In part two of our conversation with Fintan Costello, Managing Director, BonusFinder, we take a deep dive into the future of iGaming, getting a better understanding of what key channels are best for engaging the new age player and what we can learn from other highly regulated industries to help sustain growth.
Your personal background in finance obviously brings you to iGaming from an extremely highly regulated market, what do you think can be learned from this industry in order to help operators and affiliates build and sustain closer working relationships with regulators (which would in turn help create more stable operating environments)?
“Before moving to BonusFinder, I was working for Saxo Bank in Denmark, which is a financial trading platform amongst other things. I think the biggest thing the industry could learn from it, is quite interesting.
The financial markets and financial trading have a completely different brand perception than the gaming industry does.
So even though I’m FX trading I’m allowed to trade on leverage, which effectively means I’m borrowing money from the bank in order to trade on the FX market.
They’re charging me interest, and I can easily lose far more money than I’ve deposited in the process, which would sound like the world’s worst casino. But because it’s considered investing and it’s considered sophisticated; it’s actually held to a completely different standard than the gambling industry is.
The biggest lesson the industry can learn for operators and affiliates is about brand perception within the wider public and with regulators. And I think a lot of that is through over communication over a long period of time.
The easiest thing our industry can do is actually get ahead of the regulation. For example, we’re going through a review process right now in the UK, and it’s going to happen in other countries also.
Realistically, the industry should come together, create a very, very strong code of conduct and a very, very strong series of rules. The industry should just go ahead and implement it and effectively take the steam out of any future regulations.
The difficulty right now is, if you look at The Guardian or the Daily Mail, for example, it’s so easy for them to find a really dreadful player scenario. It’s really easy for them to find stories where customers have had a really bad experience and being actively encouraged to lose more than they can afford.
It needs to be super hard to find those stories rather than super easy. As an industry, I think we just need to grow up and – if we don’t regulate ourselves to a much higher standard, somebody else is going to do it for us and put a lot of people out of business.
It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a long-term process of making it super hard for anybody to find problems or holes in how things are done.”
Through covid many operators have been looking to new channels to drive new players, what has been effective in terms of driving players through this period for you?
“We’ve been very lucky because we’re a casino focused affiliate. We haven’t been affected by the cancellation of sports fixtures and these kinds of things.
We’ve been able to ride that out and I’ve great sympathy for the sportsbook focused affiliates who have been impacted. What I’ve seen with the great sportsbook affiliates is that they are really quick to adapt.
For example, when there’s basically no sports on apart from Ukrainian table tennis or something, there was a brief explosion of poker. There was a nice little mini poker boom, which as an ex PokerStars employee, was delightful to see.
I don’t think it’s going to last, but it’s just nice that poker is a way to connect people and it was badly needed in terms of just people’s morale.
We’re definitely seeing more interest if we look at M&A trends, there’s definitely more interest from sportsbooks or sports-focused affiliates on acquiring casino assets. Some of the big publicly listed guys have been very active in buying up casino assets over the last year.
The big trend I’ve seen is the sportsbook affiliates diversifying into gaming channels, particularly casino, and a little bit of poker.
But is it their core business? Are they super passionate about it? Probably not.
As sporting fixtures normalize, you’d expect people to go back to their core business that they’ve got the best synergies from.”
Editor’s Note: Fintan clearly believes that the fate of the iGaming industry lies in our own hands. As a sector, We’ve already done a great job of adapting to the new norm and identifying new channels for revenue such as Poker. However, the strongest threat to our industry’s future progression is overbearing regulation. Again, the future is ours to shape and the sooner more of our industry stakeholders begin to take a more proactive approach to player sustainability and begin to regulate themselves, the sooner our industry will see some relief from the continual governmental pressure we feel to