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MARE BALTICUM Gaming & TECH Summit 2024

Interviews

Sportingtech’s plans for expansion in 2024

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Sportingtech is continuing to enhance its reputation across the globe and is the number one provider in LatAm, with more plans to grow now that regulation in Brazil imminent. Senior Director of Emerging Markets, Mark Schmidt, outlines what lies ahead.

 

Tell us about your new role in a nutshell?

I have now worked at Sportingtech for 18 months, previously as Sales Director, Africa. In my new role, I will be driving the company’s expansion into new and developing markets, with an increased focus on Latin America. I will also continue to drive growth in Africa. I am responsible for formulating and executing market entry strategies, establishing key partnerships, and ensuring regulatory compliance in targeted emerging markets. This means staying abreast of all regulatory developments in Brazil, particularly over the next 12 months, as we gain a clearer picture of the country’s regulatory framework and licensing plans.

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What constitutes a new and emerging market for Sportingtech and how does the brand decide to increase its footprint in that area?

An emerging market for us is one that shows exponential growth and has untapped potential. For Sportingtech, this covers both LatAm and Africa. Although both markets are showing significant growth, our award-winning platform will ensure our partners push further and establish themselves as market leaders. Our continued success over many years is due to our understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach never works. We provide a solution that is unique to each operator across all regulated markets and we succeed at this by using our years of local research and knowledge

On the back of our huge success in Brazil, the decision to increase our footprint in the region was an easy one.

Being the number one platform provider in Brazil didn’t happen by accident, we have invested heavily in infrastructure and technology. We have also gone to great lengths in hiring the best people who love what they do and understand that precision, passion, and urgency are fundamental when working in such a demanding market. We have laid the foundation now and we will not be standing still. We will be continuing to look at ways of improving all facets of our offering to maintain the high standards.

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What learnings have you taken from your role of Sales Director Africa and how can these experiences be applied when tapping into other locations?

There is a definite crossover between the betting markets in Africa and LatAm. I have been fortunate enough over the last 15 years of being in the industry to work for Tier 1 operators across both B2B and B2C.

Understanding market dynamics is crucial, ensuring best practice is followed. The key thing is to understand that every operator has their own unique needs and delivering products or services that are fully aligned with those needs.

Sports betting has exploded in Latin America, much like it has done in Africa and understanding this proved to be popular as we made our presence felt. Of course, LatAm is a different beast with comprehensive regulations, but following the same patterns should result in commercial success for our partners.

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Regarding LatAm, many of our competitors see the region as an opportunity, but fail to actually get meet operators and hear about their plans first hand. This is something we do differently as we believe in partnerships and understand what makes our partners tick. This is something you can’t find out over email or a video call.

As has been the case for the last few years for Sportingtech, our commercial and technical teams will be out travelling to meet existing and potential customers, not just at the industry shows but also for dedicated visits.

 

LatAm is a huge focus for the industry, and with Brazil recently giving the green light to regulation, what do you expect from that market in 2024?

First and foremost, market growth. With increased accessibility and a legal framework in place, more operators are likely to enter the market. This will lead to a broader range of gaming options for consumers. This increase in activity will have a positive impact on the economy, which can be significantly boosted through tax contributions and the creation of new jobs.

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More licensed operators mean more options for the customer, and stiff competition between brands. With operators vying for a strong foothold in the market, they will be striving to create the best products and services to differentiate themselves. Unsurprisingly there will be a lot of interest from international brands who can bring expertise, capital, and perspectives from different markets to enhance the industry in the region.

To help maximize this engagement, the technology offering must be reliable. The integration and utilization of technology across all devices can enhance the betting experiences for players and this can be accelerated if the appetite is there.

Just because regulation provides a legal framework, there are still challenges in enforcing these regulations. There is still work to be done by the authorities to ensure a safe environment. Make no mistake, there is a huge opportunity to implement comprehensive measures for both operators and players, and ensure the region thrives.

