial momentum on a global footprint. Wagering on major US sports is continuing to rise, not just in North

28 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

America - through legislative efforts, but abroad as well. It speaks to the growing popularity of US sports. In some cases in Europe, for example, basketball represents the third or fourth largest sport in terms of handle now. Sports IQ will look to service that growing demand for high quality US products. SBC: Where do you see the biggest areas of opportunity for US sports betting in the next few months and where does Sports IQ fit into that emerging picture? OD: In the short term, consumers will continue to increasingly engage with betting as part of their overall fan entertainment experience. In the US, we’ve always been hugely invested in the performance of individual players. The stats-heavy nature of it has played a big part in the growth of fantasy sports. I anticipate that placing wagers on products like player props, and in particular during a live game, will continue to drive engagement for operators. In-play, in general, represents somewhere in the vicinity of 25-35% of operator handle in the US right now; meanwhile, in more mature markets like Europe, that figure is as high as 80%. So I believe that in the short-term, high quality live products that drive in-play engagement will see continued growth. If we start looking further down the

road, the potential is limitless. You may have heard the saying in our industry that “sports betting in the US is in the first few innings”. And that may be true from a legislative perspective. But from a product standpoint, we haven’t even reached spring training yet. There is endless potential to innovate. One example is the increasingly important role that the personalisation of content will play. Imagine going into 10 different restaurants and the menu is identical in each one of them. There are a lot of similarities in that analogy with the current provisioning of odds. Sports IQ’s technology was built in such a way to help facilitate a level of operator customisation that has not existed to date. This is key in being able to differentiate your product offering. As our industry continues to grow, the potential for the personalisation of betting content will only increase. This extends beyond just the idea of facilitating convenience for betting on your favourite team or player. A techsavvy 20-year-old college kid and a middle-aged man interact with sports in very different ways. So naturally we should expect them to want to engage with betting content differently as well. We believe there is an important role for that level of personalisation; and Sports IQ is hoping to be one of the driving forces in that regard. •


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The online transition

WHY THE FIRST ONLINE EXPERIENCES IN BUENOS AIRES REQUIRE A SPECIAL FOCUS ON CUSTOMER ADAPTATION

FERNANDO FACAL, GENERAL MANAGER OF HIPÓDROMO DE PALERMO, discusses the racecourse’s remote

gaming licence and the challenges associated with the transition from land-based to online betting

H

ipódromo de Palermo, the emblematic racecourse in the City of Buenos Aires, has become the first company in the Argentinian capital city to embrace the regulated online gambling sector following the launch of its betfun site in March 2021.

30 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Upon confirmation of the launch, the local gambling authority - Lotería de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Lotba) - authorised the racecourse to offer remote gaming, which allows the track to operate at a time when many landbased casinos across the city remain under strict COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition to keeping its horse racing offering intact and having one of the most prominent racecourses at an international level, the Hipódromo de Palermo celebrated its 145th anniversary on 7 May as a large urban park with free entry, featuring sports, history, tradition, innovation, architecture, tourism, entertainment and gastronomic options. In recognition of the progress, Hipódromo's General Manager Fernando Facal spoke to the SBC Leaders team on GamblingTV, where he discussed the ways in which remote gaming has allowed the


LATAM MARKET

racecourse to remain active. Facal told us that Palermo’s racecourse worked alongside Lotba to improve its platform’s technical operational standards, which he believes will be the stepping stone for the development of the online gambling market in the City of Buenos Aires. “Last year, in the first few months of the pandemic, we started talking with Lotba to discuss the possibility of having an alternative to be able to transfer our gambling offering to an online platform, although the City’s online regulation was just starting to be processed,” Facal explained. “We have to take into account that

THERE WAS NOT MUCH PREDICTABILITY IN REGARDS TO THE PANDEMIC AND WE NEEDED AN ALTERNATIVE TO COVER ALL OF OUR OPERATIONAL EXPENSES

there was not much predictability in regards to the pandemic and we needed some alternative to cover all the expenses related to our operations, which are very large. “Remote gaming is similar to online gambling, with the characteristic that you can only offer the same games that you have in physical casinos, which is why we can’t add sports betting [to our offering], for example.” The operator has placed particular emphasis on responsible gambling and money laundering prevention practices. However, Facal noted that encouraging its land-based customers to transition to the online space has taken a large amount of time and dedication. According to him, remote gaming has a similar tax scheme to the landbased industry, so the remote gaming licence “is like an online extension of what we already have at the casino”. He continued: “Eventually, a number of regulations were written and implemented in relation to online

THERE WAS A LOT OF FOCUS AROUND RESPONSIBLE GAMING, THE PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND TRANSPARENCY gambling, such as payments. There was a lot of focus around responsible gaming, the prevention of money laundering and transparency. “Throughout the pandemic, we focused on writing this standard, Lotba approved it at the end of 2020 and now we are already operating with these measures in place. “We have a contact scheme with our huge customer base on different channels, which helps us advise and train them. It will be a start with a lot of dedication on customer support.” In parallel, the racecourse - which houses the Gran Premio Nacional - is experimenting with betting on horse races and international partners while it awaits permission to expand this

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The online transition

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to the Porteño players once Lotba advances with the full launch of the market in Buenos Aires. Furthermore, the traditional operator that started its casino venture in 2002 and is now one of the “10 largest and most modern slot operators in the world” is covering imminent challenges within the online sector, such as payments.

HAVING A LOT OF EXPERIENCE IN LAND-BASED OPERATIONS DOES NOT IMPLY THAT YOU ARE GOING TO SUCCEED IN THE ONLINE GAMBLING WORLD “With the launch of our platform, we are ready to add an app for iOS and Android, which will help speed up the development and evolution,” said Facal, who reported that these technological integrations come from global suppliers with great experience in online and mobile gambling in a number of markets. He added: “The online market is very different from the physical casino sector, and having a lot of experience in land-based operations does not imply that you are going to succeed in the online gambling world. The Hipódromo will implement these learnings to sustain its leadership once the online market is fully operational in the City of Buenos Aires.”

Different public, different strategies One of the challenges that land-based operators face when going online is getting that customer base to move to a digital platform. “The reality is that the general public that attends physical casinos is quite different from the one that is used to the online environment, it requires an adaptation and training process on how it’s like to play in the internet environment,” Facal commented. He believes that having a lot of contact with their clients helps them when it comes to giving advice and clearing doubts. Facal explained: “There are many people who adapt quickly, many people who were already used to the online world and it’s easy for them,

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LIKE ANY ONLINE BUSINESS, YOU HAVE AN ONLINE ADVERTISING STRATEGY, WHICH WE’RE CURRENTLY DEVELOPING and there is a high percentage of the public that needs to start focusing on being friends with this modality. “But it’s a matter of time, it will be a lot of quick learning. These days require dedicating a lot of time to the client, and we are currently at that stage.” Regarding strategies to acquire new players, the Hipódromo de Palermo has implemented a “fairly aggressive contact strategy” around land-based

operations, so they’re currently channelling all the energy through those channels and contacting their entire customer base. “Like any online business, you have an online advertising strategy, which we’re currently developing,” Facal shared. “It’s aimed for another type of audience, but it’s also proving very effective. Remote gaming is for clients in the City of Buenos Aires, so we already have a limited jurisdiction in which we can take action.” He concluded: “We have a lot of clients from our land based operations who are from the Province of Buenos Aires, but unfortunately they will have to wait for the Province to come up with its own regulation.” •


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The growing influence of mobile in gaming

COMPLEMENTARY DEVICE TO UNDOUBTED LEADER: THE RISE OF MOBILE GAMING AFTER HISTORICALLY BEING A COMPLEMENTARY DEVICE to that of its much

superior counterpart, namely the desktop computer, mobile surged beyond its one-time rival long long ago and the widening gulf shows no sign of plateauing

Shalva Bukia, product director of Spribe

A

s the explosion of handheld devices seemingly shows no signs of slowing down, is desktop now confined as a thing of the past? If not, should the industry consider going mobile only? “Spribe is an igaming provider focused on Millennials, and we always start our game development process from designing a mobile user interface first,” begins Shalva Bukia, product director of Spribe. “When we are sure that everything feels and looks good on mobile, then we continue to desktop. “Let's not forget one important thing in this story: it's not about what people use, rather what people use most. The statistics show, millennials in the US spent seven times more time on a smartphone than on a desktop. I believe this is true for most countries.” When quizzed on whether different age groups have a preference towards mobile or desktop, Bukia was quick to suggest that the tech-savvy Gen-Z has a penchant to gamble using their mobile phones. He continued: “Numbers in Gen-Z are even more in favour of mobile use. This has huge implications for the igaming industry. If you want to win over newer generations, then your products

