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Q&A with Jussi Viljanen Product Manager at Bojoko

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Q&A with Jussi Viljanen Product Manager at Bojoko
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Bojoko is well established in the online casino space – what made you move into sports betting for the first time?

Expanding into sports betting in the UK was a natural step for us as we had been offering sports to players in Finland for more than a year and already had the experience and expertise in our team. There is still a lot of room for growth in online casino, but sports betting offers us a good opportunity to accelerate that growth and drive the business forward. There is now a dedicated section for online betting here where players can browse and choose the best and the newest betting sites in the UK.

What key opportunities do you see here? Is it a bigger market for Bojoko than casino?

We feel we have a lot to offer in this market for sure. Our team has significant knowledge and know-how when it comes to sports and sports betting and the whole concept of Bojoko suits sports betting perfectly. Our mission is to help our users to choose the best gambling sites for them, and this concept works incredibly well for sports betting with so many brands available to players.

We also provide all the information that players need to learn about sports betting in the UK, written by experts. This is an area where we stand out from our rivals. We are confident that we will be able to carry out our mission well in the field of sports betting and we see good potential in this market, although of course there is some fierce competition to contend with.

Are you taking the same approach sports as you are to casino? What makes Bojoko stand out from other comparison sites in the UK market?

In short, yes. But of course, sports betting brings its own challenges when compared to online casino. The general model though stays the same for us. We list and review sports betting sites the same way we do with online casinos.

Where we stand out is the quality of our reviews and that we actually test all the sites listed on Bojoko and play at them with real money. Our independent testers actually make deposits, place bets and withdraw funds to verify that everything works as it is supposed. They also expose any weaknesses so that players know exactly what to expect when they sign up and deposit.

Operators are evaluated based on different features such as odds, markets, welcome offers, withdrawal times, customer support and many other factors that are important to sports bettors. We also offer a selection tool to filter betting sites based on different criteria to meet players’ preferences.

Does sports present different challenges to casino? Can you give examples? And how are you overcoming these challenges?

The competition in both markets is fierce, but we thrive on that. The biggest difference between sports and online casino is in the content that we create to help educate players. Sports betting has a skill element to it whereas slots and casino games are generally based on luck. This brings a different dimension when it comes to content. Betting is about finding value in the odds, and we aim to educate players on how to find that value and what statistics to use when making betting decisions. Many of our users are recreational bettors that just bet for fun, but many people are looking for useful information for how to improve their betting success and we provide that by using our experience as sports bettors and sports enthusiasts. We combine this knowledge with offering the best betting sites in the market.

Is there much of a cross-sell opportunity between casino and sports in the UK market? If so, how are you leveraging this?

To some extent there is, yes. Quite a few operators have both an online casino and a sportsbook, so it’s been a rather easy process to start collaborating with several partners for both verticals having already established a good relationship with casino. For users, we offer all relevant content right on our home page and from the menu where they can find the most important pages for both online casino and sports betting in one place.

What are your thoughts on the review of the Gambling Act in the UK market? Do you think it will have much of an impact on affiliates?

Regulation and safety measures in the gambling industry are generally a very good thing in my opinion. The changes made in recent years have been largely positive and have made the gambling industry healthier as a whole.

The latest restrictions proposed seem to be quite dramatic and perhaps not completely thought through. The two most questionable changes are the £2 stake limit on slot games and a sponsorship ban for gambling companies and sports clubs. These would undoubtedly have unintended consequences.

To keep players playing on licensed gambling sites should be a high priority, but restrictions that are too tight would only push players away to offshore sites where they could gamble with higher stakes. Given that players do not have the same security and safety on these sites as on UKGC licensed sites, this situation would be very unfortunate.

When it comes to sports clubs, the amount of sponsorship pounds that come from betting operators is massive. After COVID-19 especially, many clubs are still struggling financially and this could, in the worst-case scenario, be a death blow to many and especially lower-tier clubs. There are also some smaller sports that live off the betting industry, such as darts and snooker, that would be directly in the line of fire.

