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Interviews

Q&A w/ Timothy Hill, Senior Project Manager at Betsson Group, on how an operator prepares for the World Cup

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Q&A w/ Timothy Hill, Senior Project Manager at Betsson Group, on how an operator prepares for the World Cup
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

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.

Interviews

From Esports to Emerging Markets: Deep Dive into Sports Betting Trends 24’ with Alexander Kamenetskyi

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From Esports to Emerging Markets: Deep Dive into Sports Betting Trends 24’ with Alexander Kamenetskyi
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

As each new year begins, there is a growing interest in anticipating the trends that will shape the months ahead. Could you provide insights into the sports betting trends that are expected to be relevant in 2024?

Our SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team has reflected on the past year and observed that the sports betting landscape largely maintains its trajectory, with several key trends that the industry is already familiar with.

Firstly, esports is set to continue its solid rise within sports betting. Over the past few years, esports has steadily climbed the ranks, with games like Counter-Strike gaining significant traction among bettors. With projections indicating a substantial increase in viewership, reaching an estimated 640 million viewers by 2025, according to reports from Newzoo, esports presents a lucrative opportunity for operators to tap into.

Additionally, the dominance of mobile betting is expected to persist, with mobile devices driving the majority of operator gross gaming revenue (GGR). This trend underscores a preference for convenience, particularly in live betting scenarios. That is why we continually enhance our mobile applications and websites to cater to evolving consumer demands.

Also, with the emergence of newly regulated markets, operators are prioritising certification and compliance to ensure the integrity of their offerings. This includes obtaining certifications such as GLI-33 and licences such as MGA, which the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook received last year.

Overall, the sports betting trends in 2024 underscore the importance of adaptability and innovation. Operators must navigate an increasingly dynamic landscape driven by technological advancements and regulatory changes.

 

You have named a few trends that seem relevant for both casinos and betting projects. Does this mean that both types of projects should focus on the same aspects?

Yes and no. While the iGaming market shares common trends like regulations, each area has specific considerations. I would mention one interesting point between sports betting and casino betting. 

Last year, analysing the results of the FIFA World Cup and talking with our partners, I found out that there was a 10–20% drop in online casino betting turnover during this sports event. This shows that even casino-only projects have at least 10% of players interested in sports. In practice, it means that during every major sporting event, a casino will more likely lose a minimum of 10% of its turnover. That does not sound nice. 

That is why adding sports betting opportunities to online casinos would be a great option, especially since it’s now possible to give players a seamless experience. And I am talking not only about the SOFTSWISS Casino Platform. Our Sportsbook can be easily integrated with every casino platform on the market. 

We have cases when casino projects not only opened a sportsbook but also migrated to our sports betting platform. By the way, promoting sportsbooks is much easier than casinos, as sports events help a lot. Also, player conversion in sports betting is many times higher because, in my opinion, it is more socially accepted.

 

What do you mean by seamless experience?

A player simply sees no barriers moving from casino to sportsbook. In most cases, it looks like an additional tab on the website. The most convenient thing is a seamless wallet. Players can use the money they deposited at the casino for their sportsbook activities. 

We make the experience seamless not only for players but also for our partners. Our suite of products offers operators a comprehensive range of solutions, including Affilka, the Casino Platform, the Game Aggregator, the Jackpot Aggregator, and a payment gateway. These products are designed to integrate with each other, creating a cohesive ecosystem.

 

Going back to trends and predictions for this year, which markets would you say are the most promising?

In our market focus, we are looking closely at Latin America, especially Brazil, and Africa, with a specific eye on South Africa and Nigeria. These regions offer exciting growth opportunities, and our strategy is geared towards unlocking their potential to better cater to the unique needs of these markets.

This year, SOFTSWISS has already acquired a majority stake in Turfsport, a leading South African provider of multichannel wagering software for sports, horse racing, and lotto. It helped us officially enter the African market and extend our product portfolio.

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Asia

Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Dr Aruna Sharma, Practitioner Development Economist & Retd Secretary GoI

 

Could you provide insights into the current market potential for iGaming in India, and what key challenges do you anticipate the industry facing in the near future?

The popularity of online gaming as a form of entertainment in India has surged with the widespread availability of inexpensive smartphones and affordable internet access. Global investors, developers, and other industry stakeholders are keenly watching the growth story of the Indian online gaming industry which has witnessed a 28% CAGR between FY20-23 and holds a market valuation of ₹16,428 crores.

However, instead of direct contribution in the economic growth story of India the online gaming industry is contributing in terms of increasing revenue (direct and indirect tax) collection (year-on-year). Additionally, the sector has attracted budding tech developers and entrepreneurs by providing them employment opportunities and fueling innovation to keep up with the rising demand for AI and other such immersive gaming experiences.