34 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Fredrik Johansson, commercial director of Fantasma Games


CASINO

should provide the same experience on mobile devices, because this is where most time is spent. “Another major topic for understanding desktop vs mobile is use cases. Most people have both devices and use them for different things. For the entertainment industry, numbers vary: if we look at social media, almost all traffic is from mobile devices. “For video content like YouTube or streaming services, desktop remains in a better position. Igaming is part of the entertainment industry, but use cases can vary as well. For example, there might be a case when someone is playing on the go from a smartphone, or someone wants to enjoy a more immersive slot or live roulette experience from a desktop device. Either way, desktop is not going

WHEN WE ARE SURE THAT EVERYTHING FEELS AND LOOKS GOOD ON MOBILE, WE CONTINUE TO DESKTOP

anywhere, but mobile has already shifted as a primary platform.” Picking up on the same point, Fredrik Johansson, commercial director of Fantasma Games, asserted a longheld belief of reaching the point where we currently find ourselves, citing that 75% of play on the Stockholm-based studio’s titles comes via the mobile channel. “This has grown significantly over the past few years – when we first launched, around 50% of play was from mobile but now it is approaching 80%,” he stated. “We expect this to flatten out at some stage as there will always be a percentage of players that enjoy playing from desktop. “Due to our mobile-first approach, each of our games is developed with mobile and in particular portrait play as the number one priority. As part of this, games are also developed so that they can be played with one hand and in particular the player’s thumb. “Developing for portrait mode and one-handed play on mobile is a tough task, but once this has been achieved it is then relatively easy to re-develop the game for desktop play as there

EITHER WAY, DESKTOP IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE, BUT MOBILE HAS ALREADY SHIFTED AS A PRIMARY PLATFORM is so much more screen real estate to work with. “So we still see desktop as being important as there will always be desktop players, but for us it is all about designing and developing slots that go beyond gambling and deliver the best possible experience on mobile.” With mobile firmly established as the undoubted front runner, what further implications does that hold for the developmental process? Is landscape optimised over portrait? How much of a factor is one-handed play? And is any emphasis at all placed on desktop? In response to these questions, Johansson pointed towards the central focus on portrait and one-handed games, with Fantasma previously having to convince Microgaming that

sbcmagazine.com 35


The growing influence of mobile in gaming

CASINO

“portrait play was the way forwards” when faced with a landscape development request upon starting to work with the group. “We were able to convince them, and it has proved to be the right thing to do. We obviously knew this as we had embraced this philosophy from day one having looked to other industries such as video and mobile games and saw they were all creating titles in portrait mode,” he continued. “We actually believe that portrait mode provides plenty of opportunities to innovate and create highly engaging slots that go beyond gambling. For example, in Flower Fortunes we created a 9x9 reel game matrix that players can climb as they level up through the game.

THESE SMALL NUANCES CAN BE VERY ANNOYING FOR THE PLAYER “Again, this game was designed with one-handed play in mind. But why is this so important? Because it allows players to enjoy our games no matter where they are or what they are doing. They can play while walking down the street, sitting on the tube or relaxing at home. “This gives them much broader appeal and increases the time players can spend enjoying the hugely entertaining experience they have to offer.” For Buckia, optimising games for one-handed use should be a priority when coming up with new titles however the creation of an easy to use interface should be at the forefront of every games’ development. Buckia concluded: “As well as providing thrilling entertainment, studios have one more important mission when it comes to mobile phone optimisation - to provide an easy to use interface and experience. Mobile-first approach means optimising the game for one-handed use as well so people are comfortable playing long sessions. “Smartphones are different from the desktop in usability, you only need to move the mouse a little to click anywhere on the desktop, but on smartphones you use your fingers,

36 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

WE ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT PORTRAIT MODE PROVIDES PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES TO INNOVATE AND CREATE HIGHLY ENGAGING SLOTS THAT GO BEYOND GAMBLING actually just one finger: a thumb. “Phones are getting bigger and screens wider. If some buttons are located in the top corner of the screen, you have to reach the thumb all the way over there, or use another hand. Yes, this sounds like a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but in reality these small nuances can be very annoying for the player.

“Although almost every slot provider has a landscape mode implemented in slot games, people prefer to play in portrait mode. Ask yourself, how do you take pictures from your phone, on portrait or landscape orientation? Most people shoot in portrait mode, this just feels more intuitive. “At the end of the day people play games to relax and entertain and bad UX can ruin this altogether.” •


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The American Dream

WHY PARIPLAY COULDN’T IGNORE THE ‘UNTAPPED POTENTIAL’ OF THE US MARKET ANDREW MACLEAN - PARIPLAY’S DIRECTOR OF SALES -

explained that the growing potential of the US market is an opportunity which simply could not be ignored

T

hree years on since the US first opened up to legalised betting, and a number of European suppliers have been seeking to gain a foothold in the post-PASPA market. Pariplay has been no exception, having already made its entry into New Jersey. For Maclean, the US market has ‘always had great potential’, noting that Pariplay plans to draw upon its wealth of experience in European markets to gauge a deeper understanding of nuances in player preferences across different states. SBC: Pariplay entered the US market with Rush Street Interactive earlier this year and your games are now live in New Jersey, what has the experience been as a European supplier making inroads into the US market? AM: Making our US debut was an exciting milestone for us and the first few months have been a learning curve. We have a fantastic partner in Rush Street Interactive, an operator which has been very successful in the market with its PlaySugarHouse brand. This has given us an excellent platform to introduce our games to US players. Our content has been performing exceptionally well but we are still learning about the specific player demographics and preferences to get a better understanding of the local audience. Being a European supplier in

38 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

the emerging US market means we are new to the local peculiarities, but by working closely with our operator partners we can optimise and improve our offering to better appeal to players. On the other hand, our extensive experience in numerous European markets gives us a unique advantage because we understand the different nuances of player preferences in different regions. SBC: Your new deal with GAN will see you enter Michigan and Pennsylvania and strengthen your position in New Jersey; what is your plan for further expansion?


CASINO

AM: After being live in New Jersey for a few months, we were excited to announce this expansion into new markets together with GAN and we look forward to introducing our content in more states. The US market presents a massive opportunity for us and we have great plans to explore new states as they open up. We continue to follow developments closely in emerging states such as New York, Florida and California. The deal with GAN is important and highlights the demand for our content in the US. Other markets outside of the US that we are currently prioritising with exciting new partnerships include Greece and the Netherlands and we are also strengthening our position in the Colombian market with several customer launches planned for Q2, so watch this space!

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE US MARKET IS THE PLACE FOR US TO FOCUS OUR ATTENTION IN THE YEARS TO COME SBC: Why do you believe the time is right for Pariplay to be making moves into the US? AM: The US online market is finally taking shape and the closure of land-based venues over the last 12 months as a result of the pandemic has prompted state regulators to consider, or fast-track, regulation. The US market has always had great potential with local and European operators and suppliers long awaiting the legalisation of online gambling. We have been preparing for a market entry for some time and followed the development in New Jersey where there has been robust growth since 2018 before making our debut. With many more states on the verge of legalising online gaming, there is no doubt that the

THE US MARKET PRESENTS A MASSIVE OPPORTUNITY FOR US AND WE HAVE GREAT PLANS TO EXPLORE NEW STATES AS THEY OPEN UP

US market is the place for us to focus our attention in the years to come. SBC: What kind of content has been the most popular among the US audience and does it differ much to the typical European player? AM: From the player data we have collected so far, we have found that the games that are the most popular in European markets are also the top performing titles in the US. Our strategy is therefore to push the same content we develop for European markets in the US. Our proprietary games portfolio contains over 120 titles and offers a diverse mixture of more classic fruit-slots and titles with innovative features and mechanics. The content is suitable for beginners, as well as advanced players, and land-based connoisseurs will find games that they are familiar with to introduce them to the online experience. SBC: Will you be creating localised content for the US market going forward? AM: Yes, we have developed targeted content for these markets, such as American Roulette that was recently launched, and we will continue focusing on the localised content. At Pariplay, we are fully data driven. Every game we launch is researched

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The American Dream

thoroughly via our data and business intelligence system to understand how it performs and what we can learn to improve our offering in the future. We also tailor our content to the specific markets that we operate in and use data to better understand which games, features, mechanics and themes local players prefer. Every operator also has specific preferences and needs - we collaborate closely with our clients to develop our game concepts and features. Some of the key needs expressed by our partners and operators are not just about the games, but the need for back-end tools that allow them to create a competitive offering for their players. We will therefore analyse each state that we enter and work closely with our partners to ensure our content is tailored for the specific needs and desires. SBC: As well as your proprietary content you offer an aggregation platform, Fusion, and a studio partnering program, Ignite, how will that content fit into Pariplay’s US strategy?

