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IN-DEPTH 26 September 2018
How US casinos can avoid being a sportsbook flop

The recent PASPA repeal has presented US bricks and mortar casinos with an attractive opportunity. Max Meltzer, Kambi Group’s Chief Commercial Officer, wonders whether or not they will make the most of it (Extracted from July-August edition of Gambling Insider magazine)

By Gambling Insider
The date 14 May 2018 will go down in gambling folklore as the triumphant day sports wagering was re-introduced to the US. The 27-year-long federal prohibition, known as PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), was finally confined to history following the US Supreme Court’s widely-anticipated judgment.

Both in the lead up to and immediately after the verdict, sports betting operators and suppliers in Europe have been eagerly planning their market entry. The same is also true of those on the other side of the pond, with major US brands keen to make the most of the newly presented business opportunity, with many hopeful of having something to offer from ‘day one’.

In the coming months and years, I believe we’ll see sports betting offered by companies of all shapes and sizes, from DFS operators to racetracks, and media companies to lotteries. However, with the potential for online sports betting being a slow burner, at least from a regulatory perspective, land-based casinos could be first in line to profit from the expansion of single-game wagering beyond Nevada.

This land-based opportunity was just one of the reasons why we recently decided to partner with Rush Street Interactive. Part of the Rush Street Gaming Group, which owns four major bricks and mortar casinos and an online casino brand, Rush Street Interactive will receive Kambi’s full online and retail products where logistically and legally possible.

MAKING A MARK

Other drivers were Rush Street’s customer-focused approach and dedication to innovation. Rush Street understands that if it is to succeed in what will quickly become an ultra-competitive sports betting industry, it will have to make sports betting part of the overall Rush Street experience. It must take what’s made them successful in casino and adapt for the sports betting vertical.

In order to do so, they realized they needed a sportsbook platform with the flexibility to mould and build upon, one that gave them the capacity to remain agile and satisfy what could be a rapidly evolving and maturing customer base. As such, they’ll be using the Kambi technology and uniquely open-APIs to develop and offer a product tailored to their specific audience. It also gives them ability to pivot into a full service B2B provider in other states, with Kambi providing the sportsbook.

I believe if casinos are to succeed in what will quickly become an ultra-competitive US sports betting industry, they’ll have to ensure they have the ability, like Rush Street, to offer their customers new and exciting products. Experiences that will increase brand loyalty and keep players out of the clutches of the growing number of competitors.

ULTIMATE FREEDOM

These experiences could be anything from augmented reality bonus hunts within the casino premises (think PokemonGo) to dedicated apps for particular sports, leagues and/or players, to the conversion of sports wagering into casino or gamification-style products, to freemium games to either act as a bridge into real-money sports betting or to build a customer base in states that have yet to regulate the activity but plan to do so.

We’ve seen these, and other innovations, activated across our customer base to great effect, giving each operator another USP to differentiate in clustered markets. The only limitation to this approach is imagination but I’m confident, over time, we’ll see the US sports betting market gravitate away from the traditional European-style sportsbook experience as innovation takes hold.

So now the Supreme Court has presented US casinos and others with the opportunity post-PASPA, it down to operators to grasp it through the selection of the partners that can provide the freedom to innovate, remain agile and become a market leader in sport betting.

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IN-DEPTH 18 October 2019
Automating acquisition

Alex Czajkowski discusses the automation of acquisition within online gaming.

It’s almost every operator’s perennially hot topic - acquisition. While acquisition strategies can vary market-by-market, there is a case in every market for automating more of the process to improve conversion rates or significantly reduce acquisition costs. In any market, you can segment your prospects, regardless of your product, into two: inner-directed and outer-directed. Inner-directed prospects know what they want; your job is to get out of their way, but be there for any obstacles that occur in achieving their goal.

Typically, this is to join, deposit, get a bonus and play. For example, when I go into a store to buy a laptop and having to deal with some sales clerk who knows less about them than I do (and in fact may be financially incentivised to push me to the wrong selection), I know what I want; get out of my way. But the sales clerk may know something I don’t, like how last year’s model is now significantly reduced and the changes were largely cosmetic.