After some crucial and elucidative changes in the regulatory and taxation policies by the government in 2023, one can hope that 2024 for iGaming will thin the clouds that are shadowing accelerated growth of iGaming in India. 2024 holds promise for iGaming in India. While full regulation may take time, positive court ruling and increased focus on non-RMG segments could cause a casual gaming boom, potentially unlocking a multi-billion dollar market. However, regulatory uncertainty and potentially high tax rates remain a hurdle for attracting investments and interest of other stakeholders in this growing market and industry.

 

What are the main challenges facing Indian iGaming and how different are these challenges within the different regions of India?

  • The government is focusing on reducing threats like false information, mental health problems, money laundering, and financial losses for users by bringing rules and regulations such as the IT Rules, establishing SROs and SRBs.
  • Adequate regulation, that is conducive to doing business, is needed, first of all, to protect the Indian players. Because in the current situation, Indians are being abused by countless nefarious parties. Checking and curbing the illegal gaming platforms and enhancing mechanisms to ensure increased user awareness and behaviour while indulging in online gaming.
  • A pressing concern that requires governments urgent attention is to put in place parameters that differentiate between games of skill and chance for taxation.
  • As a fallout of high and retrospective taxation the industry is facing job losses, advertising and spending cuts and reduced investments in research and innovations.

Additionally, policy and regulatory compliance for the platforms have become increasingly complex with both center and state governments legislating on the same subjects and multiple ministries regulating the industry.

 

Delve into the necessity for a regulatory framework that is both balanced and adaptable.

Unregulated framework where user base is large leads to spread of iGaming in gray market with all its vices. By regulating the iGaming industry, the government can unlock other positive outcomes, such as increased tax revenues, economic growth via attracting more foreign investment, job creation, and better consumer protection. A thorough regulatory framework will enable transparent parameters to distinguish and license the game of skill accordingly and rest will fall under game of chance.

Regulations always bring in transparency and ensure there is no misleading advertising or non-payment of legal taxes. Additionally, regulations such as the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 have ascertained a robust grievance redressal mechanism by setting up of the SRBs and SROs.

Further a balanced and stable regulatory framework could provide assurance and confidence to the international iGaming companies in paying taxes while doing business in a regulated and transparent market, create jobs, and invest in the country and its people. Thus, comprehensive regulations, that are conducive to doing business and protect the Indian players, who are being abused by countless nefarious parties are necessary in the current iGaming landscape.

Consequently, foreign iGaming companies operating legally have consistently demanded that the Indian government establish an adequate and stable regulation and taxation regime. Instead, the government has consistently chosen to unwisely prohibit it, thus pushing this whole industry underground. Furthermore, iGaming companies face unfair persecution and baseless lawsuits from India.

 

The new 28% GST on online gaming has produced divided opinions about the industry’s future in India. How has the industry reacted to it?

Industry initially panicked at the 28% tax, fearing slow growth and reduced investments. The partial relief, clarification on the regulatory compliances have brought cautious optimism. Smaller firms remain anxious, fearing the high rate still discourages players and favors larger businesses. Long-term impact depends on pending Supreme Court judgment on game classification and potential tweaks to the tax structure.

The applicability of a flat 28% tax on the total value of bets placed in online gaming, irrespective of whether they are games of skill or chance has upset the applecart that was moving smoothly with the evolution of agreed principles among SROs and the oversight by SRB with clear distinction of the regulatory body between Games of Skill (permissible games) with that of Games of Chance.

The matter is now being reviewed by a Group of Ministers (GoMs) comprising of officials from ministries such as the Home, Finance, MeitY, etc. to reconsider the GST and how to counter episodes of money laundering and other such scams and frauds.

 

Finally, what can we expect from Indian iGaming as a whole this year, if you were to sum it up in three key points?

It is expected that 2024 will set pace by bringing in clarity in rule making, consistency of rules, inculcating a more stable policy environment that enables India to not miss the bus of becoming a hub for developers. The iGaming industry is expected to tighten its grip for filling the digital divide, enabling learning of cognitive skills and enhance conscious citizen messaging to further tap into the positive side of iGaming.

Additionally, iGaming industry should leverage technologies like blockchain to further the purpose of transparency and tracking of digital payment as a technical solution and for permanent storage of records to curb money laundering. Alongside formulation of regulatory policies, a stricter implementation of policies such as IT Rules (establishing SRBs), mandatory KYC, and compliance with Advertisement Standard Council in India (ASCI) norms for iGaming industry need to be inculcated in ensuring safe and secure gaming platforms.

The future of the gaming industry holds promise of growth, however, there is still a hazard that due to absent market regulation and destructive policies, international iGaming companies shun India, sending an unwelcoming signal to many other potential foreign investors.

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Interviews

Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology

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Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Online gambling operators continually engage with different software projects but the rate of failure remains incredibly high. This is usually due to time pressures placed on the project. To learn more about software development, and some of the pitfalls operators need to be aware of, we spoke to Max Francis, founder of Black Cow Technology and 25 year veteran of software development. Max also talks about Agile and Rapid Application Development, and how by adopting these approaches, and working with a specialist software developer, operators can hugely increase the chances of success of any software project.

