sis-interview:-breathing-new-life-into-the-49’s-offering

SIS interview: Breathing new life into the 49’s offering

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Jess Mills, Head of Product Proposition at SIS, caught up with European Gaming to discuss how the company has revamped the popular 49’s draw and the huge potential to grow the numbers product globally.

Why did SIS acquire the 49’s brand and how does its addition fit within the wider SIS strategy?

SIS’s strategy for a number of years has been to diversify further online and internationally and this has proved to be successful as we have made significant inroads into new markets across the world. It is important however to ensure you have a diverse portfolio of products as each territory has different needs due to customers wanting to bet on various things in different ways. 49’s therefore allows us to broaden our product portfolio in other verticals – numbers and virtuals – enabling us to target additional territories and help expand our international footprint.

49’s was a product and business that we knew inside out as we had been a strategic partner for 25 years, broadcasting the 49’s live draws out of our studios in Manchester and we had supplied the products to our customers in a number of key territories, so the acquisition seemed like a natural next step for us. In addition to this we felt we had the right skills and experience to develop the business and further expand the product internationally.

Can you tell us more about the revamp of 49’s and why this is so important to furthering the brand?

49’s has been a popular part of the SIS retail service for nearly 25 years. Operators and their customers really trust the brand, it’s reliable and is invigilated by a third-party auditor, which gives customers and operators a huge amount of reassurance and confidence in the product. That said, when we looked at the brand, it was clear to us that it required a refresh and there was room for improvement. The important thing was to modernise the product and bring it up to the present day but without alienating the existing loyal customer base in the process.

We redesigned the graphics and logos to be more modern, for example. They’re brighter and there’s more colour, which makes it look more engaging. We’ve also given the presenters a slightly new look, but they’re still the same presenters that everybody knows and loves, while the music has also been modernised, though you can still tell it’s the 49’s draw. We wanted to maintain all the best things about 49’s but bring the product up to date so it has a modern look and feel.

 

Key to the revamp has been the addition of the new 39’s and Fast 15’s draws. What was the thinking behind their development?

The 49’s brand is a very popular and trusted brand and we felt that it had the opportunity to expand the product portfolio. The new 39’s draw is a very similar format to the original 49’s draw but it involves 39 balls, and you pick five balls from there. It runs every 15 minutes, so it occurs much more frequently than our 49’s draws, which currently run twice a day. It’s also a slightly more streamlined product than the daily 49’s draws and is pre-recorded with our presenters. While it’s a slightly shorter product, you’ve still got a good chance of winning attractive cash prizes so there are some similarities.

As for Fast 15’s, we’ve gone in a completely different direction. There are only 15 balls, and you pick three out. While the chances of you winning are far greater, the chances of you winning life-changing amounts aren’t as high as with the other draws. It’s about reinvesting your winnings for future bets. It runs very frequently – every two minutes which means you never have to wait that long before the next draw.

Where is the 49’s product most popular and which new territories are you planning on targeting moving forwards?

49’s is an established product in the UK, Ireland, and South Africa with strong customer engagement, so there are plenty of opportunities within our existing territories to cross promote the new products. But there are other territories where customers like to bet on numbers, such as South America and Europe. We’ve got a great opportunity to take our new product portfolio to these territories where there are keen numbers bettors, but initially we are looking to build on the brand in the existing regions where we know we’ve got that core following.

What further changes have you got planned for the brand for the future?

Acquiring the 49’s brand really is the start of our journey, which is exciting for us as there are lots of opportunities to build on the product. As well as rebranding 49’s and getting the new 39’s and Fast 15’s draws up and running, we have also invested in a new 49’s website, which allows us to showcase the refreshed brand, put the presenters at the heart of it, and add our new products when they go live.

It also enables us to generate greater affiliate opportunities. Our new website will allow us to develop even more affiliate relationships with other operators that start to partner with 49’s going forward.

There are also additional opportunities for other live numbers products which don’t have to be draws. The 49’s portfolio also includes virtual horse and greyhound racing and we’ll be exploring different ways to enhance our virtuals offering too.

exclusive-q&a-with-robert-chvatal,-chief-executive-officer-at-sazka-group

Exclusive Q&A with Robert Chvatal, Chief Executive Officer at SAZKA Group

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

As CEO of European gaming giant SAZKA Group, Robert Chvátal knows more than most how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry over the last 18 months. But whilst lockdowns in a number of its markets have taken their toll on the group’s retail offering, he is bullish about the long-term prospects. In an exclusive interview for European Gaming, he revealed how the use of technology and a customer-centric approach is driving online growth and allowing operators to provide a safer gaming environment.

 

Holiday season is often a time for rest and reflection. How do you look back on the last few months and what challenges did it pose for SAZKA Group?

I’m pleased to say that we have managed to remain resilient in what has been an unpredictable period with often disruptive trading conditions. As people will know, 80% of our EBIT is generated through lottery-style games. Clearly lock-downs have had an impact on our operations, with retail in Italy and Greece in particular taking a hit. And yet our strategic focus on online channels paid off. I think the growth of digital sales during the pandemic is very supportive for our future development too. 30 per cent of GGR for our Czech business in 2020 came online and that continues to grow. In Greece, OPAP recently launched a digital entertainment hub and has seen really good take-up of online lottery sales, despite starting from a low base. Retail remains important. Picking it up and rejuvenating it in the coming months is a priority, but online is a rising star providing us with real guidance too.

 

Across the industry we’ve seen witnesses the introduction of a wave of new products and a freshening up of old ones. What part has SAZKA Group played in this?

With more and more customers heading online, as well as potential new ones sat in front of their computer and phone screens, it was imperative that we kept our product offering up-to-date and relevant. All our operator companies introduced new content suitable for their jurisdictions. Needless to say, we also introduced new lottery draws too. Hand in glove with this went customer engagement plans that allowed us to showcase the full product portfolio and content diversity that is so important these days. We also saw the roll-out of customer loyalty programs that rewarded our regular players, be they in-store or online. This helped to really personalise our interaction at a time when we were all distancing ourselves from one another as a society. The results to date have been very encouraging.

