NIGA panel: Free-to-play gaming competing with Candy Crush, League of Legends and Fortnite

In one of the opening education sessions at the Anaheim Convention Center on the Wednesday at NIGA, Gambling Insider was in attendance as a panel addressed free-to-play wagering's impact on the wider gaming ecosystem.

Free2Play

Christian Abbonzio of Genius Sports defined free-to-play (F2P) as being "the top of the funnel, with paid conversion and real-money gaming down at the bottom of that funnel."

As a marketing tool, Joann Pierce of GAN described F2P as a fairly low-cost option, while Chalkline's Daniel Kustelski emphasised F2P's role in educating sports bettors who likely have no real idea whether sports betting is legal in their state or not.

The strongest early comparison, however, was made by Ken Rohman, CMO, Wind Creek Hospitality, who emphasised that F2P and social casino offerings are not actually competing with other casinos – they are competing with the biggest mobile games on the market.

He said: “Philosophically, there’s only so many hours a player can spend on a casino floor. How do we stay engaged with them when they’re off property without asking them to reach into their wallet?

"We quantify time on device and time on site. We’re not competing with other casinos, we’re trying to compete with Candy Crush, League of Legends, Fortnite etc. That’s our mission: to keep our customers engaged with our brand."

Abbonzio also explained how operators can sponsor MLB games if they offer a free-to-play product, ensuring there are creative ways to monetise the offering, while F2P can additionally drive down acquition costs long term.

Kustelski referenced FanDuel as an example of converting to real-money gaming, with 41% of its daily fantasy sports players (which can be counted as an F2P product in some formats) converting to sportsbook.

When Gambling Insider asked about the value of F2P compared to more traditional marketing methods such as bonusing, the panel was unanimous in championing the universal benefits of free gaming.

Rohman highlighted the fact that social casino players are more valuable than RNG players, while Abbonzio proffered that there is plenty of crossover between F2P players and sports bettors.

Kustelski and Pierce, meanwhile, suggested bonusing can often be a far more ineffective marketing tool. Perhaps the US is fast becoming the land of the free... play.

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