40 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

CASINO

OUR LONG-TERM PLAN IS TO ENABLE OUR FULL GAMES PORTFOLIO TO US OPERATORS, INCLUDING AGGREGATED CONTENT ON OUR FUSION AND IGNITE PLATFORMS AM: Our long-term plan is to enable our full games portfolio to US operators, including aggregated content on our Fusion and Ignite platforms. The Fusion platform features thousands of games from the industry’s leading developers and a suite of back-office conversion and retention tools that enhance player value. Our Ignite program offers independent game providers a flexible turnkey framework to create and deploy content globally through our Fusion aggregation platform. We already have several studios signed up which now develop exclusive content

WE WILL CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON THE EUROPEAN MARKETS WHERE WE OPERATE, BUT THE US CANNOT BE IGNORED

for us which we plan to offer in the US markets as well. This adds another layer to our offering as we can offer content that is not available through other channels. SBC: How important do you see the US market becoming for Pariplay in the future as more and more states are considering legalising online gaming? AM: The US will be a key market for Pariplay over the coming years. There is so much untapped potential across the nation and opportunities will continue to develop as regulation is rolled out. We expect this will gradually happen as states realise the potential that the industry brings in terms of generating tax revenue. We will, of course, continue to also focus on the European markets where we operate and have a strong foothold, but the US cannot be ignored. •


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Slot of the Week Winners

Relax Gaming

Book of 99 Basic Info: Similar to other ‘Book of’ titles, the players will aim to land book symbols to trigger the game’s feature modes. The symbol itself is a Wild, which replaces the pay symbol to complete payline wins, and also works as a Scatter. If the player lands three or more on the grid, it awards 10 Free Spins. Before the round commences, one of the pay symbols is randomly chosen to become the special Expanding Symbol. On each spin, special symbols expand to cover all of the positions on the reel after any regular wins have been

Reels: 5x3 Paylines: 10 RTP: 99% Volatility: High Key Features: Wild, Free Spins, Wild Collection

paid, yet players will aim to get full-screen wins to be awarded the biggest prize. Free Spins can be retriggered when three or more book symbols land within the bonus round.

Daniel Jonsson, Head of Games at Relax Gaming, said: “When we set out to build Book of 99 we wanted to create the best ´Book of´ game out there, one truly made for players. “With 99% RTP we could add a quick collection feature so that players trigger Free Spins more frequently, making the game flow rapidly and responsive. Graphically, the game came together very well with an Odyssey theme and a feeling of adventure, mystery and excitement. “Overall, I think we really succeeded and I believe Book of 99 is a game that players will return to and which will grow over time. It’s fantastic to see it make Slot of the Week during its launch period and we’re really excited to see all the positive reviews coming through on the game.”

Stakelogic

Ultra Joker Basic Info: Within the game, the Ultra Joker is a Wild symbol that can appear on all positions across all three reels and substitutes for all other symbols to build up some truly epic win combinations. This is taken to the next level with the Joker Multiplier pot that starts x1 and increases by one with every losing spin – a standard win then resets the pot. The multiplier is then applied to a win combination that includes the Ultra Joker – up to a maximum multiplier of x100 – with a max win potential of €480,000.

Reels: 5x3 Paylines: 5 RTP: 95.86% Volatility: High Key Features: Wild, Joker Multiplier and Win Repeater

Ultra Joker also includes a Win Repeater bonus which is triggered when the reels fill with the same symbol.

Salvatore Campione, Head of Greenlogic at Stakelogic, noted: “Ultra Joker is a great addition to our classic slot portfolio thanks to its strong design and highly entertaining gameplay. “You can feel the big win anticipation build with every spin, and thanks to the wilds and multipliers, big wins are very much on the cards with this slot. “It was a pleasure to work with Hurricane Games which consists of a highly talented team of designers and developers who came together to build and launch a truly great slot.”

42 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021


CASINO

Big Time Gaming

Wild Flower

Basic Info: Features within Wild Flower include reactions, two Free Spin games and BTG’s Mega Free Spins feature. If the player lands three or more regular Scatter symbols, it will trigger one of two Free Spins modes – Multiplier Ladder Free Spins and Sticky Wild Free Spins. If the Multiplier Ladder option is selected, the player starts with 12 Free Spins. Each reaction win during this mode will move the player along a multiplier ladder by one. If the player lands a minimum of three Scatter symbols, up to 20 Free Spins can be retriggered, depending on the number of Scatters.

Reels: 6x4 Paylines: 4,096 RTP: 96.52% Volatility: High Key Features: Free Spins, Mega Free Spins, Multiplier Ladder, Sticky Wild, Mega Scatter, My Heart Beats Fast mode and The Most Beautiful Thing feature

Alternatively, the Sticky Wild mode starts with seven Free Spins. Before the round starts, one royal symbol is randomly selected to be the Sticky Wild. If the symbol lands on reels one to five, it turns Wild and is locked into position for the duration of the round.

Nik Robinson, CEO, Big Time Gaming, said: “The industry’s reaction to Wild Flower has been incredible and we are really happy that this cult slot has been crowned Slot of the Week. “The player is at the heart of everything we create and I think that is evident when we get such positive reviews from both affiliates and the players that love Big Time Gaming’s games. We can’t wait to unveil more awesome content in the next few weeks.”

Scientific Games

Perfect Potions Megaways Basic Info: Offering a ‘unique twist’ on the Megaways mechanic, Perfect Potions Megaways includes the addition of magical potions that sit above the reels and moves down through each cascading win. On each spin, between one and five potions, either red or blue, will randomly appear above reels two to six. During every spin, after the winning combinations are removed, each potion will drop down to the lowest available position on its reel. If the position reaches the bottom row of

Reels: 6 Paylines: 96,040 to 700,000 RTP: 96% Volatility: N/A Key Features: Expanding Reels, Expanding Wilds and Multiplier Wilds in Free Spins

the reels, it will drop into the cauldron underneath and trigger an appropriate modifier. When a blue potion is triggered, the corresponding reel expands to double its original height and the new symbols then fill the reels. Alternatively, when a red potion is triggered, all symbols on the corresponding reels become Wild.

Rob Procter, Content Specialist Director, Digital at Scientific Games, shared: “Megaways remains as popular as ever with players, but we’ve pushed the boundaries with our latest magical creation to ensure it stands out from the crowd and offers players a brand new experience. “With the potions dropping through the reels and modifying both the base gameplay and Free Spins, Perfect Potions Megaways is a truly unique way of enjoying the industry’s highly sought-after mechanic. We’re particularly proud of developing such a complex game, which visually looks stunning.”

sbcmagazine.com 43


Slot of the Week Winners

BGaming

Mechanical Clover Basic Info: Throughout the title, Wild symbols substitute for any symbol in a line to complete a winning combination. In addition, the Wild can drop on the central reel only, with the Wild also triggering the Respin Bonus. Once triggered, 27 paylines become available with the feature providing one to six respins, increasing multiplier with every new respin. Symbols that complete winning

Reels: 3x3 Paylines: 27 (within the Free Spins mode) RTP: 96.8% Key Features: Wild, Respin Bonus, Free Spins and Risk Game

combinations during the bonus stay on the reels until the end of the Free Spins series. Finally, incorporated into the title is a Risk Game which can be activated on any win.

Yulia Aliakseeva, Game Producer for BGaming, remarked: “The BGaming team is delighted to know that Mechanical Clover acclaimed the slot of the week! It is a big pleasure to be acknowledged. “We strived to carefully consider every detail of the game and we hope that players loved the extraordinary steampunk style. At the same time, Mechanical Clover is full of wellthought-out features to win more and more!”

Synot Games

Book of Secrets 6 Basic Info: The latest slot title from Synot Games guides players through the mysteries of Egypt’s folklore, digging through long-abandoned tombs where riches await. During the game, landing three or more Wild symbols anywhere on the reels will award 10 Free Spins to the player. At the start of the Free Spins mode, a symbol – except the Wild – is chosen to act as the Special symbol. After the regular payout of wins, Special symbols may expand

Reels: 5x3 Paylines: 10 RTP: 94.01% Key Features: Wild, Special symbol, Free Spins and Gamble Feature

44 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

and pay independent of their position on the payline. The expansion is only triggered if enough symbols for a win are present. Furthermore, if an additional three or more Wild symbols land on the reels during the Free Spins round, an additional 10 spins with the same Special symbol are awarded.

Matej Sopoci, Product Manager at Synot Games, commented: “We are really excited and proud that Book of Secrets 6 was picked as Slot of the week. As the big brother of Book of Secrets, players can expect more adrenaline and much higher wins. “We wish all the players the best of luck and may they find the biggest secrets and the highest wins.”