 

How has the pandemic changed the way that you approach marketing, particularly when it comes to players who have moved online and those new ones who are joining them?

Interestingly, we are gaining real traction with event-based jackpots with specific themes. Friday the 13th has become a real tradition for us, as many people will now know. There are some key dates when players like to try their luck such as Black Friday top. With millions of people online looking for a bargain, it is a date that resonates in some of our markets. We are often able to collect much higher wagers on these special dates because we’re able to market them better. Clearly customer loyalty takes on a new meaning online too. Traditionally, retail has been an anonymous experience with people going to a newsagent or a kiosk to buy a lottery slip. That suits some people and that’s fine, but it doesn’t allow us to capture anonymised information on consumer trends. Online obviously requires people to register and be verified, allowing us to ensure the are safer from a responsible gaming point of view, which is crucial.

 

What part is technology playing in providing a better player experience?

We are really making the most of big data, joining the dots between lottery and those who play other games. It has a huge benefit online. But retail loyalty is equally important for us. That’s why we offered virtual loyalty cards, where players register online with a mobile number. This then allows us to identify them as a unique player. We also have a proposition in retail loyalty called Wheel of Fortune where participants benefit by being offered a second chance within 24 hours of their retail purchase, for example. People are embracing it because they see the benefits of what is being offered. There is nothing worse than being bombarded with products and services in which you have no interest. Harnessing big data and processing it thoughtfully allows technology to tailor our offering. That has never been more important in a world full of distractions. We also see technology as a vital means of protecting players, more of which is below.

 

Player protection and the need for safer betting and gaming environments are rarely out of the headlines these days. How is the lottery sector and SAZKA Group in particular dealing with the challenges these concerns present?

SAZKA Group is committed to responsible gaming. It always has and always will be a central plank of our proposition as a business. All of our operator companies are part of European Lotteries, so there’s a strict and supervised responsible gaming certification mechanism. In some respects, we’re fortunate. In lottery wins are infrequent, compared to games with higher probability and higher frequency. The risk of excessive or problem gaming is small as a result. But there is clearly no room for complacency. Some of our companies run sports and casino betting too, of course, and put significant resources into ensuring customers are supported. We let them know about setting time and spending limits and the advantages of taking frequent breaks. We also educate our employees and store partners in responsible gaming training, so that they can apply the relevant standards and principles. At the end of the day, this should be an enjoyable and playful experience for our customers – and we need to play a central role in maintaining that.

 

kalamba-games:-enhancing-growth-through-data-analysis,-with-andy-sekula,-head-of-games-at-kalamba

Kalamba Games: enhancing growth through data analysis, with Andy Sekula, Head of Games at Kalamba

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Kalamba calls itself a data-driven company, what does that mean in detail?

In order to remain not only competitive but to be a leading company in the igaming space we need to understand our players. Our industry is rather fortunate in that its products are, by their very nature, online, so there’s a huge amount of data and metrics that we can use to analyse performance and identify areas for improvement.

With each and every release we scrutinise the available data from day one of launch and it has proven invaluable. Such focus allows us to identify potential pain points that players may be experiencing. To give an example, you can have players quitting a game immediately after browsing through the available bets, which can indicate that there is a certain sub-sector that expects to be able to bet below €0.50. You then adapt and benefit.

Close attention is consistently paid to key metrics like retention, session length and average bet for given jurisdictions, meaning we are better able to make conscious and informed choices about targeting our gaming toward specific demographics.

We also experiment a lot with volatility, hit rates and other significant parameters to see what resonates better with our audience. All this work helps us improve what we put out there to players and, ultimately, supports our commercial growth ambitions.

 

How can data collection and analysis help a supplier improve its products?  Is this utilisation of available data currently neglected by developers?

It’s essential to perform this kind of R&D in any enterprise and ours is no different. Understanding your customer base and what their preferences are is a key driver for forward thinking, successful business.

From experience, it seems that a lot of key indices, analysis and experiments in igaming are lagging far behind what some of us saw in social casino, for example, where constantly optimising products to enhance the user experience is a key requirement to stay competitive. I suppose it can only help Kalamba if some of our competition neglects this vital area but as long as we continue to perform our due diligence during development and post-launch, then we’ll continue to thrive.

 

How much more do you think data and AI will be integrated into game development going forward?

From a supplier perspective, demographic classification, identifying possible exploits

in a game or pain points in the player’s conversion funnel are just some of the examples of the practical application of AI and the real data insights it provides. Even though the data is anonymised, we can learn a lot about aggregated player behaviours. Being able to tell what works well and what doesn’t means examining many different aspects of the numbers and feedback at the same time and that’s where AI can greatly help.

 

What can we expect from Kalamba in this area?

Kalamba has always championed a creative, data-informed, experimentation approach to

game design and production. Taking it to the next level, we’ve recently initiated our StarGazer project, which we believe will revolutionise the way data is handled and the results we get from it. We will be revealing more in due course!

exclusive-q&a-with-alexander-kamenetskyi,-sportsbook-product-owner-with-softswiss

Exclusive Q&A with Alexander Kamenetskyi, Sportsbook Product Owner with SOFTSWISS

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

‘The house always wins’ is one of the oldest adages in sports betting. It must be most trusted quote too, as numerous once-bitten punters would vouch for.

Here is the other side of the story.

Alexander Kamenetskyi, Sportsbook Product Owner with SOFTSWISS, talks about the steps that Sportsbooks take to keep fraudulent activities at bay.

You must read the interview for his lucid and succinct deconstruction of frauds that take place in the betting arena.

Over to the interview now!

Q. We’ve had a fabulous Euro 2020, in which Italy deservedly emerged winners. The betting industry also enjoyed thriving business during the period. But there have been reports that the level of betting frauds increased manifold. As a Sportsbook Product Owner, how do you view the situation?

