SBC Leaders Magazine Issue 31

Page 1

Civil war

Industry clashes on cannibalization concerns

DraftKings’ big adventure

Jackpocket CEO Peter Sullivan reveals the post-acquisition plan

Casumo transformed

COO Tim De Borle on a new team, new strategy and new brand

Kaizen Gaming

Football’s Favourite bookmaker

Julio Iglesias Hernando on Greek operator’s global ambition


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Playing Politics

Since the repeal of PASPA countless US executives have been heard talking about learning lessons from Europe. But for one who endured the 10-year War on FOBTs in the UK, the arguments about cannibalization (see p.14) are depressingly familiar.

Brief reminder for the uninitiated: the debate around FOBTs - legally fixed odds betting terminals but mainly featuring video roulette - was driven by a well-funded campaign by a gambling industry executive who did not like this particular form of gambling.

However, FOBTs polarised opinions within the industry too, with bookmakers wanting to protect innovation (and revenues), while land-based operators lobbied against this popular product that they believed was taking their custom.

You can see the industry choosing similar sides in the arguments around iGaming expansion in the US, with regional land-based casinos arguing against the iGaming industry and the multinational casinos.

In the UK, the bookmakers essentially lost the battle with FOBTs perceived as “the crack cocaine of gambling” - a moniker that ensured any amount of actual data on the product was rendered useless. This meant when the regulatory review came along, FOBT stakes were restricted to the point of obsoletion.

Similarly, the unions do not need proof or data to support their cannibalization fears. This is an emotional argument about technology causing job loss, which is as resonant today as it was for those who were smashing up cotton looms in the early 1800s.

It will always be difficult for the gambling industry to control the public narrativeespecially in the social media age - but what it can control is the internal narrative. Meet, talk and find consensus. Bickering in public is not the way to make friends and influence people.


08 Kaizen 32 Casumo 58 Jackpocket

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6 Leaders Making Moves

News from 888, Entain and DraftKings; plus Tekkorp’s Robin Chhabra on a Life in Gambling

8 SPOTLIGHT: Kaizen Gaming

CCO Julio Iglesias Hernando on Kaizen’s global ambition

18 The Big Issue: Industry split on cannibalization question

SBC Americas Editor Jessica Welman dissects the arguments for and against iGaming expansion


22 Column: Slots limits and innovation

Casino Beats Editor Joe Streeter looks on the bright side

24 Interview: Christian Reinheimer of LeoVegas Exploiting the power of payments

26 Interview: Kat Arnsby of Kindred Group

Bringing bingo to a new audience

28 Interview: Michael Pedersen of Livespins The streaming route to success

30 Interview: Ross Parkhill of Rhino Entertainment

Looking beyond slots

32 The Big Interview: Casumo COO Tim De Borle

Casumo COO outlines new strategy, new brand and new team at the top


38 Column: UK pilot phase

SBC Content Director Ted Menmuir on the implications of the UK’s regulatory overhaul

40 Interview: 888Africa

COO Alex Rutherford and Payments Head Emmanuel Mwaisoloka on the peculiarities of Africa’s regulated markets


44 Column: How big is the black market?

Player Protection Hub Editor Steve Hoare speaks to YieldSec about countering the illegal sector

46 Interview: Norma Campbell of Betfred Compliance chief highlights innovative RG effort


50 Column: Making affiliates responsible

New RGAA Director George Rover talks about the organisation’s aims

52 Interview: Akhil Sarin of Stake

CMO talks us through Stake’s F1 deal and much more


58 SBC Americas: Jackpocket Founder Peter Sullivan

DraftKings’ new acquisition tells SBC how it’s going to work

62 SBC Europe: The human face of AI

HR Directors at Campeon, LeoVegas and Rhino on the AI revolution

70 SBC Noticias: Summit Rio highlights

Ze Roberto kicks off a Brazilian fiesta

74 Final word with Rasmus Sojmark

SBC Founder on a summer of sport


DraftKings shifts CFO Park to Jackpocket role


Jason Park is moving to the newly created position of Chief Transformation Officer, with the company’s senior VP for finance, Alan Ellingson, taking over as finance chief. DraftKings said that Park would oversee the integration of digital lottery courier Jackpocket, which the company is set to acquire for $750m.

CEO Jason Robins said Park’s experience at Bain Capital prior to joining DraftKings, as well as his experience with overseeing the integration of SBTech and Golden Nugget since becoming CFO, would be valuable in extracting maximum profit and efficiency from the new unit.

“I have asked Jason Park to take on a new role at DraftKings to address and capture large efficiency opportunities that I expect will generate significant incremental profitability over the coming years,” said Robins.

For more, see interview with Jackpocket CEO and Founder Peter Sullivan on P.58

New CEO starts new era with 888 becoming Evoke

Entain CEO



Widerström announced a strategic overhaul and company rebrand, which will see 888 Holdings become Evoke following a shareholder vote.

After giving himself six months to assess the business since taking charge last October, Widerström announced a sale of the US business to Hard Rock International, a new 13-strong C-Suite team, a new strategy and the new company

name. Widerström said: “Evoke marks the start of a new era. We have a lot of work to do. It is a reset of the business. We know what to do and how to get there.”

In addition to previously announced hires, the CEO welcomed Mark Kemp, who joins as CCO after a spell as CEO at DAZN Bet, and former Standard Chartered Bank regional COO Stephen Sheridan, who joins as chief customer and operations officer.

replace Gibson as Chair


first earnings call as interim CEO, Entain board member Stella David was named chair and will succeed Barry Gibson, when a permanent CEO is found.

David did not pull any punches when assessing Entain’s recent performance during the company’s FY23 results call. She said she wanted

to address a “number of elephants in the room”, including the company’s over-enthusiastic focus on delivering for BetMGM at the expense of the rest of the business.

“Delivering product and tech solutions for BetMGM at the pace that we have had to do it has meant there has been some considerable cost in our other markets,” she said.



Tekkorp CEO and President

Robin Chhabra surveys a career that has taken in some industryshaping IPOs, M&A and corporate development deals


“I got to know [Tekkorp founder] Matt [Davey] at William Hill because Matt’s company NYX acquired OpenBet. Hills was a cornerstone investor in that deal. We wanted OpenBet to remain independent. Everyone wanted OpenBet to remain independent. We got the deal across the line against the odds. You get to really know people in exacting circumstances. I got to know Matt and we said if the stars ever align it would be good to work together again.”

FOXBET, 2019-21

“My first proper operational role as CEO of FoxBet. I was working on the deal for nine months and the Murdochs asked me to do it. It was short-lived because of the merger with Flutter. It became very clear very quickly that FanDuel would be the dominant player. And that was not irrational. It was a sacrifice for the greater good.”


“My role has often been about using M&A as a transformation tool. At William Hill it was about becoming more global and more online. At Stars we didn’t have that problem but we were basically a single product operator. It was about product diversification - sports in particular and increasing regulated revenue. And we did that largely with the acquisition of SkyBet and the move into Australia.”


“It was probably the best place to be in the industry at that time. We did the Playtech deal, which was very successful for both parties. We went into the US and people weren’t sure what we were doing. We bought the entire Nevada sports betting market - three businesses for $55m. The implied value that Caesars later put on it was over $2.5bn. It’s a shame I didn’t get a piece of the action.

It was amazing to get a ringside seat next to [CEO] Ralph [Topping]. He always downplays his role as ‘the old man in the corner’ but he was the shrewdest operator with great strategic insight and phenomenal man management.”


“It was a bit of a roller coaster. We floated at 180p and within 12 months we had a 385p per share offer from an Icelandic private equity group. It was a highly leveraged buyout. People were probably lending too much. We worked with the private equity group to get a big debt package. We were sat in a magic circle law firm’s office with our Mont Blanc pens, when we got the call that the private equity firm couldn’t put up the equity. That was the point we knew that Iceland was falling apart.”


BENSON, 2000-06

“After floating Sportingbet, we tried to expand the franchise with US-facing sportsbooks. It was the Wild West. Many businesses were based in Costa Rica. You would go into the CEO’s office and almost inevitably there would be a revolver on the table, while he’d be sitting in his bermuda shorts and t-shirt with his feet on the desk.”



Technology, branding and football are key elements in the ambitious international expansion plans of Kaizen Gaming, the Betano owner’s Chief Commercial Officer JULIO IGLESIAS HERNANDO tells SBC Leaders

Kaizen Gaming is very serious about living up to the Japanese etymology of its brand name - to continually improve. And nowhere is that more apparent than its successful bid to become the first bookmaker to gain approved partner status for the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euros and CONMEBOL Copa America 2024. CCO Julio Iglesias Hernando, tells all.

SBC: The new custom-built Kaizen Campus is really impressive. It takes vision to push ahead with something of this size and design. How did it influence your decision to become part of the Kaizen family?

I bought into a vision. I joined Kaizen Gaming three years ago, in January 2021. I had a sit down with George Daskalakis, the Co-Founder and CEO and we got to really know each other. We had very long, open, and I would say completely transparent, brutally honest conversations about the expectations. What was the ambition of the company? What would be my role?

“ When you go to FIFA, UEFA and CONMEBOL, you don’t just tell your story, but you show them what you’ve done

I think in a way, it’s a bit of a parallel with the building. The building was a huge bet, because it was commissioned in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the moment, when you have to decide if you’re going to be conservative and believe that the world will go terribly bad and stop, or that the world will continue spinning and that you need to move ahead, show your vision and try to build something ahead of the rest.

In Greece you’re running a dominant brand with Stoiximan, and then you’ve achieved a great expansion with the Betano brand. What have you learned from running Stoiximan in Greece, that you’ve been able to apply to Betano, making it a front runner in some of these international markets?

I think the number one differentiator and the number one success criteria is product. I think in Greece the company was able to develop an extremely good product that had the potential to become competitive on a global scale. We always had a vision to expand internationally, but it took us a while to find out how to convey the uniqueness and the superior quality of this product outside Greece.

There were also some failed experiments, because you need to try first. You have to try, fail, stand up and try again. This is what led us to our first successful expansion in Romania with Betano. Then, of course, Portugal came, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, and the biggest LatAm markets followed next, proving that our product is unique, very much appreciated by our customers and can become successful in every market we’re trading.

One of the more standout advantages that Kaizen Gaming has got as a company is that you’ve obviously built your own technology; you’re working off your own platform. How much adaptability does that give you?

It makes us masters of our own fate. This is the result of being focused on the product from day one. Starting with some external partners, because you cannot do everything on your own, but then having a clear vision that at some point you will be in control of your own destiny. Having our fully-owned tech stack was a clear mandate and vision long before I joined. The moment this vision materialised and we had our own platform, everything came together and clicked. We had the product, and also, that’s critical, we had the brand. You need a brand to place your product in the mind of your customers, and to make sure you offer an experience they want to try and then hopefully, and in very high numbers, continue being part of.


Recently, you’ve broken ground, securing agreements no other gambling operator has managed to make. You were a sponsor of the last World Cup. You are sponsoring the UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 in the United States. How useful are those deals, when it comes to showing what Kaizen Gaming can do?

First and foremost, we are committed to operate in regulated markets. This means that we are committed not only to be fully compliant, transparent and responsible operators, but to make sure that we are accepted as a legitimate operator by the society. That means that when you go to talk to internationally prestigious institutions, you are well-researched, you are well-accepted, you are understood. And

when they are looking for partners to do ground-breaking deals, they don’t want the skeletons in the closet. In this case, we have been going through extended due diligence with these companies. You need to ensure that you are getting a deal that works for you, works for them, and reassure them that you are marching towards the same direction, that you are the right partner to build the future of the sport with. This is also a reassurance that we’re doing things the right way. Because when you go to FIFA, UEFA and CONMEBOL, you don’t just tell your story, but you show them what you’ve done. We have been working with leaders in the sports industry every year for well over a decade. We have been the longeststanding partner of Olympiacos for almost 10 years now. To have this relationship with a leading football club is not easy.


And part of that is not just the marketing you get out of it, it’s investing back into the sports.

That’s the main thing. It’s about ensuring that we have a business that is based on sports and it’s our ultimate interest to protect sports so it can continue to be such an exciting and engaging experience. We want to provide back to the industry, so that they can keep growing together with us. This is the main point. We are interested in the prosperity of sports.