Finally, the societal impact of gambling, both positive and negative, may become a subject of discussion. Advocacy groups and policymakers may address concerns related to addiction, social inequality, and the overall impact on communities.

It is essential to keep in mind that the success of the regulated gambling market in Brazil will depend on the effectiveness of the regulatory framework, responsible industry practices, and the ability to balance economic benefits with social and ethical considerations.

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Are there any other regions in LatAm that you deem to have untapped potential?

Mexico already has a well-established gambling industry, but there is still potential for growth, particularly in the online and mobile betting sectors. The Mexican government has been considering regulatory changes to accommodate new forms of gambling.

Colombia was one of the first countries in Latin America to regulate online gambling. The market is considered relatively open, and further growth anticipated, especially in the online casino and sports betting segments.

Peru’s gambling industry, including casinos and sports betting, has been growing steadily. The government’s openness to regulation and the country’s economic stability make it a potential area for further investment.

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Sportingtech’s success in Brazil means that these areas bring their own opportunities and is the next natural step for us to enhance our already outstanding credentials in LatAm.

Interviews

Time to get into the gamification game

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

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

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

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

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

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

How? Personalised gamification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Time to get into the gamification game appeared first on European Gaming Industry News.

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Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Why should sportsbook operators partner with Playbook Fusion?

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

The post Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion appeared first on European Gaming Industry News.

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eSports

How Esports Companies Can Address The Confusion Around Gambling

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An exclusive Q&A w/ Gary Denham, Founder and CEO of Wamba Technologies and Gamer’s Oasis

 

What inspired you to found Wamba Technologies and develop the patented esports platform, Gamers Oasis?

My motivation was the void of wholly accessible online gaming competitions. Wamba Technologies, in conjunction with Gamers Oasis, aims to create a platform where gamers can engage in fair and constant competition, free from any suspicions of impropriety, while winning money as a result of their performance. Basically, players will be able to pay an entry fee into an online competition, compete, and win money back if they place well enough in the competition.

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Could you elaborate on why the misconception of esports as a form of gambling exists despite the legal framework distinguishing skill-based competitions from games of chance?

This misperception arises from the similarities between online esports competitions and traditional gambling activities, particularly where participants are paying an entry fee and vying for monetary rewards. However, at the most basic level, it comes from industry ignorance. 

Anyone who has actually looked at this or participated in esports knows this is no different than tennis, golf, NASCAR, motocross, etc. This just happens to take place online. Aside from that, there is really no difference.

 

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In your recent Forbes article, you draw parallels between online video game competitions and the financial structure of online poker. How do you see this comparison influencing the perception of esports within the regulatory landscape?

This comparison sought to underscore the potential revenue from esports while addressing any misunderstandings regarding its classification as gambling. By framing esports within a recognizable regulatory context and emphasizing its skill-based nature, the intent was to facilitate clearer guidelines and regulations conducive to industry growth. Beyond that, I also wanted to illustrate just how much untapped financial potential exists in the industry, which I aim to capitalize on with Gamers Oasis.

 

How do you think the historical context of online poker and its impact on the perception of online gambling influences the current discourse surrounding esports and its legal classification?

The confusion and misconceptions stemming from the past have contributed to the ongoing debate over whether esports should be deemed a form of gambling, despite its inherent emphasis on skill. Here is where it becomes very clear: remove the internet from the equation and consider the question again.  

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Has anybody looked at “real life” video game competitions as “gambling” in the last 40 years (aside from Las Vegas trying to get their hands on it, and failing)?  Of course not.  So why would featuring the same exact competitions on the internet suddenly somehow magically make this gambling? 

It doesn’t. Ergo, this is CLEARLY not gambling.

 

What measures do you believe are necessary to establish clear guidelines and regulations for esports, ensuring both consumer protection and industry growth?

Nothing governmental. I think where esports are concerned, regulators need to stay out of it. 