A. First of all, I would like to congratulate all the fans of the Italian national team on their victory! We were finally able to enjoy the football battles of Euro 2020. In my opinion, it was an amazing championship full of dramatic and exciting moments.

As statistics show, such large events always see a spike in cases of fraud and that’s why we are always ready to track such activity and mitigate the risks for our clients.

Q. Could you share some practical experiences where you faced fraudulent activities and how you dealt with it?

A. Fraudsters always try to find system weaknesses in bookmaker lines and exploit them. This time they knew they had a chance to go unnoticed for a long time, as the attention of all bookmakers’ was drawn to the Euro 2020. Oftentimes bookmakers may also contribute to the appearance of such fraudsters themselves.

Speaking of the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team – we are perfectly prepared for the arrival of unwanted guests. Over the course of the championship we mainly saw players with counterfeit documents, but our platform had just the tools to track and prevent such manipulations.

Typically, fraudsters bet on unpopular types of sports and weak leagues. Sometimes they are at the matches in person or they bet ahead of the curve when there’s a fast video broadcast. This is quite easy to track, and we resolve such cases pretty quickly.

Quite often in such cases, players ‘artificially’ raise their maximum bets for specific markets (e.g. via betting from several accounts), but we prevent this by analyzing player bets and player activity.

We have our own Risk Management and Anti-Fraud teams, as well as the Betradar Risk Management team and Managed Trading Services. We are also currently in the process of developing automated tracking systems

Q. What kind of frauds do you normally anticipate as a sportsbook operator?

A. The list isn’t vast.

First, come the ‘arbers’, or players who find arbitration situations between bookmakers and exploit them.

Secondly, there are ‘button players’ who place bets seconds after the outcome becomes clear.

There are also ‘valuebetters’, or those who bet on higher odds or odds with an advantage.

Then there are middle betting players, who are mostly playing for the total, and usually with an advantage.

And then there is the very widespread type of fraudster – the bonus hunter. Bonus hunters find weak points in bookmaker promotions and exploit them to their advantage. Some of these can be white hat bonus hunters and we even have someone like that in our team.

Of course, match fixing is the bane of the sports industry and is one of the most serious offenses. Naturally, there are many more types of sports betting fraud, but the ones I mentioned are the most widespread.

Q. How do you plan to tackle the potential frauds?

A. We are working on developing our own Sportsbook Risk Management team. We are also building our internal Risk Management Tools (RMT). Our RMT system is based on long-term experience in the field, market needs, new innovative technologies, and artificial intelligence. The system will be universal in that it will help us work not only with fraudsters, but also with ordinary players.

Q. Could you share some insights into the software-enabled checks and AI-powered analyses that aid fraud detection and prevention in betting?

A. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal all the cards because RMT is an anti-fraud system. I can only say that we are developing tools that rely on artificial intelligence based on data analytics. We are already working on unique tools to combat the main types of fraud, which will react not only to the style of play but also to overall player behaviour.

I can also add that our protection system does not just work for each project separately, but encompasses all brands across our platform.

Q. Coming back to the Euro 2020, what are the new things that happened in connection with fraudulent betting? Is it a case of new-age fraudsters emerging or is it a case of old punters becoming smarter – just like the Italian defenders?

A. The Italian defenders showed us a level of play we can look up to. I can say that the average scammer is rather diverse. The experienced type is always on the lookout for new projects, erroneous proposals, and mainly uses trite and true scam methods. Younger scammers place more emphasis on modern methods such as bots.

Q. Do all the fraud detection and prevention mechanisms affect the pure joy of punting? Will the whole process become cumbersome for the genuine bettors? Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

A. Our tools work not only with negative players, but also with positive ones. We place a lot of attention on working with those players who have proven themselves to be honest and conscientious. Additionally, we create great bonus offers for our players that encourage their gaming activity and do not use complex wagering systems. We are also very keen on soon introducing gamification to the platform, which is currently in development.

Q. Finally, how do you see fraudulent activities and the prevention mechanisms pan out in the future? What’s your bet on this?

A. The world of betting is huge, but it hasn’t reached its peak yet. Of course, fraud will continue to develop and there are many reasons for this.

First-time bookmakers who are poorly versed in the basics of sports betting will continue to create inaccurate bonus offers, miscalculate the bonus math and create bonus overlap. Errors in the betting lines and a lack of analytical work will continue to generate negative outcomes.

It is our job to create a product that fortifies the operator from negative outcomes, but we aren’t able to entirely wall ourselves off from the market. That is why we will be working on new tools to combat fraud and further improve the quality of our product, first and foremost, so that ordinary players can enjoy the game.

Our main task is to provide a reliable, high-quality product to the players. Sports betting is a great way to have fun. And that’s why we are creating a safe and secure environment around sports betting with SOFTSWISS Sportsbook.

what-the-euros-taught-us

What the Euros taught us

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Morten Hauge, Head of Sports at Aspire Global, tells European Gaming about what the company learned during the Euros and how this will impact its approach as the industry gets ready for the domestic season to kick off.

Talk us through the Aspire/BtoBet performance across the Euros, did it exceed expectations in terms of engagement? Any stats that you can share?

It’s fair to say the tournament met our expectations. Certainly, from a CRM and acquisitions point of view. We saw engagement gradually increasing throughout the event and saw spikes when England were playing, as the UK is our most prominent market.

The outcome of the final was the perfect scenario for UK-facing bookmakers – England going all the way to the final and losing on penalties, ensuring their key market was engaged all the way through. England winning the tournament would have seen bookies paying out a great deal at that point.

So, we are now wrapping up all the learnings we have taken from the Euros and devising how we will apply this to the World Cup in Qatar next year. That really will be a tournament like no other, with it taking place over the winter and air conditioning being pumped through the stadiums. Turning around such learnings quickly will become more important as we grow our Latin American business, however.

 

Were there any noticeable betting behaviour trends from the month-long tournament? 

