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Prague Gaming & TECH Summit 2024

Allan Petrilli VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

Roundtable: Spending Smart Not Big in the US

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Participants

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

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Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

Summary

This roundtable will discuss the marketing tactics being deployed by operators in the US and in particular, how those with smaller budgets can still drive awareness and build market share. While above-the-line campaigns have their place, affiliates and paid media are just as effective and can drive acquisition at scale but for a more sensible return on investment. It will dig into the upsides that affiliates and paid media offer and what operators need to do to maximise the opportunities they provide. It will also touch on other channels such as social media and streaming and asks if operators are really doing enough when it comes to retention.

 

Operators have dropped serious money on marketing and acquisition campaigns to date, but many are now questioning the effectiveness of these and the ROI they are generating. Why do you think they took this approach in the first place?

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Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

Operators have spent big to leverage the powerful first mover advantage on the table in states that have legalised online sports betting and casino for the first time. They have also been locked in a fierce battle with their rivals over market share, a battle they have been keen to win. Many will have researched the market beforehand and seen analyst reports that it will be worth billions and so have looked to buy their way to the largest slice of the pie. I think this has been the right approach to take for some as there is a huge advantage to be gained by being among the first brands to go live in a state. This allows the operator to capture the significant early interest in legal sports betting and casino when the market first opens. You just have to look at the numbers coming out of Ohio to see the level of activity that occurs in the first few days and weeks of a market opening.

Of course, this is an expensive game to play and requires very deep pockets indeed. The issue now is that operators have been spending big for quite some time and investors are starting to question when this open chequebook approach will pay off. Many understand that brand building takes time, but they do need to see a path to profitability. This path is looking increasingly bumpy in the context of recent changes to the macro environment (interest rates on the rise, cost of living crisis, etc) and it seems investors are running out of patience. This has seen many operators slash marketing spend as part of wider efforts to hit the point of break-even by the end of the year – a target that I’m sure some will fail to hit.

Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

The trend for massive spend is undoubtedly a result of the historic marketing blitz undertaken by FanDuel and DraftKings and the hundreds of millions of dollars they invested in building their brands in the daily fantasy sports space. They’ve been able to tap into this brand equity as and when states have legalised online sports betting and casino, taking the lead in most markets. Other brands entering the fray have had to spend at similar levels to play catch-up and stake their claim to the lion’s share in each state. I do think there’s been an over-reliance on above-the-line (ATL) marketing and the use of brand ambassadors and sponsorship deals. These are incredibly expensive marketing channels that are often more effective at long-term brand building than they are at delivering acquisition at pace. It’s also worth noting the “Gold Rush” mentality that a lot of operators seem to have adopted – they believed there was a limited window to achieve a critical mass of market share so have spent big in order to achieve it.

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Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

While many believe operators have embarked on reckless spending, to me there is some method to the madness. Top-tier brands consider this spend under brand-building and with new markets opening up so quickly, they felt they were entering into a fierce battle with their rivals to capture the largest share of wallet in each state. This coincided with public and private investment being relatively cheap, meaning operators didn’t have to be quite so mindful of the return they were achieving. There was also an assumption that iGaming/online casino regulation would be quickly rolled out across additional states, and this in turn would help to drive revenues. Of course, the cost of investment and borrowing money has skyrocketed and online casino regulation has not come about at the pace or the scale expected. This has caught operators off-guard, and many are now slashing marketing budgets in order to achieve profitability.

Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

The passing of PASPA (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) really heralded the start of “the great sports betting race” – and back then, the general consensus was that the first two or three operators would easily “win” and dominate sports betting for all time. Initially, FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM outspent the competition and took the first heat, but the race is far from over. Now we’re seeing challengers such as Fanatics and BETR competing in a new heat where the emphasis has shifted from how much a sportsbook spends to how effective their spend proves to be.

 

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Is there an opportunity for operators to spend smart and still drive brand awareness and claim a significant share of the market in each state they target?

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

Operators are starting to be more conservative. In New York, the likes of WynnBet have put the brakes on entering the market over concerns about the high tax rate impacting its ability to be profitable in the state. Not all opportunities are good opportunities and operators must avoid jumping on the bandwagon just because a state is hailed as a game-changer by analysts and insiders. Aggressive ambition is good, but operators must not walk into markets blind.