Interviews

Time to get into the gamification game

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Tomer Baumel, Founder at CEO of Solitics, talks about why personalised gamification is the best way for operators to differentiate and bring tremendous added value to their players

Differentiation. This is something that operators strive for but, in reality, is very hard to achieve. If you take a look at the online betting and casino experiences available to players in any given market, it’s hard to come across many brands that truly stand out.

Most offer the same welcome bonuses, similar games/odds, the same payment options and deploy the same tactics for fostering loyalty once the player has signed up and deposited for the first time. But loyalty must be earned, and right now, casinos and sportsbooks are not doing enough.

For many, retention is a tick-box exercise based around level-up loyalty schemes, offers sent out via email and SMS, and the occasional generic pop-up message that aims to keep players engaged with the sportsbook or casino – usually with free bets or free spins.

The majority of players will be familiar with these tactics and are sufficiently smart and savvy to know the sportsbook or the casino brands do this to encourage them to play for longer.

There is nothing wrong with operators taking this approach, but it is boring at best. Retention should be fun and exciting, and there is a lot that casinos and sportsbooks can do to be different to their rivals and add tremendous value to the player experience – value that will ensure they stick around.

How? Personalised gamification.

Gamification has been an industry buzzword for some time now, but few operators have yet to truly incorporate it, and personalise it using data, into the overall player experience. Personalisation is how how operators will unlock the huge potential gamification offers for both acquisition and retention, and ultimately differentiation.

Not only can gamification be used to transform the user experience across multiple touch points, but it can also be used by operators to drive certain player behaviour such as making a deposit or continuing to play even after a run of losses.

Gamification comes in many forms, but at Solitics, we have just launched a new Gamification Module that includes Gamification Widgets with highly customisable mini-games that operators can use to elevate the player experience to boost both acquisition and retention. Mini-games are the perfect gamification tool. They can be combined with promos and bonuses to help the brand connect with the players and build trust.

Because the experience is gamified and highly customised to players’ preferences and playing patterns, operators can guide users’ behaviour in a way that is authentic, allowing them to generate a much higher life-time value from the players than when they are incentivised by traditional or generic offerings.

So long as mini-games can be customised and configured, operators can be smarter in how they bonus and run promos that are far more effective while avoiding overbonusing and overspending.

For example, if you would like a player to log-in each day to claim a daily surprise, instead of offering £5 bonus upon log-in, the operator can engage the player with daily challenges such as ‘login and get a daily surprise’.  During this mission, player will get to spin the wheel to determine his daily prize, and also see an interactive map of his progress. From managing the bonus economy point of view – since the widget is entirely customized by the brand. This actually adds excitement for the player while reducing the bonusing cost for the operator.

Positive, fun experiences also generate advocacy, with players recommending the brand to others.

Personal gamification widgets are also a powerful driver of acquisition, especially when deployed as part of the onboarding journey through game introducing carousels, or spinning a prize wheel to determine the welcome bonus they receive.

Of course, operators need to be able to differentiate through the mini-games they offer to their players otherwise players will once again find themselves swimming in the sea of sameness. This is why we have ensured our mini-games offer unrivalled opportunities for customisation and personalisation including brand colours, content, bonuses configuration, all of which are easy to change.

With Solitics, marketers can choose from a pre-set library of games and customise them, or they can create their own games from scratch, all from a single UI, with no need for heavy development resources.

That said, it’s still important for the right games to be delivered to the right players at the right time and this requires the use of data and segmentation.

Our solution is built on top of the operator’s data house which allows marketers to be incredibly granular in terms of who gets the game, the accompanying bonus, the communication that goes with it and the channel via which it is deployed. This is all done through a single platform and UI.

Despite the potential personalised gamification offers to take the entire player experience to the next level, and for brands to be heard above the noise being made by the competition, the majority of operators have yet to really get behind it.

We believe that our solution is a game-changer here and those that get in the game will be surprised by just how effective gamification can be when it comes to acquiring and retaining players at scale while offering a strong USP for their brand or brands.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

We recently sat down with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion and talk about several important aspects that shape the game studios industry.

What made you want to launch a game studio given the incredibly competitive nature of the market?

