Ahead of their participation at the upcoming SBC Summit Barcelona, Atlas-IAC CEO Sergei Efimenko discusses the growing influence of artificial intelligence, the ongoing data wars and the double-edged sword that is owning your own technology.
For those that might not know, can you give us a brief introduction to Atlas-IAC?
Atlas-IAC was founded with the vision of modernising the global sports betting industry. It’s long been clear that manual trading teams would be replaced with data feeds and algorithmic pricing models pushing real-time odds updates into a sports betting platform designed around live betting. So, with this in mind, the Atlas-IAC founders set out to build a modern, modular and scalable sports betting platform that could replace the legacy sports betting platforms that are still widely used today.
In order to make this vision a reality, the founders knew that they would need to build a platform that was faster, more scalable and more reliable than legacy platforms, and deliver this platform through a SaaS business model. With the use of enterprise grade in-memory computing, private and public cloud virtualised servers and years of research and development, Atlas-IAC is now one of the fastest growing B2B suppliers in the industry today.
What new technology do you feel will have the biggest impact on sports betting?
I believe this is finally the moment when artificial intelligence (from trading to marketing tools) and data collection finally align for progressively effective modes of personalisation. If your system truly knows and understands your customer from the log-in, a frictionless personalised experience is now an attainable reality.
Indeed, I reckon high-volume AI systems mark out a consequential cage fight of the future as marketing departments struggle to create cut-through campaigns that can scale. After all, if intelligence is just a matter of data-processing, the gap between the grounded reasoning of mortal man and the take-off functionality of AI is just increasing by orders of magnitude.
At Atlas-IAC, we’ve fostered our reputation around harnessing such automation, building the most advanced, responsive platform around understanding the workflow before trying to make it more efficient. Employing technology in the most scalable way is one of the reasons why, for instance, a handful of our traders can manage multiple brands across various platform implementations, each trading well over 100,000 live events annually.
In fact, we’ve staked our business model on processing these economies of scale with the industry’s most scalable, flexible, and efficient sports betting and gaming platform. Allied to the latest and fastest feeds – as the data wars continue to rage on between the likes of Sportradar, Perform and Genius – our operator partners will always win the day.
You mention the data wars there, how do you see them panning out?
Well, while I think the outcome of the pending Sportadar vs Football DataCo and Betgenius case will be informative later this year – and certainly set some much-needed precedent around data distribution – it’s not going to bring a hammer down on the debate as to the merits and rights of open-source versus official data.
At the end of the day, the future of data provision must work for the operators. That’ll mean either cost (cheaper) or better service (new features, markets etc). There will always be the pain of integration, so the benefits need to be appreciable. It’s a narrative that’s going to run and run, it seems. So I’d advise people to sit with the uncertainty and remain flexible in their thinking and contracts, at least until (or if) more robust regulatory intervention arrives.
Has any particular sports betting partnership in the sector caught your eye of late?
With a myriad of promising partnerships over the past few years, it’s really difficult to pick a winner. Particularly because none of them has truly collided with long-term realities yet which is invariably the test! Above all, this speaks to the situation in the States. Of course, I remain extremely optimistic about the US market for sports betting. Sure, it may prove a long and winding road but when you’re looking to harness a market worth some $5billion or more, it’s well worth the effort.
You just need to make sure your supplier has the requisite flexibility. If you’re a multi-state operator in the US, Atlas could set up multiple different platforms across assorted states, allowing you to have centralised control at a phenomenally different total operating cost than if you’re on a legacy system or managed service.
I think that’s where the future is heading, more of a shared business model between a B2B supplier and operator. We can provide the platform, help with trading, help negotiate fees with data feed suppliers and then run it for you, or hand over the reins and let your traders take care of it. It’s a much healthier relationship than the antagonistic one where you pay every time you want a change made. We’re now at a point where our sales pipeline is taking off and we’re talking to an array of differently-sized companies.
How much of a priority is the US market for Atlas-IAC?