Media partnerships

BET365 PARTNERS: CATENA MEDIA AND BETTER COLLECTIVE REACT TO THE RELAUNCH OF THE BET365 AFFILIATE PROGRAMME COMPANIES WHO FAIL TO EVOLVE will see their

customer base slimming, said Catena Media’s Gloria Cereda in response to the roll out of bet365 Partners - a shiny new affiliate programme for the most successful online sports betting operator

O

ver the years, bet365 has been fully committed to enhancing its relationship with marketing partners by providing industry leading products, insights and tailored support. As a result, bet365 relaunched its affiliate programme this month to bet365 Partners. SBC Leaders decided to catch up with two of bet365’s key partners to get their reaction to the programme’s new look. Gloria Cereda, Catena Media’s Director of Commercial, was joined by Josh Pizzie, Head of Commercial at Better Collective. Cereda reserved special praise for the new media gallery, which will allow affiliates to get ‘more impact’ from their marketing messaging, while Pizzie told us that the live stats feature was the most anticipated upgrade for Better Collective. Pizzie added that all operators should be focusing on the speed and granularity of data, with Cereda agreeing that the sharing of such data - as well as the openness

46 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Josh Pizzie, Head of Commercial at Better Collective


MARKETING

Gloria Cereda, Catena Media's Director of Commercial

data and discussing future plans is no longer an igaming taboo but the driving force behind global partnerships such as this one. JP: Better Collective has a strong historic partnership with bet365 based on mutual trust and an open dialogue. At Better Collective we have always valued the partnership with bet365 and look forward to a continued strong collaboration in the years to come. SBC: And how excited are you about the upgrades to the platform? GC: I am very excited to see that bet365 has finally developed a media gallery. I have always found it quite interesting that bet365, a pioneer in the online world and the most successful sport operator, had not given its affiliate partners some of the basic tools to create tailored and exciting campaigns. The media gallery will allow affiliates to make sure that their messaging has more impact.

THE MEDIA GALLERY WILL ALLOW AFFILIATES TO MAKE SURE THAT THEIR MESSAGING HAS MORE IMPACT

over future plans - is "no longer an igaming taboo" but the driving force for global partnerships. SBC: What can you tell us about your history working with bet365? GC: Catena Media and bet365 have been working together for a long time, the relationship has grown from being UK focused into a multi geo approach. Today, Catena and bet365 work together on a global scale and support each other's growth in key markets. Catena Media has high ambitions to continue its expansion in Europe,

the US and LatAm territories and I strongly believe that bet365 and its team will be one of our key partners wherever we decide to go. Across the years, the amount of data and information shared between the two companies has increased and I think this has been a key part of the relationship. Sharing information,

LIVE STATS WILL ALSO ENABLE US TO FOLLOW PERFORMANCE AND OPTIMISE IN REAL-TIME

The new backend also has a more dynamic, younger look - what a fantastic face lift! I cannot wait to continue to explore its functions and see what further developments this great team will make to bet365's approach towards affiliate marketing. JP: We are of course super excited about the upgrades to the bet365 platform. The live stats feature is probably the most anticipated upgrade for Better Collective, as this feature will enable us to optimise new campaigns and channels far more efficiently and will be instrumental to the continued growth of our paid media division. Live stats will also enable us to follow performance and optimise in real-time in conjunction with key events such as the upcoming European Championships. We’re also looking forward to the new compliance section which will be a great resource to ensure that

sbcmagazine.com 47


Media partnerships

Better Collective’s ever-developing internal guidelines continue to be fully aligned with those of one of our most important partners. SBC: Traditionally, how has their programme compared with other brands? GC: I think the bet365 programme, compared to other brands, has always lacked essential data in the backend to properly track and understand performance. It required extra manual work from an affiliate perspective to evaluate campaigns and was limited in terms of landing pages and marketing material. I am very excited to see that they have now improved their platform

THE PROGRAMME HAD PREVIOUSLY LACKED ESSENTIAL DATA IN THE BACKEND TO PROPERLY TRACK AND UNDERSTAND PERFORMANCE

48 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

and are definitely heading in the right direction. The best strength of bet365 has always been their amazing ability to retain customers which incentivises affiliates and media partners to work with them on long term projects and campaigns. JP: bet365, historically, has been a provider of consistent and reliable data, which creates a transparent partnership where both parties can express their opinions about the areas where operations can be strengthened. It’s this honest dialogue that ensures long-term value for both parties. SBC: How has your demand to see the most granular data evolved? GC: Online marketing is all about data. Clicks, sign ups and first deposits can all be affected by utilising data. The more information that operators and affiliates gather, and most importantly share, the more effective their acquisition and retention campaigns will be. The marketing cycle between operators and affiliates has

TODAY THERE IS A NEW IMPORTANT METRIC: THE LIFETIME VALUE traditionally been a “broken” one with affiliates owning the player intent data (being the first point of landing for the players) and the operator owning data related to their behaviour after depositing. Between 2017 and 2018, we have seen a big shift in terms of how operators measure affiliate success. In 2017, delivering thousands of NDCs would have been considered a successful campaign, but today there is a new important metric: the lifetime value. In order for an affiliate to respond to that request successfully, it meant that operators and affiliates had to fix that broken cycle – it took the industry a few years and there is still room for improvement today. Merging the initial intent of the player with the behaviour after


MARKETING

WITH A CROWDED ONLINE OFFERING AND VERY SAVVY USERS IT IS NO SURPRISE THE CONVERSION WAR REQUIRES SOPHISTICATED TOOLS deposit allows us to fully optimise campaigns, acquire high quality players and have an impact on retention numbers. JP: Better Collective has grown considerably in recent years, with continued M&A activity increasing our global footprint in regulated markets. With this growth and scale, there is an ever-growing need for more data to guide Better Collective’s internal optimisations and growth strategy. SBC: What is the future for affiliate tracking with the biggest operators? GC: In my view, affiliate tracking is becoming more sophisticated every day, with affiliates and operators having to optimise each click and campaign. It is no surprise that link structures used a few years ago only for paid marketing are now becoming of common use even for all other marketing activities. With a crowded online offering and very savvy users, it is no surprise the conversion war requires sophisticated tools. Companies who stay behind will definitely see their brand awareness decreasing and their customer base slimming. JP: The future of affiliate tracking, which would result in growth to both volume and value, would see affiliates able to pull insights instantly, in realtime and across any combination of parameters. It’s this combination of speed and granularity of data that all operators should focus on to better equip their partners with the insights needed to effectively optimise campaigns and maximise results. •

THE FUTURE FOR AFFILIATE TRACKING IS TO PULL INSIGHTS INSTANTLY, IN REAL-TIME AND ACROSS ANY COMBINATION OF PARAMETERS

sbcmagazine.com 49


Giving football ‘a bad name’

HOW WILL THE BGC’S FOOTBALL SOCIAL MEDIA CODE OF CONDUCT AFFECT OPERATORS? THE BETTING AND GAMING COUNCIL’S code of conduct

recently shone a spotlight on football’s promotion of gambling brands via social media - so will operators now have to get creative when it comes to activations?

W

hile much of the focus surrounding the gambling industry and football clubs has been placed on shirt sponsorship, the presence of social media betting advertisements has largely fallen under the radar. In the information age, football and social media are inexorably intertwined - as exemplified by the recent boycott by global sporting authorities, leagues and clubs around the world to take a stance against online abuse putting betting brands at the public’s fingertips. However, in the case of the gambling industry, while clubs haven’t fallen silent, they have been requested to review their marketing strategies when it comes to partnering with operators. In February, a handful of Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Premiership clubs received a letter from a group of 50 former gambling addicts warning of the ‘unimaginable harm’ that football teams can cause by promoting betting operators via official social media accounts. Manchester City, Arsenal, Celtic, Leicester City, Newcastle United, Burnley, Watford, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City and Coventry City were among the clubs accused of giving the sport ‘a bad name’ for advertising gambling promotions via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

50 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Subsequently, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) introduced a new code of conduct aimed at football clubs promoting gambling offers and operator websites through official social media accounts. And although the directives cannot be enforced, it is likely that the majority of operators and companies will expect clubs to abide by the BGC’s advice. Stephen Pearson, Former Premier League Commercial Director and current CEO of Sports Media Gaming, highlighted how clubs are ‘already getting more creative’ to navigate the BGC’s latest set of guidelines to protect users of social media applications.

