Q&A w/ Timothy Hill, Senior Project Manager at Betsson Group, on how an operator prepares for the World Cup
How does a tier-one operator such as Betsson prepare for a big betting event such as the World Cup?
The World Cup is a huge event for football and also for Betsson. A major sporting (and betting) event such as this touches nearly every department within the company from analytics to IT via marketing, facilities and commercial. Each of these departments must be in sync and we go to great lengths to constantly align so that we are fully prepared for when the first game kicks off. From infrastructure to promotions, everything has to have been tested so that we can be confident that our platform and systems can handle the significant increase in new players and bet volumes that we expect during such tournaments.
To make sure this is the case, we have been preparing since the start of the year. We have teams allocated specifically to this tournament’s activity and they have been laser-focused on making sure that we are ready for the biggest betting event of the year. Of course, we have to be ready for this major event, while also delivering the same superior player experience across all our brands and verticals in the build-up to the tournament and throughout. It’s a massive undertaking that requires strong internal communication and the ability to track teams and activities at all times.
What are the biggest challenges you face? How are these challenges overcome?
The incredibly high level of competition in each of our markets is probably the biggest challenge we face. Betsson is not the only operator looking to take advantage of the huge potential this tournament has to offer, so we have to ensure that we are the best across all areas from sportsbook promotions to payments. It’s all well and good being able to attract new players, but once they are active with our brands, we have to make sure they receive the best possible experience; doing this in multiple global markets is a significant challenge, to say the least. The surge in active players and bet volumes is another challenge, and operators must stress-test their platforms and systems to ensure they can handle the huge increase in activity. Finally, for tier-one operators such as Betsson, it’s important to make sure this tournament does not distract from our regular business. This requires a lot of multi-tasking within teams.
What has been the biggest lesson learned from previous tournaments?
Start preparing early and keep the momentum going. We’ve actually had more time to prepare this year since it is taking place in the autumn/winter, and this has really helped make sure that we’re 100% ready and firing on all cylinders. Any major sport tournament is such a big branding and acquisition opportunity that operators should give it the time and resources it needs and that’s why we’ve been working on our proposition for nearly a year now.
Does your approach to the World Cup change for each brand? How does it change from market to market?
In terms of the sports promotions we are running, we have a big global offer available in all markets and then local offers specific to each jurisdiction. We give our local teams the freedom and flexibility to tailor their marketing plans and campaigns as they know their audiences better than anyone else. In corporate, we see it as our responsibility to give them the resources, tools and support they need to do this.
Player acquisition is a key focus for many operators. What approach are you taking?
Bonuses and promotions are very important for player acquisition during sporting tournaments. Our flagship, The Betsson Million, is available in most of Betsson Groups core markets. Each player is credited with €1 Million in cash and can use the money to predict the outcome of 20 football match questions. An example of such question may be “Will there be more than 2.5 goals in the Qatar vs Ecuador match”. The player can invest the full million in ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or split the money 70/30 or 50/50 or however they chose. Whatever money remains after the match has been played is taken to the second question. The cash the player has left after 20 questions is theirs to keep without any wagering restrictions or requirements. All players get unlimited chances to win €1M, and the game is available 365 days per year. But this is just one aspect of player acquisition and to successfully onboard new players at scale, operators must provide a seamless user experience from the moment they arrive at the brand. This includes sign-up, KYC, payments, markets and odds, customer support and more.
It’s not just about acquiring players, either. Retention is hugely important, especially considering the bonuses some rival brands are offering to tempt players to their books. At Betsson, we’re looking to super-charge retention with a range of initiatives including football-themed slot games, incentives for trying casino and live gaming and in some market, we are also even offering a Football True or False online contest where players try to answer their way to a share of €1,500. In short, we want to welcome new players looking to bet on the upcoming exciting matches and then show them the incredible entertainment and betting experience they can enjoy across our brands.
Are big bonuses the only way to stand out from rival brands? If not, how else do you look to differentiate and drive player sign-ups?
Bonuses are a huge part of how brands look to differentiate in markets where they are allowed, but they are not the only way. At Betsson, we want players to know that we offer a huge range of betting experiences and options and cross-selling sports bettors to casino and live casino tables is a big focus of ours. To do this, we are running the football theme across our sportsbooks and casinos and have lots of special promotions, themed slots and dedicated live casino environments to help achieve this.