In the last few weeks you’ve announced your entry to the UK market and a mega sponsorship deal with Aston Villa…

The UK has always been always on our radar, as it is one of the largest regulated online gaming markets in the world. It also has very unique features, so we have been just waiting for the right opportunity and the right partners before making that step. We are very excited about this and I am confident that partnering with BVGroup will result in success. And the Premier League? Who wouldn’t want to be part of the most prestigious league in the world? Aston Villa’s long history and recent accomplishments match our company’s growth and aspirations so it was a partnership that ticked all boxes for both of us.

Going back to the commercial side of things. From your standpoint, what are the things that are most important when entering a new market?

When you are entering a market, the first thing you need is to convey your brand to audiences interested in sports, betting and gaming. We are positioned as a bold, touching, premium brand. We need to understand that we are looking for activities or partners or assets that will convey that image to our partners and to our potential customers. It’s about carefully selecting what few things we want to do very well in that market to ensure that we can stand out and showcase our product in the right light. It’s more about finding who can represent Betano in those markets and then ensuring that once we get them, the product is painstakingly adapted to the local needs. We truly believe in the localisation of our products.

With regards to LatAm, it is obviously a huge market for the Betano brand. What is the plan? To go into as many LatAm countries as the regulations allow?

I think that in the end, probably yes. The order will vary in terms of attractiveness and the interest on our side and accessibility to the market. We will be very interested in entering any country with a normal regulatory framework. People forget how fast this industry can change. So you have to think on your toes and be humble and respectful. There’s a lot of great companies out there doing amazing stuff and this is also probably what becoming a truly multinational company brings: you are suddenly exposed to great competitors with big ideas. And you have to be open and able to understand what they are doing better than you and then try to see if you can improve while at the same time spotlighting your strengths to make sure that you convince customers that it’s worth trying your product.

UK launch marks first stage in vision for 26 countries by 2026

Kaizen Gaming has a target for its international expansion, which it underlined when it announced that its Betano brand was entering the UK market just as this issue went to press. Hernando explains the scope of the company’s ambition.

“Our vision is called 26-26. Operating in 26 countries by 2026. For us, organic growth is the name of the game in the foreseeable future. We will be pretty busy getting to the 26 mark in the next two years. LATAM is a key region for us, Europe too. Then we launched in Africa & North America, so we will see what’s coming out of there. We are testing, trying new things, learning.

“I expect the company to change dramatically in the next two years, similar to what has happened in the previous two years. We plan to do this by singlemindedly focusing on the customer experience overall, making sure that our product remains top-notch as it is today.

“That means a lot of work to keep improving and changing and making it better. It also means building a brand that resonates with our customers - not only in terms of bigger sponsorships or attractiveness or sexiness, which is important, but also on the responsible gaming and the sustainability side of things, making sure we cater to stakeholders and the society’s overall needs.

“When you see growth, it’s very exciting. It also requires people to be double vigilant because that’s when the complacency starts to grow, which is the worst enemy.

“If there’s one thing that’s crystal clear to me is that we have just started. This is really just the beginning. We haven’t made it in any way, shape, or form yet. We are very aware of the areas where we are lacking and the areas we definitely need to improve to continue growing and that’s what we are planning to do.”

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Solving the CANNIBALIZATION riddle?

SBC Americas Editor Jessica Welman dives into the big argument raging across industry social media feeds, state legislatures, casino floors, and union meetings. Does iCasino cannibalize bricks and mortar casino revenues and, most importantly, jobs?

It was a moot point until it wasn’t. Prior to 2024, members of the gambling industry would speak about the online cannibalization debate in the past tense. It first emerged in 2013 when New Jersey was considering the legalisation of online casinos. At the time, save for overseas data, there was nothing that demonstrated whether or not online expansion would negatively impact Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey needed a boost. Atlantic City casinos were in steep decline. Four properties closed up shop in the space of a year, including the massive new luxury property Revel.

Once online casinos entered the picture, things started turning around.

Retail casino revenues levelled out while iGaming provided an additional $122m to operator revenues in the first full year of operation.

From that point, New Jersey proved to be the sterling example of what online casinos could do for a market. Since then, five more states legalised online casino and the discussion of cannibalization was barely a blip on the radar.

Yet, in 2024, the debate roared back to life. At the heart of the arguments were a series of studies reaching a range of conclusions about the impact online casinos have had on existing iGaming states and forecasts on the impact iGaming expansion could have on other states.

No matter which side of the ‘cannibalization vs. no cannibalization’ debate you are on, assuming that the (positive or negative) impact will be uniformly shared by all regional casinos is pretty naïve
Craig Billings, Wynn Resorts

Studies from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and Analysis Group commissioned by proiGaming entities IDEA Growth and Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) used different methodologies to reach roughly the same conclusion, which is that markets with online and retail casinos have seen a roughly 2% increase in retail revenues.

A study commissioned by an antigambling group in New Jersey drew different conclusions and warned of job losses in addition to lost revenue.

The study that drew the most attention and debate was research done by The Innovation Group (TIG) on behalf of the state of Maryland. The study covered a wide range of topics,

including frameworks and potential tax schemes but it was the small section on cannibalization that ruffled feathers on both sides.


TIG’s research concluded that Maryland could lose as much as 10% of its retail casino revenue with online gambling expansion, but additional revenue and tax revenue would result in massive growth for the overall take. The report even couched that number numerous times over and suggested a more realistic rate was 8%, but opponents were quick to grab the most alarmist stats while critics questioned the methodology.


The task of ballparking the universal impact of online casino on retail could be a bit of a fool’s errand. The only thing the states with iGaming have in common is iGaming. The framework varies from state to state, as does the retail landscape. Throw in a pandemic ripping a hole through results and coming up with a methodology becomes a very fraught process.

For TIG, the answer was to look at the same time period across all iGaming states in addition to a handful of states considering iGaming expansion.

TIG Partner Brian Wyman defends that approach: “Our view was, let’s take a blend of states that launched iGaming, a blend of states that didn’t launch iGaming, and let’s compare their performances against one another. And what we presented in the report was 2019 versus 2022. You know, people have made arguments that well, this is Covid-impacted. And, of course, it’s Covid-impacted. It’s when the iGaming growth happened.”

Critics of the approach point out that for several markets, these were the starting years of iGaming, while numbers were more mature for New Jersey and Delaware. The iDEA Growth study opted to look at the periods immediately before and after launch in states, while the SBA approach combined revenue projections with survey data from patrons in states with and without iGaming.

The media pulled the numbers to make headlines, but as iDEA Growth Founder Jeff Ifrah notes, not all approaches are necessarily created equally.

“I think it’s all a question of where are you getting your data from,” says Ifrah. “Everyone is making assumptions based on data or maybe conducting an analysis based on the data they have. So I think the question should always be how good is the data that’s being relied on?”

“ I think the question should always be how good is the data that’s being relied on?
Jeff Ifrah, iDEA

The iDEA study also drew on comments from premier iGaming and casino CEOs whose companies benefited from iGaming. While the insight may have been biased, the information they provided about player profiles and cross-over was crucial.

The study formalised what has always been conventional wisdom in the industry, namely, that the American online casino audience is not the same as the American land-based casino audience. On average, online players have skewed a decade younger and slightly more male than their retail counterparts. But unless operators fully open up their database and show the overlap, the problem remains that there is no concrete data to rely on.


Land-based casinos protecting their interests have always been part of the casino cannibalization debate. What has changed is the battle lines. In the era of uncertainty, plenty of operators like Parx and Cordish Companies were sceptical of iGaming. However, once the laws started passing, they inevitably started inking access deals and launched online sites. During the pandemic, as states scrambled to add new revenue wherever they could, even the smaller operators were thrilled to push things through legislatures during the gold rush. More states equalled more opportunity.

Now that we are approaching a second straight year with no major movement on the legislation front, operators are becoming more discerning. Churchill Downs pulled out of online sports betting and casino altogether in 2022 and, while the operator pushed for sports betting in its home state of Kentucky, it has generally stood against online casino expansion. In Maryland, several Churchill properties appeared to speak against expansion. The Cordish Companies remain opposed to online casinos as well.

The opposition gets to the heart of what all these studies problematically assume: that all casinos would potentially benefit from the omnichannel cross-promotion of a brand’s land-based and online offerings.

It is clear that some operators, such as BetMGM and Caesars, are executing this omnichannel approach well. It is also clear that brands like Boyd, who have longstanding market access deals with FanDuel are well poised to maximise the opportunity. What the studies don’t address is what the changes could mean for everyone else.

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said as much in a recent LinkedIn post where he labelled the cannibalization debate “reductive”. The post came not long after the company effectively shuttered its interactive division.


“With the introduction of online casino, you are allowing the entry of many new and capable competitors, oftentimes into states that have had a very stable competitive dynamic for many years. So, no matter which side of the ‘cannibalization vs. no cannibalization’ debate you are on, assuming that the (positive or negative) impact will be uniformly shared by all regional casinos is pretty naïve,” Billings wrote.

Ifrah pushes back at Billings’s categorisation of the debate, namely the idea that expansion would open up something new rather than regulate something that is already happening.

“Billings talks about this as if it’s just a binary option - that we’re either going to introduce this competing business that lives overseas and doesn’t create jobs and doesn’t have a good place in the marketplace and isn’t supporting our towns and our casinos or we’re not. But that’s not the decision,” Ifrah counters.

“You’re going to take market share away from the black market and protect your consumers who currently have access to offshore sites where they’re not protected, where they lose their money, where they can develop addictions, and where there’s no responsible gaming tools. And of course, from a state coffer perspective, there’s no tax revenue.”


Before now, offering up the new tax revenue online casinos offered was about all it took to get legislation across the finish line.

Certainly jobs have always been a part of the conversation, but what has changed is both how much jobs are getting talked about and who is participating in the conversation. What was once an argument of family foundations has now been embraced by two more powerful voices: unions and small businesses.

The emergence of union reps at debates on online gambling expansion is a new development, but not something that caught the industry off guard. Many pieces of iGaming legislation this year preemptively addressed the jobs issue by writing live dealer studio commitments and live dealer contracts into the bill.

Despite these efforts, the concern around retail casino job loss grew.

A study by the Ann Arundel County Chamber of Commerce took the highest cannibalization numbers from the TIG report and extrapolated potential job loss based on that number. The work concluded the state would lose 1,215 jobs not just at casinos but at other businesses as well.

TIG acknowledged the potential for job losses, but did not offer specific numbers. Nonetheless, Wyman thinks the question is fair game.

“The way that operators staff their properties is often metric-based. And one of the metrics is going to be gaming revenue. And so a declining gaming revenue would lead to a decline in labour. So I don’t think the labour piece is actually that controversial,” Wyman says.

What is often the problem in these debates though is that metrics and methodology can often go out the window.

“Don’t expect the unions, particularly in blue states, to just sit back and let online casino happen. They will take a position, because that’s their job. They’re not going to pore over analyst reports on cannibalization to form an opinion on the topic. They’re going to act preemptively,” Billings noted in his post.

Roxie Herbekian of Unite Here Local 7, a union representing many Maryland casino workers, says the union has taken a position defined by three prongs.

“Our goal is good jobs and strong communities,” Herbekian explains, noting that previously the union has welcomed gambling expansion because it contributed to that goal.

The union’s leadership opposes online casino legalisation because of what it claims is the proven loss of brick-andmortar revenue, which translates into fewer tips for staff and potentially fewer jobs. Herbekian also notes that in many states, including Maryland, casino sites are specifically selected to foster economic development so the impact extends beyond the casinos to their surrounding neighbourhoods. Finally, the union is concerned that widespread proliferation of online gambling could have a negative impact when it comes to


addiction and problem gambling. Maryland Retailers Alliance VP of Membership and Government Affairs Sarah Price explains that a vote of membership determined the group’s stance on online casinos and, while they are on the same side as the labour unions on this particular issue, they are not working together.

As retailers though, Price points out that experience with E-tail has taught the group that what seems fine in the short-term could have long-term repercussions.

”We’ve tried to look at things through a very careful lens of even if it looks like something is going to be great in five years, that doesn’t mean that it’s still going to be great in 10 or 15 years.”

When it came to ballparking the tertiary impact of online casinos on other businesses, the group’s methodology amounted to polling businesses near casinos on what they thought the impact might be.

