SBC News Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active

Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active

As one year ends and another begins, a series of reflections and predictions are to be expected. However, despite the optimism that encompasses many as January commences, numerous challenges remain and emerging trends continue to provide various opportunities.

In a two-part SBC News special, a selection of these, including player retention, emerging tech, markets of promise and much more, will be examined in detail.

Andrew Foster, CBO at Enteractive, Simon Lidzen, CEO and Co-Founder of Fast Track, Sam Brown, CEO of Rootz, and Ross Parkhill, CEO of Rhino Entertainment, provide the expert commentary.

SBC News: If you look back at 2023, what would you highlight as the major successes or failures of the industry during those 12 months? What major lessons have been learned?

SBC News Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active
Andrew Foster, CBO at Enteractive.

Andrew Foster: I think 2023 showed a continued push towards market regulation and with it came both the upside and the downside. There definitely seems to be some strength in market regulation like in the Netherlands where the regulator is taking a firm line and implementing the fines for failures and taking the black market operators to task wherever possible.  

Unfortunately this is not the general trend with these regulations and there still seems to be a big drive towards the black market operators in a lot of instances, which means the regulation is failing for the operators that are trying to follow the rules and be compliant as they will continue to operate at a disadvantage.

In my opinion, the lessons learned in one market should be considered and passed onto the next market to try and make the implementation of regulation better and more supportive to the operators that uphold the regulatory framework, despite the challenges they may face in doing so.

Simon Lidzen: Reflecting on 2023, the industry has really felt the impact of how critical adaptability and agility are, especially with the swift evolution of immersive technologies impacting our day-to-day operations. A prime example of this is ChatGPT.

What is also unique with this introduction compared to most AI tech in the market today, is how easy it is to bring onboard.

However, the real challenge lies ahead. It’s becoming increasingly clear that without a solid foundation in data infrastructure and real-time data processing, operators risk falling significantly behind, and very fast.

This year has been a bit of a wake-up call for a lot of operators in this regard, highlighting the urgency to future-proof our businesses in this rapidly changing digital landscape.

SBC News Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active
Sam Brown, CEO of Rootz.

Sam Brown: No major success stories really stick out, but once again it was a year the industry showed just how robust and resilient it is to major economic factors.

Outside North America the conditions in the locally regulated markets continued to get harder, and unsurprisingly led to ripe markets for black market operators to thrive in. For us, one of the tough lessons we learnt in 2023 is that it’s increasingly likely these black market operators are here for the long run.

Ross ParkhillI think something that became more evident during 2023, was the negative impact of a poorly executed licensing and regulation process.

We’ve seen a few examples now in Europe where the regulators really haven’t truly put the players and their safety first. As we see more markets regulate, I hope other legislators will take lessons on how they can ensure better channelisation if they choose smarter product and player restrictions along with sensible tax levies.

On a more positive note, particularly after the COVID era, I think the quality and professionalism of the industry events and news content has really come on during 2023.

Industry shows and exhibitions are clearly a very competitive space, but for the most part I think most of these providers stepped up their game and ensured that you can justify the time and expense of attending.

SBCN: Looking at global audiences, would you say that any major changes in trends/preferences have been witnessed? If so, how can these best be capitalised upon?

SBC News Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active
Simon Lidzen, CEO and Co-Founder of Fast Track.

SLWhen it comes to global audiences, the key challenge is to provide a local (and personal) offering, and be able to do this at scale.

At this time, the most critical aspect for any operator is to make sure their technology and data stacks enable them to do this.

Unless you have the right tools and work process in place, it will be a huge time consumer and a very costly issue. Fast Track provides a clear path to solve this and we have a keen interest in this area.

SB: No major trend changes, just the continued shift away from generic media consumption to algorithmically served content and subscription services. In my opinion capitalising on these more complex audiences is largely about scale and patience.

We have access to data on a scale, complexity and speed greater than ever … However, I feel one of the biggest negative externalities here is that people rush decisions without an adequate scale of data, either overinvesting on early trend data or more commonly killing potential upside.

SBC News Roundtable: successes, failures, major trends & keeping players active
Ross Parkhill, CEO of Rhino Entertainment.

RPIf anything I just think players now expect more choice and better quality products, both in terms of the games they play and the sites they visit. It’s not really a case of capitalising on that, more you need to meet that demand or you’re going to have a hard time staying in business. 

I think the growth we’ve seen throughout this year in game formats like crash games, traditional table games with added multipliers, feature buys etc. is a result of operators and suppliers trying to provide better entertainment value to as broad a group of recreational gamblers as possible.

AFIf you look at some of the operators that are starting to gather a lot of momentum, there does seem to be a trend towards the likes of social betting in the instance of Dabble, and micro betting with the uptick for operators like Simplebet.

These trends are supported with the onset of new suppliers in the market like Kero Sport, who see sport more for the entertainment factor and are trying to leverage this through the ability to play simple bets throughout the game based on well defined expectations of what the player would like to bet on next based on the live play. 

These new trends are certainly things that will get better as they develop and more suppliers appear, and these new bet types definitely have the ability to have a major impact on the way players bet, and interact, with their chosen sportsbook in the future.

SBCN: Keeping players active remains key for operators to maximise NGR. In 2024, what obstacles will hinder operators in this regard, and how can operators optimise audience conversion and retention?

SB: Consumer disposable income will continue to challenge all businesses in 2024. When it comes to entertainment, giving our customers the maximum time/experience value for their money will be key to keeping them active. Creating sticky and rewarding experiences, and giving consumers a tangible reason to return. 

Consumers are also increasingly impatient, so it’s harder than ever to recover from negative experiences. Minimal click journey flows and a high level of discipline in identifying and solving onsite experiences is another great way to protect your active player numbers.

RPWe can have many obstacles to be honest. Depending on the market you can have restrictions on the product or your promotional activities you offer, difficulty keeping top of mind due to access or cost of brand building or above the line channels.

We’re seeing trends where more players are opting out of communications etc. so there can be a lot of challenges. There is also a hell of a lot of competition out there, both in terms of rival sites, which seem to be ever increasing or competition through other products, services and past times that our players can choose to spend their entertainment budget on. 

I’ve always said that there is no real silver bullet for optimising conversion or retention. Making sure you have the fundamentals nailed and ensuring that when a player arrives looking to play, they find a site and exciting games that all work flawlessly.

We must provide players entertainment value for the time and money they invest with us over the host of other options, or they will simply start choosing to go elsewhere.  

AFI think the part that regulators are trying to play in ensuring affordability with gameplay could have a major impact on player activity in the year ahead, especially if it is implemented badly and without consultation of the operators in the specific market.

It is well intended, however, if these checks are implemented badly it could lead to a drive of players towards black market operators, which would lower NGR for regulated operators and also increase player risk for many reasons. 

The aim of the game remains to have a relationship with one’s players and serve them what they want when they want it, utilising all options available to do this. AI will play a role in driving this decision making process and having a full product complement, and a multi channel approach will be required to continue to see major upside in 2024.

SL: Running a successful casino, especially in regulated markets, is more difficult than it appears. A significant challenge lies in identifying which players actually boost your profits and which do not. For example… bonus abusers have become very clever.

They can disguise themselves as high-value players or even VIPs, meticulously analysing and extracting value from your bonuses. The key to identifying them is through gameplay analysis, and to addressing the issue before it escalates, in real-time.

This approach has been extremely effective for casinos offering bonuses and aiming to increase profits. Not only does it immediately reduce the cost of bonuses, but once you identify the players worth investing in, you can acquire and retain players more effectively.

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