“Clubs will continue to fight for betting sponsorship revenue and work closely with betting brands to find the most creative solutions,” Pearson explained. “Fans will listen more to their clubs, maybe more so than bookmakers or the gambling support groups.” Nonetheless, Pearson pointed out some of the obstacles within the directives: “I think it’s a code of conduct that has a number of challenges,” he added. “Not least because the members list of the BGC does not include most of the brands that are sponsoring football clubs in the UK. “Most of the Premier League sponsors are Asian bookies who have been white labelled in the UK and operate UK-facing websites. Unless it’s a regulation put in place by the UK Gambling Commission, I don’t see that the BGC code of conduct can be

Joe McCallum, Director of Sportsbook at the Coingaming Group


MARKETING promoted Watford inked an agreement with gambling support addiction application RecoverMe, endorsed by Sportsbet.io, after the club which was targeted by the group that ‘recognised the need to support those with a gambling addiction’. The operator also recently launched its ‘Club Talk’ hub - described as a ‘game changing’ chat function where Sportsbet.io's community, featured guests and celebrities can discuss all things sports and sports betting. Writing for SBC News, Joe McCallum, Director of Sportsbook at the Coingaming Group, explained that taking a ‘sustainable approach has never been more important’ but understands that fans can be ‘guarded’ when welcoming a new sponsor to the fold.

UNLESS IT’S A REGULATION PUT IN PLACE BY THE UKGC, I DON’T SEE THAT THE BGC CODE OF CONDUCT CAN BE IMPLEMENTED EFFECTIVELY

implemented effectively across the industry. “In markets like Italy, and now Spain, it is prohibited completely to advertise betting in sports, and this includes teams, events and brand ambassadors. But again, here the brands have got creative. “Look at 10Bet’s sponsorship of Juventus. Juventus is a top club in Italy’s Serie A and should not be permitted to have a betting sponsor so the brand has announced a ‘global sponsorship’ of Juventus and in small print ‘excluding Italy’. “For all intents and purposes, that is seen in Italy as anywhere else in the world and effectively negates the regulation impact. Many clubs now have digital billboard replacement technology so brands can still be seen

advertising at the grounds in markets outside of the prohibited territory. It shows brands and clubs will adapt accordingly.” Coingaming Group-owned Sportsbet.io, which agreed a recordbreaking sponsorship renewal with Southampton, also came under fire after Arsenal encouraged its 17 million Twitter followers to gamble with its official betting partner. Less than a month later, newly-

CLUBS WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR SPONSORSHIP REVENUE AND WORK CLOSELY WITH BETTING BRANDS TO FIND THE MOST CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

He said: “When Sportsbet.io made its first moves into football sponsorship back in 2019, we wanted to find innovative ways to support the sport, the teams, the players and the fans. And it needed to be done in a fashion which was both fun but also responsible.” McCallum continued: “Our first major partnership was as the main sponsor of Watford FC. From the outset, we wanted to connect with the fans and we knew we needed to do something more than plaster our logo across the shirt and stadium to do that. “This is why we choose to make education a central part of the sponsorship, launching several initiatives designed to raise awareness around the benefits of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. “For many brands only interested in the global reach of Premier League matches, this would be where the story ended. But we see value in building something longer term.” Some clubs and their respective betting partners have begun to take a different approach to engaging fans in both the sport and the pastime of gambling. In particular, Southampton’s virtual reality, behind-the-scenes

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Giving football ‘a bad name’

MARKETING

shared by betting partners. He added: “Social media is still available for betting brands with football clubs, but both the club and partner must be innovative and creative in producing smart and engaging content which can be shown on these channels which connect with fans 18+.” In the wake of the announcement, EFL Championship side Coventry City reaffirmed that any marketing conducted with Irish bookmaker BoyleSports is ‘in line with English Football League guidance’, while Arsenal stated its partnership with Sportsbet.io was ‘founded on a joint commitment to promote safe and responsible gambling’.

stadium tour of St Mary’s – launched in conjunction with Sportsbet.io – has really caught the eye. The video clip provided a look around the vacant venue, while fans are not permitted to attend games, allowing viewers to interact by moving their mobile devices to get a 360-degree view of the players’ tunnel, the changing rooms and the pitch. Burnley, on the other hand, released a series of ‘fun’ videos featuring Clarets players to keep supporters entertained. In the latest edition of its Dafabet-sponsored featurettes, Ben Mee answered fans’ burning questions on social media using the ‘#AskMee’ hashtag. Meanwhile, Russell Yershon, Director of Connecting Brands - which collaborates with a number of betting operators - urged operators to remain vigilant when taking into consideration the code of conduct. “Gambling brands need to be smart with their partner clubs and use engaging content with players to maximise their reach in connecting with fans,” he reaffirmed. “Should this ban on shirt sponsorship come into place in the near future, then brands will likely use this spend to invest digitally and partner with big digital media channels

52 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

BOTH THE CLUB AND PARTNER MUST BE INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE IN PRODUCING SMART AND ENGAGING CONTENT that can regularly reach football fans and sports betting enthusiasts. “It might restrict clubs and betting brands by taking social out of the equation, but the new code of conduct is there to protect those under 18 and also manage the type of content

Russell Yershon, Director of Connecting Brands

Upon the introduction of the BGC rules, Chairman of the organisation, Brigid Simmonds OBE, stressed that whilst clubs are ‘an important part of the sporting fabric of this country’ there are ‘millions of all ages’ exposed to the content published by teams on a daily basis on social media. “Our members rightly have a zero tolerance approach to gambling by under-18s, so as an industry we are understandably concerned that children may be exposed to betting adverts on social media platforms,” Simmonds noted. “Our new guidelines make clear the standards expected of football clubs when they post gambling promotions on social media, and I look forward to them being put into practice as soon as possible.” •


Sky’s the limit for WSL

MARKETING AND SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES IN WOMEN’S FOOTBALL DEAN AKINJOBI, CEO AND OWNER OF FOOTBALL MEDIA, on why marketing is at the forefront

of the development of women’s football

MARKETING

T

he popularity and exposure of women’s football has skyrocketed in recent years, with both viewing figures and pre-pandemic stadium attendances increasing rapidly. In recognition of this growth, which clearly demonstrates the rise of women’s football as a lucrative attraction for fans and viewers, in March 2021 the BBC and Sky struck a deal with the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL). The landmark three-year, £8 million per-season agreement will significantly boost the FA WSL’s exposure to a new generation of football fans, with Sky providing coverage of 44 league matches per year, a minimum 35 of which will be broadcast via its Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier

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Sky’s the limit for WSL

Dean Akinjobi, CEO and Owner of Football Media

League and Sky Sports Football channels. This agreement has undoubtedly opened the door to a range of marketing and sponsorship opportunities for betting and gaming operators due to both the increased TV visibility of the teams and players, and perhaps most significantly, the extensive advertising space available on Sky’s channels. To discuss the significance of this agreement, we spoke to Dean Akinjobi, CEO and Owner of Football Media, who outlined the potential opportunities for operators to be found in the professional women’s game. SBC: How significant will the agreement with Sky and the BBC be in enhancing the branding and audience reach of the WSL? DA: The agreement with Sky and the BBC will be highly significant in enhancing the branding and audience reach of the WSL in ways never seen before. Consider that the UK public chooses the BBC around 250 million times a day and when it comes to sport, the BBC shows around 1% of the hours of sport broadcast on broadcast TV in the UK but delivers around 30% of all TV sport viewing. Now include Sky's reach and

54 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

circa 23.9 million subscribers, with on occasion 14 million of those subscribers watching Sky Sports and consuming over 95 minutes of programming through a day. When these two figures are combined, the WSL branding awareness and audience reach is set to completely change and grow exponentially due to the new broadcast deal with Sky and the BBC.

THE AGREEMENT WITH SKY AND THE BBC WILL ENHANCE THE BRANDING AND AUDIENCE REACH OF THE WSL IN WAYS NEVER SEEN BEFORE SBC: Can the partnership with Sky further help elevate the star power of female players and boost their individual sponsorship value? DA: Yes, definitely! When you look at the sheer audience reach and exposure that the WSL and players will receive as a result of the partnership with Sky, it is going to provide female players with a huge platform to elevate themselves at the scale that they deserve. This will naturally provide huge boosts around individual sponsorship

values and subsequently create a platform for female players to raise awareness of causes that are personally close to them such as equality, diversity, health etc. In addition, this will also result in the formation of multiple brand sponsorships and collaborations between players, clubs and brands that share the same collective goals. SBC: Will this present the WSL as a lucrative marketing opportunity for private companies e.g. with regards to TV advertising space? DA: The WSL reach, as a result of this deal, will have a commercial domino effect. Existing sponsors will see their brand exposure increase at multiples that they could have never imagined, the value of sponsorship will increase and TV advertising space around WSL will see huge demands from more brands. That said, when you consider the reach and exposure available on the BBC, which will have no TV advertising, the most lucrative marketing opportunity for brands will be around WSL club sponsorships, that deliver brand exposure on kits and in-stadia branding, as their brand will have the opportunity to be see by millions of viewers each week across the BBC and Sky.