In the states that operators do identify as being viable, spending big is not the only way to claim market share and push for customer acquisition at scale. A product such as Livespins can be a major driver of both acquisition and retention. While the core Livespins experience sits within the casino lobby and provides players with an entirely new wagering experience that sees them bet behind their favourite streamers, taking retention to the next level, our soon-to-launch ambassador product has been designed to super-charge customer acquisition.

It allows operators to maximise the value of the brand ambassador/celebrity/influencer partnerships they have by deploying them within the Livespins experience. This means that players can join their favourite celebrities during their streams and play with them via our innovative bet behind system. Not only that, but they can chat with them and other players throughout the broadcast, while also dropping reactions and emojis. This changes brand ambassador marketing from passive to active and allows operators to monetise directly and instantly through the bet behinds being placed.

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Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

Absolutely. There’s a huge opportunity for operators to generate significant new player sign-ups through performance marketing and affiliates. Operators have seemed hesitant to go all-in with affiliates to date, but as they are forced to cut marketing spend in their pursuit of profitability, I think we’ll see more turn to performance marketers to support their customer acquisition efforts. That said, given the traction that the power players such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM already have in most states, affiliate marketing alone will not be enough to push another brand into this top tier – significant ATL marketing will still be required for those looking to take the crown from the early market leaders.

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

With this downward pressure on spend and the increasing importance being placed on efficiency and ROI, now is the time for operators to be more data-driven in their marketing activity. With many brands slamming the brakes on their above-the-line campaigns, there is a window of tremendous opportunity for savvy operators to explore and take advantage of. Affiliates and paid media have been under-utilised in the US market to date but absolutely can deliver the results operators desire and generate the ROI they are seeking. Of course, with most operators pulling back on top-line marketing spend and looking for alternative acquisition tactics and channels, competition across affiliates and paid media will heat up and perhaps reach the same scorching intensity that we have seen with above-the-line marketing.

To get ahead of the competition, operators should focus on localised marketing for the purpose of brand building. The top five operators will always have big budgets and will take a national approach to most of their acquisition activity, but this opens up an entire area of local marketing for smaller brands to explore and carve out their own significant niche. This is why it’s important for brands to be self-aware and for this to be reflected in their marketing strategies and activity.

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Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

Yes, but in order to do so there are certain key propositions they must deliver. First and foremost, their product has to be top-notch and they must be able to offer a state-of-the-art gambling portal. Secondly, as the market has become more saturated, differentiation and offering a unique betting proposition has become increasingly important. BETR’s micro in-game betting feature is a good example of this and one that definitely sets them apart from the competition. Lastly, if you’re going to take on the big boys, you’re going to need to have your own unique advertising channel. As they can’t be beat on TV or Ad Word spending, you have to be smart and find other ways to reach bettors.

 

What does smart marketing look like?

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

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A clear strategy should be the foundation of any marketing activity. It’s vital for operators to know their audiences and where their attention can be found. They must also identify their own strengths and weaknesses, playing up to the former and working with specialists to close any gaps with the latter. Knowing how deep the company’s pockets really are, and the degree of appetite for significant, long-term investment in marketing, is key as it sets the budgets that marketing teams have to play with. Operators and their marketing teams must then use their expertise and experience to come up with a plan that resonates with their target audience, conveys their brand values and USPs, and ultimately drives players to their books and casinos within the budgets they have been allocated. And platforms such as Livespins can deliver incredible results without operators blowing billions of dollars on TV ad campaigns.

Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

It really depends on the ultimate ambition of the brand. If the aim is to scale fast and gain significant market share without any consideration being given to the bottom line, then DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM have done a great job. Whether this approach is sustainable remains to be seen, and you also have to factor in the levels of retention these brands are achieving to really determine the success of their tactics. Smaller operators that have looked to emulate these titans have suffered massively and this has ultimately been to the benefit of the big three. That said, it’s encouraging to see some new market entrants such as PlayStar taking a different approach – they are doing things their own way with performance marketing as a key channel for customer acquisition.

The US is a very different market to the UK, but operators in the former should look to the latter to see what does and doesn’t work. New York shows that operators are not learning fast enough – when margins are squeezed (in this case because of the high tax rate) agility with both product and marketing is crucial to ensuring market viability. When it comes down to it, smart marketing is a strategy that is both sustainable for the long term and balances achieving a critical mass of customers with a clear pathway to profitability.

