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Mike Johnson March 15, 2021 8 min read
Betsson’s Global Head of Gaming Phil Lam on Importance of Pre-Marketing Games, Regulatory Compliance and Bespoke Gaming
Betsson is a big name in the iGaming and sports betting industry, operating over 20 brands with an established footprint in multiple jurisdictions. Today’s conversation focuses on Betsson’s ambitious objectives for 2021 and the company’s drive to create a bespoke gaming product that is aligned with customer needs, preferences and expectations.
Betsson has made many headlines across all verticals of late. The company entered Kenya with its flagship sports betting brand BetSafe and introduced a comprehensive and safer gambling process into its culture.
Betsson has been seeking out closer ties with numerous developers, including Yggdrasil, Booongo, Tom Horn, Evolution, and others as part of efforts to offer its players the widest range of quality content.
Today’s topic is of particular interest, as it focuses on the creation of gaming products that are not mass produced but instead bespoke and based on the particular likes and preferences of players in specific markets.
Q: It’s probably safe to say that iGaming product development will boil down to bespoke gaming experiences in this new decade. How is Betsson getting up to this ambitious task and do you see customization and personalization as the future of iGaming?
Yes, I agree. I believe bespoke gaming experiences along with customization and personalization on a player level is a massive gap we will need to bridge. When comparing how other digital industries have progressed we have a lot of catching up to do in that respect, but we already have quite a few exciting projects in the pipeline to help us move forward in this area during 2021.
Although a decade is a very long time in the digital space, if we look back historically at the past ten years the technological advancements have been incredible and I don’t expect that pace to slow down any time soon, particularly when it comes to machine learning and AI being incorporated within the iGaming space.
Q: Developing unique and tailored products is certainly an interesting thing to touch upon, but do you reckon consumers are ready for that? Companies have had qualified success with “games of skill” in the past. Do you reckon Betsson can change the paradigm and create innovative products that are too good to pass up on?
The reality is that most of the bigger operators all have similar content from many of the same suppliers integrated into their game lobbies. So, the key is what we can offer outside of these standard games to helps us stand out from the crowd and to move away from retrospective rewards towards real time rewards.
We recently rolled out real time tournaments, both for RNG slots and for live casino, with more to come for other verticals during 2021. Historically, we have always offered exclusive games that are only available via Betsson Group brands to help differentiate from our rivals and offer a more unique experience for our players.
In terms of ‘games of skill’, I believe outside of eSports such content can be good for softer/casual players as an easy entry point into casino and also for cross sell efforts. That being said, it can be more challenging to see such content as strong revenue performers in the long term, at least from the data we have seen so far.
What I can say at this stage is that we are constantly looking to appeal to different demographic types and wider target audiences to expand our appeal as much as possible, with particular interest in the entertainment sector and console gaming demographics. As such you can expect to see different and new verticals rolled out during 2021 to help in this respect.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in creating the type of new-age casino game that most manufacturers face today and can you tell us how do you plan to navigate around it, without disclosing too many of your secret ingredients?
One of the biggest challenges will be providing such content and games whilst also remaining compliant and within the framework set by regulators on a game level, which is constantly evolving and changing at a rapid pace.
It’s important that we always stay ahead of the curve and move as quickly as possible, but again this can be challenging when we have multiple brands in multiple jurisdictions, many with different regulatory requirements.
Likewise, it can also be difficult and challenging creating localized content with longer exclusivity periods when reaching out to some of the bigger game supplier. They often see better commercial value rolling out such content across their whole distribution channels via multiple markets, rather than just via Betsson Group brands in just one or a select few markets.
To get around this, we often build such localized content via our exclusive games projects and initiatives.
Q: Do you reckon current developers are up to the task and goal of building a new generation of casino games?
Yes, there is still a lot of good content being delivered to us every month. Some game suppliers are brave and try completely new mechanics that have not been tested or proven to work long term, which we respect but it can also be risky.
We are also seeing a lot of inspiration on a game supplier level coming from other suppliers where they see and try to leverage top- performing mechanics in the market from competitors but with their own versions and iterations of such game models.
There has also been a shift to high volatility games during the past two years, but the competition in the game supplier space is becoming fiercer as time passes with the shelf life of new games becoming shorter and shorter.
As such I believe it’s more important than ever to pre-market new games before their official release dates to give them the best chance to succeed from day one and hold firm lobby positioning. Otherwise, if the games don’t stick during the initial release period there is a good chance the content will bomb down the lobbies and will not get the chance to enjoy decent player exposure.
Some suppliers are making good headway in this respect via streamers and already building up good hype and exposure before official release dates. Likewise, for new startup studios I believe as soon as they find one good mechanic that resonates and performs well with players, they need to jump on that mechanic and leverage it as much as possible.
Q: Do you think casino gaming will move fully onto online and mobile experiences or do you reckon the brick-and-mortar sector is going to continue growing as well? Can you see yourself contributing to the physical casino sector as well when it comes to solutions and products?
I think we will naturally see more and more land-based players moving towards online casinos. This was obviously more apparent during COVID-19 when many land-based casinos had to close due to lockdowns being enforced in many markets.
That is not to say that land-based will not continue to grow, but I believe the sector may struggle to grow at the same pace as the online casino space moving forwards.
Although, on the flip side, when you have a human element and dependency and reliance on actual human dealers, and face such lockdowns, it can also be quite a scary situation in terms of our dedicated table capacity as we believe we currently have one of the largest dedicated live casino table offerings in the industry.
That being said, the synergy from land-based to online more than compensated for the reduction in capacity during COVID-19. To a certain degree we already have some good collaboration with, and presence in, live venues with many live casino tables being situated in brick and mortar casinos through some of suppliers we are already integrated with.
Q: Which market is most receptive for any big changes in the iGaming segment? Do you plan on rolling out industry-changing products this year?
The situation is quite challenging now, due to more and more markets adopting a regulatory approach and we don’t expect this situation to change in the short term. If anything, we expect more to adopt a regulatory framework, but at the same time, this opens new opportunities for us as we take a long-term strategy on a market level and we expect to obtain new regulatory licenses during 2021.
In terms of industry-changing products, I can’t reveal too much at this stage but we have some very exciting plans for the Kenyan market which we believe can be a bit of a game changer.
Q: What would your main goal be in the iGaming vertical this year?
The main goal will be to continue with the positive growth that we saw in 2020, with a strong focus on new emerging markets which is a crucial and important part of our long-term strategy.
We also aim to continue to scale up our live casino revenues even further after the strong growth that we saw from this vertical in 2020. Likewise, we also intend to continue the strong growth projections that we have seen since adding Playtech Poker in May 2020 with further product development and exciting projects in the pipeline.
We then aim to add newer complimentary product verticals during this year to widen our target audience and demographic appeal and ultimately create additional on-site stickiness across these verticals with a strong focus on cross-sell efforts.