MARKETING

SBC: How important has marketing been and how important will it continue to be for enhancing women’s football? DA: The marketing of women's football is highly important and will continue to be at the forefront of the games overall development. But what is important to consider, and a point that can often be overlooked, is that each women's football league has its own challenges, opportunities and unique selling points. Women's football in the UK has different challenges from Europe, the US, Australia, Africa and Asia. So a unified women's football marketing message is only usually available at the Women's Euros and World Cups. It's what happens after these tournaments around women's football's growth that is highly important for the game's overall development. A plan whereby support is provided through a combination of FIFA, private companies and brands at a domestic level on how to market women's football in each country will be a great initiative for the collective growth of women's football as a whole. SBC: Is social media marketing becoming more prominent than sponsorship agreements and television advertising? DA: I would say that social media marketing is naturally becoming a prominent key channel. However, it can be even more highly effective when it forms part of an overall marketing channel mix, including sponsorship.

THE MARKETING OF WOMEN'S FOOTBALL IS HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE GAME'S OVERALL DEVELOPMENT The sponsorship deals will enable a brand to have assets from clubs and or players that can be used within their social media marketing, which will enable a brands communication messaging to be uniquely positioned with an association with a club and or players, setting the brand apart from potential competitor brands that have no available sponsorship assets to leverage across social media and or television. Therefore it is important for brands

to fully understand and / or work with agencies that can help to create such synergised marketing strategies to achieve a multi channel communication plan that involves social media, display advertising, sponsorship and television. SBC: Will player activations be crucial in boosting the presence of the WSL teams? DA: I think that players will become more prominent ambassadors for the WSL due to the exposure that the league is going to receive. The key here is that women's football players have such diverse stories and personal journeys that they have had to go through in order to play in the WSL. Highlighting this side of the game will enable the wider public to see, appreciate and understand more about women's football - they’ll understand more about where it comes from and where it is going. This type of player activation strategy will be crucial in boosting the presence of WSL teams, as it will highlight the uniqueness of the game and show fans a real insight into women's football players. That will in turn attract a wider section of brands into women's football and help to inspire the next generation of players coming into the game. •

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Driving FTDs

US CASINOS AND ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT METHODS 56 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

JOONAS KARHU, CHIEF BUSINESS OFFICER AT BOJOKO, says alternative

payment options can help US online casinos stand out from their rivals and drive first time depositors


PAYMENTS

T

here are many ways that online casino brands can drive new player sign ups. Most focus heavily on bonuses and promotions, but there are other methods that are just as – if not more so – effective. This is certainly the case in newly regulated markets such as the US

where players might lack trust in operators and the incentives they offer when they sign up and deposit for the first time. To help operators better understand what players look for when signing up to an online casino, Bojoko has collected and analysed three years’ worth of data from our

members and site visitors. From this, we have been able to determine what factors really drive players to online casinos and ultimately make them go on to sign up, deposit and play. It might come as a surprise that one of the greatest drivers of first-time depositors is actually the payment methods offered by the online casino. This is an area where US operators can get a jump on their rivals in iGaming states such as New Jersey – at present, most offer a limited range of options including Visa and Mastercard. But those that offer alternative payment methods like PayPal, Neteller, Skrill and even Paybymobile not only have a point of difference to their rivals but also open up an additional acquisition channel. In fact, our data shows that the online casinos listed on Bojoko that offer alternative payment options can enjoy as many as four to 10 additional FTDs per month. While Visa and Mastercard will undoubtedly make up the majority of deposits and withdrawals in the US – especially in the early days of the market – consumer preferences are changing. In 2019, it was estimated that half of all global ecommerce payments were made via alternative payment methods instead of more traditional options

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Driving FTDs

PAYMENTS

such as debit cards and credit cards. This is a trend that is only going to continue and online casino operators in the US must be aware of this and take the necessary action to stay ahead of the game.

Why APMs are becoming more popular As we move towards being a cashless and even cardless society, the popularity of APMs is only going to increase as they allow consumers to pay via their smartphone devices. Even today, consumers expect to be able to pay for items in store via their mobile phones and when shopping online they expect to be able to purchase with a single click or tap.

PAYPAL IS THE MOST POPULAR ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT METHOD This is simply not possible with traditional payment methods – if depositing at an online casino with Visa you must enter details such as name, address, card number, security code, etc. If depositing with PayPal, you simply enter the amount you wish to deposit and then log-in to your PayPal wallet using your email address and password. With the former, it can take more than a minute to fill out the necessary information and make the deposit, whereas with the latter it can be done in just a few seconds. Unique to the online casino industry is also the need to withdraw and once again it is alternative payment methods that provide the near-instant transaction times consumers expect.

The most popular APMs PayPal is the most popular alternative payment method. Our PayPal casino page has hundreds of users every month with players searching specifically for sites that offer this payment option. PayPal has more than 340 million active users and is widely trusted. This will help US online casinos reassure players that they can deposit and withdraw safely and securely. Mobile payment options are becoming increasingly popular, too. We are seeing more casinos accept

58 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

Apple Pay as well as one-click options like Skrill 1-Tap. Charge to mobile payment methods are increasingly common as well, with the likes of Payforit allowing players to deposit into their online casino casinos and charge it to their mobile phone bill.

Advantages of APMs For US online casinos, there are plenty of upsides to offering alternative payment options to players, especially when it comes to differentiation and

AS THE US MARKET MATURES, PLAYERS WILL COME TO EXPECT THE SAME PAYMENT OPTIONS AND TRANSACTION TIMES AS THOSE IN THE UK

meeting player expectations. As the market matures, players will come to expect the same payment options and transaction times as those in established markets such as the UK. Operators should offer these payment methods now as a point of difference and also to educate players that they can be used to deposit into and withdraw from their casino accounts. By adding major payment options like PayPal, operators can build trust among players – this will be vital in the early days of the market and to ensure they maximise the first mover advantage. Most importantly, however, it enables them to open up an additional channel through which to engage new customers and drive first time depositors at scale. •



Is the human touch necessary?

BALANCING AI AND THE HUMAN TOUCH IS KEY TO AN IMPACTFUL AML APPROACH WHEN IT COMES TO EFFECTIVE AML, a panel of

experts at the SBC Digital Payments Conference emphasised that harmonising the human touch and tech is vital

A

s fraudsters become smarter and more versed in the way they seek to evade operator safeguards, AML strategies are being forced to evolve if they are to remain fit for purpose. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have led to significantly higher levels of digital traffic for gaming and betting operators and it has caused an interesting dilemma over the balance between AI and the human touch when it comes to AML. At the SBC Digital Payments Conference, Anjali S Menon, Senior Compliance Officer and Deputy MLRO of iPayTotal, formed part of a panel of industry experts who shared insights on AML and ‘an imperative approach’. Menon underlined the pivotal role that tech plays, especially as the level of data rises. She stated: “The recent years have definitely seen a shift from the traditional combating approach to dependence on technology, which

THE RECENT YEARS HAVE DEFINITELY SEEN A SHIFT FROM THE TRADITIONAL COMBATING APPROACH TO DEPENDENCE ON TECHNOLOGY

60 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021


PAYMENTS

Thees Buschmann, Head of Compliance at Red Rhino

TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS CAN HELP US A LOT, BUT THEY ARE STILL NOT AT THE STAGE WHERE THEY CAN DO A HUMAN’S WORK is a great thing, because if you gave me somebody's KYC documentation to verify it manually, I wouldn't know if it was a great photoshop job. “Someone can just stick their face on someone else's ID proof and you wouldn't really be able to find the difference manually - so that is something that I would say technology has changed over the past few years and even with respect to transaction monitoring you can see a certain level of suspicion suspicious activity or monitor and abnormalities in the transaction pattern. “So, technology has definitely made things easier for compliance professionals. Now our job is more to analyse the search results we get from big data rather than just focusing on finding from the big volume of data that all of us hold - in that way, I feel like artificial intelligence regulation tech has made a huge difference.” She did, however, go on to highlight the magnified risk of false positives as a result of deeper reliance on tech and artificial intelligence. The human touch was something she cited as being able to play a key role in helping minimise this risk.