I obviously wouldn’t say it was our top priority at this moment, but we will also be on site for G2E with an Atlas-IAC stand in Las Vegas. So, it’s firmly on our radar, alongside its natural overlap into the Americas as a whole – LatAm is very interesting for us, of course, and Brazil in particular, where sports betting is set to belatedly roll out in 2023. It’s an exciting time across that continent with the market still to take definitive shape – current leadership positions cannot be taken for granted over the next five years, especially with so many still tethered to unwieldy legacy platforms. This is where Atlas-IAC can come in and disrupt the space.
Is “taking control of your tech” something that operator shareholders are keen to hear, or do they want a more nuanced side of the story?
I suppose it’s a common “hot potato” in the industry, whose shareholder appeal or validity must ultimately be premised on the specifics of any given operator strategy. Which territory are you targeting? How many brands do you have to accommodate? How do you plan to market any given product? All these questions need answers too. Of course, owning your own tech ostensibly allows you to become master of your own destiny. However, that can prove a double-edged sword for death or glory.
Naturally, shareholders want to find the quickest path to sustained and diversified revenue streams. However, that can come at huge expense. Just take a mega-merger company like GVC whose product strategy has been to house everything under one roof.
Ultimately, that consolidation of a web of companies was a success, but it came at significant expense and proved a protracted process. Against that, concerns over outsourcing have largely gone from the industry. You just need the right company holding the tech reins, without handing over too much control in order to remain a commercially-dexterous business.
Betway, who have long offered an eloquent case in point, do things their own way but thanks to their Microgaming partnership, they know how to scale. Atlas IAC’s incredibly modular platform, coupled to a flair for understanding the salient credentials of any outsourced team of techies, ensures similar scalability.
Just to see where your sporting passions lie, if you could attend one event, what would it be?
I suppose the World Cup football final, or the Super Bowl would make for the most popular answers. However, I’m going to fly the flag for the UK with the Cheltenham Festival, as our partners at RPM Gaming keep reminding me! Each and every year it delivers pulsating, high-octane action. Its inimitable atmosphere is driven by that rare combination of fantastic sport allied to a collective unanimity.
As opposed to the more tribal set-ups of most sporting events, no matter which horse you’ve backed or whether you’re cheering on the side of the British or Irish divide, we all converge on the thrilling finishes and wish the protagonists come home safely up that famous Prestbury Park hill. Cheltenham is as unique as the picturesque natural amphitheatre in which it is staged.
What are you looking forward to at SBC Summit Barcelona?
We can’t wait to get to this must-attend event, and unveil our latest plans and innovative product suite at Stand E1 in the Catalan capital’s revered Fira de Barcelona Montjuïc exhibition centre, surely one of the most recognisable trade show venues on the circuit. The Atlas-IAC team will be on site, alongside our partners at RPM Gaming, and walking the floors to greet old friends and meet new clients all week. It should be a lot of fun.
After the dazzling summer of sport, SBC Summit Barcelona provides a timely think tank for the fledgling football season for 2022/23 and how the industry can best provide operators and bettors with engaging, innovative betting experiences across some tent-pole, revenue-driving events this autumn – dominated, as ever, by the imminent World Cup football (always a defining moment for revenue and new-account growth) but not forgetting many other sports, of course, like the T20 World Cup cricket, and the recently renewed NFL campaign stateside.
SBC Summit Barcelona provides some excellent networking opportunities with senior peers to debate many of the most topical and pressing issues. Whatever’s on your mind: looming recession and the cost of living crisis, affordability checks, player profiling, the unfolding scene across the Americas, regulation closer to home, player engagement, retention strategy, acquisition and bonusing alternatives – it’s always helpful and often illuminating to trade thoughts on broad plans and specific innovations with other industry leaders, in order that we can collectively converge on the best path forward and overcome the headwinds.
And finally, can you give us your top predictions for the upcoming World Cup?
Well, as a proud Ukrainian, it was a shame to see our boys go out to Wales in the qualifiers. However, I bear the Red Dragons no ill will and I hope they can continue to surprise a few people in a tough Group B, where they will also renew rivalries with England. As Atlas-IAC is now Lisbon-based, perhaps our team will get behind Portugal instead for what may well prove Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup.
Atlas-IAC is exhibiting at stand E1 at the upcoming SBC Summit Barcelona, which takes place from 20-22 September at Fira Barcelona Montjuïc. Individual All Access Passes and discounted Group Passes for the Summit are available from the event’s website.