iGaming USA: How to Build the Most Effective Partnership Strategy – with Kyle Wachtel, Head of Partnerships at BetMGM

The opportunities for growth in the US are undoubtedly plentiful and the levels of online activity are increasing every day. However, the challenge comes in knowing how best to attract and continually engage this online traffic. Most will agree that media and affiliate partnerships will be useful tools for effective market growth, but when operating in such a dynamic and continually evolving market, how can aspirational operators know the best path to take?

We caught up with Kyle Wachtel, Head of Partnerships at BetMGM to find out what an effective partnership and affiliate strategy looks like from his perspective. While also sharing his thoughts on the industry narrative for gaming and how, we as an industry, can help shape it to guarantee growth well into the future.

Unlike most other iGaming jurisdictions around the world, US affiliates require a license to operate. How do you think this will impact the US gaming environment in comparison to more mature regions such as Europe with no affiliate licensing requirements?

“While there is a higher barrier to entry for affiliates in the United States, we have experience and processes in place, as do many affiliates, that lends to the requirements becoming routine versus inhibitive.

“CPA models are the norm considering some heightened barriers for participating on revenue share models. But ultimately, these barriers are in place to help ensure the character and integrity of individuals—and entities—that are involved in the gaming environment, which is a benefit for the long-term success of the industry.”

Most affiliate revenue models, especially in Europe, operate on either a revenue share or Cost Per Acquisition model. Which revenue model do you think will be most appropriate for the US or does it mostly depend on the nature of the affiliate?

“We’re open to both models and willing to discuss whichever is preferred by our respective partners. As I hinted at earlier though, there are heightened barriers for revenue share, added effort and costs associated for those that wish to explore that option—this has encouraged CPA models to become the most common form of commission.

“Each state in the US operates independently too, which means there could be instances of revenue share being approved for partners in certain states, but not others, which adds some complication to consider.”

BETMGM have made some great partnerships already with major sports leagues. How important are these sorts of partnerships for the future of US iGaming in general and why?

“We’re proud of our league and team partnerships, nearly 30 altogether today, and appreciate the working relationships that we have in place. Legal sports betting is largely new in the US and we want to be responsible for the growth and well-being of the industry, which is a pillar of our relationships, collaborating to uphold integrity and promoting responsible gambling.

“It’s also our goal to build the best possible product for our customers, encouraging sports fans to trial—and hopefully enjoy—that product, and these relationships serve a key role for this as well through integrated marketing and promotions.”

Online sports betting is still a relatively new concept to many US sports fans. Do you think affiliates are focusing enough on educational content as well as promotional? Is there a perfect balance?

“A unique aspect of the sports betting industry is that individual states are at different points in their lifecycle—individuals in New Jersey have had the opportunity legally bet online for over three years now, while residents in a state like Ohio may have options available at some point in 2022. This creates a real need for educational content in states like Ohio.

“Affiliates are incentivized by customer acquisition too, so promotional needs to be a primary focus for them. But that aside, the development of sports betting content from affiliates, media companies, and individual contributors over the past few years has been incredible. I think there’s plenty of content already available today for different types of individuals and I’m confident it will only improve.”

Many industry stakeholders are working hard to promote the narrative of iGaming being entertainment and not just a way to make money. How can this narrative be best encouraged through a partnership strategy?

“This is an important message because at its core, online gaming is entertainment, and it’s important to note that we encourage responsible gaming and have dedicated resources to make sure our customers have tools to ensure they’re playing responsibly.

“In respect to our partnerships, what’s great about our industry is that sports betting isn’t insurance or banking, it’s fun and engaging, and naturally offers a benefit to our partners. Betting on sports makes the events more exciting and encourages more consumption, which benefits our partners and aligns our interests.

“You’ll see responsible gaming messaging as a piece of our partnerships and our marketing will cater to the casual fan versus the serious bettor, although we welcome them too.

“For example, we have a handful of interesting media partnerships, one of those being with Bill Burr and Paul Virzi’s Anything Better podcast. They offer a comical spin on betting and focus on the entertainment aspect. They’re not pretending to be experts, but instead enjoying a friendly competition and having a good time bonding over sports.”

Editor’s note

After speaking with Kyle it seems clear that although the US market is slightly more regulated than most international affiliates or operators may be used to, it has proved effective in improving the market and according to Kyle, will continue to do so in the future.

The fact that individual states are all at different points in their lifecycle means that there are many regions that are still in real need of educational content, which will be key for new player engagement going forward. The future of online wagering seems very bright for the US and with operators like BetMGM continuing to break barriers and encourage new positive narratives for the industry via fun campaigns like their podcast sponsorships, the sector will only grow stronger.

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