Can AI and Data Revolutionise iGaming and Sports Betting?

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is beginning to revolutionise the way that iGaming and sports betting suppliers and operators do business, allowing them to unlock and utilise data in a myriad of new ways. Gambling News spoke to key individuals within the industry to discuss how they utilise this exciting technology. Read our conversation with Ian Tibot – Chief Product Officer at Future Anthem (IT), Alex Kornilov – CEO at BETEGY (AK), Thomas Aigner – Head of Business Development at Ibex.Ai (TA), Suren Khachatryan -founder and CEO at Technamin (SK), Ismail Vali – CEO at Yield Sec (IV), and Francesco Borgosano, CEO of Huddle (FB).

Q: Artificial Intelligence has long been touted as an exciting prospect that’s ‘just around the corner’, would you say that AI is fully integrated into the iGaming / sports betting landscape now, or are we still some way away from this?

(IT) I think it’d be fair to suggest that we’re still some way away from this, but we are beginning to see a growing trend where personalisation is making its way higher up the priority list for many. I believe this is because the regulatory burden in Europe has lessened somewhat combined with the pace in which US states are beginning to open up. There’s a vast amount of data out there within the iGaming and sports betting ecosystem, this data lends itself perfectly to the use of AI and Machine Learning. In time more and more companies will leverage it to help improve the player experience.

(AK) In many ways, we’re still so far from the destination – but we’re making baby steps towards it.

Let’s start with the basics first; when it comes to AI, what do we mean? We’re still a while away from an artificial human brain, but we’re getting there. At this stage, what we have is GAI (general AI) that is already developed for specific tasks, and that is performing well. So, for the industry, AI is a major boost for focuses such as personalisation and the like.

However, when it comes to our industry integrating such tech, we’ve still got a way to go. When it’s here, it will transform the industry, as it will touch every single sector and corner. If we break that down, we begin to see that every part of the process can be transformed.

So, what does that include? Quite literally everything, from behavioural patterns to security, which can be especially important for crypto users. Of course, the most obvious area that will benefit is marketing and advertising. TikTok is a great example of this, it’s succeeded so well because they’ve taken a proprietary algorithm and deployed it in such a way that each UX is personalised on a whole new level.

(TA) Artificial Intelligence has already arrived, but I would argue it is still an exciting prospect as we are only beginning to see the initial stages of what benefits it’s going to bring to the industry. AI is available in many different formats that can support a variety of departments such as Compliance or Marketing. In the current climate, it will allow for more personalization and automation to take place between an operator and a customer, a key strategy in CRM.

There is still a long route to navigate before AI becomes fully integrated, with companies not willing to change too quickly. In the current landscape, companies use AI to support them, but most have not changed their “standard” processes or challenged them with automated systems.

In order for AI to show its true potential, it has to be fully embraced, moving away from the ‘support for existing processes’ approach. Full automation and developing a self-driving system are essential to unlocking AI’s capabilities and fundamentally changing how companies operate daily.

(SK) For as long as it has been around, AI has been a phenomenon that, in my opinion, we have only scratched the surface of. The online gaming and sports betting industry has certainly been open to accepting artificial intelligence and machine learning, but there are many more innovations in the making. This is a testament to the fact that this industry and the people behind it are always open to taking things to the next level using the latest technological advancements, which is something we advocate at Technamin as well. 

(IV) There have been fundamental changes following the integration of artificial intelligence into the iGaming industry that can be felt from both the supplier and operator perspective, and indeed here at Yield Sec, as we help to police the criminal black market. However, the continuation of this integration requires a shift in the appreciation of AI’s uses and outputs.

For example, Yield Sec’s intelligence platform has a military background and build that, until now, has never been seen before in iGaming. This initially created some trepidation as to how our proprietary algorithms work to limit black-market activity, however, as the industry becomes more accustomed to AI the caution is beginning to recede.  

The proven military counterinsurgency foundation on which our AI is built will impact how we look at the marketplace and how legal operators consider marketing in the near future. The industry as a whole is being forced to consider previously under-utilised tools, such as machine learning, to deliver innovative ideas for which success depends on limiting the growth of the criminal black market that traditional tools have so far failed to effectively challenge.

(FB) The adoption of AI is definitely growing in the iGaming industry, and it’s becoming more and more a part of the day-to-day operations. However, I wouldn’t say that AI is not fully integrated, and I believe we are still 5-8 years away from this. There are still challenges that are preventing full adoption, in particular an unsuitable data infrastructure and data silos within Organizations.

Q: Can you tell us why AI and machine learning is so important to your business, and explain what you utilise it for on a day-to-day basis?

