Russell Karp: DataArt – US betting faces a UX ‘culture clash’ challenge…

Russell Karp – DataArt

Does the betting industry recognise its prominent ‘UX challenge’ developing and delivering its initial product propositions for the liberalised US sports betting market post-PASPA.  

Russell Karp Vice President of Media & Entertainment at DataArt, details to SBC audiences that effective European UX strategies cannot be simply transferred to a US playing field, without stakeholders undertaking their homework on multiple cultural dynamics…

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SBC: Russell thanks for this interview. From a product perspective, what have you made of betting’s first product releases for the liberalised US betting market post-PASPA?

Russell Karp (VP Media & Entertainment DataArt): I think that many people initially expected it to be relatively easy to jump on board with sports betting in the aftermath of PASPA. Many players rushed to the market and, as a result, were not ready for prime time and released products that were poorly constructed buggy, and difficult to navigate. Even the leaders in the nascent U.S. online wagering – FanDuel and DraftKings sportsbooks – have both been plagued by technical issues and palpable errors.

A year after the PASPA repeal, questions remain whether U.S. gambling operators are technically prepared to provide the necessary services for sports fans that will win bettors away from offshore sites and local bookies.

 SBC: Why is developing strong UX propositions for US sports consumers, such a ‘cultural challenge’ for betting incumbents?

RK: Historically, sports betting in America has been land-based with official sportsbooks in Nevada and local bookies operating in the shadows everywhere else. If they wanted to place a bet online, consumers went to offshore gambling websites – and these sites have primarily focused on simply staying in operation rather than UX. Now that sports betting has been legalized in the United States, consumers expect a simple way to place a bet – to easily understand all the different types of bets they can make and, in some cases, to be educated on how sports betting works. These expectations are not often met.

Sports betting is a user-facing industry and the customer journey has to take center stage for the U.S. market to evolve. Incumbents have to overcome the temptation to rush toward making quick profits and invest into getting the public away from the offshore sites and illegal bookmakers. Ultimately, it will be the ability to offer broader, more personalized choices to their customers that will be central to any operator who wants to fully monetize sports betting opportunities. UX is where this journey starts, long before the platform or app even launches. 

 SBC: Are US stakeholders undertaking enough R&D on UX as a core discipline – is this an overall industry shortcoming?  

RK: The short answer is probably not. Most commonly, we see the R&D efforts concentrate on innovative data solutions, as sports betting has grown to rely very heavily on data. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as crypto and blockchain,  are all being explored by the industry. However, we have noticed more focus on user experience recently. And DataArt has been working with global betting leaders such as PaddyPower Betfair for over a decade, so we have a good perspective on how the industry is evolving.

Appealing to the new online customer is going to be vital for the continuous growth of the industry, with mobile apps taking centre stage as a leading betting interface. An understanding of UX is absolutely crucial for the mobile experience. Even if the app provided all the features and capabilities, if it’s not usable, the customer will never come back to it. You can have fast and intuitive app design, in terms of technology, but the real-life user experience can be quite the opposite. Operators must be aware of that and invest in effective UX strategies.

SBC: Post-PASPA, have incumbents paid enough attention to ‘learning curve’ dynamics – presenting betting as a fresh proposition for consumers?

RK: With more focus on the consumer and the growth of mobile wagering, new features are being developed for sports betting platforms, such as live video streaming and diverse in-play betting options. The U.S. market is not quite there yet, with certain legislative issues prohibiting the advance of online and mobile betting, but this is where the market is going and the U.S. stakeholders are taking notice of that. For instance, the leagues that have traditionally opposed the spread of legal sports betting realized its potential for driving fan engagement. We see more interactive features and innovative apps hit the market, adding sports betting might be the next logical step. User experience is critical for such solutions, to present betting as a fresh proposition to consumers.

SBC: The US value chain appears to be getting more convoluted in stakeholder participation, is this a problem for developing effective UX strategies?

RK: The U.S. value chain is indeed extremely diverse. Local licensees, European operators, tech suppliers, state regulators, sports leagues, and data aggregators all have their own objectives – it is easy to see how this may cause the apparent disconnect between the stakeholders. It is one of the unique challenges that sports betting has that must be carefully considered before investing in innovative wagering infrastructures and user experiences.

Sports betting operators need to provide robust services but also avoid things that may lead to hurting sports integrity. Having a reliable technology partner with in-depth understanding of the betting domain will help to minimize risks and speed up time-to-market. At DataArt, we conduct a comprehensive solution design phase before embarking onto the project. The exercise of solution design is to establish the optimal business process and solution specifications that are practically achievable within the technological, budgetary, resource, time, and human constraints of any particular project.

SBC: Furthermore, as US sports formats differ widely to European sports, how does this relevant factor influence/impact UX dynamics?

 RK: The United States is a far more diverse sports market with five major professional sports leagues, as well as the tremendous and untapped college sports market. Understanding the social engagement within these sports that drives wagering (March Madness, team rivalries, etc.) is a big undertaking for European operators that have entered the U.S. market.

Most of the American public is not educated on how sports betting works and, more specifically, the different types of bets that can be placed; spread, money line, parlays, props, etc.  UX is an effective tool that operators can leverage to help them stand out from the competition by addressing these differences.

SBC:  Finally, what conversation/debate should sector leadership be having on UX as a core consumer proposition for the US Market?

RK: Investing in UX is like building a bridge between consumer needs and business needs, between real-life use and underlying technology; it is not only about usability or visual aesthetics. At DataArt, UX and UI experts work closely with business analysts and system architects to build that bridge. In terms of sports betting, it can mean a lot of different things. For instance, developing UX guidelines for core bettors and newbies to accommodate different levels of engagement with the app and, ultimately, to attract and retain users and to generate the revenue for the business.

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Russell Karp Vice President of Media & Entertainment at DataArt

DataArt is a global, full-service consultancy that designs, develops, and supports unique software solutions. With over a decade of experience and understanding of sports betting under its belt, DataArt’s Media & Entertainment practice now brings its domain knowledge and technology expertise to the U.S. sports betting market. DataArt helps betting operators, professional sports teams, and data providers achieve their operational, business, and technological goals with custom product development, white-label solutions, integrations, data analytics, business intelligence, UX strategies and more.

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