There are no exact metrics or publicly available material on the job loss issue in particular, which makes personal testimony

from union members and small business owners all the more impactful.

Ifrah talks about what he claims were “paid protestors” showing up in Maryland claiming their jobs were at risk. Unions in Maryland, New York and Michigan have all spoken publicly against the expansion, but Ifrah also questions why union members in existing iGaming states are not coming forward to talk about losing their jobs if that is actually taking place.

Say what you will about these union representatives and their testimony, but it is difficult to argue that they did not have a huge impact on shutting down iGaming progress in 2024.

The internal debate over methodology may have dominated industry debate in 2024, but come 2025 the real fight is going to be how the industry responds to the growing number of local business owners and voters telling a very compelling story about what they think online casinos will do to them. And it’s a story they are doing without math, without studies, and without the promise of billions of dollars of tax revenue.





As UK gambling regulation goes through a transformative period, affordability has taken centre stage in debate. The introduction of stake limits is a hugely significant part of the picture and will likely lead to significant changes in the way the industry operates, writes JOE STREETER

When the UK government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced slot stake limits of £2 for under-25s and £5 for anyone 25 or over, it took the whole industry by surprise. The consultation had concluded with a proposed limit of £2 and £15. Carolyn Harris, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (for non-UK readers, this is a kind of pressure group of MPs who don’t like gambling) praised the extra lengths the government went to as “seeing sense”.

What remains to be seen is the impact that it will have on how players engage with the industry and whether this could influence high-staking players to shift towards the unregulated black market.

Other European nations will be watching very closely to monitor how the changes take hold, as many are tentatively scoping out whether to impose limits of their own.

Stakelogic CEO Stephan van den Oetelaar comments: “Worldwide, the UK government is seen as a pioneer in regulating online gambling. Other regulators will follow any developments in the UK with great interest. Depending on the mid to long term effects, UK measures might be adopted by other regulators.”

Henry McLean, Co-Founder and Marketing Director at 4ThePlayer, agrees: “The UK’s approach to regulating online slots could set a precedent for other jurisdictions.”

One of the most obvious examples is the Netherlands - a market where stake limits have been rumoured to be coming for some

time. Dutch stakeholders will have taken note of how Germany has developed since the implementation of stake limits that are even stricter than the UK’s proposal.

In Germany, players are restricted to a €1 stake limit on online casino slots. They also need to take a five-second break between spins. Live casino games and progressive jackpot slots have been banned. In spite of the strong limits, The Gambling Atlas Germany 2023 claimed in its latest report that engagement in regulated online gambling has grown significantly. This has been refuted by others who have reported a massive boost to the black market.

The Belgian regulator has taken a very different approach and embraced loss limits. Amidst a spike in online casino engagement in the region, however, there have been strengthened calls from lobbying groups for the tightening of the current €200 weekly limits that are currently in place.

If the UK limits are to work, operators and suppliers will need to innovate and produce games that are engaging on a myriad of levels. This could come in many forms, whether it’s through the expansion of crash games or stakeholders raising the ceiling in terms of gamification to enhance the iGaming experience. Stake limits will demand a new approach from everyone.

Daniel Lamond, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at games studio Rogue concludes: “There are always significant changes needed when new regulations are introduced. The more established suppliers with more games will be hit the heaviest, which also impacts their available resources to innovate and find creative solutions.”



On the following pages, some of the key speakers at Malta’s CasinoBeats Summit share their thoughts on the key topics and trends shaping the industry in 2024 and beyond


LeoVegas Director of Payments CHRISTIAN REINHEIMER believes there is a lot of work to be done to exploit the power of payments


What are the most pressing issues regarding payments in iGaming?

I personally believe that the online casino industry needs to invest more effort into making the unique challenges of the industry seen within the financial sector. Financial regulators and infrastructure providers can do more for us to create a safe, yet effective industry.

Our players value instant money flow and frictionless user experience, but we are subject to AML regulations, suffer from fraud and are invested in responsible gaming, which can all make the experience cumbersome for our customers unless we improve the tools at our disposal, which in a lot of instances are designed by financial regulators and institutions.

Player identity and payment instrument ownership verification need to become more streamlined, as do affordability checks. The underlying infrastructure to move funds needs to become fully instant. Those improvements will add a lot to a healthy industry with satisfied players.

Which recent technological developments will shape the future of payments?

From what I see the recent developments in artificial intelligence are the most exciting. The technology has become way more advanced but also accessible, which will drive some improvements in payments orchestration and fraud prevention.

We will see many more providers in those areas adopting the technology and utilising the immense data produced by daily payment transactions processed in the industry, but also a more common use in operators’ own proprietary technology.

The possibilities to create more personalised experiences by anticipating preference or to prevent potentially fraudulent behaviour by quicker detection of patterns are exciting.

To what extent would you say the iGaming industry has taken advantage of recent

evolutions in the payments sphere - has it taken a clear step forward or is there still a lot to learn?

My impression is that in recent years, payments have gained increasing attention from iGaming operators. More emphasis, bigger and more senior teams dealing with it, more involvement with payment service providers to shape products for the market are all developments I have observed.

It is also very visible during industry events, where the number of payment providers exhibiting and the size of their booths have increased quite significantly. While the trend is clear I do believe the iGaming industry can lean in even more and learn how to utilise payments as a competitive advantage, see the area as an opportunity for innovation and a more profitable and safe business.

When it comes to acquiring new customers, how vital is an efficient payment journey?

It’s super important. Although I am obviously biased here, the fact is that there is no wagering without a stake, and hence getting the first deposit into the player balance is a vital step for an effective customer acquisition journey. Doing this most effectively will not only have an impact on the initial acquisition, but also on retaining players effectively.

There are different approaches to address this, some focus on a wide variety of choices, others try to keep the number of solutions offered to a minimum for a lean journey. Either way, the key is to have good monitoring in place enabling you to make data-driven decisions on the effectiveness of the first deposit journey.

Can you explain the importance for those representing the payments side of igaming businesses to appear at events like CBS?

Participating in industry events like the CasinoBeats Summit is important for various reasons. They help to be in contact with existing and potentially new providers and to stay up to date on the evolving landscape of products and services offered, that could potentially enhance the player experience when paying in and getting paid out.



Kindred Head of Poker and Bingo Marketing KAT ARNSBY explains how to bring bingo to a new audience

While bingo and now online bingo have a solid impact in the UK, can you explain how bingo is received in different territories and continents?

Bingo players in different gambling jurisdictions within Europe definitely have different favourite flavours of bingo. A simple example would be that UK players tend to prefer 90-ball bingo and mainland European players lean more towards the 75ball version.

Overall, bingo marketing profiles are closest to casino marketing profiles, and we can learn a lot from work done for casino product customers. It is about extricating the key points of that information and then tailoring unique promotions and product features to the profile type.

Within a network product, customers from all over Europe are playing the same games, so it’s a fine balance of a generally sound product with supporting features and promotions that suit different types of specific gambling profiles.

How has the demand for bingo products from an operator perspective changed in recent years?

We have seen more inclination towards side games in terms of additions and add-ons to the basic bingo game, rather than a major shift in the gameplay itself. Progressive jackpots came first, but now players can find a range of extra options that increase the excitement and win potential of the games.

The Relax network is an excellent example of this, with a range of supporting elements such as “buy one get one free” ticket sales and “one away bonuses”, and these features are added to the standard ticket price, making sure customers can play for longer with the same budget.

We can even see in other operators totally separate betting games for extra spend, such as betting on number 88 to be the 13th ball called.

Has bingo evolved in recent years to meet the demands of a newer generation of players?

There are two main problems for bingo when talking about an upcoming young millennial or Gen Z player audience: speed and prize pools.

Faster, more volatile gambling is clearly the casino trend across the industry, and there is only so fast bingo can go. It is an emotionally incremental game, starting with low excitement and building as the numbers are called; this can be alienating for an audience that wants the high-speed emotional ups and downs that a casino slot offers.

As a network product, bingo players need other bingo players to make the prize pools juicy, so for customers who wish to gamble at non-peak times, it is hard for a traditional bingo game to compete with the x150,000 potential max wins that bonus-buy slots offer.

We have seen Relax bingo combat this issue with the introduction of Hexabingo in 2020. This uses the logic of bingo gameplay, casino slot stake multipliers and hyper-turbo threeman poker to offer a potential x1,000 on every game played.

Is there a need for suppliers and operators to come up with ways of making bingo more social to bring more exposure to the format? Or will this risk bingo losing its traditional charm?

This is an interesting question, because looking at social media trends, people, in general, are becoming more “online”, and where there are shared interests, those communities form in spaces such as Facebook, Telegram and Discord.

Bingo has always been primarily a social game in the live environment, and in the early years, this carried over to online spaces via chat rooms. As we increasingly move into a more online world, the next generation of players will be more comfortable with social life via a screen in every leisure industry niche.



Livespins CCO MICHAEL PEDERSEN views streaming as the key to reaching the next generation of casino players


As online casinos are increasingly leveraging the growing viewership from streaming, can you explain the advantages that can be gained by interacting and collaborating with streamers?

The main advantage is that online casinos can tap into the lucrative but hard-to-reach Millennial and Gen Z audiences that engage with streaming and follow specific streamers. This is the generation that grew up with connected video gaming and seeks the social interaction that comes with playing with their friends and not just against the computer or, in the case of casinos, the random number generator.

To what extent can streamers be used as an efficient marketing tool in the igaming sphere?

There are two ways in which an online casino can get in on the streaming action and use it as part of their wider marketing strategies. They can partner with a streamer and have them drive awareness of their brand by playing at it. Remember, a streamer can be a big-name celebrity as well as a professional casino streamer. Some of the biggest crypto casinos used this tactic but ultimately were blacklisted from the streaming platform Twitch.

The other way is to integrate Livespins into the casino lobby and to use a game based on streaming as a great player engagement and retention tool. Livespins allows players to get directly involved in the action by betting behind the streamer while chatting with other players throughout the session. Casinos can also use their brand ambassadors to host the streams, with plenty of activation opportunities to explore.

How do you think Twitch’s gambling rule changes in October 2022 have shaped the iGaming industry’s relationship with streamers in the past year?

It’s been hugely beneficial for Livespins, that’s for sure. Following the rule changes, we saw a surge in casinos enquiring about Livespins and have since signed deals with some of the biggest names in the business including Yolo Group, Soft2Bet, GiG and many more.

Operators want to offer streaming to their players and Livespins provides a way of doing this that is responsible and compliant. I do think it made some operators more cautious about streaming, but we are working hard to address their concerns over the coming months so that they too can join the revolution and ultimately offer the new online casino experiences that their players are seeking.

What sort of responsibility do you believe streamers hold when it comes to the responsible gambling side of the industry? Has the community been prioritising player protection?

All stakeholders have a responsibility when it comes to safe gaming - from the streamer to the platform provider and the operator. I’d argue this has been a little overlooked as some operators and streamers have clamoured to maximise the potential of streaming ahead of their rivals, and this is ultimately why Twitch decided to ban certain actors from its platform.

How important is it for streamers and companies like Livespins to appear at events such as CasinoBeats Summit to enhance the profile of streaming in the industry?

There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to making operators more confident in making their move into the world of streaming. Twitch banning certain operators and streamers has made some fearful of similar actions being taken against them and the impact this might have on the international and local licences they hold.

Events such as the CasinoBeats Summit allow us to sit down with operators and other stakeholders and explain face-to-face how Livespins at least allows them to leverage the streaming opportunity while being fully compliant at all times.

Unlike other products, Livespins sits within the casino lobby, and this means that players are afforded the same safe gaming protections as when playing any other game at the site and as required under the operator’s licence. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase just how entertaining slot and casino streaming is.



Rhino Entertainment Group CEO ROSS PARKHILL sees the rise of crash games as a sign that other niche products could challenge the hegemony of slots


At CBS, you will be appearing on a panel looking at the rise of more ‘niche’ games in the online casino space. How would you describe the rise in popularity for these games?

We can see an increase in visibility and popularity of more niche games. In reality, a lot of these game formats and styles have been around for a long time, but some more recent, higher-quality productions and increased exposure has helped accelerate their growth.

Obviously there is a wide range of games that can be described as niche, and by that very nature they are still not the go-to-game for many players. However, we can definitely see more players trying these out, but also these games being used as an entry point for some new players.