Just how important is retention during big betting events like the World Cup? Is it more challenging with so many bonuses flying around? How do you ensure players remain loyal?
As touched on already, retention is mission-critical for Betsson during sporting events and beyond. Due to the high costs of acquisition, it’s important for operators to retain players and mitigate churn as much as possible for as long as possible. That’s why the quality of the player experience offered once they have signed up is vital. When it comes to ensuring that players remain loyal, we do this via on-going promotions, the availability of markets and value of odds, a lobby stocked with a wide range of slots, casino and live dealer content, localised payment options and the best customer support in the business. The full package, if you like.
What does a successful World Cup look like for Betsson?
We want to see an influx of new players sign up to our brands, and for this to be a driver of higher bet volumes and turnover. Of course, it’s important to retain these players and we hope to see a positive response to our promotions and campaigns. The fourth quarter is often a strong one for gambling companies, and this huge event has a good chances of becoming the biggest sports event ever for Betsson!
How do you ensure that players acquired during the tournament continue to wager with your brands after the final whistle is blown?
It comes down to the retention tactics mentioned earlier. That this tournament is also taking place in the middle of regular football and sports seasons across the globe will also help with retention. In the UK, for example, Boxing Day is just a couple of weeks after the World Cup climax and is one of the biggest betting days in the English Premier League. So long as we can keep players engaged during the Christmas period, I think we will be able to drive loyalty for a long time to come.
Exclusive Q&A with Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd
One quick thing that came to mind after conducting the interview was: this man knows the industry. So Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd.
For starterrs, Lickd is a micro-licensing and music solutions company that caters to the creator economy. If that sounds obscure, jump straight to the interview, where Paul Simpson talks in simple terms about Lickd and the present and future of the online music industry.
Q. Let’s start with a brief personal profile. Tell us about your background and career?
A. I’ve been working in music licensing since 2005. I’ve worked specifically with stock music, commercial music, and more recently, exploring ways of strengthening the creator economy.
For around five years, straight out of university, I worked in television at a small production company, climbing through the ranks. Throughout this time, I encountered the difficulties of licensing music several times, and so began to take an interest in understanding the nuances and problems that needed solving.
I’d gotten to know several renowned music licensing companies, and in 2005, one of them, Extreme Music, offered me a job in New York and with that, I followed my passion and began my career jump into the music industry. Within about two and a half years in the role, they relocated me out to Los Angeles as the Head of US.
In 2010, a new role brought me back to Europe and I was a key figure in launching the European arm of another U.S. music licensing company. This time, it was not just stock music, but a focus on more commercial music, and unsigned independent acts.
After this, I knew it was time to start acting on the music opportunities that were becoming more prevalent with the boom of the creator economy, and so following that channel, Lickd was born in 2017.
Q. Now let’s move on to Lickd. What led you to found Lickd?
A. Two words led me to found Lickd: Creator Economy. As social media became more prevalent in everyday life in the late 2000’s, the opportunities for music and creators were plentiful and so Lickd was born. A few years later, as the effects on the media landscape following the pandemic have increased the creator economy twofold, we see even more opportunities to continue to seize the moment, and the market.
Lickd is the first music company to ever develop a major music solution for content creators of all kinds. We licence music from major labels and publishers, including current music that’s in the charts and make it available for licensing, legally. Our unique software protects our users on the platform that they place music on, for example, YouTube and Instagram. Platforms like YouTube have built in music recognition software that identifies popular music being used in content, and presumes that all music uses are some sort of infringement of copyright, therefore, persecuting the creator and attempting to police them out of earning revenue.
Lickd’s software is really the magic solution that the platform sits on top of to ensure that not only can creators licence the music but that they’re taken care of and we’re protecting their revenue all the way through to the end of the content journey.
Q. What is Lickd’s specialty?
A. What sets us apart is that we are unique in our offering. We’re working with 10,000+ labels and publishers that are linked to the Lickd platform, including Universal, Warner, Sony, BMG and Kobalt. To engage labels and publishers like that and to preclear their music for any content vertical is something that was once largely thought impossible, but Lickd has made it happen and is helping to secure new revenue streams for creators globally.
Q. Could you talk about your work with key gaming powerhouses?
A. Gaming is obviously an enormous industry, bigger than music and film combined. Any content vertical with that sort of reach has a huge platform, a huge audience to work with and promote music too.