Our inner-directed online gaming prospects benefit from a bit of guidance in their rush to register. No, they don’t need to know of password format requirements; they’re using a sufficiently robust password to begin with and they’re experienced players. But by reminding them that with every play they are accumulating loyalty points they can redeem for cash, this could be welcome news at a new site. So while we don’t want to interfere with the inner-directed prospects hurling themselves through our conversion funnel, we do need to be there to inform and support. This also helps ensure a higher conversion rate, not to mention an opportunity to really introduce the brand voice.

Sure, you could use distracting pop-ups, or unmemorable banners alongside the necessary forms. But those are all one-way communications. You’re talking at the prospect rather than with the prospect. Sinitic.ai, a leading AI-enabled, gaming-focused chatbot provider, or more specifically, an automated intelligent customer experience (AICX), enables operators to engage in “asynchronous conversations” through this process. It uses proactive yet passive messaging through an open, automated chat window. In this window, the chatbot prompts as the player moves through the forms, offering to help but also reminding the player of site benefits and interesting news (e.g. there’s a new game to try or a big match tonight).

Should our inner-directed prospective be intrigued by any of the prompts, they merely have to chat back to the bot. With language-specific NLP (natural language processing) behind the bot, the prospect and the site can have a natural conversation about that topic. They could even discuss any relevant topic the prospect may choose to ask about, such as: What are the odds on Liverpool vs. Arsenal tonight? An integrated chatbot can answer these questions, in real time, as straightforward or cheekily/sassily as you want your brand voice to be.

The outer-directed prospect is just the opposite; they need assistance. They are like the new dad standing in front of 300 choices for car seats for their first baby, with prices ranging from $50 to $500. Only one word comes to mind – help. Here, an intelligent chatbot can walk this prospect through the registration, deposit and bonus processes, field by field if necessary; just as if there was a customer service agent holding their hand through the process, but with no delay, as a human agent would be handling multiple chats and not be truly one-on-one. An integrated chatbot should know where the prospect is in the journey, right down to the field in focus on the form, and prompt appropriately.

Again, the chatbot can also insert “marketing messages,” new promotions that may be of interest, game suggestions for the newbie to try and matches they want to bet on. These all help in the conversion process, not to mention churn; one key reason online casino operators so quickly lose their first players is the players play the wrong game and have a fast bust out, leaving disappointed. This can be prevented through chat-supported onboarding with proactive chat for churn prevention.

In some markets and cultures, prospects skew more to this outer-directed side. For example, in Japan, prospects want to know everything going into a site, while in Vietnam, they do want their hand held. In more mature western markets, inner-directed players may be more prevalent, but the key is automated intelligent chat support for both segments. Speaking of Asian markets, one clear difference between the west and specifically China, is the necessity to leverage one-to-one direct sales communications to bring players onto the site. For China, operators have rooms full of imported Chinese speakers, at no small cost, chatting with prospective and existing players over WeChat and other social platforms. These one-to-one chats for acquisition can also be automated, right down to including the 20% or so of messaging we classify as flirty.

Sinitic.ai's AICX solutions can push messaging through virtually any channel, be it the ubiquitous (and popular) web chat, SMS, WeChat, Line, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp etc. So wherever your preferred hunting ground for players is, you can set loose an AI-based chatbot to harvest players with the same methodology you use in the call centre. But of course chatbots don’t take breaks, get ill, ask for raises or housing or travel expenses - all real call centre issues. “Chatbots are the new email,” some say. But they are actually better; they are as synchronous or asynchronous as the player wants. They can be chatty and real time (synchronous) or stand-by ready, simply announcing a relevant message that may or may not initiate a reply from the player (asynchronous).

Chatbots are increasingly the preferred way for players to interact with a site; why dig through the FAQ when you can just ask the chatbot? Why not even navigate using the chatbot? “Take me to the game with the biggest jackpot.” Using AI and NLP, Sinitic.ai’s AICX solution can add an entire new level of interactivity to your site, delivering automated acquisitions, improved conversions, reduced churn and better player lifetime values.

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