A lot of events are starting to see more and more niche games being showcased on exhibition floors. Why do you think this is the case?

I think this is expected as they are different and a bit exciting. It’s quite hard to drum up interest for standard slots or live casino titles, even though that’s still where the majority of turnover comes from.

What all niche games, or new formats of games offer, is the potential to target and appeal to a subset of players. This could be completely new players, or existing players looking for something a little different.

As an operator this is always appealing because it’s very hard to truly differentiate yourself from the competition, as in most cases we have a lot of the same content.

Having the possibility of being one of the first to embrace and promote a new game format might give you a small edge in acquisition or retention. A small edge in the competitive environment of operating online casinos is certainly appealing.

How can these types of games compete with slots, a format that has dominated the online casino industry since its inception?

As a product I don’t think they need to compete with slots, rather they should complement a good slot offering. These days you can’t force a player to play a certain game, you can encourage them and give them options, which in the long run will be better for the entertainment value.

I can appreciate that the producers of any type of niche game will need to get players and generate turnover through their games and eventually make some revenues. I think a key component here is making sure the quality and playability is to the point where these games demand good visibility on casino sites. If we look at crash games I think we can see a good example of a game format that had been around for a long time, but not mainstream.

Then a few good quality versions were released by a few suppliers, they got some decent distribution and eventually got more and more exposure on sites as players started playing. Now we see many casino’s offering crash games, including dedicated categories that fit well with the RNG or slot area of the casino.

Do you think the growing desire for niche games aligns with the need for operators to appeal to a newer generation of players?

As a business, most operators are generally looking to grow and push their business forward. Longerterm, to be successful you will likely need to acquire players from the newer generation, but that could be younger players trying out online casinos or older land-based players coming online for the first time.

So yes, having something more niche like multiplayer games or skill games might help with the translation of the younger generation, but who’s to say they won’t prefer slots or roulette? The producers of these games are also focusing on UX/UI and entertainment value so they can appeal to these players as well.

I personally think you could end up losing a lot of money, resources and time trying to acquire the wrong type of players. Marketing an online casino is expensive and I think, regardless of the product, your potential customer needs to have a bit of gamble in them to become customers you can build a business around.




During the past year Casumo has hired an entirely new C-Suite. Chief Operating Officer TIM DE BORLE tells SBC Leaders how the team’s new strategy will help Casumo reclaim past glories

When SBC Leaders spoke to Casumo Chief Operating Officer Tim De Borle at the beginning of March, the company was putting the finishing touches on a redesigned brand and front end that will mark the culmination of a year of transformation.

“It has been a year of change and transformation, of which most is not yet visible to the industry or to our players. We are just weeks away from the first major milestones - for us as a company and for the redefinition of the new Casumo identity,” says De Borle.

The transformation of Casumo began in earnest when CEO Francesco Postiglione took over from co-founders Oscar Simonsson and Razmus Svenningson in January last year.

“The whole organisation has been in a massive transformation phase for about a year,” continues De Borle, “and to a certain extent still is.”

Postiglione kicked off the transformation by recruiting a new leadership team - the whole C-suite has been overhauled - and continued with an assessment of the company’s strategy and a redefinition of its strengths.

“It’s an honour to work for an organisation and a brand like Casumo but some elements that led to past success were relevant only in a different time and were relevant only in a different regulatory environment than what we have today. So we needed a clear change in direction,” says De Borle.


The founders had been holding the reins since April 2022, when previous CEO Shelly Suter-Hadad departed. In many ways, Suter-Hadad’s two-and-half-year spell revolutionised the company. Casumo made its first acquisition (of Casino Secret), thus becoming a multibrand operator, and it launched sports betting in the UK to become a multi-product operator for the first time.

Despite these achievements, Suter-Hadad’s time in charge was a bit of a roller coaster as she also had to tidy up a series of historical compliance failures. She also recommended the company withdraw from Denmark after a failed launch in the market. After Suter-Hadad’s departure, Simonsson and Svenningson took their time finding the next CEO to take them forward.

Some elements that led to past success were relevant only in a different time and were relevant only in a different regulatory environment than what we have today


Casumo is a much-loved brand with a real legacy but it needed a united vision, according to De Borle, and Postiglione needed a team around him to align the strategy across the company and provide a focus that had been somewhat lost in the tumult of the previous three years.

Postiglione joined from Fortuna, where he had been CEO of Croatian operator Hattrick Sports, and before that he had worked with De Borle at Belgium’s leading operator Napoleon Sports & Casino.

De Borle joined Napoleon as an engineer around 10 years ago. He quickly transitioned into operations. When the family-owned casino business was sold to Waterland Private Equity, they wanted to launch an online operation and they asked De Borle and a marketing manager to lead it.

“But we were rookies and they acknowledged that and brought in Francesco to give us guidance and define a growth strategy,” says De Borle.

They also brought in Sandhya Singh from Amazon to lead the risk and fraud department. Together they built Napoleon into a market-leading operation in Belgium. Singh graduated to the role of Chief Operations Officer, while De Borle became CEO after Postiglione departed. Now, the three of them are reunited at Casumo and they are on a mission to make Casumo great again.


“I think that Casumo lived too much on the legacy elements but didn’t really unite around a real vision or overall strategy,” continues De Borle.

All the different teams had their own strategy but they were not aligned.

“The focus was missing. At that point, Casumo was trying to do everything,” says the COO.

Casumo had begun to rationalise its geographic footprint before Posiglione’s team took over but the process has continued with a strict focus on countries where the operator is fully licensed. This has made for some tough decisions. For example, Casumo has withdrawn from Japan, which was one of the operator’s most successful markets. It has also left the Netherlands and Germany, in addition to the Danish retreat.

“We didn’t change the organisation and what Casumo stood for because the DNA of Casumo was bad,” explains De Borle. “It had a good product and player engagement - it was innovative. It has a good backbone from a technological perspective, which is very important to have, and it had a unique brand proposition. So we focused on reviving those three things.”

The rebrand will have been revealed by the time you read this article. When it comes to product innovation, there wasn’t a massive shift. It was just a case of identifying where the company excels, where they wanted it to excel, and making sure it was focused on those areas.

It is the player experience that has perhaps needed the most attention. The company has overhauled old processes which related to onboarding, KYC, source of wealth procedures, and more, and made sure they are aligned to the compliance and regulatory settings for each of the markets they are focusing on.

“ Our ambition with sports betting is to enrich the ecosystem for the casino player and the recreational punter








Francesco Postiglione - Chief Executive Officer (Previous: Fortuna, Napoleon, Betclic Everest, Neomobile, Bingo Spot)

Tim De Borle - Chief Operating Officer (Previous: Napoleon)

Janice Duncan - Group Chief Financial Officer (Previous: Rank Interactive, William Hill, Coral, RBS Insurance)

Sandhya Singh - Chief Customer Experience Officer (Previous: Meta, Napoleon, Amazon, Target, Hewlett-Packard, Infosys)

Kerry Swainson - Chief Compliance Officer (Previous: Casimba Gaming, Lottoland, Addison Global, Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill)

Cristina Turbatu - Chief Technology Officer (Previous: BeyondPlay, Playtech, Girls In Tech, Odobo, BetVictor)

Nikola Jellačić - Chief Marketing Officer (Previous: Superbet, Google)

Tony O’Mahony - Chief Product Officer (Previous: A5 Labs, Lottoland, Gaming Innovation Group, Odobo, Paddy Power, Full Tilt Poker)

Martin Schillig - Chief Human Resources Officer (Previous: RakeTech, Betsson, Tipico)


“On the other side we’re looking into the user experience that a player has on the platform. What the player experiences on the website was the least well maintained when it comes to the product stack. So there we focused a lot on redesigning and reengineering the front end,” explains De Borle.

Again, the results of these changes should be out in the open by the time you read this article.


Now, the operator’s geographic focus lies squarely on Sweden, Spain, Ontario, and the UK. It has not closed down all the MGA and GRAregulated jurisdictions but those are the key areas of focus.

The UK was the guinea pig market for Casumo’s Kambi-powered sportsbook in 2020. While the casino will always be Casumo’s backbone, De Borle sees the sportsbook as an opportunity.

“The sportsbook is a recreational extension for the casino player,” explains De Borle. “Our ambition is to enrich the ecosystem for the casino player and the recreational punter.” De Borle would like to see some tweaks to the front end that makes the sportsbook more

attractive to the uninitiated. He cites the likes of Parlay Bay and Betr in the US as examples of companies that are trying to bring a different experience and attract a different audience to sports betting.

It is a tricky task, particularly for those aforementioned US operators which do not have the core casino business to fall back on.

“It’s great to work in such a diverse team,” comments De Borle. “It’s not by accident - it’s part of Casumo’s mission. Sometimes it feels like a mini-United Nations in our meetings, which is a great environment to work in.”

Casumo employs 230 people from 49 different nationalities across four main hubs: Malta, Gibraltar, Skopje, and Zagreb. The company has a remote-first hybrid way of working around its hubs. While a lot of the marketing function are employed in Zagreb and operations in Skopje, the company does not delineate its offices by function and aims to have cross-functional teams in all of its hubs.

“It’s great to work in such a diverse team,” comments De Borle. “It’s not by accident - it’s part of Casumo’s mission. Sometimes it feels like a mini-United Nations in our meetings.”


The heritage news portal of the SBC Media portfolio, providing daily insights and opinion on all segments of the European sports betting industry.

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The UK’s regulatory overhaul enters a defining period that will determine a generational change for all stakeholders, writes


n endgame appears on the horizon of a political journey, which many view as beginning well before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) called for a ‘surgical review’ of the 2005 Gambling Act on 8 December 2020.

The turbulent passage of the Gambling Act Review and its ensuing White Paper consultations continued through the tenure of three Prime Ministers, three DCMS Secretaries of State, and six junior Ministers charged with overseeing the review.

Many view the never-ending Gambling Act Review as reflective of Britain’s political strife in a chaotic decade in which the government has been paralyzed and unable to make any decisions.

Yet little time can be given to reflection, as the Government commits to proceed with the Review’s White Paper recommendations on stake limits and customer financial risk checks.

From September, UK operators must adopt a maximum £2 stake for 18 to 24-year-olds for online slot games, and a £5 limit for adults aged 25 and over to bring game stakes in line with land-based casinos.

While the industry has grudgingly accepted stake limits, the Gambling Commission’s plans to introduce ‘light check’s’ has been the most controversial aspect of the entire review.

The Gambling Commission has entered the technical phase of the White Paper consultation in which it has launched its pilot phase to test financial risk checks. The six month pilot will include an initial test on proposed checks applied on customer net losses of £125 (without bonus funds) within a rolling 30-day period or £500 within a rolling 365-day period.

A higher level of inspection will be carried out on gambling accounts with losses greater than £1,000 within a rolling 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days. During the pilot phase, the Commission will evaluate whether “triggers for enhanced assessments should be lower for those aged 18 to 24”.

The pilot test phase of these checks marks a pivotal moment in the UK’s gambling sector, one that DCMS undersecretary Stuart Andrew refers to as a “necessity in our stride towards a responsible gambling environment”.

While Andrew claimed to be aware of stakeholder concerns on the impact of risk checks, he said that the Gambling Commission had the right to proceed having taken into consideration 2,000 responses about how it should apply the system.

Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes said: “We are not here to impede the industry but to facilitate a safe space for consumers. The test phase is crucial for us to gather data, understand the impacts, and refine our approach to affordability checks.”

Rhodes also emphasized the need for collaborative effort and open communication during this test phase: “We expect operators to provide insights from the frontline, which will be invaluable in shaping a regulatory framework that is both effective and reasonable.”

The stakes are high as the industry navigates these changes. Affordability checks, viewed as the linchpin of consumer protection, are not just about compliance but about safeguarding the ethos of fair play that is at the heart of UK gambling.

Operators, too, recognize the gravity of this period. The pilot phase is not only a test of new regulatory measures but also an opportunity for the industry to demonstrate its commitment to social responsibility and to rebuild trust with stakeholders and the public.


The main thing is that people are not that interested in banks, that’s why mobile money is the best option for people to use



888AFRICA Chief Operating Officer ALEX RUTHERFORD and Head of Payments EMMANUEL MWAISOLOKA guide SBC Leaders through the payments challenges of Africa’s betting sector

The eyes of the international betting sector are firmly fixed on the opportunities and intricacies of the developing Latin American sector. Whilst the potential of the South American markets, particularly Brazil, are undoubtedly huge, they are not the only areas of focus for some operators.