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

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An ambitious but achievable plan is the foundation of all smart marketing activity. Plans need to cover each channel, and operators need to ensure their marketing teams have access to the technology they need to track, monitor and optimise campaigns. They must also be open to and ready to pounce on any opportunities that open up. Data should be used to drive all decisions, from pulling underperforming campaigns to ramping up the spend being put behind those that are delivering solid results. Data also allows for campaigns to be tweaked in real-time, helping operators to further improve the ROI they generate. It’s also important for operators not to copy the tactics being deployed by their rivals – this is a market where being brave, bold and swimming against the tide yields the greatest results.

Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

There are many brands marketing effectively in the US, and pretty much all of them have their own unique set-up. Barstool, for example, is a great example of a brand that has successfully harnessed the power of social media. They have a community of loyal followers on multiple channels who relate to their brand, so they’re able to market to an audience of 50 million followers every day. This is a cost-effective solution for attracting younger sports bettors, as this audience is often found dual-screening on their cell phone while watching sports – meaning it’s the easiest way to reach them.

FanDuel and DraftKings, meanwhile, have both created a dedicated podcast following and keep themselves in front of this audience on a weekly basis. This is, of course, something that takes a while to establish, so it’s hard for new competitors to replicate and gives them a distinct edge in the market.

 

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Have operators yet to explore the full potential of affiliates and paid media? If not, why do you think this is the case?

Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

No, they haven’t. I think this is for a couple of reasons. Some operators hold the belief that brands in more established markets are over-reliant on and over-exposed through affiliates. Others seem to think the channel creates a more even playing field for smaller brands to gain market share and that affiliates do not offer the scale and speed of scale they require. There also seems to be a high level of mistrust and misunderstanding when it comes to affiliates.

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

This is a bit of a loaded question. There are definitely some that are focusing more on affiliates and paid media, but broadly speaking they have not been fully explored to date. This is likely because these channels require experience, expertise and proper set-up in order to be successful. But given the scrutiny that current marketing activity is coming under, brands are increasingly leaning into both as they look to find efficiencies while scaling traffic. As these tend to be more supportive channels, I expect to see the percentage of overall marketing spend shift in a meaningful way towards affiliates and paid media over the next 12 months.

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Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

Social media remains a largely untapped channel and is – in our opinion – the future of attracting the next generation of sports and casino players. That said, in the past some of the more old-school operators haven’t been particularly quick to embrace it. The reason for this might be that they didn’t possess the skills or know-how to communicate with this customer demographic effectively. Affiliates can help in this respect as they often have niche audiences that operators aren’t able to reach by themselves, such as social media groups or college sports fans. This can help them connect with customers outside of their traditional target audience and greatly increase their acquisition potential.

 

What upsides do affiliates offer? How can operators maximise the opportunity here?

Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

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A solid affiliate program provides the foundation for operators to grow their player base sustainably and cost-effectively. Affiliates essentially act as brand and product advocates, promoting those brands that deliver the best player experience and holding those that don’t to account. This ultimately helps to raise standards while driving significant, quality traffic to those at the top of their game. Most affiliates are also willing to work with operators to help them achieve their goals – those that are properly incentivised will be willing to work to lower CPAs which are incredibly high in the US compared to more mature markets such as the UK.

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

Most affiliates are specialists when it comes to digital marketing and user acquisition. They have sizable audiences or know how to acquire them, that are primed and ready to sign up to and play at online sportsbooks and casinos, so long as those brands offer what they are looking for. Affiliates require little to no set-up costs with operators paying for what they get in terms of depositing customers. They can also provide operators with highly valuable feedback on their conversion flows, products and more – this feedback is incredibly hard to come by and can help operators improve the player experience offered, which in turn boosts acquisition but also retention.

 

And the same for paid media – what is the potential here and how can operators unlock it?

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Tom Galanis, Founder at First Look Games

Affiliates are currently dominating the paid media space in the US market because, compared to other markets, there is a much higher margin to be made. But this means there is room for operators to get in on the action and use paid media to directly acquire customers and achieve a strong ROI. For example, paid media is the ideal vehicle to flex up acquisition during the limited window of the NFL season.

Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

Paid media simply refers to placing ads across a wide range of media platforms such as Meta, Google, publisher networks and mobile networks. Campaigns can be highly targeted across location, age, interests and more to ensure they hit the right players. The key to unlocking the full potential of both paid media and affiliates is using a mar-tech platform that provides access to data in real-time. This allows operators to tweak campaigns to improve performance and to ramp up and scale back spending as and when required.

