Cillian Barry, SportCaller MD, discusses the attractive nature of free-to-play games after a year that’s seen an industry-wide regulatory squeeze, especially on affiliates
Of late, igaming has its fair share of unwanted attention in the regulatory spotlight, particularly with regard to affiliates and certain operator partnerships. Running along narrower guide rails of compliance, licensees are now responsible for the actions of any third-party that they employ, and as a result need to exercise tighter control of their traffic.
However, despite the occasional ominous headline, at SportCaller, we see these developments as all for the greater good of the industry. It was high time it got its house in order so that operators and their partners, be they suppliers or affiliates, can function with confidence in regulated or newly-regulating markets.
Greater restrictions have arrived across the board post GDPR, notably in the UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Sweden’s soon-to-open market. And from a supplier, as opposed to affiliate, standpoint, we have enjoyed a suite of successful results with multiple operators in all of those aforementioned countries where more stringent governance is being applied. And that’s even before we get to the variables and unknown territories arriving state-by-state after PASPA’s recent repeal.
Essentially, operators are increasingly recognising that free-to-play (FTP) games allow bookmakers to acquire authentic customers in a cost-effective fashion, but to also remain 100% compliant. While bonuses and odds boosts have come to represent a proverbial race to the bottom, FTPs have pulled back the curtain on a new and reliable stage for acquisition and genuine retention. Arguably, it’s the first game-changer in this domain.
Initially UK-focused, SportCaller now offers over 30 games across over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia. More specifically, the likes of GVC Holdings and Paddy Power Betfair have used our products to target audiences and gain new players in countries as diverse as Russia, Greece and Brazil.
Without innovation which truly engages the end user, though, it’s all for nothing. Above all, this will be the case in the U.S. where the challenge will be to cut through the deafening noise of an uncharted sportsbook market with a simple, immersive product that fosters a loyal audience which returns to play. To which end, SportCaller is already in discussions with a number of operators and platform providers, from respected UK names to established U.S. players, in order to steal a march on the stateside competition.
In fact, SportCaller already has a foothold, and a demonstrable level of success, in the U.S. with the expansion of our PPB relationship into racing channel TVG. They have been running our Super 8 Racing Game across dozens of states since September 2017, with jackpots ranging from a weekly jackpot of $100k to $1m on the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races.
Here, our geo-restriction tools have proved especially popular, providing operational peace of mind for any partner. For this unique technology allows us to geo-restrict with ease (amongst different states, or countries for that matter) and reliably confine activity to watershed age limits (mostly over 18s, but over 21s in the case of the States). Importantly, this also allows the underlying FTP itself to better connect different demographics, potentially migrating FTPs outside the province of the bettor and into a broader base of everyday, recreational players.
The specific opportunity for affiliates, though, should come in providing a presence for operators who will be competing with rivals that have partnerships with TV networks and official league or team sponsorships. Indeed, SportCaller has already witnessed the powerful impact this has created when operators have engaged with affiliate or media partners on existing games, after recent partnerships with both Racing Post (on William Hill’s Lucky 7 horse racing game) and Reach plc (on a unique I’m a Celebrity FTP).
People are certainly starting to see free-to-play games as more attractive as legislation squeezes affiliates. However, I don’t see the move away from data-driven affiliate marketing towards a more personal approach as being a mutually exclusive tug of war. Indeed, these two approaches can move in unison as opposed to pulling against each other. And FTPs are the ideal vehicle for tweaking the dials of data and personalisation correctly in order that they might both help educate players and identify the most genuine, long-term customers.
After all, affiliate acquisitions have constituted a progressively area of activity for buyers for the majority of 2018. And the rates of acquisition show little sign of abating. A tailored FTP portfolio can answer the riddle of offering free incentives for building audiences for effective engagement.
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