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IN-DEPTH 10 April 2018
Challenges and opportunities with a commitment to data science
Valentyn Kyrylenko, Vice President of Business Development at BetInvest speaks to GI about finding the recipe for success in sports betting
By Gambling Insider

If I were asked whether this business is a challenge or an opportunity, my answer would be: It is a mix of both. The ratio changes over time, mostly starting with challenges that gradually transform into fascinating opportunities. Building a successful B2B company in the gambling industry is extremely challenging, however, the opportunities this industry offers are truly exciting.

Our key competency is sports betting, one of the major challenges in sportsbook business is correct data management. Modern data streams are characterised with three v’s – volume, velocity and variety.

Firstly, we have volume, which is not surprising taking into account almost two decades of BetInvest’s operational experience. With over 25,000 events per month and up to 420 markets per game, the amount of data we provide to our clients is enormous. However, the importance of data volumes doesn’t revolve around the size of data, rather around its quality and the processing abilities.

When our data is combined with professional analytics, it produces a high quality output, therefore the number of different business-related tasks a sportsbook manager accomplishes increases. Business analytics in BetInvest deal with researching and then extracting valuable information from various sources (structured and unstructured) in order to determine best prices and define correct approaches to maximising profit of business users.

Secondly there is velocity. After data discovery and data preparation comes data delivery. Fast access to data is an integral part of the modern sportsbook offering. In-play betting is getting more and more popular among players, which automatically sets high requirements for real-time data processing and delivery. Velocity also means the clients using our platform solution enjoy real time analytics, which involves the analysis of players’ response as soon as it enters the system. New logical conclusions are created based on the combination of such responses in order to deal with possible frauds, risks and, as a result, losses for business partners. By overcoming challenges in this area we are happy to propose thelow-risk in-play betting.

Finally and most importantly there is variety, which comes in terms of different data sources and forms of information. We combine games statistics, match simulations, weather forecasts and tons of other different types of data to assess future probabilities. The sources are usually interlinked in multiple ways, creating complex mutual dependencies and data structures. The way we deal with them ultimately defines the system’s scalability, influencing the speed of data processing.

Both innovation and differentiation should play a fundamental role in the company’s strategy. In particular, we came to further strengthen our commitment to data science, paving the way towards the use of big data and machine learning in sports betting. Our bet is on machine learning. AI based technologies are taking the world by storm. It’s a science of self-learning software algorithms that learn from data and execute tasks otherwise typically performed by humans. AI is an approach that will reshape the technology as we know it. Its implementation in the world of sportsbetting is a top-level challenge. It will allow creation of personalised offerings for every player and will increase their engagement.

In terms of marketing, the modern world opens new opportunities for development. Penetration of mobile devices into mass market, such as smartphones, tablets and smart watches is reshaping customers’ behaviour and habits, changing the way they want to bet on sporting events. It leads us to the task of implementing an omni-channel approach to marketing and developing cross-platform technical solutions. It will allow companies to deliver unique proposals to the players’ fingerprints and interact with the customers wherever they go.
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IN-DEPTH 4 September 2019
Virtual reality: Creating next-gen experiences for players

Singular CEO George Shamugia discusses a new revenue stream for casino operators

The competition in online gaming is intensifying, with players becoming more and more demanding. In some markets, single-customer acquisition costs can reach up to €400 ($440) alongside growing churn rates. Furthermore, the online gaming sector struggles to attract one of the most lucrative groups of players – millennials. The experience provided by casinos no longer appeals to the younger generation.

On  the other hand, the video gaming industry perfectly understands the needs of millennials and by introducing elements of luck in their games offers the best of both worlds. With the launch of loot box systems and Grand Theft Auto’s in-game casino, we have seen their first successful steps in targeting the online gaming sector. GTA V online, with 33 million active players, recently opened an in-game casino, where players gamble real money on games such as poker, roulette, slots, etc. As a result, churn users returned and GTA Online reached the highest number of active players since its launch in 2013.

The online gaming industry has almost fully utilised the potential of the mobile medium. The time has come to look for new, innovative ways of delivering a next-gen experience to customers.

The potential of VR

Could the next big thing for online gaming be a fully fledged virtual reality (VR) casino delivering an immersive experience and limitless new opportunities?

Although not widely adopted yet, VR has a sizable number of customers. Analysts predict it’s poised for explosive growth to become mainstream in about five years. According to market intelligence firms, the VR market will be worth $117bn by 2022, and according to Juniper Research bets made through VR will reach $520 billion by 2021. Upcoming 5G mobile network technology will propel VR’s mass adoption by allowing the development of fully portable untethered and affordable VR headsets.

Different level of social interaction

The captivating nature of gambling comes from its social aspect. Unfortunately, personal interaction is widely missing from online gambling sites. VR technology creates multiple opportunities to bring back and even enhance that social moment. The ability to connect with other players is one of the main reasons behind Fortnite’s popularity. This form of co-experience is the next generation of entertainment. Research conducted by Facebook has found participants spend more time on VR compared to any other medium. This directly translates into increased profits for casinos.

Pokerstars has made efforts in this direction by implementing Voice UI. Instead of using hand controllers to make a call, pass, or raise, players give voice commands.

Another opportunity for bringing in the social element are the players’ avatars. They enable players to build their identity reflected in the avatars’ appearance, but also the avatar's social, competitive and community status. For instance, players are willing to pay real money for virtual drinks at the bar. Operators can offer these social touchpoints for free to VIP customers as an act of appreciation.

VR also brings a new dimension to customer support. Customer support can also be represented with avatars to assist the player in person. The social moment increases the LTV of players and contributes towards lower churn rates.

Rethinking game design

VR is a way more capable medium than a 2D mobile or desktop screen. Instead of copying the existing online experience, games must be redesigned from the ground up for a competitive advantage with VR. For example, a VR slot game can become fully immersive by teleporting the user into the slots’ world of Ancient Egypt. Next, enrich the experience with high-fidelity graphics, realistic spatial sounds and animations. When betting on virtual race cars, the user can be teleported inside the car he/she made a bet on and experience the race firsthand.

New revenue streams

VR casino lobbies create new revenue stream opportunities: ad placement of brands on the venue walls, company logos decorating the bar etc. This kind of branding is not intrusive in the VR space and feels natural from the user's perspective. VR also gives users the ability to change venues from a Las Vegas casino today, to Macau or even Mars casino, the very next day. The dynamic and diverse experience increases retention rates.

The majority of profits for online gaming operators come from their high-roller players. Although they represent a small subset of active players, an operator can launch a separate VR casino brand for them. Providing exclusive VR gaming experiences to high rollers/VIPs, the operator can minimise churn and maximise VR efforts for these player demographics.

The catch with VR is to focus on quality, rather than scale. The target audience might be limited yet, once these players experience it, they will become ambassadors for your offering.

Surely, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the VR medium truly exceed anything offered by mobile and desktop. VR is a new frontier not just for gaming but for every industry, and it’s exciting to see where it takes the industry and what kind of innovation it brings upon us.

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