 

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What other, cost-effective channels can operators use for brand building and marketing? What role can streaming play here? What about social media?

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

Streaming has proved to be a highly effective marketing and acquisition platform for online casino and sportsbook brands, but operators remain cautious, especially following Twitch’s decision last year to ban certain operators from its platform. Livespins allows operators to overcome these concerns – because it sits within the casino lobby, players are afforded the same responsible gambling and safe gaming tools when playing traditional casino and sports, as required under an operator’s respective local licences. This means they can tap into the huge – and growing – potential that streaming offers both in terms of acquisition and retention while being confident that they are fully compliant at all times.

Tom Galinis, Founder at First Look Games

I’m coming around to the idea that offline activation is an underutilised channel. We’re seeing affiliates like Betting Hero and Affiliated Sports Fans gaining traction here, and operators should look to follow their lead. In terms of social media, paid social is the play for sure and in terms of building up an audience, I’d be looking to focus efforts on TikTok. The price of content generation is extortionate in the US, so I fully expect AI-generated content to come to the fore as the technology becomes more sophisticated – we’re already seeing leading affiliates and some operators using it.

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Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

In terms of live acquisition, we will see more out-of-home campaigns and activity. It is being done by some brands at the moment, but there is so much more potential to unlock here and especially at the local level.

Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

According to the most recent statistics, an estimated 75% of marketers will use Influencer Marketing in 2023, with this representing a $17.4 billion industry. Most operators are way behind in terms of tapping into this lucrative space, which is arguably the most cost-effective way of advertising to the younger generation of sports fan. In particular, micro-influencers are more engaged with their sports followers and can be utilized at a fraction of the cost of a “Tom Brady” or similar superstar influencer.

 

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Retention is just as important as acquisition, but are operators paying enough attention to this? If not, why is that the case?

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

I disagree – retention is even more important than acquisition. Onboarding new players is just the first hurdle that operators must clear – then the real hard work begins. That’s why before spending a single dollar on acquisition, they must spend $10 on ways to retain those players. If operators are not confident about retaining players, they should not spend anything on marketing to them. If they are confident, then they can launch acquisition campaigns and scale up those that are working well.  I really can’t stress the importance of CRM and ensuring that players continue to wager with the brand once they have signed up for the first time. This is especially important in the US where the cost of acquisition is sky-high right now.

Tom Galinis, Founder at First Look Games

No, they’re not. I’d say this is partly down to a lack of product capability to really be able to deliver organic retention, but I also think there’s a firmly held belief that the activation of another local league or team sponsorship will do more than sophisticated CRM systems ever could. But operators are wrong to believe this.

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Allan Petrilli, VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

I think they are starting to, but the future here is around personalisation. With advances in technology, the brands that use this to offer a truly bespoke player experience will be the ones that ultimately win. What does this look like? If I bet on the New York Jets each weekend, I should be able to log in to my sportsbook app and have a prefilled bet sheet each week ready and waiting to go. This is just one example, and the sky really is the limit here.

Troy Paul, Co-Founder and CEO at SGG

Having a great gambling platform is obviously a major prerequisite for successful retention, as is finding a way to engage with your players on a daily or weekly basis, such as a podcast or social media channel. In order to keep your product front and center in customers’ minds, you have to go where their eyes go as they’re watching games – and these days, that’s increasingly their cell phone screens.

 

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How can operators turbo-charge their retention efforts and activity?

Michael Pedersen, CCO of Livespins

It comes down to delivering a seamless player experience beyond that being offered by rival brands. This covers all areas of the book or casino, from the welcome offer to onboarding, KYC, payments and customer support. Of course, the gaming experience offered is crucial and that’s why products such as Livespins are a must for operators. The Livespins experience offers an entirely new way for players to experience online casino, while being interactive and social. Session times are off the charts, and this in turn is helping operators mitigate churn and keep their players playing for longer. It also acts as a huge point of difference, adding more kudos to its ability to help keep their players coming back for more.

Tom Galinis, Founder at First Look Games

Simple. Build the best product which means not relying on the relatively poor player management systems that currently underpin the US market. This is where I feel bet365 can gain market share. Yes, they’ll have to invest in ATL, but I fully expect them to get their product successfully localised and become the best product on the market. This will ultimately act as the foundation of retention at scale.

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Allan Petrilli VP of Sales & Growth at Intelitics

Is there an issue with AI?

