Horse racing is one of the oldest activities in the world and the Cheltenham Festival is one of the spiritual homes of the sport. While the meeting is guaranteed to deliver strong engagement rates for UK-facing operators, there’s less interest among sportsbooks further afield in Europe. However, as horse racing continues to grow on the international stage, are European operators missing a trick by not identifying ways to make Cheltenham Festival and other UK meetings appealing to their own audience?
With the festival kicking off this week, European Gaming spoke to experts in the field on how the sport can make an impact internationally and the best practices required to make it relevant to a wider audience, while maintaining its status in the UK.
Alan Casey, CEO of AllSported
Adam Conway, Head of Trading at SIS
Dylan Casey Head of Paid Media, Checkd Media
Huge opportunities abound throughout the festival which brings a great deal of competition. How can horse racing operators make sure they stand out from the crowd during the event?
Dylan Casey: Too many operators allow their messaging to become like wallpaper throughout Cheltenham week. The ones who succeed are those that offer something unique or present their offer in a way that captures the customer’s eye and paid social advertising can allow operators to do just that.
A major advantage of paid social for horse racing operators is the guarantee of eyeballs and the sequencing of the messaging. The control of adverts being seen in a particular order can allow operators to get creative and even allow them to tailor the offer a customer sees based on their behaviour.
When running paid social for partner’s during the festival, we like them to refresh their messaging and offers daily. By tailoring it to certain races, horses or even jockeys, the messaging is always fresh and can help to avoid ad fatigue.
Not all operators will have the flexibility and resources to promote a different offer for each day of the festival. However, even if an operator’s offer isn’t unique enough to stand out, paid social advertising provides them with a huge opportunity to present that offer in a way that will allow them to do so.
Alan Casey: Content is king. Creating a sense of familiarity and comfort is all-important in cross-selling. Time and again, we see that racecards that feature plenty of content, predictions and ratings improve dwell time significantly.
However, even when an operator has this all-important content, how do they balance the integration times with the results? Separate integrations and multiple API feeds can take time and a lot of resources to put in place. It’s true that content is not always the priority compared to revenue-generating add-ons like cashing out, but without the content to engage customers, it’s likely a sportsbook will only get customers who are there to make a specific bet.
As well as that, consistency and balance matters a great deal, operators don’t need to be stand-out price every race, but an operator needs to be competitive in every race in terms of pricing and place terms. An operator can acquire a lot of customers by having the headline offer of the day or week, but it leaves the door open for customers to exploit that offer and leave.
Adam Conway: Aside from the traditional marketing techniques that operators adopt for the week of Cheltenham Festival, such as attractive promotional offers, offering a vast range of markets that are appealing to both existing bettors and newcomers is important. This includes the use of derivatives, which complement classic markets and allows those with little experience of racing betting to get involved.
Through our partnership with RACELAB we can offer the latest in trading technology which can help operators stay ahead of the smart money and offer prices at opportune times that standout from the crowd.
To what extent is there an appetite for UK horse racing outside the UK and Ireland? How does the sport need to adapt to appeal to this audience?
Alan Casey: From a customer perspective, there is a huge appetite, especially with regards to Cheltenham. It’s an easy sell with the best horses, jockeys and trainers on show and there are always magical storylines that capture the public’s imagination around the festival.
The obstacle for international operators is that the sport requires a huge level of expertise to work within it. The time and financial investment necessary to building a team to monitor the landscape is formidable.
The obvious solution is to outsource, but even then, there are pitfalls. It’s possible that an out-of-the-box service will leave an operator open to inaccurate pricing and following the exchanges blindly is dangerous based on liquidity and latency issues. It can be difficult to acquire and retain horse racing customers and even more so if there is no differentiation in the offering.
Operators need to invest in a flexible solution with a great deal of two-way communication. It’s vitally important to be able to react to your own customers’ bets and factor this into pricing. If an operator is reacting to the market alone, that lag will eat away at their bottom line.
