Stuart Tilly – ISGA – Creating a social betting mechanic

Stuart Tilly

In his first interview as SBC Social Gaming Editor Rasmus Sojmark CEO of Oddslife interviews Stuart Tilly Co-Founder and Non-Executive Board Advisor at International Social Games Association (ISGA) and the CEO of fantasy sports in-play operator Flip Sports.  

Tilly outlines why he feels many businesses have failed to create a social betting industry, whilst other traditional gaming channels have flourished in the social gaming space. Tilly further outlines how social sports betting can improve game mechanisms to improve consumer engagement on social verticals.


SBC: How influential is the social sports sector within the wider social games industry?

ST: Not at all is the easy answer. The social games industry has grown significantly over the last few years, with the size of the market now estimated to reach $17.4bn by 2019. Social casino-style games have undoubtedly contributed to this growth with a host of poker, slots and table game titles generating an estimated $2.7bn in revenue this year.

Social betting-style games have failed to keep pace however; in fact they’ve barely got out of the starting blocks. Zynga, DoubleDown, Playtika, Play Studios, Bash Gaming and Big Fish Games are just a handful of success stories within the social casino genre, but I would struggle to name any real social betting successes. I could more easily list those titles gathering dust or shut down altogether after failing to make any real headway.

SBC: Why do you think social sports products have struggled?

ST: It is surprising when you consider sport in general has a huge mainstream appeal and betting on sports accounts for over 50% of the online gambling market.  In my view, the problem lies in the inherent nature of sports betting as an activity. The act of placing a wager is missing two key components…it’s neither social, nor a game.

SBC: But sports is very social is it not?

ST: It’s important to make a distinction between sports betting as a product and the social experience that the activity can be enjoyed within. The act of placing a bet is by its nature a transactional experience; one that involves an arms length interaction between you and the bookie. There is of course a social layer around the betting activity where people may give opinions on a particular price, claim they have some inside knowledge that gives them an edge, etc. But this layer is a consequence of the betting activity, not a part of the transaction itself and will more than likely be external to the site you place your bet on, whether in forums, social networks or in the pub. This is a challenge when trying to create a compelling social sports product and where most have struggled because they’ve simply tried to wrap the social layer around the product rather than looking to the nature of the product itself.

SBC: So how do you make a sports betting product more social?

ST: As I mentioned, the challenge stems from the fact that placing a bet is a transactional experience and one that results in a binary outcome. You place your bet and it either wins or loses. There is no natural game element outside of this. Compare this with casino-style games where every hand dealt or every reel spun provides a different and engaging gaming experience, one based more on entertainment, rather than a strong desire to win. With such a high volume and frequency of differing outcomes throughout the gaming experience there is far more scope for a broad and varied conversation within the game. The entire social and gaming experience sits within the product, rather than being wrapped around it. If you are able to incorporate some form of game mechanic into the sports betting transaction then I think you will stand a much better chance of making it more engaging as a social product.

SBC: Can you give us any examples of how game mechanics have or can be introduced?

ST: There’s plenty of scope for innovation here and I think that over the next 12 months we’ll begin to see some exciting new ventures.

I personally think fantasy sports can play a part in this sector. Whilst not quite as perennial a pastime as casino gaming, fantasy sports is the original social wagering game. It’s been entrenched within sports fans’ calendars for decades and is currently enjoying an explosive renaissance, especially in the US, with the rise in weekend and daily fantasy competitions. But the traditional fantasy model is not the complete gaming experience, far from it in fact, and will need a degree of innovation before it can carve out a niche within the social gaming industry. But it’s a solid platform to build on as it already possesses both social and game components.


Stuart Tilly – Founder – International Social Games Association (ISGA) 


The International Social Games Association (ISGA) has been established by leading social games companies to act as a unified and consistent voice to represent the legal, regulatory and commercial interests of social games companies world wide, from established global operators to up-and-coming start ups, at a time when many changes in the way millions of people access, play and pay for games are taking place.

The ISGA’s core objective is to educate and inform the public, policy makers and regulators on what the industry does, how it works and the value it generates for both those that love to play social games and for the digital economy. It will also work to develop and promote a unified set of socially responsible values to its members aimed at safeguarding the consumer whilst also protecting the dynamic and innovative nature of this popular form of entertainment.


SBC Editor Notes- Rasmus Sojmark

Social gaming section editor, Rasmus Sojmark, CEO of social sports & gaming platform Oddslife, will be inviting the sector’s leading proponents to explain their vision of a market which has an interesting relationship with real money gambling. Many companies, both big and small, have tried and failed to make social sports betting work, yet there is undoubted potential between the two products. This section intends to explore where mistakes have been made and why the successes have been so successful, predominately in other sectors than sports betting.

If you are interested in contributing to the section, please email Rasmus at [email protected] with your details and a suggestion for a topic you would like to cover.


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