My vision for the industry after this week’s iGaming Next conference in Malta
A regulatory headache
Having attended a packed day of insights and panels at this week’s iGaming Next conference, I ended up imposing myself a number of questions. Where is the European iGaming industry headed? In what way is the incohesive nature of the European regulatory evolution playing a detrimental effect to the industry players – be it operators or service providers alike? This is one of the main aspects that regulators, and legislators ought to ponder on in order to safeguard not only a multi-billion industry contributing substantially in the form of taxes and job opportunities, but also to avoid exposing the players themselves to rogue operators who display no particular concern for regulations in place.
It comes without saying that the European market is experiencing continuous upheavals in regards to regulatory reforms, and this has been rightly underlined by the various industry leaders who have converged under the same roof for yesterday’s iGaming Next conference.
There is no doubt whatsoever that with the gambling industry being a cross-border market, it needs a strong regulatory framework to be in place. But whilst this generates a nod of consensus from all those companies legally involved in this industry, today we have reached a point where regulatory approaches are very different from one state to another, with each country developing different requirements to achieve the same tangible objectives. And whilst industry outsiders think that this is the way to be undertaken, in reality this is all happening to the increasing burden of operators and service providers who have to go to great lengths – which all translate in one way or another in a financial toll on the companies’ coffers – to comply with the continent’s cacophony of legislations.
This was an aspect that was particularly well dissected in one of yesterday’s panels by ComeOn! Group’s Lahcene Merzoug, who stated the importance of a better and more proactive collaboration between the industry, the operators, and the legislators in order to discern problematics in an orderly fashion whilst avoiding to transform the whole ecosystem in a prohibitive environment with operators continuously having to burden mounting costs in terms of compliance, and diminishing margins.
To put it simply, the industry is in dire need of a strong regulatory environment to a level that it binds together the various different jurisdictions. This will permit a level playing field for all operators, and not condemn the smaller licensees who are unable to keep up with the increasing costs related to compliance.
Disruptive technology is essential in giving the players what they want
But whilst from a regulatory perspective there was much food for thought, yesterday’s insights from the likes of Evolution Gaming’s Todd Haushalter and Microsoft’s Karl Davies-Barrett indicated quite some worrying shortfalls that the industry is still facing notwithstanding the fact that we are living in a supposedly technological era.
Personalization is a technological feat that other entertainment industries have honed quite exceptionally – look at Google, Netflix and Amazon. Yet here we are, still talking about gambling sites presenting their players with hundreds of games and events, with true personalization according to their preference being a distant mirage that players must still endure.
This is where – as Karl indicated – Artificial Intelligence, the harnessing of Big Data, and Machine Learning are key to tackling this problematic. Operators must truly understand how to make better use of the data that each player profile is generating in order for them to reflect a proper personalized betting experience. The industry must step up its efforts in order to leave behind once and for all the “supermarket” approach that is still evident in most gambling sites nowadays. Displaying row upon row of casino games and sports events without filtering the preferred player content is truly a thing of the past.
Fact is that today’s players are becoming more exigent, and are constantly seeking a betting experience that is custom made according to their preferences. The industry must start on the immediate term to undertake an approach that is far more player centric than it currently is. Either that or current operators could be in for some disappointing moments when they start losing their market share for more agile new licensees that not only understand how to close the gap to other entertainment industries but more importantly have at their disposal the technology to do so.
Augmenting player engagement through gamification
The industry as a whole also has some work to do with regards to the levels of player engagement and how this could be further ameliorated.
As Quickspin’s Joachim Timmermans was apt in pointing out, being able to offer an additional layer of entertainment to the usual betting experience will undoubtedly bolster player interaction, and his loyalty towards a particular brand. And he hit the nail spot on. It is what you can offer more to the player in a more unique and engaging way that is nowadays distinguishing and setting apart an operator from the competition.
Other industries – especially the computer gaming industry – have already mastered the art of increasing the shelf live of their products by adding classic gamification elements. The gambling industry must follow suite and realize that this new concept is essentially a win-win situation for players and operators alike, with players receiving rewards for predetermined actions, whilst ensuring operators with continued player engagement. It is these gamification elements that will augment the all-around entertainment in the betting experience, increasing the positive engagement on the player’s behalf, and with the operators benefitting from a longer player life-time and better retention values.
The way forward
I truly believe that the industry must take a deep look at its roots to determine the path forward for the coming years. Other industries have radically disrupted their sector by putting the users at the very core of their technology, as exceptionally explained by Shazam’s co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, with Shazam itself being a prime example of constant evolution of its product to constantly put their customer’s needs at the very forefront. This is firmly what BtoBet believes in.
And this is what essentially the industry has to undergo: a constant evolution of its technology and products, in order to avoid transforming itself in a stale market where the customers are never truly presented with the product they envision.