Adam Conway: The cultural significance of major UK horse racing meetings means less for international operators and their customers, but there are still opportunities for non-UK sportsbooks to make the most of these events. The betting product needs be optimised differently for markets where there is less racing heritage, otherwise bettors are not going to be as likely to engage. This means promoting certain markets that can be more relevant to them. For instance, derivatives are becoming increasingly popular with international operators, with markets such as match betting and odds vs. evens far easier to understand. Ultimately, these types of markets don’t require as much insight into the sport itself, which encourages a wider audience to engage with the product. Horse racing needs to attract a new generation of bettors, and outside of the UK these kinds of markets are important to this approach.
Of course, establishing an in-house trading team to cover 24/7 racing events can be costly. In addition, the availability of traders that have the specialist knowledge required can be difficult to find in markets where there is a modest racing culture, which means they cannot efficiently manage pricing and risk. Our SIS Trading Services can help operators in these markets by offering them a fully outsourced solution that leaves the entire racing proposition in the hands of our experts.
How can international operators capitalise on UK horse racing meetings like Cheltenham Festival, which are proven to generate strong bettor engagement in its home market? What can domestic operators do to maintain a slice of the action amid such intense competition?
Adam Conway: One of the main challenges that UK operators face during major UK meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival is profitability. Promotions which include offers like extra places paid can impact the overall margins they can make. These sportsbooks require products and tools that can grow business and maximise margins. At SIS, we are working hard to make this possible by enhancing our Trading Services with the addition of next generation trading tools. In partnership with RACELAB, our traders now have the very latest technology advantage, ensuring we can stay ahead of the smart money and produce more intelligent prices. This includes the Odds Engine compilation software, which has the biggest breadth of content and the most sophisticated trader controls and the highest number of priced horses (including all the local pools).
For international bettors from regions where there is less racing heritage, we have found that it has been useful to offer additional levels of support to operators new to the sport. This means increasing the emphasis on those betting markets that are simpler to understand and don’t require specific in-depth racing knowledge. We can offer operators a managed trading service to help them manage their risk.
Alan Casey: A little education goes a long way. A huge number of people that aren’t full-time racing fans flock to bet on Cheltenham every year because of the status it holds. Investing in the right odds and pricing package that includes content as part of the deal can go a long way towards engaging these fans, as well as seasoned ones.
Cheltenham simply lends itself to this kind of content with some captivating narratives every year. Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead combining throughout last year’s event and taking the festival by storm stands out as a great example. There are always interesting narratives surrounding Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins as well. It all captures the imagination and if international operators can gain the means to educate their customers on the ins and outs of the sport, they will be on to a winner.
Domestically, it’s about finding the right balance between trading and marketing teams. Consistency is essential in this product offering throughout the week. Single race odds boosts or acquisition offers don’t guarantee you a customer’s wallet for the four days of the festival or even for an entire day. The key is giving customers a choice of races that spreads out the positions more evenly and then helps the operator engage the customer in each race throughout the festival.
How is price latency and odds generation different in horse racing compared to other sports betting activities? What challenges does this present for operators?
Alan Casey: If we take a traditional sport like football, the teamsheets are announced an hour before kick-off and we see the market shifts as a result. Outside of that, there isn’t a lot of other information flowing into the market.
In horse racing however, there is more information in the market and operators are exposed from the minute they put bets up with no set times as to when information will enter the market. Latency issues become far more apparent in horseracing, dealing with large bets can result in loss of margin from a day’s racing. During the final minutes before the off, any latency or speed issue can result in operators being left badly exposed.
With the market constantly flocculating like this, Push APIs that inform operators the instant a price has changed can be invaluable, leaving no time for incorrect pricing on a sportsbook. Mere seconds of inaccurate pricing can be the difference between profit and loss.
Q&A/Twitch bans gambling streamers w/ Michael Pedersen CCO at Livespins
What do you think of Twitch’s decision to ban casino sites from being streamed on its platform?