Take 888AFRICA, for example. The joint venture went live in 2022, and has built up a strong presence across some of Africa’s biggest betting jurisdictions - Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Operating in this range of markets does not come without its challenges thoughparticularly when it comes to payments.

For Chief Operating Officer Alex Rutherford and Head of Payments Emmanuel Mwaisoloka, there are two defining characteristics of African betting payments. These are the significant role of telecoms companies, which Rutherford states “are the local payments industry”, and the preference for mobile money among customers across most markets, with the notable exception of Angola.

“ There is a hell of a lot of innovation on the ground and some really exciting stuff that you don’t see to the same degree as in Europe
We’re dealing with markets which are often less mature than European markets, and in some cases they are shaping their regulations

“It’s mobile money and there’s various flavours,” Rutherford explains. “What you’ve got is a continent where there are something like 350 mobile wallets, and they’re all offered by the telcos.

“Whether we offer it via a direct connection or through aggregation via a mobile wallet, it’s all the same thing. That tends to be the most popular, that’s what is in DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.”

Mwaisoloka elaborates: “I think the main thing is that people are not that interested in banks, that’s why mobile money is the best option for people to use. The slow pick up of banks is causing mobile money to pick up better.”


Maintaining a steady payments network across a broad African betting landscape is no easy task, and infrastructural problems are frequent. Issues with individual mobile networks, ageing technologies and hardware are just some of the challenges 888AFRICA has faced.

Challenges are often the result of conditions beyond of any operator’s control. For example, flooding and bad weather in Mozambique knocked out a number of the telcos that betting firms are dependent on for payment service.

“If we leave aside the outages, usually postintegration support is crazy,” Mwaisoloka adds. “Just to get someone to assist on fixing something or at least to understand what the problem is and fix it, it’s usually a mess that might take even weeks just for them to get back to you on support.”

Dealing with these issues is a day-to-day task for operators like 888AFRICA. It is also a day-to-day task for bettors across their broader lives as well, however, and Rutherford observes that customers will often have multiple payment methods at hand.

Regardless, as in any betting market, not meeting a customer’s payment demand will have negative consequences for any bookmaker. Citing Tanzania as an example of a particularly busy market, Rutherford explains that customers can often “bounce around” different operators when facing a payments issue with one.

This happens despite the fact that most operators will be relying on the same telcos for payments infrastructure, therefore the issue will be affecting everyone. Eventually, when the issue has been fixed, the customer may have landed on one of your competitors.


“We’re constantly looking at ways we can make sure customers get as broad a range as possible and ensure that at least their service with us is disrupted as little as possible,” he says.


The African betting markets also benefit from local innovation and technological development. Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region may be some of the geographic leaders in fintech, but Africa is home to its own thriving industry.

“There is a hell of a lot of innovation on the ground and some really exciting stuff that you don’t see to the same degree as in Europe,” Rutherford says about local paytech industries.

“You’re working with emerging technologies and there’s a lot of enthusiasm, dynamism around how we can make things better for the customer. Everything is done with customers front of mind.

“There are a lot of highly innovative start-ups working in technology. Customers vote with their feet, if it adds value for them they will adopt it very quickly. If it doesn’t, it’s very easy to tell when people have had a good idea but the only thing they’ve thought of is their own success and not how it will improve customers’ lives. It’s easy to spot that.”

To balance against challenges and prevent customers from being acquired by rivals due to payments difficulties, communication is also essential to 888AFRICA’s operations, through customer service teams and onsite messaging.

Communication extends beyond the customer however and across the breadth of wider national payments ecosystems - again, the telcos are extremely important here, but equally important are regulators.

Maintaining a close relationship with both the telcos and regulators is essential for 888AFRICA’s country managers. As Head of Payments, meeting with and cultivating good partnerships with both is a key priority for Mwaisoloka.

Rutherford remarks: “We’re dealing with markets which are often less mature than European markets, and in some cases they are shaping their regulations.

“We’re able to bring learnings from a more mature market into helping them shape regulations. At the same time we are acting with responsible gaming, KYC and AML at the top of our considerations.”

Ultimately, the main consideration operators must have in mind when meeting the payments requirements of African bettors, whatever the market, is to ensure that people get paid, that money is deposited back in their accounts.

Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and with a passionate sports culture and large young demographic, the potential of its betting markets cannot be understated. Technological development, including in payments, will be vital in driving these sectors forward.

“This is a very dynamic, very exciting and fast-changing landscape,” Rutherford concludes. “I think it is extremely fragmented and what we will see is a large amount of consolidation among both the technologies and the major players in these spaces, which will probably squeeze out quite a bit of the innovation particularly when you’re looking in the aggregation space, but it’s a very fast-moving and exciting place to be.”





The looming shadow in the background of the player protection debate is the black market. New data suggests it is much bigger than we feared, writes Player Protection Hub Editor Steve Hoare

The threat of the black market has been used by UK lobby group the Betting & Gaming Council to warn the Gambling Commission not to over-burden operators or players will flee to illegal operators.

It has also been used by anti-gambling pressure group the Campaign for Fairer Gambling as it embarks on its US mission to pressure lawmakers into some sort of federal oversight of the emerging online gambling market.

Both organisations used figures from data tracking and analysis company Yield Sec. The figures were so high that they were met with some scepticism by industry pundits. However, Yield Sec Founder and CEO Ismail Vali stands by the figures. He points to the $1.4bn that Yield Sec said was wagered on Super Bowl with regulated US operators was almost exactly the same as the $1.398bn that was later revealed by the industry itself.

Yield Sec’s technology was adapted from a military anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency stack that monitors internet keywords to trace suspect activity. When applied to the betting and gaming market the same methodology is used to scrape the web for keywords and then the technology checks whether the traffic is human and uses a data analysis engine to estimate the dollar amount being wagered.

Yield Sec claimed that the $1.4bn wagered on Super Bowl in the legal market was dwarfed by the $4bn wagered on illegal operators. If correct it means that the black market accounts for 65% of the whole US sports betting market.

“There is a culture of illegals,” says Vali. “They have been in operation for 30 years - unlike the legal market that has been operating for five years or less. These are de facto trusted brands.” Furthermore, he says that legal brands are “disabled” in the US because they are restricted to operating on a state-by-state level. Illegal operators can buy their advertising

on a national level and reap those economies of scale.


Elsewhere in the world the outlook is not any cheerier. Vali describes the UK as the “best, most channelized market” with only 4% of the market taken by illegal operators in 2023.

However, he claims the black market doubled during the past year with hundreds of new affiliates targeting children and gamblers who have self-excluded. Illegal operators and affiliates are specifically marketing themselves as “not on Gamstop”.

Vali says affiliates promoting illegal operators are outnumbering the operators becasue they are proving a business model. This new segmentself-excluded gamblers and children - is a growth market that regulated UK operators cannot target.

If you look around Europe, channelization rates are far lower. In Switzerland, 53% of online gambling revenue is illegal. In the Netherlands the figure is 56%. The black market is most prevalent in Hungary, accounting for a shocking 93% of revenue.

“It is a sea of criminality,” says Vali. “Most online marketplaces are compromised by crime today.”

Many of the player protection measures brought in by governments and regulators have only worsened the situation. For example, advertising bans make it harder for regulated operators to reach players.

“When operators were advertising on football shirts you knew they were legal,” says Vali.

Vali concludes that the only way to help legal operators and stop the black market targeting the vulnerable people that we are trying to protect with new rules and regulations is for everyone to work together - operators, ISPs, media and government.



Good safer gambling messaging does not have to be based on negatives, says Betfred’s Head of Compliance NORMA CAMPBELL, who much prefers to focus on the benefits of Positive Play

If safer gambling advertising relied less on earnest explanations and fear, and instead delivered a positive message, would it be more memorable and more effective? The answer to that question will become apparent over the next few months, thanks to Betfred’s Positive Play campaign.

Television viewers in the UK will already have seen the first adverts, which feature real Betfred customers discussing their betting habits with friends in everyday settings, such as cafés and out walking their dogs. The emphasis of the ads, which also run on radio and social media, is very much that betting is a normal, fun pastime that can be enjoyed safely.

They also deliver some subtle hints to viewers about things like frequency of betting, budgeting and being open about their gambling. They are all ideas that should be familiar to punters, but are presented in a way that will either provide reassurance or give them cause to think.

It is an imaginative and well thought out approach to safer gambling advertising. As Betfred’s Head of Digital Compliance Norma Campbell explains, it is also one that is rooted in the idea that prevention is most certainly better than cure.

“If people are talking about gambling, then they can move away from hiding it, or you can have that challenge


“Everybody knows that we have responsibilities when it comes to safer gambling. We know and we acknowledge that there are some people who can get into difficulties while gambling, but I think what we’ve realised is that for the majority of our customers it remains a leisure pursuit,” Campbell says.

“There are so many people out there who are self-managing their gambling and never have any problems. We don’t really acknowledge that or celebrate that as much as we would like to. So we decided to change our approach and avoid focusing solely on the negatives. Gambling is a legitimate leisure activity and lots of people enjoy doing it with no adverse impact, so what can we do to learn from them?

“What can we do to say, ‘this is how people are doing it successfully’, and get that message out to those people who might be on the brink, so they can actually control themselves. If we can assist them with doing that, we might actually end up in a much better position than we are now.”


Campbell, who spent 14 years with the UK Gambling Commission before joining Betfred in 2020, believes that being positive will be a more impactful approach to consumer protection, as players are likely to be more receptive to education that comes with a message they can immediately relate to.


“The first thing that we realised was because you only really hear the negative stories, that is the perception that a lot of people may have of gambling. You never see anything that is really good. There are plenty of good news stories, but you always see the fines, so the newspapers have these horror stories,” she explains. “So how do we change that? How do we educate people to say, ‘actually you can do it, there’s all these things that you can do that mean you can gamble in a very safe environment’.”

Campbell continues: “Our focus is two things. It’s to try to normalise, for want of a better term, gambling. And to say, ‘this is acceptable and for a lot of people it’s fine’. Then we want to try to take away that stigma and say, ‘talking about gambling is not a bad thing’.

“Which is why our adverts have real people, real gamblers, just

talking about gambling in different environments and saying, ‘these are the things that we do and we think it’s perfectly fine - I control it this way and I restrict what I spend like this’.”

The adverts will be supported by changes to Betfred’s website and app, along with messaging in the company’s over 1,300 betting shops, intended to give customers the information and advice they need.

“We don’t expect everything to resonate with everybody. But if one thing does resonate with somebody, then that’s a step closer to an informed gambling choice,” Campbell says.


Any good public awareness campaign needs to deliver its message in an easily digestible form, which is something the

Betfred team has thought carefully about.

“We’ve created the Four Pillars of Positive Play. They are spend, activity, frequency and emotion, the first letters of which obviously spell out SAFE,” Campbell enthuses.

“It’s all about the little things that people can think about when they’re gambling.

‘How much am I spending? How often am I doing this? What am I playing on? Are these higher risk products? Am I angry, am I sad? Is that why I’m gambling?’

“If people can relate, even if they only relate to one of them, it’s the start of a process to help them be more aware of their gambling activity. If they’re more aware of it and more conscious of it, we’re hoping that will lead to more informed decisions.”


It is an approach that Campbell is confident will take the company’s levels of protection beyond what can be achieved by relying solely on markers of harm. While acknowledging that the markers are useful and well intentioned, she feels they are too narrow to cope with today’s demands.

“The situation is so diverse,” she explains. “People’s incomes are different, their lifestyles are different, the products are different, so trying to gauge behaviour on a handful of points and apply that to an entire population is not, for me, the best way of achieving what we want to achieve.”


There are myriad adverts that feature people using gambling apps on their phones or thinking about an exciting winning strategy, so one thing that really sets the Betfred campaign apart is that the players are openly chatting about betting with their friends.

In doing so, they illustrate a culture of healthy openness. It is an example that Campbell hopes Betfred’s customers will emulate, as friends and family can act as a brake for those who may be approaching a crossroads with their gambling.

“We think that if people are talking about gambling, then they can move away from hiding it, or you can have that challenge,” she says. “In the dog walking advert, for example, the lady talks about her nephew who gambles in a group with friends. That’s right. That’s open. If somebody’s there pushing and asking, ‘I think we should up it to £50, you’ll have that check in place.

