Stian Hornsletten, EveryMatrix: Closing the gap from sports to casino

Multi-vertical operators have been keen to narrow the gap between sportsbook and casino content, boosting the cross-sell opportunity in the absence of live sports. 

We asked Stian Hornsletten (pictured above), CCO for igaming software provider EveryMatrix, about appealing to sports punters with casino-integrated content.

He discussed where virtual sports fit in, how his company’s game development unit has added a “special version” of casino games for sports bettors, and why esports will hold its audience despite benefiting, relative to other verticals, from lockdown measures.

SBC: How is EveryMatrix narrowing the gap between sportsbook and casino to deliver the best entertainment set for its clients?

SH: Our clients are very eager to explore new content. Operators are actively looking for more content, but they need to be creative in advancing alternative forms of entertainment to their players. Virtual sports is not a betting vertical meant to replace real sports but rather a complementary offering that, if used creatively, has the potential to bring in more revenue.

We’ve seen massive three-digits growth week-over-week in our reporting, so there is solid potential for virtual sports in the long run. Some key advantages of virtuals include eliminating long waiting times associated with real-life sports events, quick access to a wide variety of content, and having an innate attractiveness for computer games enthusiasts.

Virtuals sports are a gaming category with its own complex environment, and we are providing operators with quite a lot of content choices. To date, we made available content from Global Bet, Kiron, NSoft, Golden Race, Leap Gaming, 1×2 Gaming, Betradar, and we are already looking to integrate another five to six additional providers.

SBC: For a sports betting punter, the volume of new games integrated through the casino isn’t really of interest, it has to be something that really appeals to them. How are you cross-selling to this audience by delivering products more familiar to them?

SH: One of the big advantages of CasinoEngine’s is that we have more than 130 integrations. We are offering content from over 160 different game providers which have a big selection of different types of games, including slots but also many other types. CasinoEngine aggregates around 80% of all content in the market. And as mentioned, we also have a big selection of virtual sports across seven providers with another five to six in the pipeline.

We also have our esports products integrated, which enjoyed a lot of attention from both our development and commercial teams in these past weeks. OddsMatrix’s esports services have really picked up and are now a rising star of the company. We started to focus on esports in early March, and we’ve signed 10 contracts for esports since then. 

Our offering for esports events has grown a lot, especially for NBA2K and FIFA, which cumulate for 85% of the betting volumes. There is also a big appeal for traditional esports such as CS:GO. It depends on the players and the larger esports market, but all seems to be working quite well. More in-depth information can be found in The State of Esports Betting 2020 Report.

We’re also cross-selling more traditional casino games such as roulette, live games and poker. I think there needs to be a combination. With CasinoEngine, operators get access to all of this through one integration. Poker, table games, virtuals, and everything in between. 

SBC: You mentioned above that you consider virtual sports in the gaming category. Is this for integration purposes or how you group the content? And what else are you doing in-house to increase the cross-sell to sports from the CasinoEngine aggregator?

SH: CasinoEngine is not only a casino aggregator, we call it the iGaming integration platform. That’s what it is – an integration layer with a unified API into the operators’ PAMs, gaming platforms and various wallets. With these integrations on the gaming side, everything goes through CasinoEngine. 

We also have bingo and poker products, so it’s a light integration layer which gives access to everything. We launch between three and four new vendors, and handle around 600-700 vendor configurations across our clients each month. There have been a record number of configurations and changes as well a lot of new games released in the last weeks.

As cross-selling between casino and sports becomes more important, I’d like to mention Slider Games, a new product released by our game development unit, Spearhead Studios. 

It provides a special version of various casino games, which sports bettors can play while waiting for a new match to start without leaving the sportsbook, with only a rapid ‘swipe’ motion on the screen, like on Bwin, for example. A small button added in the events screen gives permanent and instant access to casino content, such as roulette, blackjack or slots targeted to a specific local audience.

This is something that works very well; we have seen up to 20% uplift in revenues from sports players. It offers quick access to entertainment while they are waiting for the next event to start or the half time break to end. It was specifically tailored for the sportsbook market. 

SBC: You mentioned the quick rise of esports. In an interview with your CEO Ebbe Groes, he said that you still want to present this as something different rather than mixing it in with sports. How do you see the way in which esports can be taken more mainstream?

SH: Our research says that showing esports separately from traditional sports works the best. This doesn’t mean you cannot mix them up as there are players who do wager across verticals. We’re doing both, but esports have an entire universe around them and tend to be taken very seriously by players and punters. 

You could say it’s a more complete and more complex product. I also think that it differs a bit, as esports itself is a big market with different types of players playing games such as NBA2K or FIFA, while some players prefer classics like CS:GO or DOTA.

SBC: Everyone is, inevitably, now talking about presenting the best combination of esports, virtuals and casino games in the absence of live sports. Is this something that was always in the pipeline for EveryMatrix this year? Or like a lot of people, has the current situation brought about a change in your approach?

SH: I think the current situation has sparked a lot of innovation. When I talk to tier-1 operators, they have all got things lined up, and most know what they need to do by the end of this week or the next one, in order to close the revenue gap. 

These operators must integrate alternatives since there are no sports events to bet on. I think that one of the biggest winners are esports, which already benefited a lot from what’s happened in the past two months. Esports is an enduring solution and will remain of interest for a long time, especially from the numbers that we are seeing.

SBC: From a supply point of view, building in an esports offering and adding more virtuals could bring about an initial financial hit, but over time do you think operators are only going to be looking at those working across all verticals?

SH: I think that sportsbooks will have to rethink their offering. When it comes to esports, I noticed that some operators are not used to getting a lot of data sources quickly. So they are struggling to suddenly become very good at esports. At least that’s the case with many of the new operators we’re speaking to. 

For esports, we use 10-15 data sources to ensure reliability and to offer a massive number of events, over 50,000 monthly events as of April 2020, but also streaming, which is very important when it comes to esports. Sportsbook operators can turn to OddsMatrix rapid integration tab as an agile solution for adopting esports. 

SBC: Just finally, if you had to guess what might happen after all lockdown measures are lifted and the world goes back to some form of normality. Will we see this ‘blurring’ of the betting verticals become a permanent thing, or do you expect a return to more distinct audiences?

SH: Keeping an eye on the future, it makes sense to integrate short-term actions into a strategic business plan that can boost post-crisis performance. I think people will ultimately expand their areas of interest, even if they will go back to betting on what they used to for some extent. 

This sports shutdown showed everyone that there can be a huge uplift in esports and also in online gambling vertical overall. Growth from the online casino is not only because of the lack of sports, but also due to land-based being closed and players moving online.

These extraordinary times have driven traditional players towards new wagering options, simultaneously drawing in a new audience. For those operators able to retain large shares of both, actions today will quickly turn into an enduring investment and significant revenues.

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