(IT) AI and Machine Learning is at the heart of the products we provide to our customers at Future Anthem. Our team of expert data scientists and engineers are delivering millions of personalised real-time recommendations to our clients on a daily basis which can help them make key decisions such as launching games with greater confidence, greatly improving their portfolio.

(AK) In a few years, I have no doubt it will completely transform the industry. Those who get in on the ground floor are going to enjoy a real first mover advantage.

As we’ve touched on, personalisation is key to the future of marketing and the customer journey. Already, we use a whole host of machine learning and proprietary tools for delivering a personalised player experience.

What we’ve been able to do so far at BETEGY has really turned things on its head. Parimatch, for example, uses our automated content platform (BETEGY Impact), which has reduced their original turnaround time from 3-6 months to just 180 seconds. With our tech, they’re able to create continent-wide marketing campaigns in a matter of minutes!

(TA) Ibex.AI is all about Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, it’s at the very core of our business DNA. This is driven by an expert team of data scientists and engineers who enable us to focus every day on optimizing our models and invent more features and tools that will create additional automation for our partners.

On the day-to-day we use this model to be the best “self-driving” solution for iGaming marketing teams, allowing our partners to be able to concentrate more on creative work, commercial impact, strategy, brand marketing and not on executing manual legwork, with our end objective being to responsibly increase their revenue. Our AI provides profit and loss models for each customer individually and targets them using the correct channels of communication at the right time to increase engagement and retention. We circumvent traditional segmentation processes allowing for operators to provide unrivalled personalisation to customers.

(SK) As a company, we are ardent advocates for using technology to develop state-of-art solutions. In fact, all of Technamin’s products are created with this principle in mind. In terms of utilising it on a day-to-day basis, AI greatly helps us in automatically comparing and analysing odds, which would otherwise be done manually and, hence, be quite time consuming. Another area where AI is of great assistance is risk management. Using these technologies, we can have accurate risk management which again, substitutes manual work. 

(IV) Yield Sec utilises AI and machine learning in a variety of different ways to help quantify and protect a jurisdiction from criminal black-market operators. We do this via Marketplace Mapping, a unique tool used by Yield Sec to demonstrate black-market activity via operators, affiliates, and advertisements. Payment Checking is also key to Yield Sec, with AI making this process both effective and efficient when compared to creating this data set manually.

Audience identification and trafficking are also underpinned by AI, allowing us to determine how players are interacting with black-market operators. This in turn allows us to take the necessary action to reduce and restrict an illegal operator’s presence and profitability by denying these criminal entrants the oxygen of marketing, to acquire new audiences and reach or reactivate existing customers.    

All of these work in conjunction with our AI to establish how much these black-market operators are stealing in tax revenue from a specific jurisdiction, and the steps needed to reduce this criminal activity.  

(FB) At Huddle, we use various statistical modeling techniques on a day-to-day basis. We utilize Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for many of them. When it comes to the odds-making process, we believe that such techniques deliver particular value in model development and automated risk adjustment.

Through Machine Learning and data engineering techniques we process large datasets to identify the most relevant features for odds forecasting, as well as underlying dynamics and trends in the sports events. Similarly, we use statistical techniques for pattern recognition in betting behavior and customer profiling to support and automate our risk management strategies.

Q: Working with AI and machine learning requires a team of talented data-scientists, do you believe talent acquisition is going to be a long-term challenge for those taking advantage of the technology?

(IT) We completely agree that you need a talented team of data scientists to deliver products that improve player experiences. Talent acquisition, development and retention are key pillars of our business strategy, we see that the nuances of the iGaming/Sports betting industry are such that it is not enough to just hire a data scientist to create an off the shelf model. You must have a team of data scientists who are able to identify and understand the player behaviours that appear in data.

(AK) It’s always a long-term challenge! Acquiring talent, such as leading data scientists, is something that is so important. The amount of work, investment and time that needs to go into such a role requires the best of talent. Finding the right people that can deliver on data science (such as AI researchers) is always going to be the principle obstacle for mass adoption as there will always be scarce resources, especially given the amount of competition inside and outside of the industry.

(TA) This is certainly an area to keep an eye on as demand in the sector grows, it has the makings of a similar dilemma the industry has seen in recent years when sourcing good Developers. At Ibex we have acquired a highly skilled team and thanks to our company structure, vision and team efforts our Data Scientists and Engineers greatly enjoy shaping the future of igaming Marketing.