There was a definite sense of cautiousness from UK bettors during the early stages of the tournament. Certainly, when compared to what we saw at the last World Cup. There was a lot less action in the initial round of fixtures, but it built up a steady momentum and that came to a head in the knockout phase. Bets on correct scorelines, as always, saw a huge surge and it was fantastic to see our new widgets such as our free to play AspireBattle, performing as we hoped it would do, attracting players that wouldn’t usually be interested in the Euros.  We actually used it to host our own office competition for the Euros, which was a lot of fun. We are going to look to include this in our Premier League acquisition package as well heading into the new domestic season.

 

Now we’ve entered the post-tournament phase and the quieter betting period before the domestic season begins, how do you support operators in keeping bettors interested and engaged?

Virtual sports are an important product during this quieter period, but sometimes it’s good practice to just let the players breathe a little bit so we’re not overloading them with content. We’ll create some soft awareness around the Olympics, but in truth it isn’t a huge betting event. The 100m sprint is a good betting event that will keep us in the player’s mind before the next big tournament. There might also be some interest in handball soccer and basketball, but even then, that’s only the case when the country has a better chance of winning a medal.  On top of that, the time difference means that many of the events are taking place throughout the early hours of the morning, which isn’t ideal for our European audience.

This time is vital for us to take all the data we’ve accumulated from the Euros and put it to good use before the Premier League commences. We will take a look at all the players that gamers bet on to score, for example, so we can identify crossover opportunities and provide a more personalised experience based on their betting behaviour. End users appreciate this tailored service, and it helps give operators a competitive edge. This will also apply to the World Cup qualifiers in September.

 

The UK recently announced stadiums will be able to return to full capacity for the new season. Does this influence your approach to trading at all, given home crowds are likely to have an impact on games once again?

I don’t think it will influence our approach to trading. I think it would probably have a bigger effect on the market – the bigger betting syndicates will probably have an influence on the market price, particularly at the beginning. It will most likely be priced in the first one to three games and we’ll see some big moves around matchday, in all likelihood, but that’s it.

Some home teams are likely to perform a lot better than they would in empty stadiums. With that in mind, Liverpool would be a good bet to challenge for the title. Their form at Anfield dipped significantly last season and arguably that’s because of the famous Kop crowd not being able to influence games.

 

Ahead of every new domestic football season, competition is typically fierce as sportsbooks look to acquire and retain customers. How crucial are sophisticated CRM systems in re-engaging with bettors, particularly at a time when acquisition can be expensive?

It will be more important than ever and thankfully for our operator partners, we’ll be ready to provide them with a comprehensive CRM system through our newly launched intelligent software, AspireEngage. We are expecting great things from our new customer lifestyle journey. We are sending all bets in real-time directly to the CRM system so we can use these as triggers very early on to build an individual journey for each player.

Automation with relevance is the key here. AspireEngage is for operators who want to do CRM and do it properly. We can be a lot more targeted with a relevant message, which will be a welcome change to the usual Premier League reactivation strategy because everybody does that. This gives operators a definite edge.

Widgets like Aspiretip that weren’t exactly designed for the Euros, but which performed well, will be important when the domestic season kicks off. This informs players of the different bets and activities that are available to them and will really come into its own for events like the Premier League and the Six Nations.

 

How can operators maximise the use of AspireEngage ahead of the new domestic season? How will it improve performance?

It’s a real-time, easy to use solution and will open the opportunity for operators to deliver sophisticated marketing techniques that offers the kind of personalised customer experience that gets bettors coming back for more.

So, if a player bets on the Premier League or LaLiga in August, they will have a completely different experience to those that go down the rugby union path, for example.

Automation is difficult when an operator also wants to remain consistently relevant and up to date. With this journey builder we can offer a lot more value than ever and really improve customer satisfaction.

It also makes a big difference for bettors that are just joining for events like darts, snooker or rugby union. Traditionally, these demographics aren’t huge bettors but the operator still needs to make the most out of them when they do want to engage. It’s easy to offer CRM that caters to the customers that are naturally engaged but targeting those players that only dip in now and then is what AspireEngage offers. Put together, all those players add up.

 

exclusive-q&a-with-gianfranco-capozzi,-head-of-esports-at-catena-media

Exclusive Q&A with Gianfranco Capozzi, Head of Esports at Catena Media

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Here we have with us Gianfranco Capozzi, the Head of Esports at Catena Media. He’s had one of the amazing careers you’ll ever find in this industry. An avid gamer from the childhood, he had worked five years in the Italian Army before finding his true niche in gaming and esports.

Jump straight to the interview to read his insightful commentary on the present trends and technologies in esports and the role of cryptocurrencies, blockchain and artificial intelligence in this sector.

Q. Let’s begin with a quick introduction. It would be great if you briefly tell our readers about yourself and your career.

A. I had one of those atypical careers, I wore different hats and spent some time chasing after different opportunities: I spent 5 years in the Italian Army within the Engineer Corps, then I moved to the sunny island of Malta where I started working in HR and recruitment- before entering the world of gaming and esports.

That is where I’ve found my real vocation. I am adopting digital marketing channels and building digital products from scratch for an audience similar to myself.

I’ve been an avid gamer for all my life, I started playing with my uncle’s Commodore 64 when I was 10, and eventually moved from PC to console gaming. Age of Empires and Dark Age of Camelot were my first online multiplayer games where I spent uncountable hours.

Q. We shall talk about esports now. How would you define the esports market? Is it a media product or a niche betting market? Enlighten our readers.

A.Esports are without a doubt a media opportunity for all brands and companies, even for those that are galaxies away from the gaming industry.

All you need to do is look at the different sponsors that have shown up at the leagues and tournaments: from BMW to McDonald’s, marketers have understood that if they want to attract the new generations, traditional advertising channels are no longer enough. TV advertising, magazines, and other legacy media are part of history.

As we grow older and our responsibilities grow, the time available for playing games (especially competitively) decreases. For those who want to stay connected with gaming, watching esports is a nice option.