In terms of how Lickd got together with Fortnite and Epic Games; essentially music became part of their engagement strategy, and they started paying more attention to it. Senior teams were asking key questions like: ‘how can we work with artists’ and ‘what sort of artist does our audience want to hear within a game’?
With this comes complexities around licensing and demographics. Gamers who are also content creators often live stream their content or create highlights videos for YouTube. At Lickd, we already know that in-video music on YouTube is an issue and so we collaborate with Fortnite to bridge that gap so that gamers can enjoy the wonderful events that are put on for them, while also being able to then promote and share that content in the ways that they normally would.
Whether this is for ancillary income or additional income on top of a salary, if content creation is a full-time job, Lickd protects creators on those platforms, to enable a more effective creation and lifecycle process for the content they’re publishing.
Q. Could you briefly narrate the content deals you have with music companies and bands?
A. Over the past five years we’ve built a platform that is made up of popular music from 10,000 labels and publishers, including Universal, Warner, Sony BMG and Kobalt. We also work with lots of independent distributors. There’s around 1.4 million songs on Lickd, and another 6 million delivered and waiting to go live. The vast majority of them would be emerging acts and we certainly do our best to help and encourage discovery on the platform.
Q. In what ways does Lickd help creators to monetise their content?
A. I think it’s important to outline that wherever there is opportunity for the music industry online, it will require some sort of micro licensing commercial model, and some sort of proprietary tech, either to enable the licensing or to protect the end user.
That’s where Lickd is perfectly positioned. Our mission is to democratise music for the world’s creators. Our first product looked at creators as video content creators, but as the world changes and the digital landscape evolves, creators will also include builders in the metaverse and big brands on social platforms.
Q. How do you see the possibility of an AI text-to-background-music generator?
A. There’s various ways that AI will impact music. It’s something we’re following closely and it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that any part of the music industry isn’t already seeing some element of business being affected directly by AI. So far we’ve seen AI generated songs, well known songs of one artist being sung in the AI voice of another, and the fact that chords and melodies can be created by simply inputting into an AI, and we’re always expecting more.
The uptake of AI in music creation won’t be instant, but at some point, creators will become of faith with smart tools that allow them to generate music through these new means for use in videos. Although, once created, that music will still need to be licensed, and there will be commercial models that give users access to the tools and/or licensing opportunities for the music created by said tool.
In the metaverse, there will be music collaboration spaces and music production event areas or venues. Generative AI is useful for creating ‘music stems’, and building a sort of catalogue of music elements that can then be used by people collaboratively to start making an entire song – something that was not happening in the past.
An AI can continuously keep churning out new beats and new melodies and new riffs and new instrumental sounds, and people will get together to create music on the fly, and that will require AI generative tools at some scale. I think you’ll see things like musical skins, where Avatars might want their own soundtrack or music identifier. How do I know someone entered the room? Well, I just heard their music handle to signify they’re here. Like boxers have ring walks, there’ll be a version of that somewhere in the metaverse.
We know that there are music metaverses and venues, and metaverse platforms based around music creation already, and there are others on the way. A good example of this is Pixelynx, Deadmau5’s music based metaverse platform. He founded the platform, one that was completely based around the music, but then was acquired by Animoca Brands, a brand with a broad portfolio of web3, blockchain and traditional games, which is a huge web3 holding company, so from launch to exit, Deadmau5 did very well out of the partnership.
Artificial Intelligence and online poker: will technologies change the future of the game?
Today we sat down to talk with Igor Terebinov, Deputy CEO of PokerMatch International, about whether artificial intelligence could kill the future of online poker
AI can launch a new era of poker
The world’s coding geniuses have always considered poker to be the most complex game. Whereas, for example, all pieces are clearly visible on a chessboard, and the strategy itself is calculated for many moves ahead, in poker, the cards of all opponents are closed, so the winning options were selected based on incomplete data. Nevertheless, the machine with a specially launched program managed to master the methodology of using the well-known bluff. Before that, it was believed that machine intelligence was incapable of deliberate provocation and that only a human could bluff in poker.
Speaking about the beginning of a new era of poker, we can say that we are all already in it. Poker is a game that never stands still and is constantly evolving, and we can already see how much it has changed since its creation or over the past few years. However, it’s too early to say that AI will replace human speaking skills. It can be argued that artificial intelligence can make a significant contribution to the development of poker and change its dynamics, but it is a mistake to believe that it will start a new poker era. The game of poker is a challenging task for AI as it requires decision-making based on uncertainty and incomplete information. Thus, AI can help players make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy, but it cannot completely replace a player.