 

What are some of the main challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software development?

Software development is about solving a problem and the very nature of this means that we don’t know how long it will take. This is one of the biggest challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software projects. They struggle to understand that software development is a creative process and that we are trying to solve a problem we haven’t tackled before and we simply don’t know how long it will take to do this. This doesn’t reconcile with the date-based mentality of most organisations when it comes to deadlines and completion. This often sees projects rushed and hurried to meet an arbitrary deadline and this usually results in the project falling short of the mark or failing completely. It’s much less painful for all involved if there is a universal, upfront understanding that we can never know how long a software project will actually take.

 

What do companies need to consider if they are to complete software projects successfully – on time, on budget and in a way that effectively solves the issue?

Operators and suppliers need to make business commitments of their own and they need to be able to rely on the software provider they are working with on the project. To be able to do that, both sides need to accept the project is going to vary and evolve over time, and that they will have to trade off three crucial dimensions if it is to be delivered successfully:  features, quality and timescales. It is impossible to secure all three and at least one will have to give. So, if a project needs to go live by a certain date, that might be fine, but functionality can’t be fixed for that date. If the project needs certain functionality, then you can’t set timescales. If certain functionality is absolutely required by a certain date then the quality will have to give. Most projects try for all three – features, timescales and quality; and this is why they fail.

 

It seems that being realistic about what can be achieved is key.

It is indeed. When it comes to it, a software development project ends up in one of three places. Good with all the features but not quick; good and quick but not with all the features; or all the features and quick, but not good. The latter approach, perhaps surprisingly, can be useful for prototyping and proof-of-concept projects but care must be taken when developing without quality. All too often, trial projects end up seeping into mainstream production and people wonder why the quality is so poor. In my experience, it’s much better to be realistic about what can actually be achieved rather than trying to run a project with blindly perceived “needs” that just can’t be met. This doesn’t mean scaling back ambitions, it just means understanding the compromises. That said, to be able to predict what can be done, we need to understand and deliver small useful chunks of what we know rather than failing to deliver based on what we want. It’s always best to be realistic, and Agile and Rapid Application Development principles help us to do this.

 

Can you tell us more about Agile and Rapid Application Development principles?

At Black Cow we have the mantra “something useful to someone, sooner”. It’s essentially about partnership-oriented iterative delivery. Satya Nadella of Microsoft put it quite nicely: “set and repeatedly meet short-term goals”. The central idea of any Agile development practice is that we don’t know what we’re going to eventually need, so expect change and collaborate to deliver for the biggest difference to the business now. Think vertical slices rather than layers: do some of it fully rather than lots of it partially. Everything flows much more easily in our projects once our partners understand that it’s ultimately about delivering to their imminent business need. For me, the most important aspect is the partnership – all parties are delivering this project. We’re not trying to ruin your day by telling you that it can’t all be done; we’re trying to help you plan! Choose the compromises before they choose themselves.

 

Can you give a few real-world examples of what these approaches look like?

So, it’s good to have a plan but make every effort to base your plans on what can actually be achieved now rather than what you ultimately want to achieve. Then you need to recognise that plans always change. It’s important to tackle small enough chunks to allow yourself a better chance of success by predictably delivering, then delivering to the imminent business need. And be sensible about what that need is. To determine this, look to solve today’s problems and not the problems you might have tomorrow (unless that is in itself today’s problem). Recognise that there will always be compromises.

Think progress and not perfection. Success comes from delivering as consistently as both sides can manage and seeking to optimise at all times. Adjust the process based on the progress you are making. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they will deliver on time – they are only saying this and can’t guarantee it. This includes the customer providing material to the software developer such as specifications and responses – this is also a form of delivery.

Finally, always treat timescale requirements with suspicion. You must ask if time really is of the essence or whether it is just a desire to get something done as quickly as possible. A real deadline means the project fails completely if it’s missed. This is usually not the case.

 

What do operators and suppliers need to look for in a software development partner? And what should the working relationship between both parties look like?

Working effectively and with the right software provider is mission-critical. The supplier and the customer need to deliver, support and commit to each other. There are no sides here, this is a partnership of equals. It’s a relationship that works best when the customer keeps the supplier focused on the requirements and the supplier keeps the customer focused on what’s technically possible. In this way both parties converge on a solution and are equally committed to the shared goal. “I’m the customer and this is what I want” doesn’t get software delivered. A more intelligent approach is needed.

Software projects are highly complex interactions between several parties with requirements that change on the fly. Projects also continue well after delivery – it’s never about providing a fixed bunch of requirements as a package and then you’re done. That’s why we ensure we take the customer on the journey with us, acting as a true partnership. This is why non-software businesses should engage good software experts for their software projects, allowing both sides to get on with what they do best and allowing the project to succeed.

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