Even if you can’t play, you can always place a bet on esports. It’ll definitely make the match even more thrilling.

Q. What are the growth rate and new trends in the esports sector?

A. We’re seeing an unprecedented growth rate in the esports sector. As has been shown in various reports from Newzoo, Statista and even BusinessInsider, the esports market is growing rapidly with projections of a value over $1.5 billion by 2023.

Aside from the statistics, which are typically interesting for investors or professionals in the industry, a shift in mindset is becoming more and more prominent.

Originally set as a subsection of sport, or of the larger gaming sector, esports are now becoming a full industry with a vivid ecosystem and a strong presence in all 5 continents.

The major driving force, in my opinion, will be the release of new games which are oriented towards generating new leagues and competitive teams. We have been closely watching the rise and glory of the battle royale games (such as Fortnite, PUBG), to the second Riot title which encountered immediate success, VALORANT, and even mobile gaming which is constantly on the rise.

I think it’s difficult to predict what will happen next, what game will be the top-notch in the market, or which revolutionary game genre or feature will disrupt the growing ecosystem. What we can do is follow the scene, contribute to it with our interests, and work on its development.

Q. How do you think the Covid 19 outbreak affected the growth of esports, especially after a number of outdoor sports events were cancelled?

A. I believe that Covid-19 accelerated the growing trend of esports. We moved on from asking ourselves if “Esports is considered a sport” to the 2020 statement “Esports is the only sport available”.

People who never had any interest or knowledge in esports suddenly became interested, as that was mainly the only option. We’re pretty confident that many liked it after the first dip, and even stayed interested in esports following the pandemic.

Q. What are the new esports betting technologies and innovation that you would like to witness the iGaming industry?

A. We’ve already seen some great and innovative products being built and constantly upgraded in recent years, especially in relation to esports betting technologies. With more operators being attracted to the industry, we can be sure that we will see even more products being reinvented or actually created for the needs of esports betting.

You only need to look at the opportunities to Bet on Streamers (pioneers like Unikrn, GG.bet and Rivalry have been advancing on these), or Virtual Esports- where you bet on the outcome of AI-driven games, making it available 24-7 and more similar to a Casino product, rather than the traditional sportsbooks.

These and similar products are the next game-changers, as Millennials and GenZ are becoming the main customers of the online betting industry.

Q. What is your take on the combined growth of esports and cryptocurrencies? Why these two new-age elements are ideally placed to coexist and flourish together?

A. I am a great supporter of the cryptocurrency  movement and I believe that Betting on esports with crypto will soon become the norm.

The combination of these two new-age elements is ideally placed to coexist and flourish together, because it’s easy for anyone anywhere in the world to make a bet using cryptocurrency at odds which are better than ever before.

The esports and crypto industries have a lot in common, as their audiences are both highly engaged, with a decentralised mind-set and thirst for innovation.

Moreover, the vast majority of esports audiences are young and tech savvy – which makes them perfect candidates for crypto enthusiasts as well.

Q. How are blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies going to impact the esports betting industry?

A. I believe blockchain technology and cryptocurrency can revolutionize the esports betting industry, it will allow for a more transparent betting experience, lower transaction fees and an easier way to identify underaged users. This is particularly important for our young and emerging industry.

Blockchain technology is already starting to be implemented in the esports industry, not only for the betting contract-security component, but even through the release of NFTs and assets that can be adopted and boosted by small or large enterprises at any level. Adopting blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in this day and age is a step toward the future that we’re building – especially for the upcoming generations.

Q. How will AI and machine learning affect the online marketing for betting and gambling? Do you foresee a takeover by machines?

A. AI and machine learning are already being used in online marketing, with programs that automatically optimize the website design and other aspects of a company’s marketing campaign.

But nope! The human element is what makes betting fun – it can’t be automated to make decisions for you (unless we’re talking about blackjack). What AI can improve, in my view will be the gaming experience, as it allows you to collect and analyse huge volumes of data, and generate feedback and suggestions for further improvements.

Gaming providers and esports betting operators can implement AI and machine learning solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their services in different departments: from customer support -via Chatbots for example, to odds trading, digital marketing campaigns and so on.

Q. Finally on to Catena Media. What makes Catena special from the other companies in the vertical of lead generation?

In Catena Media, and in particular when it comes to our esports betting division where we operate specialist products like EsportsBets.com, we’re after innovation and creativity. We have the customer acquisition tools, the analytical insights and the understanding of how to use them for maximum effect. That is invaluable in this industry.

And it’s not just about our own products either – we work with partners too, ensuring they get to market as quickly and efficiently as possible, irrespective of whether it’s a world-famous brand or a new start-up which is just about to get started within the sector.

 

crypto-millions-lotto’s-sulim-malook-on-what-happens-when-lotto-meets-bitcoin

Crypto Millions Lotto’s Sulim Malook on What Happens When Lotto Meets Bitcoin

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The proposition of Bitcoin lotteries is simple. If you go to a casino, you have to buy chips from the cashier to play. When you finish playing, you can cash your chips in for money, or keep them for next time. With a digital lottery, you play with a digital currency. In the case of Crypto Millions Lotto it’s Bitcoin. Think of bitcoin as the chips you have to buy to play Crypto Millions Lotto. Players deposit bitcoin to play, and if they win, they get paid in bitcoin. One exception is that if you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot, this innovative digital lotto gives you the option to take your winnings in bitcoin or a local currency of your choice.

There are some really strong arguments for considering bitcoin lotteries vs traditional ones. There are two major reasons. The first is that if you play games across borders using a credit card or any other traditional form of payment, then there are complications and frustrations around whether the payment can be made or if it will be blocked, the exchange rate, and payment periods. Using bitcoin removes all of that because it knows no borders. 

The second reason is that by operating digitally using bitcoin companies like Crypto Millions Lotto can avoid a lot of infrastructure costs, including payment processing charges. According to Sulim Malook “Having a low cost base allows us to offer bigger jackpots. Our jackpots are bigger than the majority of state-run lotteries and bigger than any of our online competitors.”