Because we have identified a gap in the market in which we can offer something truly unique. There is a large audience of players who enjoy sports-themed video and mobile games, and the ownership and skill required to master titles such as FC Ultimate Team, and who also like to place a bet on their favourite sports, teams and players. Right now, there isn’t a game format that brings these two worlds together, but Playbook Fusion is allowing them to collide to provide an entirely new experience that these consumers will absolutely want to engage with.

The addressable audience for our games will be broad but it is currently one that operators are struggling to engage. This goes beyond those who bet on sports to include those who are simply sports fans, gamers who enjoy management format titles and who are light-touch gamblers, virtual sports players looking for ownership over their teams and fantasy sports players seeking round the clock action.

In all instances, our strongest appeal will likely be among the next generation of players – those who are unlikely to walk into a retail betting shop or have a bet on the Grand National, but who are engaging with mobile and video games, social media and streaming.

 

How will you leverage your industry experience to lead Playbook Fusion to success?

I have more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and this has enabled me to amass a deep understanding of key factors required in bringing successful betting products to market, such as regulation, compliance, content deployment and ultimately what goes into making a hit game. I have been delivering RNG sports games to operators for various companies for a long time now and have good relationships with the right people within most of the major tier one and tier two brands, opening up a clear path to deploying our games with the biggest operators in the business. My experience has also taught me what a good game looks like and has allowed me to identify the gap in the market that Playbook Fusion has an ambition to fill.

Where I lack experience or in-depth understanding, I have brought in experts including video and mobile games veteran, Santiago Jaramillo. Santiago has more than 13 years of AAA gaming experience and has previously worked as Creative Director for EA Sport’s FIFA Franchise and was Executive Producer of MonopolyGo! He was also Head of Sports at Dapper Labs where he conceived and created NBA Top Shot, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind product anchored in blockchain technology.

Our complementary skillsets will absolutely be key to ensuring the future success of Playbook Fusion.

 

How will you stand out from your rival studios? How will your content offer something new to operators and players?

The level of ownership, the persistent progression within the games and the ability for skill development that each of our titles will offer will set Playbook Fusion apart from its competitors. We are working on a range of innovative mechanics that will allow players to boost the capabilities of their teams, which in turn will increase the chance of them winning. Gameplay will include acquiring or earning packs that players can open to strengthen their lineup before they decide what kind of contest they want to engage with. There’s really nothing like this in the sports betting space at this point and this strong, clear point of difference is what is already allowing Playbook Fusion to stand out and catch the attention of sportsbook operators.

 

Bringing together the worlds of gambling and video/mobile gaming is a tough task. How have you approached this? 

It comes down to building a team of the brightest minds and creative talents from both industries. From the gambling sector, we have sought to hire dynamic individuals with a passion for sports and who understand what the next generation of sports bettors are looking for. Then, from the gaming sector, we have Santiago and a growing team of designers and developers who have an in-depth understanding of the mechanics behind successful video games. We are bringing the edges of these industries together and creating an environment in which everyone can learn from each other. I truly believe that we have a game-changing concept and with the team we have in place, we can bring it to life and disrupt the industry.

 

Can you share some insights into your first game? What will it look like? How will it play? Who has it been developed for?

Our first game will be a football title. Football is the biggest sport globally and will allow us to hit the ground running with a game that has mass market appeal. It will take the football manager format, with players able to build a team by acquiring and trading players. They can also do things like buy packs and reveal cards that all help in strengthening their team. They then compete with others across several game types including seasons, player vs player and in contests with friends. Players earn points based on the performance of their team, which are posted to a real-time leaderboard. The more points players accumulate, the more league levels they clear and the more rewards they earn. Betting is a core part of the game loop but, unlike more traditional virtual sports games, the bettor will have a much greater sense of ownership over the team they are betting on, just like in real sports betting. We plan to replicate this format for other sports including basketball and cricket.

 

Why should sportsbook operators partner with Playbook Fusion?