Twitch’s decision to ban remote licensed online casino sites from being streamed from its platform has made waves right across the industry. But at Livespins, we have long expected this moment to come, and what is now certain is that gambling on mainstream media platforms is, and likely always will be, volatile. That is why it is important for the industry to control the space and provide a healthy, highly engaging and, most importantly, sustainable solution. The opportunity that sits at the intersection of gambling and streaming is far too big for us not to.
How has this situation come about? Has the writing been on the wall for a while?
The ban comes in the wake of a campaign to oust gambling from the platform after top-tier streamer ItsSlicker admitted to having a gambling problem. It’s fair to say some sort of ban was already in the works with recent events likely to have forced Twitch to act sooner rather than later. For us, the writing has been on the wall for some time now.
You just have to look at the surging popularity of slot streaming, the increased competition among streamers and the lengthens they have been going to grow and retain their following to see things would have to change. Many streamers were opting to play with increasingly large and unsustainable bet amounts as well as partaking in sometimes offensive studio behaviour to generate clips and moments that would gather attention online – behaviour that was also starting to gather the attention of industry insiders, watchdogs, and regulators.
More worryingly, to afford these large bet sizes and increased hours spent gambling, many streamers were becoming sponsored in one way or another and not disclosing this arrangement to their audiences. This meant they were essentially misleading their viewers to think that their gambling was being done with their own funds when the reality was very different. Add into the mix the recent ban on the use of gambling links and ads within Twitch streams and it was clear to us that the house of cards was about to come tumbling down.
What impact will the ban have on online casino brands, slot studios and of course slot streamers?
It is going to take a little time for the true impact of the ban to be understood. Twitch has been a touch ambiguous when it comes to exactly who the ban applies to – online casino brands that hold a licence in the US, or from another reputable jurisdiction, can continue to use the platform while the ban appears to only apply to online casinos and not sportsbook, etc. Streamers that have built their brands on slot streaming will also be heavily impacted for obvious reasons. I think it’s fair to say Twitch will be off limits for most operators, slot studios and streamers for quite some time, if indefinitely.
Does this spell the end of the relationship between streaming and online gambling?
Not at all. Livespins was founded on the insight that a significant player segment clearly loves the slots streaming concept and the opportunity to engage with a community of like-minded individuals, the authenticity of streamers over more rigid live dealers and the overall organic nature of the streaming entertainment experience. We wanted to retain all of those features but leave behind the unsustainable behaviour that we have seen on Twitch. Our platform does just that – it integrates directly into the online casino game lobby with our team of superstar streamers playing slots from our roster of approved studio partners.
How does Livespins allow casinos, studios, and streamers to leverage the tremendous popularity of slot streaming?
We bring all three parties together in one powerful, responsible, compliant solution. For licenced operators, the Livespins stream takes place directly within their casino and allows them to generate revenues from the bet behinds that players can make via our unique system. For studios, they gain high levels of exposure among players but in an environment where said players can wager directly on the action happening in the game. We also pay studios to be on the platform, opening up an additional line of revenue. For streamers, we provide a platform for them to be able to do what they love while earning a living and the security that comes with being an employee and part of a big team.
But let’s not also forget viewers and players. Livespins allows them to not only watch the explosive action taking place across the reels, but also get involved in a direct way by betting behind each spin. This creates a group bet and a shared experience, but with each player able to select their own bet amount and number of spins. They can also interact with the streamer and each other throughout, as well as add reactions and emojis. This takes the foundation of what they could experience on Twitch and supercharges it.
How does it do this in a responsible way?
Livespins brings the streaming entertainment we know to be so popular and puts it in the hands of the operator – those that are working diligently to create safe and sustainable play for their customers and who have the tools to do so. From the very beginning, we at Livespins have also worked relentlessly to deliver pure sustainable entertainment to players all over the globe. Our streamers are recruited by us, vetted and trained for months on content and responsible gambling. And, we ensure moderators 24/7 making sure we are building a healthy community.
What does the future have in store for slot streaming?