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AI is here and it’s here to stay. In this roundtable, we hear from three industry experts who believe that AI has tremendous potential but that it needs to be kept on a pretty short leash to ensure players are properly protected

It’s important to make one thing clear. Artificial intelligence is not a technology of the future, it’s a technology of the now. It’s already being used by businesses across the sector, from operators and suppliers to affiliates and other stakeholders.

It is a powerful technology capable of great things. It can think and act faster than humans, streamline processes and save time and costs. The scope for its use is tremendous, from game development to mapping user journeys and monitoring player behaviour.

But there are downsides to AI, with a real fear among some that the machines are taking over – quite literally in some cases by replacing humans in certain roles. Then there is the control we have over AI, and whether its capabilities are outpacing our ability to keep stay on top of it.

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So how are organisations across the sector currently using AI?

Raphael Di Guisto, Founder of Silverback Gaming, says the studio is using AI to turbocharge game development, especially in a creative capacity, while ensuring the quality of its slots remains at the incredibly high standard it has built its reputation on.

“We have been using generative AI for quite some time now to bring new ideas and concepts to the table and to unlock efficiencies across the development process.

“Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that uses machine learning to generate original content – it doesn’t copy or rehash existing ideas and that’s what makes it so great for a studio like Silverback.

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“It does everything from text to images and even music and sound. The AI essentially learns from a given data set and then uses this knowledge to create new concepts, themes, sound effects game rules and more.”

It seems that AI combined with machine learning is where the most value can be found.

Golden Whale is a data-driven technology service provider that allows organisations to optimise the performance of products via deep analysis of data feeds including machine learning. Founder Eberhard Dürrschmid says this combination maximises the potential of AI.

“The use of machine learning methods can enhance the online casino or sportsbook experience substantially by personalising the product, improving the gameplay and even introducing game features and mechanics that would simply not be possible without them.”

It can also play a role in customer acquisition and retention, as Allan Petrilli from Intelitics explains: “Intelitics is an user acquisition tracking and BI platform for operator affiliate programs; we are using AI to build some of our predictive lifetime value functionality and features across the platform.

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“This is a highly valuable tool for operators and their affiliate partners, and it simply wouldn’t be possible without AI.”

While it’s clear that AI presents upsides and opportunities for operators and suppliers, there are some potential downsides that need to be considered. Responsible gambling and player protection are the number one priority, and AI can sit a little uncomfortably within that framework.

Sure, it can be used to monitor players and flag potential problem play before a player ultimately develops an issue, but when used in other areas of the sector, and especially if not kept in check, AI has the ability to make online gambling even more compelling.

This is why Di Guisto believes it’s important to proceed “with a little caution”.

“There are also a lot of legal implications around the use of AI, especially in terms of the data that models are being trained on and potential IP infringement there. In terms of game design and player protection, there needs to be robust controls in place with any game designed with or using AI.

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“This means subjecting it to the same stringent testing as when developing a game without AI. In short, anything that has the potential to make the game addictive must be mitigated.”

Di Guisto also says that while the capabilities of AI are impressive, they must be deployed in a way that adds meaningful value. He uses the examples of recommendation engines, VIP detection and churn prediction as areas where AI can be used, but that present challenges.

“Recommendation engines powered by AI are tricky. They don’t work in the same way as say Netflix and matching viewers with movies and documentaries – online casino recommendations require an entirely different algorithm.

“There can be issues with VIP detection, too. In terms of raw data, a problem gambler and a VIP can look very similar on paper. AI must be able to spot the difference between the two, and in most cases, it can’t.

“When it comes to churn prediction, it’s interesting to know when someone is about to leave an online casino or sportsbook, but what the AI does with that information often means walking a very fine legal and ethical line.”

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Using AI in a meaningful way is something Petrilli has concerns about, too. AI is on trend right now and businesses across the sector are rushing to adopt it. But there’s no point in embracing a new technology if it doesn’t improve a product or process.

“Companies are rushing to integrate and roll out AI, and this will absolutely lead to problems especially when it comes to front-end user experiences. If the AI is not ready, personalisation will not work properly and there will be hiccups when it comes to the user experience.

“That’s why it’s vital for companies to adopt AI in a way that is relevant to what they are building and not just because it’s a cool thing that everyone wants to be able to say they are working with right now. It needs to be used properly.

“At Intelitics, we have focused specifically on AI functions that improve decision-making when it comes to the campaigns that our partners run. In this instance, AI allows us to make decisions faster via data sets that are incredibly relevant and useful. This ensures we are not jumping to conclusions.