 

How Does a Digital Lottery like Sulim’s work? 

“We allow people to play the numbers of eight of the world’s biggest lotteries on our website. Although they choose the numbers on our site, they’re actually betting on the numbers of a state lottery, so numbers are drawn by each of the underlying lotteries. That way we remain completely independent.

This means people can play every time one of those eight lotteries has a draw, in total 14 times a week.

In case people don’t see the live draw, we announce all of the winning numbers on our website, and we notify all winners by email immediately. Payment of winnings is made within minutes of the lottery ending.”

 

Bitcoin lotteries are the natural progression from digital lotteries

The first big shift was from offline to online, but all that really changed was how we bought and received tickets for a single lottery.

The next shift was allowing people to play many different lotteries online, and for that people needed a better way to buy tickets and to receive winnings. Sulim says “That’s where bitcoin came in. So, we haven’t adopted bitcoin just because it’s a digital currency. We’ve done it because it’s the best currency for the job.”

 

Covid’s Effect on The Lottery

Contrary to what you might imagine, historically, the lottery performs well in downturns and recessions, as people try to generate fast money for themselves. Covid, of course, has put a lot of the world into recession, so the lotto industry as a whole as well as the gaming sector has performed well. 

But more significant than that, Covid has exposed the flaws and tensions in the traditional lottery model. Specifically, that it relies on a network of small retailers to sell tickets, most of which have now been closed and certainly were not contactless anyway.

The result, according to Sulim, is that people have gone online. “So not just us, the whole online lottery industry has seen a big uplift, while the traditional lotteries have seen a negative impact.”

And yet the lifting of COVID restrictions has not impacted this sector negatively. Sulim was clear that “On the contrary, the effect has been positive. With some state lotteries closing down for months, playing online was the only option. In our view, this is a good thing for an industry that has been living in the dark ages.

I’d liken it to working from home. Covid has opened many people’s eyes to the benefits of home working. Some people might go back to the office after Covid restrictions are lifted. But for many others, they’ve discovered a new way of doing things and will stick with it. It’s the same with the digital lottery. We introduced it to many people who now prefer it and who won’t go back to the old way.”

Business is booming at Crypto Millions Lotto and the team has a lot in the pipeline. So what comes next for a business of this ilk? 

“We have lots of exciting things in our pipeline. We’ve recently added six new lotteries, and we’re planning to add more. We also plan to add more games, as well as offering players the ability to get bitcoin using their credit cards directly on our site.

As our user base expands into more countries, we want to offer Crypto Millions Lotto in multiple languages.

We have also just launched an affiliate program, which we believe offers a more attractive proposition than other affiliate programs already out there.”

exclusive-q&a-with-sergey-tsukanov,-head-of-sportsbook-at-betby

Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Are big summer events the most important part of the year, or just an added benefit to day-to-day activity?

Summer sporting events are a big deal for global sportsbook suppliers as they present endless opportunities to boost engagement and deliver unique promotions, but I see it as a bit of both.

After a prolonged period without any major football tournaments and over a season’s worth of fixtures being played behind closed doors, the European Championships and the Copa America have arrived at the perfect time for sport lovers around the world.

The spike of growth in the number of users around these events is very much influenced by the market and depends on many factors, like whether a local team is playing in the tournament and what sources the operator gets its traffic through.

We see a similar number of bets placed on a given day of the European Championships as we do on the night of the Champions League final, with the latter stages of the tournament only attracting more users. This is a testament to the popularity and appeal of summer sporting competitions.

 

How can sportsbook suppliers prepare for these huge events, which should see significantly increased traffic?

Betby prides itself on the flexibility of its products and ability to pivot its platform to suit specific requirements. Preparation for tournaments of this size is key due to the huge spike in user activity during the games.

Work schedules around the time of major events are changed to facilitate the increased number of bets being placed before games, as well as requests from clients to run campaigns in the build up to the tournament.  We also tend to increase the number of markets of bets ahead of these competitions to set it apart from regular sporting events.

 

Are regional sporting events, such as the European Championships or Copa America, popular globally or only within those regions where the games are being played?

For the most part, there is little interest in the Copa America in Europe, and the same can be said for interest in the European Championships in Latin America, but there are always sport enthusiasts and other outliers that must be catered to.

For example, the Argentina-Brazil clash will undoubtedly see some interest around the globe thanks to the prominence of superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar. That said, when you consider the time difference and abundance of smaller ties, global figures will always be smaller in comparison.

This problem is not specific to football; we see the same issue in the NBA where European followers are expected to sacrifice sleep and brave the early hours of the morning just to watch their team play.

 

Can the Olympics ever become a major betting event?

This is a very complex question. There’s a feeling that the Olympics is slowly losing relevance in the sporting community.

Perhaps we should not talk about the Olympics as a whole, and rather focus on the separate events that make up the competition. The tennis is always interesting to watch from the start due to the ‘knock-out’ nature of the ties, whereas football in the Olympics only becomes a knock-out once teams pass the group stages.

The dedicated following that we see at club and international level in football, rugby and other global sports audiences is just incomparable to the following that Olympic sports like rowing or fencing get throughout the year.

 

How has Betby approached the bumper sporting summer of 2021?

Without going into too much detail on our plans for the upcoming summer, I can confirm that we have changed our priorities to assist the launch of a host of additional football markets for the European Championships.

We recently reimagined the ‘classic’ sportsbook in the design of our site’s new layout, so it now boasts a fully responsive user interface, easy site navigation and swift betting placement, which addresses feedback we received from our users.

With a brand-new sidebar, high-quality widgets and more markets than ever before, we have done everything in our power to make this summer as enjoyable as possible for our audiences. After all, there has been so little to celebrate over the past 18 months that a touch excitement is long overdue.