It is expected that the development of artificial intelligence will have an impact on poker as the technology improves over time. Currently, artificial intelligence is not flexible enough in terms of strategies and is very expensive to use. Therefore, it is not yet used in real online games.
How artificial intelligence is used in poker
I have to admit that artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for poker players, helping them to make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy. However, it is important to understand that the use of AI in poker does not guarantee victory at all, as the game of poker depends primarily on random factors and the intellectual and psychological skills of players.
AI in poker can perform the following functions:
- Game strategy development: AI can be used to develop optimal poker strategies that can help players make more informed decisions during the game.
- Data analysis: artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data that can help determine optimal strategies and predict game outcomes.
- Probability analysis: AI is able to analyze the probability of a particular combination of cards appearing on the table.
- Predicting opponents’ actions: analyzing the behavior of opponents and predicting their actions during the game.
- Determining the opponent’s level: analyzing the opponent’s gaming style and determining their level. This can help players adapt to the opponent’s playing style.
Ethical and legal implications of using AI in poker
First of all, it should be remembered that the use of artificial intelligence in online poker is illegal in many countries and can lead to serious legal consequences. As I have already mentioned, the game of poker is based largely on human skills, such as reading facial expressions, making strategic decisions, and understanding the game and behavioral characteristics of other players. Using AI to influence the outcome of the game contradicts the ethical principles of the game and may harm the experience of other players. If you personally want to improve your poker skills, artificial intelligence will not help you in this, but will only harm you. After all, over time, you may lose your intuitive abilities and skills of behavioral characteristics of your opponents.
Moreover, the use of AI can lead to a threat to player privacy, as some of them can access poker players’ personal data and use it for their own purposes.
Can AI “kill” the future of online poker?
I would say no, it is almost impossible. Yes, artificial intelligence can harm gaming in its classic sense – users will play for money, not pleasure, using AI algorithms and tactics. Players may stop improving their skills by trusting artificial intelligence. Some argue that AI may kill the original spirit of the poker game, as the winner may no longer be the one who can read opponents and calculate everything in advance, but the one who can memorize the most patterns and apply them in the game.
That is, AI can harm online poker, but it does not mean that it will completely replace human intelligence in this game. After all, poker is a game that requires not only computational abilities but also intuition, experience, and the ability to read other players.
In general, the prospects for the development of artificial intelligence in the field of gambling can be useful if they are used to create fairer and safer conditions for the game.
The future of the poker industry in general
The poker sector has long been one of the most popular and profitable gambling industries. In recent years, the online poker market has expanded significantly thanks to innovative technologies that continue to be constantly introduced into the game. Therefore, all indicators and favorable development conditions point to an increasing demand for online poker among users.
Gamification will become a separate development vector. Gambling will increasingly move towards gamification, become faster and more interesting. We can already see trends when users choose a platform to play not because it has the best conditions, but because it has some unique feature, you can boost your level, character, get achievements, etc. To some extent, our niche competes with games, video hosting, and other entertainment platforms where users come to get their own kind of dopamine.
Let’s not forget about artificial intelligence. In the future, AI will definitely be used to create interesting and dynamic gaming situations that will adapt to the player’s level and style of play. Also, AI can be used to create more realistic virtual opponents using VR technologies that will take into account all possible game development options.
The use of blockchain technologies in poker will also grow rapidly. Blockchain will be used to store and exchange information between players, such as game history and results. This will help to increase the transparency of the game and reduce the possibility of disputes.
Q&A w/ Justin G. Farrugia Aretonet CEO
Can you give us an overview of what AretoNet does as a business and its background in gaming prior to the launch of Betintel.ai?
AretoNet is a gaming-focused organization led by founders with extensive experience in various B2B and B2C roles across operations, product and engineering. We launched with the aim of addressing the common issue of the industry trying to understand its data. Our initial product was designed as a lead tracking and nurturing tool, but quickly evolved beyond user acquisition to focus on CRM and player engagement. Since our MVP launch in 2019, we have been actively gathering feedback and pain points from industry stakeholders to ensure our product is based on industry requirements. While there are several verticals within the gaming space, such as casino, sportsbook, lottery and others, our focus has been on retention strategies, which can differ in some ways.
To address the issue of understanding data mentioned above, we launched our first version of the BI tool two years ago, which provided users with a way to slice and dice data and view information from different perspectives. While we currently have around 140 static gaming-specific reports, we understand each business user has their own unique questions and ideas.