“For me, the speed at which the sector is embracing AI is concerning and I’d be shocked if we don’t see some major issues start to emerge in the coming months.”

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Di Guisto touched on this earlier, but one of the greatest issues that surrounds AI is just how ethical the technology is and how it aligns with the industry’s focus on responsible and safe gambling.

Petrilli says that AI is essentially a tool and that how we use it and the oversight that is put in place is what’s important, especially when it comes to ethics.

“We need to make sure that AI is not running wild and that the decisions being made align with internal processes, protocols and wider responsible practices. Ultimately, we need to avoid the situation where AI is blamed for issues that arise in the future where proper oversight would have prevented them from occurring.

“My concern here is that companies will point the blame at AI to save face and that’s why there needs to be processes and oversight in place to ensure that we as a wider industry do not end up at that point.

“Specifically on the user acquisition side, it comes down to creativity and how we use AI to put together messaging and ads. In this regard, we need to make sure that we are utilising the technology to promote brands and bonuses to the right audience and in a responsible way.”

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Di Guisto has similar concerns, especially when it comes to problem gamblers where he believes there are “potentially huge ethical issues” that could arise.

“We can’t simply let AI loose and there needs to be human oversight certainly when it comes to problem gambling. When AI is used, the outcomes of its use need to be carefully monitored by a human.

“AI has become incredibly effective at pattern analysis, but what we need to be mindful of is what happens as a result of that analysis. So, what happens when AI identifies a VIP player? For me, that’s why the human element is so important and ultimately the human decides what happens with the data, information or insight provided by AI.”

And what about the end user, the consumer? Do players really want to be engaging with artificial intelligence? Do they want to be subject to its capabilities without even realising it is being deployed by an online casino or sportsbook?

Dürrschmid believes these issues can be partly mitigated through transparency.

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“For me, the most important thing is transparency. As long as we tell the consumer, in a very clear and concise way, that they are interacting or communicating with AI and machine learning methods, the consumer can then make a choice whether to continue or not. Those who do continue are obviously happy to be engaging with an AI-powered product.

“At Golden Whale, we are only working with data that is generated from inside game systems that we think are safe from inherited biases – for the time being, at least. That is why models must be monitored if they are to be trained on data sets that are not completely supervised at all times.”

For Petrilli, this transparency must be applied to the entire industry. He raises concerns about organisations opting to use AI in ways that are not “kosher” and this ultimately causing damage to the majority of organisations that use it to improve player experiences.

“This probably will happen at some point,” he says, “but the more transparent we are about how we use it the more we will be able to protect ourselves.”

This begs the question of where to draw the line with AI usage and what that limit might actually look like.

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“I think the red line is reached when you have machine-run systems that are claiming to be human,” Dürrschmid says.

“Again, this is largely a transparency issue but even with that said, we will have to keep an eye on the rapid progress being made with AI so that we can immediately identify cases where the consumer is being misled or overwhelmed by the technology to ensure a safe and responsible gaming environment at all times.”

For Di Guisto, a big concern is AI-powered models being used to train AI data.

“This loop can be a slippery slope and the more content that is generated by AI, the tighter that loop is going to get. What’s more, when it comes to legal and ethics, there’s still a lot that we don’t understand and that’s why it’s so important to ensure there are checks and balances in place so that we don’t cross that line.”

This is why Petrilli believes that AI needs to remain a tool – “it can’t overtake what we all do as a business and we have to be able to utilize it in a way that supports what we are doing while remembering that it’s just a part of the process, not the entire process,” he says.

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“So long as we continue to use it in that way, and to use it properly, we can avoid stepping onto the slippery slope. We also need to show that we are using AI as a force for good. This will ensure buy-in from regulators and, perhaps more importantly, from end users too.”

If this round table were to have happened 12 months ago, the discussion would likely have been different. There was a buzz around the technology, an excitement regarding its seemingly limitless potential. But the mood has changed somewhat.

This is something that all participants touched on during this discussion, but Petrilli sums it up perfectly.

“Everyone now worries about AI whereas a year ago, it was all about the upsides. But now the focus is on the downsides and the threat it poses. We need to be sitting somewhere in the middle of this. We need to identify the opportunities AI presents and then use this powerful tool to drive improvements and efficiencies.

“Of course, this needs to be done in a way that is responsible and that ensures players are properly protected at all times.”

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