 

do-responsible-gaming-policies-go-far-enough?-an-insider’s-perspective

Do Responsible Gaming Policies Go Far Enough? An Insider’s Perspective

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Exclusive Q&A with GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda

With responsible gaming ever at the forefront of discussions around gambling and with all eyes on the UK as it conducts its once-in-a-generation review of its gambling laws, there could be big changes coming to the industry as a whole.

GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda makes the case for the iGaming industry going even further in its efforts to protect vulnerable players. And he believes that technology holds the key to removing cases of human error that can lead to costly lawsuits and fines.

European Gaming catches up with Grenda to explore how the industry might adapt over the coming years, whether that’s via changes to the law or by mutually beneficial cooperation.

 

First off, how has the industry changed its stance on responsible gaming? Do you feel that things are heading in the right direction?

I must say that responsible gaming has made great strides over the last decade or so. There is far more awareness about the issues on the part of the industry, the staff working within it, and the players themselves. All this can only be regarded as a good thing. Nowadays, many players around the world have access to free online tests for gambling addiction, tools to limit playing time, deposit amounts, and overall losses, and there is the opportunity to self-exclude from gambling altogether. Add to this the fact that it’s much easier to get help from free professional help via a wealth of links and advice articles and you can see that we’ve come a very long way.

From my experience of working within the industry for many years, I can also see how staff training programs have benefitted all parts of organizations, especially when it comes to spotting the negative behavioral patterns exhibited by some gambling addicts. And this training is usually extended to all parts of the business, from the C-level staff to the customer support teams that act as the first line of defense against gambling addiction. So, yes, I can honestly say that things have been and are continuing to move in the right direction. But now it’s time to go even further!

 

Do you think more can be done by online casinos and sports betting sites to protect vulnerable players? Can technology play a major role in this?

Absolutely yes to both questions. Without a doubt, there is always more the industry can do to help vulnerable players before problems get out of hand. And in addition to the training I mentioned above, technology has to play the leading role in tackling the problem. From some of the cases I have read about players suing online casinos, it seems like there is either not enough technology being used to detect issues in the first place or that these processes are being overridden by staff wanting to keep a player on the hook. For example, there should be no way that source of funds checks aren’t carried out as soon as a player crosses a certain threshold for depositing and/or losing significant amounts – with no exceptions. Somewhere in the chain, some of these things are being missed or ignored and that really needs to change.

Another way in which technology should be employed is in spotting sudden changes in betting behavior. I have no doubt that some companies are already doing this, but it should become the default across the entire industry. For example, if a player suddenly goes from betting a couple of hundred per month to thousands, there should be technological mechanisms for flagging the behavior and for an additional source of funds check to be carried out. By doing this, any potential gambling addiction cases or illegal sources of money are nipped in the bud. The same goes for employing technology to help staff spot fake IDs and other supporting documents in the case of underage players, for example. There are many ways in which technology can help us.

 

Will the UK Review of the Gambling Act 2005 shake up the wider industry? What changes do you see being on the cards once it has concluded?

While I am not based in the United Kingdom, I have been keeping a close eye on the reports coming out and the rather negative media attention being focused on the once-in-a-generation review – as I’m sure many others within the industry are doing. From what I’ve been reading lately, I think there will be further restrictions on the advertising of gambling products on TV, particularly at times when there are a lot of teenagers and young adults watching. For example, I believe that the ban on all gambling advertising before the 9 PM watershed might extend to all major sporting events where young adults are watching. Additionally, I’ve seen a lot of concern being expressed about the Premier League’s reliance on gambling companies as commercial partners. So, it might be the case that teams will soon need to change their shirt sponsors, too.

There is also intense media scrutiny on FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals, otherwise known as slots). Because of this, betting limits have been put in place and I expect that some of these same ideas for limiting player losses to make the leap over to online slots, too. And another related area I see mentioned in media reports is the practice of cross-selling from one gambling product to another. With the UK being a huge market for sports betting, there is a natural tendency within the industry to move these players from relatively low-profit sports betting over to the far more profitable game types such as slots. However, there could be recommendations to limit cross-selling. Alternatively, players may need to have a separate account for each game type – hence making it more difficult for online casinos to convince players to make the switch.

 

Do you feel that media attention on cases involving gambling addicts negatively affects the entire industry? And do these cases shape public opinion?

One hundred percent! Major cases are usually reported fairly high up in the news running order simply because the numbers make for an interesting read. People have a natural tendency to find out how a single person was able to not only bet but also lose hundreds of thousands, or even millions in some cases. And the way pretty much all of these cases are reported casts a negative shadow over the entire gaming industry. Almost invariably, we are made to see the online casino in question as the bad guy (and their statements are usually reserved for the very end of the article), with much of the focus being on how the source of funds checks were not carried out properly, or how the player was targeted with numerous offers and enticements over a sustained period of time, for example. All of this undoubtedly shapes public opinion negatively.

 

Finally, is there enough will within the casino industry to continue to push responsible gaming, or is the profit motive always going to supersede player protection?

While profit is and always will be the main motive behind choosing to set up and run an online casino or sportsbook site, I think a little more focus on responsible gaming would help avoid very costly lawsuits and/or fines later down the line. Furthermore, even if these costs can easily be factored in as a necessary part of the business, the negative press attention that comes along with these cases simply isn’t justifiable in the long run. By getting things right in the first place, there’s more opportunity to build a respectable brand that will endure for many years to come – and with that comes long-term profit, of course. I also think that if the industry works as a whole, shares data on any potential loopholes they’ve spotted, and continues to focus on responsible gaming as an entirely positive aspect of the gambling industry, then everyone wins. 

“betgames-is-a-great-acquisition-tool-for-new-players”-–-exclusive-interview-with-betgames.tv-head-of-sales

“BetGames is a great acquisition tool for new players” – Exclusive interview with BetGames.TV Head of Sales

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Having proven itself as one of 2020’s standout industry performers, BetGames has not been one to rest on its laurels in the first six months of 2021, launching a host revamped games, as well as establishing its Malta hub with plans to expand the company by 100+ members by the end of the year.