“The research, even that coming from the Gambling Commission, says that adverts are not really the thing that influence people’s

gambling decisions. A lot of it is among friends and family.

“So if they are there and they can be that check, or just even ask that one question to say, ‘and you’re alright with this, it’s not getting out of hand’, even if it’s in a jokey way. If that makes somebody think, it’s achieved what we want it to achieve.”


Adverts that nudge people to consider their behaviour, encouragement to support friends and the availability of online tools such as problem gambling self-assessments and deposit limits all form part of Betfred’s wide-ranging player protection strategy.

However, its team realises that a bookmaker is not in a position to tackle problem gambling alone, not least because giving people the help they need is often a complex task that requires multiple forms of expertise.

Campbell explains: “What we’ve been looking at is - and the terminology I use may not be great here - that gambling is not necessarily always the [primary] problem. Gambling can, at times, be an escape from that problem.

“As with alcohol or drugs, people may be trying to escape something or not have to deal with something else in their life. So they have that outlet which they believe helps them to forget.”

To reflect that, Betfred’s approach goes beyond promoting the Four Pillars of Positive Play and instead has a broader focus than just gambling activity. “We’re giving links to resources that can help you if you have, for example, problems with debt or domestic abuse,” she continues. “You may not actively go and search for it, but if you are gambling and then you find that on the website, it might make you click through to it.

Gambling is a legitimate leisure activity and lots of people enjoy doing it with no adverse impact

“We’re trying to give those steers to say, ‘there is information out there, there is support out there’. The gambling issue doesn’t exist in a bubble, there are more factors to it and while we’re not specialists or counsellors, we can signpost people to organisations that can help.”


One thing that is often overlooked but that is perhaps the most important factor in an effective player protection strategy is the attitude of the company and its staff. That’s something that Campbell believes Betfred, as a privately-owned business, is ideally placed to get right.

“It’s within the culture and within the ethos of the business,” Campbell concludes. “The Positive Play approach is not just the compliance team - this is everybody, this is the culture of the business now.”





SBC Leaders speaks to RGAA Director GEORGE ROVER about the role affiliates can have in responsible gambling

Our chief mission is to make sure that affiliates make responsible gambling a priority. That’s number one,” says the new Executive Director of the Responsible Gambling Affiliate Association, George Rover.

Underlining player safety as fundamental, Rover is hopeful that the new organisation will be an effective force for good and not just window dressing.

Six of the most prominent affiliates - Better Collective, Catena Media, FairPlay Sports Media, Group, Spotlight Sports Group, and XLMedia - launched the RGAA last November and immediately got to work.

The group contacted the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to raise concerns about prospective sports betting regulations that seemed to outlaw affiliates. The rules were changed before the end of the year - mission one accomplished.

Rover says there is some work to be done to help stakeholders understand what affiliates do and what they don’t do. That was very much the tone of the letter sent to the North Carolina regulator.

“A lot of times key stakeholders - specifically regulators and legislators - don’t understand what affiliates do and why they are important to the industry. That runs over into how they are regulated. Common sense regulation is also a good aim.”

Rover, of course, made his name in the gambling industry during almost 20 years with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement as Deputy Director and Assistant Attorney General. It was a period of huge change for the state, with the rollout of igaming coming towards the end of his period as a regulator.

He makes it clear that the RGAA is not a lobbying organisation but that it will have an

educational role - in educating members as much as it is educating lawmakers and regulators.

“Most states license affiliates,” continues Rover. “A couple of jurisdictions have not allowed them - Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. We think that’s because they don’t understand affiliates and how they can be helpful. For example, stopping the black market and making sure vulnerable players know about available resources.”

He is encouraged by the rise of regulated markets since the fall of PASPA and how it has encouraged some affiliates away from the black market. He notes the sale of some affiliates, which were previously marketing to offshore operators, to regulated affiliates.

These are early days for the new organisation and Rover is careful not to over-promise but he says the RGAA does intend to expand. He would like it to be a badge of honour among affiliates to become members.

“We may have a Code of Conduct: things like making sure the right language is used; giving notice of the availability of resources to help vulnerable people; and making sure that affiliates are not involved in the illegal offshore market,” says the former regulator.

Another goal is for RGAA membership to become a badge of credibility for operators choosing which affiliates to work with. He hopes that the organisation will be able to do regular audits of its members to ensure they are compliant.

“A priority mission of operators and regulators is to educate players and provide resources to lower the risk of problem gambling. Affiliates can be an essential tool in that mission. The sustainability of the industry is very important and the only way we can get sustainability is to make sure that nobody is profiting from problem gambling,” says Rover.

“ The launch of the Stake F1 Team was a monumental moment for us

Life in the FAST LANE

Formula 1 sponsorships have long been the domain of automakers, petroleum companies and major software businesses, but has put gambling at the centre of one of the world’s most popular sports. AKHIL SARIN, the operator’s Chief Marketing Officer, explains why

Words rose to prominence on the back of the ‘Drake Effect’, but over the last couple of years the crypto-first operator has strengthened its brand position by building a significant sports sponsorship portfolio.

For 2024, it has added the Sauber Formula 1 team, tennis’s Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup to a portfolio that already includes Premier League football club Everton, the UFC and exArgentina striker Sergio Aguero.

Stake’s Chief Marketing Officer Akhil Sarin tells SBC Leaders explains the strategy behind its ambitious approach to brand building.

Could you begin by giving our readers an overview of your sponsorship strategy and goals?

As a brand that’s truly global and operates in many different regions of the world, we have different goals for each of our partnerships.

The overarching strategy is consistent though and one thing is always the same; we seek to be the brand that people see the most. Whether that’s taking over a Formula One team, on the front of a top-flight team’s jersey, or the central position in a boxing ring. You don’t reach the top by playing second fiddle. Go big or go home.


Being the title sponsor of an F1 team is an exciting development; what are your expectations for the partnership with the Sauber team?

Our first year as co-title partner, we raced as Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. It was a resounding success and, based on our aforementioned strategy, it was a natural progression to take over the F1 team.

In 2023 we broke new ground with our activations. We took Stake ambassador Sergio Aguero into the garage for the weekend at the Miami Grand Prix, and featured Valterri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu in Indian-Canadian rapper Karan Aujla’s music video, which has had over 24 million views on YouTube.

This year, the announcement video with Drake’s voiceover for the launch of the Stake F1 Team

was a monumental moment for us. We took it up a notch at the launch event that took place in London in February and put on the best car launch of the 2024 season. This truly has been the most exciting beginning to a partnership that we have had to date. You can look forward to us unleashing the Stake F1 Team.

From Premier League football to F1 and UFC, Stake has secured representation in some of the world’s most watched sports; how do you select your partners?

It truly varies, but with the likes of F1, UFC and the Premier League, they are the undoubted leaders in their sports globally.

As a brand that is on track to reach similar heights in our own industry, buying into these organisations, and the teams and individuals within them, has

been a huge driver in Stake’s success and reflects our market positioning at the top.

We know our players love these partnerships, so the synergies are clear and that’s why we continue to invest.

A number of your sponsorship deals give the brand global visibility. There are obvious benefits to that for a, but does it also bring issues in terms of complying with local advertising laws?

No, not really. Both parties always carry out their respective due diligence on each market and fully respect the laws of the countries we effectively advertise in. A key focus is always on the digital rights within our partnerships so that wherever you are in the world, you can engage with and enjoy them.

Akhil Sarin, Chief Marketing Officer at

Are there particular audiences that the deals are designed to appeal to? Is there anywhere they don’t work?

We want our brand to appeal to people universally, so there isn’t a particular demographic we look to reach.

Stake is renowned for being digitally focused. As such, we want to have diversity in our portfolio, from what you would consider to be more traditional partners, like Everton and the Davis Cup, to newer but by no means less important organisations like UFC and Team Secret, we want to reach as many people as we can.

Everything works for us, either the sponsorship succeeds in bringing value to the brand or it succeeds in teaching the team a valuable lesson about different approaches to unique sponsorship opportunities.

How does the sponsorship strategy work alongside the celebrity influencer marketing approach that Stake employs?

Our celebrity influencers and sponsorships go hand in hand to such an extent that we see them as one and the same. We’re always looking for ways to interweave them into our activity and have done so in the last few years with huge success.

One thing that sets this apart is that we only look to partner up with people that truly enjoy our product and feel proud representing it. Our partners don’t get paid to work with us but get paid to build the product together.

And finally, the crypto gaming industry has grown quickly in part because its ‘outsider’ status has appealed to a particular demographic of digital natives. Do

“ You can look forward to us unleashing the Stake F1 Team

these sponsorship deals represent a step into the mainstream and how might that impact the brand?

The crypto industry as a whole has grown so fast and that can be seen across the global sports landscape. We feel we’ve been part of the ‘mainstream’ for a number of years now, and our growth to becoming one of the most recognised brands in the industry is clear evidence of that.

Our sponsorships have played a big part in helping us achieve our marketing goals and we fully expect them to continue to have a massive impact.

SBC WORLD see page 58 see page 62 see page 70 56 SBC LEADERS ISSUE 31

Lawmakers fail with expanded legislative attempts

MARYLAND’S EFFORTS TO legalise iGaming came to nothing, while Alabama and Georgia could not come to an agreement on sports betting.

Minnesota’s tracks and tribes have clashed over expanded gaming proposals, while sports betting bills in Missouri and Mississippi look unlikely to go anywhere fast. Maryland’s iCasino bill made it through the House of Representatives but foundered in the Senate, as divisions over the potential cannibalization of land-based casino revenues reared their ugly head. A similar story has been heard in Ohio, which only got to the

research phase, and Mississippi. (For more on this topic, turn to p.14.)

Georgia lawmakers failed to pass a pair of sports betting measures before the end of the state’s legislative session, with different parties failing to agree where to distribute tax dollars. It was a similar story in Alabama.

The next Georgia legislative session won’t commence until 2025 due to the election year, meaning it is likely to be 2026 before the state’s residents could welcome sports betting.

Kazakhstan whitelist proposal to combat $2bn black market

THE PRESIDENT of the Self-Regulatory Organization of Bookmakers of Kazakhstan Rauan Kenzhali has proposed a whitelist to deal with illegal operators that are evading the country’s blacklist.

Kenjali noted that the turnover of unlicensed gambling companies is more than 1 trillion tenge (over $2.2bn) annually. To more effectively combat illegal companies, the Organization proposes a whitelist system to replace the country’s reliance on its blacklist.

Kenjali said that work is currently being carried out according to the blacklist principle, where

offshore operators are blocked following a court decision. He points out the shortcomings of this system due to the fact that the state begins to respond only after establishing the fact of a violation, which can take considerable time before blocking.

The whitelist proposed by Kenjali would label all operators which are not on the list as illegal, meaning they could be blocked immediately.

According to the head of the Organisation, this approach will improve the situation for payment companies, making it easier to verify transactions.

Caliplay dispute spirals with Playtech claiming unpaid fees

MEXICO’S LEADING ONLINE operator Caliplay and joint venture partner Playtech head to the High Court in London in October after a dispute over a call option led to Caliplay withholding €86.5m in B2B fees.

The debt was revealed at Playtech’s annual results call, casting a grim shadow over Caliplay’s otherwise outstanding performance. Caliplay accounted for the majority of a 32% rise in Playtech’s Latin America revenue to €198.7m. Playtech CEO Mor Weizer said that resolving the dispute was the company’s number one priority.

The dispute centres around a call option that gave Caliente the right to buy Playtech’s 49% share in the Caliplay joint venture. Playtech claims the option has expired.

Just two years ago, the two parties were preparing to float the business via a SPAC that would have seen Caliente owner Jorge Hank Rhon sell his share in the business and the independent company targeting Latin Americans in the US and elsewhere. The deal fell through as the bottom fell out of the SPAC market and Playtech became embroiled in a long takeover saga.




Jackpocket Founder and CEO PETER SULLIVAN speaks to SBC Leaders about the digital lottery courier’s acquisition by DraftKings


Jackpocket CEO Peter Sullivan is glowing with pride and excitement after DraftKings agreed to acquire his company for $750m, with $421.5m in cash and $337.5m in DraftKings stocks. The deal was quickly approved by shareholders and boards at both companies.