Guy Wilkes, Partner at Mishcon de Reya

Thees Buschmann, Head of Compliance at Red Rhino, agreed that Menon’s point is also very relatable from the perspective of the operator. He explained: “Technical solutions can help us a lot in terms of identifying suspicions, but they are still not at the stage where they can do a human’s work - so it’s critical that the technical measures you apply are reflected constantly.” He continued by outlining that sole reliance on tech does not allow for resolution, but only for ‘some kind of flagging system’, which means that the importance of balance can’t be understated with the integration of the human touch being essential. Guy Wilkes, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, was keen to stress that to maintain compliance ‘there is no substitute for a well-trained account manager, who can apply common sense’. Identifying some of the important factors that the Gambling Commission is looking for when they assess whether operators have done due diligence, he noted: “Where we see firms that do get in trouble with

THE REQUIREMENT IS TO MINIMISE RISK, IT'S NOT TO BE COMPLETELY RISK-FREE. THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE, AND MEASURES DO NEED TO BE PROPORTIONATE

the Gambling Commission getting it wrong is that there has been a lack of common sense applied. “All you have to do is look at a customer holistically, look at the whole information you have about the customer, and put it all together. “So for example, one thing that occasionally the commission will pick up on is you've onboarded a customer, you've got their bank statements to verify who they are, but actually on the bank statement, there's a payday loan.

I FEEL LIKE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE REGULATION TECH HAS MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE “Now why is this high spending customer using a payday loan lender? It just doesn't hang together, so the commission would then expect you to do more to contact the customer and do more investigation into the circumstances around there.” Nonetheless, when asked whether the approach of the Gambling Commission is currently too forensic, Wilkes admitted he thinks ‘in some areas, the commission probably goes too far’. He added: “The requirement is to minimise risk, not to be completely risk-free. That's impossible, so measures do need to be proportionate. I think

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Is the human touch necessary?

the one area where the commission does go overboard is in the change of control applications and funding for operators. “The Commission expects to see the source of funds - evidence showing forms are derived from a legitimate source and they will expect a very forensic approach. And, so for example, we will see the Commission asked for evidence that a regulated fund, you provide evidence that the monies that are using to invest in a business is from a legitimate source and that frankly is verging on the absurd - but the FCA doesn’t appear to have a

WHEN IT COMES TO SUSPICIONS OF MONEY LAUNDERING, UNFORTUNATELY, THERE IS NOT MUCH WE CAN DO BUT BE INTRUSIVE

62 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

proportionate approach to that.” That being said, Buschmann stated that there was a degree of inevitably about an impactful AML approach being somewhat intrusive. “We as operators want to act in our best commercial interests and make money, but when it comes to suspicions of money laundering in a broader sense then, unfortunately, there is not much we can do but to be intrusive,” he said. Further underlining that AML and safer gambling in many ways has to come before being customer-friendly, Buschmann continued: “If we do have a certain amount of yellow or red flags and certain items that are pointing to reasonable suspicion, then we are not in a position where we can make an economic decision and say ‘we do not want to intrude into the life of the customer’. “It is a matter of communication. But still, when it comes to communication, you have to be very diligent and go

PAYMENTS

HOW YOU ACT DEPENDS HIGHLY ON THE CASE, ON THE SPECIFICS AND ALSO ON PREVIOUS INTERACTIONS WITH THE CUSTOMER through very well-trained employees. You simply can’t mention anything that would raise awareness of your AML suspicions. “Additionally, how you act depends highly on the case, on the specifics that you have been provided already, and also previous interactions with the customer. It always very much comes down to case management.” Wilkes agreed, highlighting his belief that there is an increased acceptance awareness and acceptance from consumers of the importance of KYC and AML documentation, which has led to it being a less unwelcome obstacle on the player journey. •


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Ramping up the competition

FOURTH UK NATIONAL LOTTERY LICENCE COMPETITION - THE STORY SO FAR THE UK GAMBLING COMMISSION is expected

to announce its preferred applicant to run the United Kingdom’s National Lottery when the Fourth licence competition concludes in September. We look at the story so far

T

he operator which receives backing from the UKGC will later be awarded the licence by the Commission the following month, then go through a transition period from October 2021 to July 2023, before the fourth licence period begins in August 2023 for a 10-year term. Even though the next lottery licence doesn’t begin for a few more years, the lottery itself is already changing. On 22 April, current operator Camelot Group enforced an 18+ age restriction on all of its National Lottery products, six months ahead of the UK Government’s October deadline to introduce the measure. With the Invitation to Apply still in full swing until July this year, there have been a few developments in the Fourth National Lottery licence competition as well since we last examined the topic in December 2020’s edition of SBC Leaders. Back then, just three operators had thrown their hat into the ring to run the lottery: Camelot, Czech Republic’s Sazka Group, and India’s Sugal & Damani. Since the turn of the year, not only have Camelot and Sazka made

64 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

significant moves to bolster their bids, but a new operator has entered the competition in Italy’s Sisal Group.

Sisal In early April, Sisal announced a surprise bid to run the National Lottery with backing from investment firm CVC Capital Partners. The Italian lottery operator’s bid will be made in conjunction with charity Barnardo’s who, for their part, will provide expertise in raising money for

TO RUN THE NATIONAL LOTTERY, KNOWLEDGE OF THE UK MARKET IS PARAMOUNT

good causes in the UK. During an interview with The Telegraph, Sisal CEO Francesco Durante stated that winning the UK National Lottery was a ‘big aspiration’, explaining Barnardo’s importance in its bid as well, as he said: “To run the National Lottery, knowledge of the UK market is paramount.” Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan added: “Our involvement will strengthen the partnership’s focus on player protection and responsible play, whilst deepening understanding of the UK charity sector and how it works to make a difference in the heart of local communities.” Sisal has a strong history in lotteries in Italy, having launched its SuperEnalotto draw game in 1997 and its Win for Life draw game in


LOTTERY

2009. More recently, the operator has branched out into other countries such as Turkey last year. A step into the UK market would, therefore, be a familiar one for Sisal, albeit in the face of some strong competition for the Fourth National Lottery licence.

Camelot In March, Camelot demonstrated its pursuit of growth for the lottery, as well as a commitment to its retail roots by sealing a notable deal with supermarket chain Aldi. Following a successful trial in the north of England, the agreement will see all 900 of Aldi’s stores across the UK sell Lotto, EuroMillions, Lotto HotPicks, EuroMillions HotPicks, Set For Life and Thunderball games at their checkouts by the end of June, allowing customers to purchase tickets when doing their food shop. Jenny Blogg, Retail Director at Camelot, commented on the deal: “We’re absolutely delighted to now be working with Aldi. Making The National Lottery available in its stores has been a priority for us as we continue to make playing The National Lottery as convenient and easy as possible for people, wherever and however they shop. “We’re pleased that Aldi customers will now have a quick, easy and convenient way to purchase their favourite National Lottery games, while at the same time contributing to the £30m that goes to National Lottery Good Causes each and every week. We certainly hope there’ll be plenty of lucky tickets bought in Aldi stores across the UK.” However, this deal has come under some scrutiny as Stuart Reddish, the President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), believes it could mean fewer people visiting their local independent shops to play the lottery. Reddish said: “This move will dilute sales across the whole retail estate. The more products available in the multiple outlets, the less likely it is that National Lottery players will visit their local independent retailer to pick up their tickets or scratchcards.”

Sazka/Allwyn Over the past few months, Sazka has made several additions to its National Lottery bid team advisory board that will provide counsel to Bid Chair

Sir Keith Mills

Sir Keith Mills, Bid Director Alaistair Ruxton and the wider team as part of its pursuit of the licence. It has also established Allwyn, a new British corporate identity that will bring together parts of its UK operations under a single brand. Commenting on Allwyn, Bid Chair Mills stated: “At Allwyn, as part of Sazka Group, we make lotteries better so that they can serve as a force for good. We often do this by bringing the fun back to lotteries that have lost their spark, while always safeguarding

A STEP INTO THE UK MARKET WOULD BE A FAMILIAR ONE FOR SISAL, ALBEIT IN THE FACE OF SOME STRONG COMPETITION FOR THE FOURTH NATIONAL LOTTERY LICENCE

our players – ensuring sustainable growth and more money to good causes along the way. “We bring a fresh perspective to lotteries, one that is powered by vast experience in different consumer environments. With innovative partners still to come on board, an experienced steward in Sazka Group – Europe’s leading lottery operator – and an impressive advisory board that includes Justin King and Brent Hoberman, Allwyn is building an exciting future proposition for the UK market.” Allwyn’s bid advisory board includes experts from a range of fields, including good causes, player protection, digital and innovation, and entertainment. Five notable additions to the board include former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King; former Global CEO of Syco Entertainment Charles Garland; founder of lastminute.com Brent

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Ramping up the competition

Hoberman; CEO of Semble Amanda Horton-Mastin; and the Managing Director of Twitter UK Dara Nasr. King will work on retail strategy and how the lottery can play an integral role in the revitalisation of the high street and local retail post-COVID-19, as Allwyn will draw on his expertise to improve the customer experience, support independent retailers and expand the lottery’s product and marketing portfolio. Garland will use his experience to advise the bid team on how to widen the lottery’s appeal to consumers and bring back 8.5 million lost players, including proposals to overhaul its marketing strategy and improve its brand engagement, while ensuring a compelling customer experience across all sales channels. As a tech entrepreneur, Hoberman will advise primarily on the seamless integration and management of technology and digital innovation across Allwyn’s plans for the lottery. Drawing on his expertise in tech innovation, Allwyn will seek to improve customer experience, help enable better safeguards around player participation, to support the regulator and the distributors, and to strengthen

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LOTTERY

the work in funding good causes. Horton-Mastin will bring her expertise in good causes to the bid advisory board. She previously worked for over 20 years at the UK-based charity Comic Relief. Meanwhile, Nasr is an established leader in the world of digital communications having worked for Twitter and Google. As Managing Director of Twitter UK, he built one of

National Lottery to help reinvigorate the game and keep up with the forever changing online marketplace as well as maximising support for good causes. However, this direction has been under criticism by NRFN President Reddish, who believes Sazka’s digital approach for the lottery would be ‘a major kick in the teeth’ for retailers that have helped the game grow since its inception in 1994.