Company goals and vision need to fit, so the environment you can create is extremely important in order to keep your team motivated with new challenges. Managing the different mindsets and people within Data Teams is crucial to success, similar to developers some want to prototype and experiment more, whilst others are happy to maintain software and keep testing and QA’ing.

(SK) Certainly so. AI is a relatively new field and finding experts that are proficient at using these technologies may be a bit challenging. However, the experts are increasing in number, almost as fast as the technology is expanding. Ironically, AI itself is helping with the talent acquisition process! There are companies that are using machine learning to sort through their candidates and hire employees. That says a lot about the connection between talent acquisition and AI.

(IV) Subjectively speaking, talent acquisition has not been a challenge for Yield Sec, as we occupy a unique position within the market. Yield Sec offer a clear benefit to each legal stakeholder client as we help each fight crime. That public mission commitment across Yield Sec’s work, team and day-to-day reality has seen us inundated with responses each time we post a new vacancy – and we expect this to continue into the future.

Candidates want careers with meaning, especially after the pandemic, where they can feel they are part of something bigger than just a pay-check and a job title. Betting, gaming and lottery should fund our onshore commerce and communities through tax revenue and, fundamentally, they should not fund crime. That’s the mission we lead for our legal stakeholder clients and it’s the same one that is bringing us a wealth of candidates that want to contribute to their own futures and that of the community they are a part of. 

(FB) Talent acquisition is definitely a challenge when it comes to data scientists and in general highly skilled technical roles. I believe that over the course of the years as Academia keeps investing on STEM programs the talent pool will organically grow.

We actively collaborate with Universities to mitigate this and we invest heavily in training and upskilling of our employees.

Q: What does the future of AI and machine learning look like to you?

(IT) To me, the future of AI and Machine Learning within iGaming will see players offered a personalised experience at scale across all of their gameplay activity. There’s so much data available across the industry, whether that be from affiliates, free-to-play games and from betting behaviour. There’s no reason why we cannot offer all customers (new or established) a more relevant, timely and personalised gaming experience.

(AK) In my view, AI can solve a multitude of world problems. It enables processing and understanding far beyond any human can produce themselves, whether that’s global warming, congestion or an optimised shopping list!

The same goes for betting. We’ll be able to tap into customer profiles that could never be built without AI. We’re already seeing what AI can do in that regard – a recent experiment saw AI build an immeasurably accurate profile of a customer based solely on a set of questions. The ability to serve and deliver what people want to see is going to transform the user experience.

(TA) I believe the future of AI will be underpinned by the industry’s willingness to embrace the benefits offered through machine learning. As the industry becomes more acquainted with its potential inevitably there will be an uptick in users with these going on to reap the rewards of AI’s efficiency

as seen already with platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify, freeing up time for people to be more creative and strategic in their position whilst AI improves upon and takes care of many tasks. Roles will as a result change and adapt, allowing people to gain more responsibility by taking care of bigger markets or tasks as AI handles most of the legwork.

AI can self-drive your business, meaning that potentially you can create a new iGaming start-up or enter a new market with a handful of people because you have a self-driving platform/system in place taking care of the acquisition and retention of your players.

(SK) We’re already seeing a more vivid presence of AI and machine learning in the online gaming industry. As the industry develops, AI will have a bigger role to play, especially in terms of user experience. Using machine learning, we’ll be able to better understand bettors and offer them more exciting and tailored experiences. We can also combine AI with virtual reality and augmented reality, making the experience even more thrilling. We have only scratched the surface of what can be done, really. And that makes it even more exciting! 

(IV) Our future is very much focused on developments in AI and machine learning. We aim to deliver more mind, management and mission-focused commercial and community products and projects from Yield Sec and our parent company, Atropos Intelligence. Our next focus for R&D is in other consumer industry verticals as we look to move the needle against criminal presence and interference in the same way we are impacting the marketplace for betting, gaming and lottery.

As previously mentioned, we also expect the interpretation of AI to continue to shift and this will see its integration become more commonplace across the iGaming industry. This will allow further opportunities for jurisdictions to make use of Yield Sec’s proprietary AI, to combat criminal black-market activity and increase tax revenues that benefit communities. Additionally, we see AI becoming increasingly common across all aspects of the industry in the near future, from suppliers and operators to CRM practices and more, with machine learning and AI more able to efficiently tackle roles previously limited by human interaction.

(FB) At Huddle, we firmly believe that, over time, algorithms led by artificial intelligence will provide better performance than any subjective process related to iGaming and Sports Betting operations. And, our philosophy is to automate as much as possible up to the point a human can do it better. And our long-term vision is to utilize modern technology, AI and data to solve more and more problems for sportsbooks and always offer them great odds.

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