Our games will enable operators to generate incremental revenues from existing player groups, particularly Virtual Sports and Fantasy players, by offering a more engaging betting experience on a 24/7/365 basis. Also, our games will allow them to tap into a new, lucrative but hard-to-reach audience. These are not traditional sports bettors, but rather the next generation of customers looking for social, fast-paced gameplay where they can improve and display their skills and strategy with the chance of winning money – the YouTube, Fortnite, tech-savvy generation that will become a sportsbook’s core player base in the coming years.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Vladimir Malakchi, CEO and Managing Partner at Xanada Investments

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Exclusive Q&A w/ Vladimir Malakchi, CEO and Managing Partner at Xanada Investments
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

From a C-level perspective, what inspired the founding of Xanada Investments and how does it distinguish itself from other investment firms?

Xanada Investments was founded with the goal of creating a unique, high-value investment ecosystem. We wanted to build an investment firm that provides not just capital, but a thriving, interconnected community of visionary leaders and entrepreneurs.

What sets Xanada Investments apart is our holistic approach. We don’t just invest in businesses; we build an ecosystem where each venture supports and enhances the others, promoting mutual growth. We focus on creating long-term value and success for our partners.

We offer more than funding—we provide expert guidance, operational support, and access to our extensive global network. This helps startups navigate challenges, scale effectively, and reach new markets.

 

What specific projects does Xanada Investments focus on?

We believe in creating a diverse and interconnected ecosystem. Instead of limiting ourselves to specific sectors like casinos or providers, or geos, we invest in a wide range of projects. This diversity helps eliminate internal competition and fosters a more collaborative environment.

We see our investments as “smart money” – funds that bring more than just capital. Investing in a variety of companies allows us to offer tailored support and valuable insights to each one. This approach not only broadens our horizons but also ensures that each project benefits from our extensive network and expertise.

We seek leaders and companies who share our values of innovation, collaboration, and excellence. By embracing a holistic investment strategy and fostering a community-driven approach, we aim to build a thriving, interconnected community where every venture has the potential to succeed.

 

What strategies does Xanada Investments employ to help startups scale and enter new markets?

We use a holistic approach based on our core values of collaboration, innovation, and excellence to help startups scale and enter new markets.

First, we provide strategic operational support tailored to each startup’s needs, refining business models, optimizing operations, and developing go-to-market strategies. Our deep market insights help startups navigate fluctuations and seize opportunities.

Our extensive global network connects startups with industry leaders, potential partners, and key market players, facilitating strategic alliances and new opportunities. We also enhance startups’ visibility through comprehensive PR and media strategies, ensuring they gain the attention and credibility needed to enter new markets.

By combining these strategies, we not only offer financial backing but also provide the strategic support, resources, and visibility startups need to scale successfully and enter new markets.

 

What do you look for in potential investment opportunities and partners?

We prioritize the potential of the people behind the projects. Our ideal partners are those who have experience building businesses, regardless of whether successful or not. Experience in successful companies and a deep understanding of their market are crucial traits we look for.

Preparation is key. We value those who present well-structured portfolios and comprehensive project presentations. This initial impression is a great start for our deeper evaluation process, where we focus on several critical aspects:

First, we assess the team dynamics, looking at their cohesion, expertise, and experience. A strong, knowledgeable, and well-coordinated team is essential for overcoming challenges and achieving success. We also seek individuals who not only understand their market but can also anticipate trends and navigate market fluctuations effectively.

We are drawn to visionary leaders who bring innovative ideas to the table. Their ability to think outside the box and drive industry changes is a significant factor. The project must also align with our broader ecosystem. We seek investments that complement and enhance our existing portfolio, fostering collaboration and mutual growth.

 

How do you see Xanada Investments evolving in the next year?

In the next year, we’re planning to invest in about 10-15 projects, with each investment averaging around $1.5 million. Our main focus will be structuring deals and getting everything in place. We want to establish solid processes, get to know the key players in our field, refine our strategy, and build a strong network.

We’re also looking to create a diverse portfolio and boost their visibility through smart PR and media engagements. A lot of startups struggle with media relations, PR, and events, so we’re going to connect with media outlets and PR firms to give these startups the exposure they need.

On top of that, we plan to sponsor and participate in events like startup pitches and industry conferences to help promote our portfolio companies. We’re also excited about creating our own competitions and events to support and showcase innovative startups.

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