Eman Pulis – SIGMA Debate – Cracking the Social Gambling Conundrum

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Eman Pulis – SIGMA Marketing Director

One of the hottest areas of remote gaming is social gambling. However, even after more or less of a decade since the first crop of social gambling verticals appeared , this sector of iGaming/Gaming remains a tough nut to crack for operators who want to capitalise on players who choose to wager their bets while benefiting from a more socially led experience.

In theory, the convergence between social media & gambling products appears to be a match made in heaven. Nevertheless in practice, this has turned out to be only partially true. Big-name game developers and operators, like Zynga and Double Down Interactive, have proven unequivocally the burgeoning  appetite of social media users for casino-style gaming, however this confirmed interest does not seem to transcend to engaging these customers a real money gaming purchase, except for making in-game purchases.

So far, social gambling, and casino apps in particular, have managed to attract mainly casual gamers who want to enjoy the thrill of betting their free game credits and compete against friends and strangers to build the biggest bankroll in their network. This segment undoubtedly represents a huge potential for lucrative returns to iGaming companies who successfully nudge players to make the shift to real money gambling.

The challenges faced by social gambling

Semi-successful ventures like PKR have attempt to blend social gaming, with 3D real-life simulation, with real-money gambling, but the cocktail has turned out to be unpalatable to the masses. We question what it takes to crack the social gambling conundrum and which approaches should remote gaming operators consider in order to make sustainable inroads in this tantalisingly lucrative sector, but first a clear elucidation of the main challenges is needed.

Among the most pressing challenges that pioneers in the social gambling business face, one of the most insidious is their customers’ vanity. Social media is made for sharing, and people are naturally biased to mainly share with their friends what makes them look or feel good. Losing money at gambling doesn’t tick any of those boxes.

A related challenge is overcoming individuals’ natural tendency to hide what they fear might cause disapproval from their cohort. Social media is inherently public, and as such subject to the same collective prejudices and taboos that characterise society at large. Understandably, players might be intimidated to publicly reveal themselves as gamblers, for fear of repercussions that his particular label might have on their relationships.

For the love of gambling

An interesting parallel to the social gambling conundrum can be seen in online dating. Gambling and sex are both subjects that rarely figure in the public life of private individuals. Online dating is inherently social, yet it operates in the main part independently of traditional social networks. A possible learning point here for iGaming operators would be to operate in parallel with social networks: providing social login options for users to register more quickly and easily, whilst allowing them to control the visibility of their gaming activity on their social media feeds.

Online gambling operators should probably admit and embrace the fact that due to a variety of societal reasons (personal – individual beliefs about gambling – and public – legislation frameworks), their field occupies a territory adjacent to social media but not strictly speaking overlapping with it. However, this does not exclude the possibility of integrating the wealth of data on social profiles with their current offering.

By enabling users to connect their social media profiles, iGaming operators can obtain access to an excellent source of marketing data that allows them to tailor promotions to specific individuals and groups of individuals that share a particular social graph.

The debate continues at SiGMA 2014

At SiGMA 2014, Malta’s largest and most comprehensive iGaming conference to date, social gambling will certainly be one of the hottest topics to be debated amongst the participants, including suppliers, C-level executives, affiliates and marketing partners in the remote gaming industry. The subject will make its appearance on the SiGMA conference stage on October 31st, when speakers Silvio Schembri, Samuel Gauci and Simon Planzer take the floor to discuss the best practices of social gaming.

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Eman Pulis – SIGMA Marketing Director 

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