IT IS CLEAR THAT THE COMPETITION IS HOTTING UP WITH NEW OPERATORS ENTERING THE FRAME

Looking forward

the strongest sales teams in the UK media landscape. Allwyn has also selected Vodafone as its connectivity partner. It believes the technology communications company can ‘enable the integration of new, exciting features and capabilities’ for the lottery to keep ahead of consumer demands as well as play a vital role in strengthening player protection. These five appointments, as well as the establishment of Allwyn and the partnership with Vodafone, show Sazka’s clear battle plan for the

Sazka is putting a big emphasis on hires to showcase that it’s in a strong position to run the National Lottery if selected by the Gambling Commission. Camelot is demonstrating with additional sale points that it can still grow the lottery even more than has been achieved over the past 27 years, while Sisal is a surprise entrant looking to make its own case for selection. As we enter the final few months of the Invitation to Apply, it is clear that the competition is hotting up with new operators entering the frame and potentially more to join the fray. Every entrant so far has put forward a strong case for selection, leaving the Commission with a difficult decision to make in September. •


The chance to reconnect

EVENTS

WE’LL MEET AGAIN… IN MALTA AND BARCELONA

Rasmus Sojmark, Founder and CEO at SBC

JULY WILL SEE THE LONG-AWAITED RETURN of in-person

industry events when Malta hosts CasinoBeats Summit, but that won’t mean the end of virtual events

F

or many, the prospect of the resumption of physical events and the much-needed opportunity to reconnect with friends from the business world faceto-face is an exciting development. However, while the familiar buzz of the exhibition floor and the cut-andthrust of the conference room may represent a very welcome step back towards normality, no-one should expect a return to full pre-March 2020 working practices. That’s in part because we’ve learned that, with notable exceptions such as

the retail and hospitality sectors, a surprisingly large amount of business can be conducted without ever having to leave the house. While the lifestyle sections of ‘quality’ newspapers painted a picture of lockdown as long days filled with nothing more than baking banana

MOST PEOPLE FOUND WAYS TO REMAIN PRODUCTIVE BY MAKING TECHNOLOGY WORK FOR THEM

bread, finishing Netflix and draining the world’s supply of Rioja, the reality was that most people found ways to remain productive by making technology work for them and their companies. The events industry epitomised this willingness to adapt to circumstances and helped the betting and gaming sector continue to connect, exchange ideas and talk business by organising digital events such as the groundbreaking SBC Digital Summit, to replace the physical conferences which suffered enforced cancellations. The digital format proved popular with audiences and it is easy to understand why. It provides access to the insights of some of the most influential figures in the industry, information about the next generation of product developments, and a way for suppliers to reach potential customers

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The chance to reconnect

THE FIRST MAJOR INTERNATIONAL IN-PERSON EVENT FOR 18 MONTHS WILL BE SBC SUMMIT BARCELONA - HELD FROM 21-24 SEPTEMBER

- all without delegates having to leave their desks. However, something else we’ve learned over the past 15 months is that business is just that little bit better when done face-to-face. More sociable, more fun, and with the opportunity to build much stronger relationships. So while digital events are here to stay, they will coexist on the betting and gaming industry calendar, alongside in-person events. Virtual conferences focused on specific territories or verticals will provide a way for people to cut back

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on business travel, and to see the content that most interests them and the latest products with an investment of only a few hours of their time. The major in-person industry conferences and trade shows will

provide the full event experience, complete with physical exhibition, networking and social events, the chance to meet key decision makers, and an opportunity to schedule multiple meetings in a single trip.

DIGITAL EVENTS ARE HERE TO STAY, BUT THEY WILL COEXIST ON THE BETTING AND GAMING INDUSTRY CALENDAR WITH IN-PERSON EVENTS

CasinoBeats Summit, held from 13-15 July, will provide the best of both worlds, thanks to its innovative integrated live and digital format, which will see an in-person event staged at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta and a parallel virtual edition available to igaming industry professionals around


EVENTS

Game Developer Awards ceremony and an exhibition showcasing some of the latest innovations for the online casino industry. Another major feature of the live delegate experience is the all-inclusive networking programme, which will provide the perfect opportunity to reconnect with industry colleagues during evening parties at stylish venues.

Online attendees will be able to view the conference content, join a selection of video-conferencing networking roundtables and view a digital version of the expo, complete with product presentations and games showcases. The central theme of CasinoBeats Summit is development, innovation and strategy in the igaming industry, with much of the content focused on the next-generation of products that will be entertaining players in 2022.

THE CASINOBEATS SUMMIT WILL PROVIDE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, THANKS TO ITS INNOVATIVE INTEGRATED LIVE AND DIGITAL FORMAT As well as sessions that provide expert insights on topics such as UX, building successful slots franchises, game re-skins, gamification and feature buy-ins, the event will delve into the world of video gaming to explore what studios and operators can learn from the exceptional level of player engagement in that vast market. Rasmus Sojmark, Founder & CEO of event organiser SBC, said: “The agenda for CasinoBeats Summit focuses on the product side of the igaming industry, which Malta is the

the world. The set-up will give huge international visibility to sponsors and exhibitors, while having the added benefit of allowing people still subject to travel restrictions to stay up to date with the latest developments. Delegates attending the physical edition will have access to live conference sessions, the inaugural

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The chance to reconnect

EVENTS

Betting on Sports Europe will be held at Stamford Bridge

world leader in, and how online casino and slots operators can adapt to the fast-changing technological and regulatory environment. “With highly-relevant topics being discussed by a speaker line-up populated by renowned experts, everyone involved in game development, selection and promotion, and expansion in international markets can pick up valuable ideas and practical information during the event.” Away from the product-themed content, the agenda includes sessions assessing the current trading conditions and long-term commercial opportunities in a range of established and emerging igaming markets. An additional leadership track will detail how the senior executive teams of operators, games developers and content aggregators envisage the industry evolving in the next few years. After the hybrid format of CasinoBeats Summit, the first major international in-person event for 18 months will be SBC Summit Barcelona held from 21-24 September. This global

70 SBC LEADERS • JUNE 2021

betting and gaming show is set to be 2021’s biggest opportunity for the industry to meet up and do business. The five-zone exhibition hall at Fira de Barcelona will showcase the latest innovations from sportsbook, igaming and payments technology suppliers, alongside leading safer gambling service providers and the affiliate teams of major operators. And the

marketing and technology. Delegates can look forward to more than just informative and entertaining panel sessions, as the conference’s Big Stage programme will feature a selection of keynotes, major product launches and even some surprise appearances. The in-person events schedule will then build in the late fall, with

IT PROMISES TO BE A BUSY - AND HOPEFULLY MORE NORMAL - YEAR WITH A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITIES TO DO BUSINESS AT BOTH PHYSICAL AND ONLINE CONFERENCES business discussions will not be limited to the show floor, as delegates will also have access to a range of networking events SBC Summit Barcelona will also feature one of the most ambitious conference agendas the industry has seen, with the venue’s seven stages set to feature a speaker line-up packed with the most influential senior executives from the worlds of sports betting, casino gaming, lotteries,

October’s SBC Summit Latinoamérica, November’s Betting on Sports Europe, and December’s SBC Summit North America, while the virtual SBC Digital Italia and SBC Digital CIS take place in late July and October respectively. All that comes ahead of what promises to be a busy - and everyone hopes, more normal - 2022, which will have a wealth of opportunities to do business at both physical and online conferences and trade shows. •



9-11 NOV 2021

STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON

SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SPORTS BETTING IN EUROPE 2,000

Delegates

#BOSEUROPE

200

Speakers

30

Exhibitors

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT SBCEVENTS.COM