Some might consider Twitch banning online casino from its platform as the end of slot streaming, but we see it as just the beginning. Livespins is the platform and product to allow operators, studios and streamers to unlock the massively untapped potential on the table here and to do it responsibly and compliantly. The appetite for slot streaming content is only going to increase, and we are here to help all stakeholders leverage this and provide socially-charged, highly entertaining experiences to their players.
European Gaming / Q&A – Queen’s Award for Innovation Danny Edwards, Chief Revenue Officer at Synalogik
- Congratulations on receiving the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Can you tell us more about the award and why you received it?
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are probably the top, and most prestigious, awards programme in the UK. There are several categories, in our case we won the Queen’s Award for Innovation.
We won the award due to our data aggregation platform, Scout®, and its contribution to fighting financial crime and helping organisations with regulatory compliance across both the public and private sector. Scout® has proven to deliver significant ROI for businesses across the gambling, insurance, banking, legal and public sector. In the gambling sector our clients include Entain Plc, Betway and Buzz Bingo.
- What does receiving such an award mean to Synalogik and the team behind the business?
Along our journey we have been extremely lucky to get the support of some large multinationals and high-profile investors; however, receiving the Queen’s Award for Innovation has galvanised and given confidence to our team in different, in some ways more important, ways. We have always been driven by the desire to help and serve the wider public interest; therefore, to receive an independent award of this high calibre gives us an unmatched sense of pride that we are delivering on our mission.
With the sad news of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, it is with deep regret, but great pride that we realise we are now going to be the last company to ever receive HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Award for Innovation.
- What makes your Scout data aggregation platform so effective?
Scout® is unique in its capability to aggregate data from open, closed, third party and proprietary sources, allowing investigators and analysts to query data efficiently and at scale. Scout® performs data collection in a fraction of the time it takes for users to manually log in and out of multiple data sources and investigation tools, even when looking at thousands of investigation points. Countless testing indicates Scout® saves up to 85% of their time compared to manual investigations.
This ability to aggregate all these data sources means that it is capable of automating complex enhanced due diligence checks and fraud investigations something that had not been possible before. Scout®, through saving time, enables your team to investigate more cases, in greater detail, at a lower cost; however, it’s benefits go beyond just time-consumption. It also improves the effectiveness of investigations by eliminating the human error and inconsistency that occurs when trying to compile reports and find links across information available in different browser windows and formats.
Synalogik was created in 2018 by experts from law enforcement, intelligence, and legal backgrounds, who were frustrated by the amount of time it was taking to pull together information when performing investigations manually. We therefore designed Scout® to include tools that would fundamentally address each of the pain points we had with the investigation process. Besides wanting to create a single intelligence environment with a unified interface, we added automated report generation in numerous formats, the ability to visualise links between entities, the ability to clash data and do bulk uploads, an open source intelligence tool, risk and search workflows as well as the ability to break down data sharing barriers between branches and sub-brands with the Synalogik Knowledgebase.
- It is now used by 25% of the gambling industry – how does it benefit operators and what upsides does it enable them to unlock?
Scout helps operators to enhance their EDD, AML, and RG processes by combining their third-party data with open-source information (including adverse media). This means that their analysts only need to log into one platform to perform all the required checks, which is then displayed in a downloadable report and in the workbench within Scout.
We have seen from existing customers that the time taken to perform an investigation has reduced by as much as 85%, which is then allowing their analysts to focus on other business-critical tasks.
- Just how important is it for operators to meet the highest possible standards when it comes to affordability, AML, etc?
It’s incredibly important. As we’ve seen recently the UKGC are handing more fines out than ever to operators for failures, particularly around AML and social responsibility. I think operators understand that they are part of an ecosystem where it benefits everyone to ensure that laundered money is kept out of their businesses and that players can play in a fun way that is sustainable for their future and the future of organisations.
- How can operators prepare for any tightening of regulations in markets such as the UK? How can your platform help with this?
Tightening regulations inevitably mean that operators need to get better at spotting possible signs of criminals trying to launder money and players hiding their true financial situation. It is crucial therefore to learn more about the possible sources of data available and the insights they can give into the challenges mentioned above.