“Our mission has always been to create a more convenient, fun, and responsible way to play the lottery, and together with DraftKings, we will be able to achieve that goal on a much larger scale,” says Sullivan. “DraftKings’ broad footprint and exceptional mobile products present an opportunity to meaningfully expand the digital lottery vertical, and we could not be more excited to join forces.”

DraftKings predicts the acquisition will generate $260-340m in incremental revenue in fiscal year 2026, with adjusted EBITDA of $60-100m. By 2028, DraftKings projects Jackpocket to generate up to $450m. It believes its acquisition of Jackpocket will acquire more customers at a cheaper price.

“What Jackpocket does is it creates more of those big mass cheap customer acquisition opportunities during the year. It could be any time right, like the middle of August when there’s suddenly a billion dollar jackpot and we’re the only ones who are able to actually acquire in mass right before the NFL season starts,” said DraftKings CEO Jason Robins at the time of the acquisition.


It is worthwhile digging into Jackpocket’s business model because it is almost unique. The regulated lottery industry is integral to the viability of several state and local

governments across the US but it has been painfully slow to embrace the digital channel. Most are underfunded and lack the technology prowess.

The likes of Michigan, Pennsylvania and others have launched online but none has created a product to match Jackpocket’s slick user interface.

“Sullivan created this entire new category,” says a DraftKings insider. “Compare the Jackpocket app to any state iLottery and it’s like night and day.”

Sullivan established Jackpocket in 2013 as a digital lottery courier.

Legally, Jackpocket relies on the Department of Justice’s 2011 conclusion that the Federal Wire Act does not explicitly prohibit states from selling lottery tickets via the internet. With Jackpocket, customers get the digital experience but it does not rely on states legalising iLottery. The app allows mobile phone users to purchase state lottery tickets in their Jackpocket app.

“When I came up with the idea for our app, the only way to participate in the lottery was to visit a physical store,” Sullivan tells SBC Leaders. “Now, lottery fans have a myriad of convenient, fun options to participate in, and our offerings have successfully introduced a new, younger demographic to the lottery.”

Ninety-five percent of lottery tickets are bought in 7-11 stores, gas stations and the like. In 5-10 years that figure will drop appreciably as it has with numerous retail industries.

“We’re glad to see lotteries recognising the need to innovate and increasingly embracing technology to create additional distribution channels for the games that players already know and love,” continues Sullivan.


“Jackpocket functions as another distribution channel for the lottery – it is not meant to change the behavior of players who buy lottery tickets at brick-and-mortar retailers. Instead, Jackpocket exists to serve as an additional option for current lottery players and an option for those who wouldn’t otherwise play the lottery.”

Jackpocket made history as the first licensed third-party lottery app in the US and is live in 16 states as well as Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Since its initial launch in New Jersey, Jackpocket has fulfilled more than $1bn in lottery ticket orders nationwide with users winning over $440m in prizes. Jackpocket has posted strong results by appealing to younger lottery players with 67 per cent of app users falling between 18 and 45 years old, according to company data.

Jackpocket’s growth has been backed by an impressive portfolio of investors and partners. In 2021, Sullivan raised $170m from a group of investors that included former Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, comedian Kevin Hart, and Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, and Washington Commanders partner David Blitzer.

Venture capital firms the Raine Group, Anchor Capital Advisors, Bullpen Capital, and Tegna’s investment arm are also backers of Jackpocket. The company has garnered support from major sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, and NBA. Sullivan also landed deals with Gannett Co., and iHeartMedia New York.

“These partnerships and others allow us to meet lottery players where they are — strategically choosing partners whose fans and audiences overlap with our live markets,” explains Sullivan. “We know that playing the lottery with an app is a brand new concept to many, so working with these longstanding brands and household names helps establish trust and legitimacy for the future of the appbased lottery experience.”


In January this year, Jackpocket moved beyond its lottery roots with the launch of an online casino in New Jersey.

“As the first state to formally authorise lottery courier services and now as the home to Jackpocket Casino, we have a strong history in New Jersey, making this launch a natural progression,” says Sullivan.

He has aimed to make the iGaming product a user-friendly experience and customer service is a key ingredient. Soon after launch, the National Council on Problem Gambling made Jackpocket Casino the first online casino operator to receive its Internet Responsible Gambling Compliance Assessment Program certification.

The cross-sell potential from lottery to casino has been talked up by the industry since Scientific Games acquired Bally Technologies, WMS and Shufflemaster in 2014. However, the demerger of Scientific Games, OpenBet and Light & Wonder in 2022 was a clear sign that some have lost faith in lottery-casino convergence. IGT has since followed suit with the split of its gaming, sports and lottery divisions. But perhaps the lottery industry just hasn’t done it well yet. It has been hindered by legislation, a factor that will not hold Jackpocket back.

“This casino launch marks a key step in our expansion to become an overarching gaming and entertainment brand. As the industry continues to grow, we’re excited to tap into new demographics and expand our offerings to our engaged lottery user base with more convenient, fun, and responsible ways to play games that they know and love,” says Sullivan.

DraftKings spied a massive opportunity. Around 50 per cent of US adults purchase lottery tickets, which means US lottery sales of over $100bn every year - that’s more than the combined income from sports, movies and theatre.

“ This casino launch marks a key step in our expansion to become an overarching gaming and entertainment brand

When huge jackpot events like a $1bn Powerball or MegaMillions draw happens, customers flock to buy tickets. This hugely reduces customer acquisition cost and it is hoped that these customers hang around to play casino games.

“We will let it operate as a separate business entity, not integrate it, let it keep its strong brand,” explains the DraftKings source. “We need to learn the most efficient way to cross-sell. It’s possible that Jackpocket does for iCasino like daily fantasy sports did for online sports betting pre-PASPA.”

Sullivan continues: “With the crossover between our two platforms, Jackpocket fans can seamlessly move between the Jackpocket Casino and Jackpocket Lottery apps helping us to amplify visibility and awareness of participation in the lottery with new winners, games, and prizes regularly. As the iGaming space continues to grow and we venture further

into the market, we’re excited to provide our users who are dedicated lottery fans with easy and fun ways to get involved in casino games through the platform they already know and trust.”

Sullivan and Jackpocket are creating a new avenue for regulated lotteries to bring their services to the masses. They will continue to innovate and provide more ways to win for customers in states including Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire, Texas, and others.

“I’m excited about all that has already happened in 2024, from launching Jackpocket Casino to the recent DraftKings announcement,” says Sullivan. “We will continue building on the momentum we’ve achieved thus far in bringing accessible, convenient, and safe play to lottery and casino fans alike. Jackpocket is just getting started and I’m looking forward to the innovation and expansion that’s to come.”



Generative artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise everything from recruitment and customer support to coding and compliance. SBC Leaders speaks to the HR chiefs at Campeon Gaming, LeoVegas and Rhino Entertainment to find out how they are dealing with the AI challenge

By now you will have seen the seemingly endless headlines about artificial intelligence. For some the technology poses a risk to the future of mankind. For others, it is the panacea to the productivity problem that plagues Western economies.

If you’re confused, or even frightened, about what it all means for your career prospects and working practices, you are definitely not alone.

There are, of course, plenty of forecasts from reputable sources about what the impact of AI might be. The International Monetary Fund, for example, says that in advanced economies around 60 per cent of jobs may be impacted by AI, with half of the roles benefiting from enhanced productivity and the other half hit by lower demand for labour.

Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, suggests that use of generative AI could add 7 per cent to global GDP, but warns that two-thirds of jobs may be at least partially automated. A PwC report for the UK government concludes that 18 per cent of the country’s jobs have a high probability of automation over the next decade, but also that new technology would create many employment opportunities.

All interesting enough, but in relation to specific industries and job roles, still little more than abstract concepts.

To provide more clarity on the likely impact of AI technology on the iGaming industry, we spoke to some of the people who will be at the brunt of managing the change - the HR leaders who will have to deal with changes to staffing requirements, while simultaneously adapting to new working practices in their own departments.



Many of the negative stories about the growing influence of AI have focused on the potential for mass job losses, should companies choose to respond to the efficiencies offered by automation by cutting staffing costs. There is little doubt that some businesses will choose this route but Marie Theobald, Chief People Officer for Rhino Entertainment Group, believes there are alternative strategies.

The Malta-based multi-brand iGaming operator is already implementing automation initiatives across many departments and seeing efficiency gains as a result. But rather than look at lay-offs, it is using the opportunity to upskill the workforce.

Theobald explains: “Through several automation initiatives over the past few months within our operations team, we have seen a drop in our number of customer contacts and manual activity. This has not only improved our overall customer experience, but also substantially reduced repetitive tasks from our team members, making our process leaner and more focused on adding value for our customers.

“This has given us the opportunity to rethink the structure and roles in our customer support teams, giving our people the opportunity to learn a broader skill set and grow within their roles.

We are witnessing the need to ensure that our teams are able to think critically and quickly adapt to change
“It’s essential to recognise and manage the risks associated with AI implementation

“Employees who were only carrying out customer support tasks have also started learning other operational elements of risk, fraud and payments, and operational compliance. This is only one example of upskilling at Rhino Entertainment and we have invested heavily in our people.

“Furthering their knowledge will allow us to broaden their roles as our teams start to handle more complex and exciting tasks. With manual activity on the decline, repurposing roles and helping our people grow, learn and broaden their knowledge, is the only way to retain them.”

Campeón Gaming Senior HR Operations Manager Haris Latsoudis agrees that employers should not be too quick to consider redundancies after implementing AI technology. While acknowledging that automation offers the potential for big strides forward in terms of efficiency, he believes that generative AI will continue to require significant human input.

“It’s essential to recognise and manage the risks associated with AI implementation,” he says. “This includes ensuring employees are prepared to embrace AI technologies and providing necessary training, as well as maintaining human oversight to validate AI-generated outputs and mitigate biases.

“Balancing the benefits of AI with these considerations will be key to harnessing its full potential while maintaining a positive working culture.”

Perhaps the most obvious area of retraining is the technical skills that will be required to develop an aptitude to manage AI tools, but

Theobald thinks there is another set of skills that will be equally important in helping team members to cope with what is likely to become a constantly evolving world of work.

“It’s not only about [technology], it’s also about the softer skills that go hand-in-hand with this because we need to make sure that we have people who can adapt to change quickly,” she says.

“As AI continues to evolve, we are witnessing the need to ensure that our teams are able to think critically and quickly adapt to change, amongst various other soft skills, because the tools we choose to implement need to be prompted and managed by people to a large extent.”


The most effective business uses of AI may not necessarily be the most eye-catching advances. As LeoVegas Group HR Director Stefania Curmi explains, the technology offers numerous benefits for human resources departments.

“We see a lot of potential with generative AI at LeoVegas Group, and recently our HR department carried out a joint project with our data science teams. We launched our own AI-powered ’HR helper’, a tool which assists our HR team with managing employee enquiries and automating responses to frequently asked questions,” says Curmi.

“By doing so, we have freed up time for our teams to dedicate more resources and attention to strategic initiatives such as employee engagement, development, and wellbeing - all of which are pivotal to our company culture.


“As we continue to explore the capabilities, we are excited about the possibilities it brings to not only enhance operational efficiencies but also to enrich company culture and refine approaches to talent acquisition.”

Latsoudis expects to see similar benefits delivered at Campeón Gaming, where the HR team’s focus is also on the benefits AI can deliver in terms of company culture.

“Generative AI presents significant potential for enhancing efficiency and reshaping working practices and culture within our company,” he says. “By automating repetitive tasks and content creation processes like drafting policies and procedures, we can make informed decisions on strategic work and streamline operations, driven by data insights, and maintain a cohesive brand image.”


One of the HR tasks for which highlyeffective AI-driven tools already exist is the management of recruitment processes. However, the idea of automating elements of the hiring procedure is one which senior HR professionals approach with the utmost caution.

Rhino Entertainment Group uses a talent acquisition tool, which comes complete with features including plug-ins that suggest job descriptions and interview questions. Theobald is embracing the system’s functionality, which has resulted in efficiency gains and freed up time to focus on other parts of the recruitment process. But she is by no means ready to let the technology take full control.

“AI should always be challenged and adapted to the needs of the business,” she says. “Without a doubt, AI is helping my team be more efficient, allowing us more time to support our people on a personal level and also work on several strategic projects. As an example, whereas a few years back we’d spend a few hours writing a job description, we can now easily access

job descriptions which we can then build on to suit our needs.