We caught up with BetGames’ Head of Sales, Thomas Aigner, to talk through the studio’s latest moves and plans for continued global expansion.

Looking back at the last six months for European markets, how can we assess performance and what we’ve seen as an industry? 

There’s been two main stand-outs that we’ve witnessed: the increasing player preference for low-stakes entertainment and the popularity of live gaming generally as a remedy for quarantine. As lockdowns have continued in the first half of this year, our games have retained a wealth of players since we intrinsically attract a lower spend with far more regular play – as well a fixed-odds betting format that has ensured we’re a welcome home for sportsbook customers looking to try something new.

In light of what has been effectively an ongoing recession, we’ve also learned that the key to player engagement is a low-spend proposition without the risk of big losses, combined with simplicity in gameplay and the high-frequency in sessions. Given that the majority of players the world over have been observing social isolation, this makes perfect sense – with a strong preference for pick-up-and-play products that offer live entertainment for hours without emptying their wallet. The live experience has been a well-placed antidote to the seclusion that many have experienced over the last 12 months or so.

I think one of the biggest lessons learned has been that diversification is imperative. Pre-Covid, we’d expect operators to be focusing up to 70% of their spend on promoting sports and little else. Those who continued with that approach through 2020 and indeed, the first six months of this year, given the lack of retail environments in Europe, have really felt the pinch.

Moving forward, there needs to be far more focus on alternatives such as ours, as we’ve clearly learned that sports fans are unaccustomed to the majority of casino, or indeed the playing format available, even with Live Casino. It is essential that suppliers take onboard the lessons learned from betting activity, especially when it comes to providing the low-spend, extended sessions that have proven to work so well, and adapt accordingly.

When it comes to BetGames, what regions have been key in Europe so far? Where have you been focusing your energy?

Europe is an incredibly diverse continent when it comes to playing styles, and the BetGames customer certainly varies between markets. On the whole, we attract sports bettors, which is particularly the case in Eastern Europe, where we know that 70-80% of our returning customers are sports fans – and this is one way we really differentiate ourselves as a supplier against our competitors.

For mature markets, such as Scandinavia and the UK, products such as Bet on Poker have performed particularly well, as they offer a playing format that resonates very strongly with players, delivering a winning combination of both poker, which is a continental favourite, alongside the fixed-odds betting format we are famous for.

Looking to new entrances, expansion in Greece, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Ukraine and Georgia are top of the agenda for us, with this summer’s sporting calendar likely to give a welcome boost for all. Having said that, we’re aware that is hard to bring in new game types that can resonate with established players – this requires significant time and resources. We’ve revamped our commercial department accordingly to handle both expansion and our existing partners, which means we have close to triple the resources from last year to have the helping hands in place to support the day-to-day.

As has been evident from many of our recently agreed partnerships, We’re set to work together on pushing and promoting our products with the operator group, dedicating a separate category for our games. This kind of approach will be particularly effective as we differ from traditional Live Dealer and Live Casino Games – which means our target demographic is different. This means that together we can focus on particular player segments that we can engage and retain.

Tell us about the launch of your Malta Hub – that’s certainly big news for BetGames – that must be big news for your recruitment plans?

To keep pace with our rapid recent growth, we realised that we had to expand our capacity and we’re planning to greatly increase our headcount. Opening the Malta office was a logical step in that roadmap, not only to cater for the extra bodies but also to position ourselves closer to the heart of the igaming industry.

Looking at the numbers, we have incredibly ambitious plans to increase our 200-strong team by more than 50%, with our Malta hub ready to provide a platform for attracting the best of the industry’s talent. It will also be a hugely convenient place to meet our clients and friends, and while we understand the way that businesses and people have evolved in the last 12 months, we recognise the need to have that base where our colleagues can be inspired and productive – offering a home, a meeting place, and a space where we can collaborate and innovate.

The long-term strategy we’re currently on course with is set to change our operations as we know them. By planting our flag in Malta, I see it as an excellent chance to transform the company to a new level of growth that will help us to increase in size and revolutionise the way we deliver service to our partners.

When looking at Europe – how would summarise the changing trends of player demand? What products do you plan to offer accordingly? 

Increased regulation in Europe is also going to have plenty of influence on shaping player demand over the year ahead. In my view, the key to success if going to be offering regulation-friendly, low-stakes, simple and easy extended entertainment that can keep players engaged without emptying their wallet.

Economic circumstances (as well as lockdowns) demand this – and players want an easily accessible experience that can be enjoyed in a low-spend format. This is especially going to be the case this summer – and our approach is to always offer complementary products that can boost engagement and sportsbook spend, rather than drain it.

BetGames is a great acquisition tool for new players – while also broadening the target group for live content because of the simplicity and availability of content, odds and betslip format, attracting sports bettors. Accordingly, our partners need content that can fit in seamlessly alongside a sports betting offering, and we’ve specifically designed our catalogue to work in this way. Sports betting margins will always be inherently higher for operators as they don’t carry the cost of using a third-party, making us one of the few suppliers globally that can truly offer a partnership that can boost both sides of the coin.

Last but not least – where are the key markets in Europe for growth our readers should be watching over the next 12 months? Where has BetGames got its eye on? 

We’ve got our eye firmly fixed on Greece at the moment, as already mentioned, but looking further afield, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Brazil, Ukraine and Georgia are other territories that we see plenty of potential in, as I’m sure most of our fellow European suppliers and operators see too.

In evaluating where’s best for us, there’s a host of regulated markets available and we’ve got to make sure that we’re entering the regions best suited to us and our portfolio. We’ve significantly changed our assessment criteria to make it a far more comprehensive process to apply due diligence. This means that we’ve now got our own taskforce dedicated to performing key market analysis with a criteria that encompasses both qualitative and quantitative data. This now totals 14 different key factors that we analyse to work out where our products will work best – and we’re very excited for the bringing our unique catalogue to more players than ever before!