Open-source intelligence is now a mandated and key source of information for operators. Synalogik has carried out extensive research around identifying and risk assessing vulnerable individuals. In one such case found on the surface an individual who appeared to have no apparent vulnerabilities, however, through investigating more OSINT data sources, we were able to find mentions of his gambling addiction on several forums. If we had only used a limited number of data sources, this would have been missed, creating the potential for harm to the player and the operator.
Our platform is the only one that takes a data agnostic approach to aggregation of data, meaning we work with our operator clients to integrate the data sources they need to complete their risk assessments and checks to the optimal thoroughness. Being able to automate search and risk assessments over all their data sources gives them the time and tools to investigate more cases, in more detail.
In addition, it helps to improve analyst decisions – manually cross referencing and collating data from multiple datasets in different browser windows can easily lead to human error. Scout® creates standardised, in-depth, and clear reports, leaving operators and their teams free to focus on decision making.
Scout® open-source intelligence tool enables operators to create highly targeted automated searches around keywords, proximity, timeframe, and document type, eliminating false positives, and getting them to the right information in seconds.
Interview with nanocosmos’ CEO Oliver Lietz: How 2022’s launches of B2B interactive live streaming accelerate the iGaming and betting market to serve increased demands for better user experience
Nanocosmos, well experienced provider of the interactive live streaming solution nanoStream Cloud for iGaming and betting platform operators, was awarded once again by the Streaming Media European Innovation Awards 2022. What is the secret?
It is a great honor to be awarded two yours in a row. Since we entered the market of interactive live streaming, we have helped to shape it. Yet our biggest secret still lies in our customer approach. We work closely with our clients to deliver a service they can rely on. Our 100% stability and 24/7 operations are key differentiators for the gaming industry.
With the a new upgrade of nanoStream Cloud that we launched this year we built on the integrated approach, but added new features for successful interactive live streaming. Our live streaming platform and API spans over a wide range of areas such as Adaptive and secure streaming, ultra-low latency to enable real-time interaction, advanced analytics, live metadata support, stream protection, 100% stability and reliability at a global scale.
What makes your streaming solution work particularly well for iGaming and betting platforms?
When it comes to live casinos and sports betting it is all about a seamless user experience. One of the major advantages that we are very proud of is that our platform is very robust and stable with 100% uptime, for all networks on a global scale. In addition you have adaptive streaming and the integrated approach – it is not about just doing one thing well, but about bringing all components under one roof. This is to make sure everything from ingest to playout, from support to player and analytics works well and supports the profitability of iGaming and betting platforms. It serves end-to-end observability and helps companies to make decisions that will shape profitability, experience and efficiency. nanoStream Cloud is all about 24/7/365 quality of service and quality of experience for the entertainment services of our clients.
With the return of in-person shows – what were the major milestones of this year’s launches that were shared and what are they aiming at?
At ICE 2022 we launched the new version of our nanoStream Player to achieve and maintain sub-second latency, yet stability for even bad networks on all devices, anywhere in the world. This fall at SBC Barcelona we show enhanced adaptive streaming service not only by making it much easier for customers to manage their live transcoded streams. In combination with the new player, nanoStream Cloud is now positioned to cover both as part of the standard package: Interactive live streaming with the possibility to achieve sub-second latency, including live transcoding and adaptive playback.
In addition nanoStream Cloud users can now ingest using the RTMP, SRT and WHIP protocols for WebRTC ingest for improving connectivity, especially for remote ingest locations and higher bitrates and customers can benefit from added misuse protection to secure their streamed content.
What innovation do you see ahead for the iGaming and betting industry?
There is a lot of room for innovation to be picked up by live gaming and betting operators, based on live video to share with their player audiences. Trends like „fast betting“ on sports create new ideas by operators for new types of games.
What core challenges do you help to solve for platform operators?
We have seen continuous growth in terms of the importance and the market of interactive live streaming. It is a great opportunity to engage anyone worldwide based on live video content. We at nanocosmos aim to empower our clients to deliver video-based games and bets to their viewers with a 360 degree angle, end-to-end.
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