At AretoNet, we believe that while AI and automation features are useful, humans still crave an element of control and understanding in their business. That’s why we are investing further effort into our BI product, which has led us to conceptualize Betfinal.ai. This tool will help businesses gain a deeper understanding of customer preferences, acquisition sources, financial KPIs, and answer any query about their data. We are excited to continue to innovate and improve our products to meet the evolving needs of the gaming industry.
The gaming industry appetite for the adoption of new technology is growing daily. What key points should operators consider when evaluating whether a new technology provider is a suitable fit?
In the past, AI has been a significant driver for users seeking any product. Similarly, other technologies such as crypto, metaverse, web3 and others tend to influence user opinions when evaluating a product. However, it’s important to note user opinions are sometimes influenced by the media or the masses, rather than driven by their own pain points. When evaluating a potential technology partner, businesses must first consider their own pain points before considering external factors.
Another crucial factor to keep in mind is the provider’s vision and future focus. Nowadays, some form of integration is always required between systems when working with a technology partner. This necessitates a significant investment and a long-term collaboration. While considering current pain points, businesses must also look to the future to ensure the technology provider can accommodate their future needs.
It’s crucial to remember technology providers must be evaluated based on their ability to address specific business pain points, rather than just adopting a new technology trend. By carefully evaluating and selecting the right technology partner, businesses can not only solve their current challenges, but also set themselves up for long-term success in the constantly evolving technological landscape.
What can Betintel.ai provide that operators might not be able to develop in-house?
Our mission is to help gaming operators meet their unique challenges by developing technology solutions that address their specific pain points. By leveraging our expertise and knowledge in the industry, we can help operators improve their customer engagement, increase player retention, provide them with easy-to-use tools to understand their data and trends, and ultimately drive revenue growth and provide the ability for operators to be more proactive.
It’s essential for everyone to focus on their core competencies. While operators are focused on generating value for their customers and shareholders by strengthening their brand and increasing their product offerings, at AretoNet, we are dedicated to providing the gaming industry with innovative products to help them achieve their goals.
Betfinal.ai was developed to address a fundamental pain point that affects every aspect of a business and every decision-maker. The speed at which questions are answered and data is understood, without any barriers, is critical to achieving business objectives.
Our focus on this aspect of BI enables businesses to make data-driven decisions without delays, which can help them gain a competitive edge and improve their overall performance. Our goal is to help businesses overcome the challenges they face when it comes to data management and analysis by providing them with the tools and insights they need to succeed.
What particular types of player behaviour can the platform be used to track?
Betinel.ai has the ability to natively track and provide business users with various datasets, including player behavior. The system can effortlessly track and support various aspects such as wagering, product preferences, acquisition channels, bonusing and more. We understand each operator has unique requirements and may require specific data to be tracked and made available to their business users.
We believe our customers should have access to the data they need, and we are committed to providing a customizable solution that meets their individual needs. If operators require other specific data to be tracked and made available, we can easily add this to our system. Our flexible approach allows us to tailor our solution to meet the unique requirements of each of our customers.
How challenging is it to overcome the complexities of building a multi-faceted system such as this?
I would say it’s a natural progression. When a product is initially launched to address one or more industry problems, those problems can change and evolve over time.
In a similar vein, the product itself may need to evolve to meet the changing needs of the industry. We began with a multi-channel CRM product that offered segmentation capabilities. Today, our comprehensive product includes automation features, CRM, content management, and BI. The reality is the more uses a system has, the more complex it becomes to maintain and keep up with industry standards. There are various parts of the system that require constant evolution to ensure our customers succeed.
While the challenge of remaining current is ongoing, we are always on the lookout for ways to address the primary issues of the gaming industry that align with our mission. We have learned data accessibility and the ability for business users to receive direct answers to their questions without requiring technical expertise is essential to any business process. Therefore, this is our current focus.
How do you see this system developing over time? Where do you think the industry can improve in this area?
We have a significant roadmap which will elevate Betintel.ai to new heights, but the core principle will always remain the same. Business users are eager to understand their data, achieve results, and use their data to enhance efficiency and progress. Predicting the future is challenging, particularly with the accelerated progression of Artificial Intelligence. Our mission for Betfinal.ai in the near future is to concentrate on data discovery and providing business users with the ability to effortlessly query and comprehend their data at any moment.
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