“Similarly, the tool may be used to suggest questions which are linked to our chosen competencies. Now, obviously, there’s more to interviewing than the questions that AI gives you - but it’s extremely helpful to have a basis to actually get a process started.”

Latsoudis is also optimistic about the benefits the technology can bring to the recruitment process, both for employers and prospective employees.

“Generative AI is poised to revolutionise hiring strategies across industries. It will maximise recruitment efficiency by automating content creation for job descriptions and posts, reducing manual labour in candidate sourcing, and speeding up the hiring process,” he enthuses.

“Additionally, AI-driven tools will make employee assessment more engaging, interactive, and accurate. The candidate experience will be significantly enhanced through personalised interactions facilitated by AI, while recruiting channels will increasingly focus on online profiling and skills-based approaches, particularly for technical positions.

“However, as AI adoption faces increased regulation, organisations must stay informed about legislative implications to ensure compliance and effective implementation.”

Possible changes to regulation are not the only potential pitfall. Curmi, while convinced that AI offers genuine improvements to employee output and efficiency when managing recruitment campaigns, voices concerns that the technology may also provide new ways for candidates to unfairly and undeservedly progress.

She explains: “AI will present a challenge in recruitment processes. How can we ensure that responses to interview questions aren’t instantly generated by AI in real-time? Or that code in coding tests isn’t written by AI?


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“Perhaps this will lead to more innovative and creative recruitment processes in the future.”

Theobald, meanwhile, talks about the potential decline of diversity of thought that regenerative AI might bring with it, inadvertently creating bias in the process.

“While we’ve seen a number of tools on the market which guarantee to mitigate bias, one aspect that I believe we haven’t explored is the full impact of AI on diversity of thought,” Theobald explains.

“It may not be obvious why diversity is so important within the context of AI, but what we have is a robot or a tool feeding us information, technology which was built and fed data by humans.”

She continues: “Think of the AI tool as actually part of the team and, in the same way as we would challenge one person’s view, we should continue to challenge data that the tool is giving us in return.

“I think that the danger of AI is that we start to blindly accept all the information that it gives us, and in a space where we don’t know who built the AI tool and who fed the data the tool is presenting, we should continue to ensure that there is diversity of thought on the receiving end.”


The betting and gaming industry’s HR leaders certainly appear to be taking a much more balanced approach to the implementation and management of this most impactful of technologies than many of those tasked with reporting on it. The healthy dose of

caution should not, however, serve to mask their excitement about the transformative effect that AI is set to have on the sector.

Curmi recognises that it is likely to mean huge, and largely positive changes for LeoVegas. While at the same time, it will require current and prospective employees to be ready to adapt to a rapidlyevolving workplace.

“Generative AI will be able to function as a personal assistant, likely increasing employee efficiency and output, whether it involves writing code, content, or job ads,” Curmi says. “It’s possible that experience in using AI will be required - or at least considered a competitive advantage - when seeking employment, much like how knowledge of using computers and the Office suite is required today.

“Generative AI in the workplace is only in its infancy and we can’t wait to see what the future holds!” she concludes.

Theobald is also choosing to take a positive approach to the implementation of AI at Rhino Entertainment Group.

“The way we look at it and the way we manage the tool makes all the difference. We can look at automation as though it can replace a lot of different things but, in reality, a lot of automation is doing two things,” she advises.

“Firstly, it’s helping us become more efficient as a business. But it is also enabling businesses to deliver a more efficient service and a better quality product. We can choose to look at generative AI negatively or we can embrace it to benefit us, and our organisations.”


We have freed up time for our teams to dedicate more resources and attention to strategic initiatives



The first SBC Summit Rio in March exceeded all forecasts, attracting a staggering turnout of 4,000 attendees and signaling a promising start for an event that is set to expand greatly next year


ith President Lula signing the legislation sanctioning the creation of a regulated online gambling market just three months ahead of the event, the excitement in the air was tangible.

SBC CEO and Founder Rasmus Sojmark said: “I wouldn’t exactly label the turnout as surprising; it was evident from the outset that this event held great promise for several reasons: the timing, the choice of Rio as the host city, and the quality associated with SBC.

“Nevertheless, I’m genuinely delighted to have had the opportunity to host both the Brazilian and international industry at our debut event in Rio. The conference provided much-needed insights from top experts, and

the expo floor was teeming with activity. I’d dare say that the entire Brazilian industry was in attendance. Thank you all for your support. Let’s all work on making great things happen in 2025.”

The sold-out show floor of 70 exhibitors at the Windsor Convention & Expo Center was abuzz with activity as international suppliers such as Amusnet, BetConstruct, Digitain, IDnow,, and Pragmatic Play networked with local peers and operators.

The strong demand underscored the imperative to move the Summit to the much larger Riocentro for next year’s event, which will accomodate over 10,000 delegates and 400 exhibitors and sponsors. Pragmatic Play Vice President


for Latin America Victor Arias commented: “For me, it is always a joy to participate in an event organized by SBC, and this one in Rio was no exception. I left very satisfied because I was able to meet with friends and colleagues and analyze the possibilities offered by a market as relevant as Brazil.

“Without a doubt, this opportunity was fundamental for Pragmatic Play, which is experiencing continuous growth in the country. These days were extremely intense, with important commercial agreements and a stand that was filled with visitors who enjoyed the environment and the experience that Pragmatic Play provided.”

Operators accounted for 30 per cent of the total attendance,

including key players such as Aposta Ganha, Betano, Betsson, Esportes da Sorte, EstrelaBet, Galera.Bet, Rei do Pitaco, Superbet and Vai De Bob, among others.

SuperBet CEO Brazil Alex Fonseca commented: “Timing couldn’t be more impeccable; our recent entry into Brazil in December aligned perfectly with this event.

SBC Summit Rio offered an exceptional opportunity for us to leverage the existing momentum and establish vital connections. With a notable turnout and invaluable networking sessions with prominent figures in the Brazilian sector, the event delivered on all fronts. For a European company venturing into this new territory, the knowledge acquired and relationships forged

with affiliates and suppliers will be pivotal in shaping our strategy.” The projected affiliate count of 300 was also surpassed, with 447 affiliates in attendance. This sets a promising precedent for the launch of the dedicated Affiliate Leaders Summit in Rio in 2025, which will provide a platform for affiliation and marketing professionals to deliberate on traffic acquisition strategies in the burgeoning market.

Clever Advertising COO Marcos Oliveira commented: “SBC truly outdid themselves with this event — the diverse representation of operators, both local and international, was fantastic to see, and the connections we made will help us set a strong foothold in Brazil, marking a crucial step forward for our business.”



Former Brazilian international footballer and Betsson ambassador Zé Roberto kicked off the event with a keynote speech that drew a full house. Over 100 influential voices would follow.

One of the networking highlights beyond the exhibition floor throughout the event’s three-day duration was an evening gathering at the Museu do Amanhã. This event welcomed Rio de Janeiro Governor Cláudio Castro, who engaged in discussions with organisers, exploring the profound impact that events of this magnitude have on the industry and Brazil’s economy.

The event also witnessed the official launch of the Associação de Mulheres da Indústria Gaming

(AMIG), underscoring SBC’s commitment to empowering women within the gaming sector.


In a recently regulated environment that is taking its first steps in the development of the industry, companies will spend a lot of money to capture market share at an early stage. But experts pointed out that it is a key moment to establish responsible and proportionate advertising and communication as a foundational axis.

The US market, for example is feeling a media backlash at the avalanche of advertising across mainstream media as sports leagues and broadcasters join operators in a battle to win a greater slice of betting revenues.

Diógenes Carvalho is the director of the Ethics Council of the Council for Self-Regulation and Advertising Ethics (CONAR), a grouping of media and advertising organizations that seeks to promote ethical marketing standards.

Carvalho said the first step is to bring responsible gaming to the national discussion. Paul Samia, the CEO of Brazil’s largest internet service provider UOL, agreed, suggesting that it is a question of long-term reputation management.

“Some questions to ask are: Where will your brand be published? What is the degree of credibility of this medium? What other content do these platforms produce? Does this align with your business values?” said Samia.



“The problem with AI is that it has so many uses that we can’t even begin to understand exactly how we can use it,” said Altenar Regional Director for the Americas Hugo Llanos. “I am sure that everyone here has a different vision and a different way of doing it.

Sportradar Regional Sales Director Mateo Lenoble added: “We are investing a lot in AI, and one of the most important things when considering AI is that it is a combination of technology, human resources, and a lot of financial investment. You need to invest a lot of money to have good quality AI.”

Xtremepush CEO and Co-Founder Tommy Kearns commented: “So

AI is becoming popular. It’s very important. And many operators use it on a day-to-day basis. Responsible gaming is an AI model widely used by many operators and CRM providers. It’s a really good way to understand, predict bonus abuse or abuse in general, or predict that they’re getting into a bad place.”

Tipspace CEO and Co-Founder João Sobreira compared the sportsbook to Netflix’s content personalisation.

“Once you sign up and start watching content, it will adapt to the region you are in. Once you place the first bet, the system automatically begins to recognise your tendencies, the things you would like to bet on, and begins to recommend things that the system suggests you will like. This is generating excellent results because, as mentioned, the bettor

wants to see fast and clear content. This is how AI works for us,”

What does the future hold for sportsbooks when it comes to the constant evolution of AI?

For Kearns, the answer lies in autonomy: “How autonomous that becomes is another thing, because, you know, sports betting and online gaming is a highly regulated market.

“Everyone would love to have a fully autonomous betting house, but if you don’t have the right checks and balances within that, it could go very wrong very quickly. We also work in the banking sector, which gives you a slap on the wrist and a fine. In sports betting and gaming, they revoke your licence very quickly. So I think the trajectory is to make things more autonomous. But who knows how far that will go.”


A Final word with Rasmus Sojmark

s we head into the summer, it’s not hard to lick our lips in anticipation of the smorgasbord of sport that is being laid in front of us.

Europeans are keenly awaiting the kickoff of the European Championships in Germany. With all the major teams qualifying - including my beloved former champions Denmark - the industry will be hoping Euro 2024 will provide lucrative business among its sports fan customer base.

Historically the big competitions have proven to be massive instigators for new customer acquisition, although numbers appear to have slowed over the last couple of tournaments. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues this summer with operators pivoting and instead re-connecting with and retaining existing customers.

Euro 2024 will also mark further progress in the acceptance of the industry given this will be the first one to have an official betting partner - Kaizen Gaming’s Betano as featured in these very pages.

It might be a while before there is any kind of commercial partnership with the Olympics, but the IOC was one of the earliest sporting bodies to work alongside the industry on integrity matters, so who knows what the longer term relationship might look like.

The Olympics as a whole has never been a big betting event in any case, apart from a few disciplines like basketball and tennis. But this is the first Olympic Games since the wide-scale roll out of sports betting regulation in the US, so Paris 2024 might see more wagering activity than any of its predecessors.

Alongside the betting catnip of Wimbledon and the golf majors, we also have the Copa America which will return to the US this year. It arrives in a very different country - in sports betting terms - to that seen back in 2014 when it last hosted the tournament.

It will be an interesting precursor to the 2026 World Cup, which is mainly being held across the US, Canada and Mexico. Will US sports bettors learn to embrace soccer as those in the rest of the world have done? Let’s hope so.

The enhanced profile of sports betting in Brazil will also see more marketing activity as the national team aims to wrest the title back from Argentina after La Albiceleste pipped them in the final on home soil last time out. As the first major tournament since Lula signed new legislation, it could be a boom time for operators.

Another non-native sport will also have a major tournament in the US this year - cricket’s T20 World Cup is being held in the US and the Caribbean for the first time. While by no means a global sport, cricket is followed passionately in some of the world’s largest betting markets (England, Australia and India particularly) meaning that this summer provides something for everyone.

This is why our SBC Summit Lisbon is perfectly timed on September 24th-26th as it provides the industry with the first opportunity to analyse the summer’s trends and what they mean for the whole industry, not just for sports betting, but for cross selling into gaming, and for affiliate performance. Plus it gives me another opportunity to celebrate when Denmark wins the Euros again! You can bet on it.

Stay cool, Rasmus Sojmark, Founder & CEO, SBC





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