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Will they? Only time will tell — but we don’t regulate golf, NASCAR, tennis, or any other sports. Sure, they each have their own rulemaking bodies, but those are not governmental entities, nor should they be.  

I think that to make an exception for esports would set an extremely dangerous precedent and open up all sports to such regulatory oversight. Quite frankly, the day I see the government actually make something in corporate America better, I may be willing to revisit this sentiment. Until then….

 

How much of the gaming population do you expect to be interested in a platform like Gamers Oasis?

With approximately 660 million actual and potential esports players globally, I expect a significant portion of the gaming population to be interested in a platform like Gamers Oasis. Hundreds of millions of players are traveling to various locations to participate in competitions already.  

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To give them the ability to simply access this from the convenience and comfort of their own home is something that has gone over exceedingly well in all other comparable situations which we’ve seen. Banking. Shopping. Poker. Collectibles. Multiplayer, casual gaming. Now we’ll see it with video game competition.

 

What can you share about monetization issues in esports and how Gamers Oasis plans to tackle the problem?

Monetization challenges in esports often stem from an attempt to mirror the traditional sports’ viewer-based model, where money is made by bringing fans out to stadiums or by encouraging them to buy merchandise.  In this model, revenue comes from ad sales and sponsorships in addition to gate sales and merchandising. 

While that works with traditional sports, it doesn’t translate well to esports. However, with the ease of access to gaming reaching an exponentially larger number of players than traditional sports reaches viewers (basically, not everyone can throw a baseball, but 40% of earth’s population plays video games), focusing on a player-based model that encourages everyone to participate, rather than merely making them a viewer, can produce far greater emotional attachment to the sport resulting in more participation time, more monetization opportunities in general, and ultimately, as a result, more revenue. Simply put, viewers generate some revenue for the sport, but players can be worth much much more than viewers. In video games, every viewer is a potential player, so, let’s make them players!

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This is where Gamers Oasis will shine. We are developing technology that will allow players of all skill levels to compete and to know that they are engaging in fair competition. Basically, you could be a bad player, but know that you will only be competing against other bad players, giving you a real chance to win money. This is something that nobody else has seemed to be able to produce in a meaningful manner.  We have a way to do this and to ensure this fair play. When anyone can win, all will play.  When everyone is playing, the industry experiences exponential growth.

 

Looking toward the future, what do you see as the future of esports, more specifically in terms of regulatory frameworks and industry development?

One of the fundamental problems esports has had up until now is there is no universal set of guidelines. As I said before, I firmly believe that the government is not the answer.  

With our patent, one of the things we intend to do is to have all parties who are licensing the patent join us in setting up core guidelines for all games which feature our technology.  We see this as a sort of a start in creating that centralized entity which can help establish and enforce certain guidelines, keeping it as a consensus based entity composed of the major parties who are involved with us in these endeavors, a democratic approach of sorts, with us primarily facilitating the laying of the foundation.

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What kind of a relationship do you envision between the casino industry and the esports industry?

Casinos are all about entertainment, and esports bring a whole new level of that to their customers. The possibilities are exciting in that whole new esport-themed experiences can be hosted within casinos. And as casinos seek to diversify their offerings to attract younger demographics, esports present a lucrative opportunity for engagement and revenue generation through esports betting and tournaments themselves. 

I think that third-party betting should be separated from any true esports platform. A true esports platform should only have the player paying their entry fees and should not involve third parties wagering on the outcome when they are not actually involved in the competition.  

This is where the casino industry comes in. The casinos can be a distinct and separate entity to facilitate those kinds of transactions, keeping them wholly separated from the platforms featuring esports. 

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One of the major reasons for this separation is age requirements. A true esports platform should allow kids (with parental permission) to be allowed to compete just as they do in real life. However, I feel very strongly that wagering on anything as a non-participant should have some restrictions, as it has the means to cause harm to younger, developing minds. By separating the two, we can keep the competition platforms “kid friendly” while still serving the needs of the audience that seeks the other service.

 

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