Navigating The Future Digital Landscape: Ismael Diagne, ex CEO, River Game

As we emerge into the new era of a post lockdown market, the focus must now become firmly set on future proofing our businesses. Ismael Diagne, ex CEO of River iGaming shared his thoughts on what he thinks the future digital market will look like and what key issues really need to be tackled before iGaming operators can ensure sustainable growth.

With so many iGaming operators offering similar (if not the same) digital products, would you agree that the smart use of player data is the key to differentiation in today’s market?

“The use and access of real time player data in conjunction with other data sources such as gaming, payments, transactional, site interactions or marketing are nowadays key requirements for differentiation’s capacity in this competitive marketplace.

Any innovative proposition in today’s market is expected to be data driven and informed.”

What effect do you think the Covid-19 lockdown and lack of live sports has had on then type of content operators offer and will offer in the future?

“We saw a surge in online casino gaming during Covid-19 resulting in double digits growth for many online casino operators out there. Sportsbook operators have also attempted to push virtual sports during to a lessen impact.

In general, I think covid-19 has highlighted the competitive edge that operators with multiple products (and markets) have against (smaller) operators with a sole product (operating in one or two main markets)”

Do you agree that the lockdown has enabled operators to make new observations and analysis on player behaviour? If so, what metrics should we be looking closer at?

“I’m not sure if there have been some ground-breaking observations around players behaviour during the lockdown but happy to be shown otherwise. I don’t think players behaviours will significantly change in the short term. This despite the turbulent economic times we’re experiencing. The next reporting quarters will certainly give us more insight. Having said that, the speed of the recovery of the global economy (which at this stage no one can predict) will undoubtedly impact the overall growth of the industry.”

As rules and regulations on data management compliance become increasingly stricter, how will this impact the acquisition and retention capabilities of operators? How can we best navigate this as an industry whilst still extracting maximum value from the data we collect?

“Rules and regulations on data management compliance are becoming increasingly stringent and to be honest very problematic. It gets to a stage where operators and regulators are clearly not on the same page. Both acquisition and retention are affected as operations become increasingly heavier, intricate and much costlier. Moreover, rules and regulations are certainly not always clear and therefore it’s left to the operators to navigate in this growing complex maze anxious of potential fines.

Naturally, I’d advise for regularly training and educating all employees – running workshops and bringing in experienced compliance and legal resources. This above having a conforming platform that manages data compliantly. However, as mentioned previously there is a significant cost associated with this set up and therefore as a start up or smaller operator you should be well aware of the implications before venturing in (overly) regulated markets.”

Do you think the ‘Tail is wagging the dog’? Have we got to a point where regulation is shaping gaming rather than the other way round? What can we do to ensure future regulation is more of a collaborative effort (between industry and government) in the future?

“I certainly believe we’re going this way. Unless there is a genuine and educated collaborative conversation between operators and regulators with regards to an effective framework to pave the way forward – I’m afraid there will be more (smaller) operators moving away from regulated markets and consequently opening doors for unlicensed operators or larger gaming conglomerates relishing a way more favourable competitive positioning.”

Editor’s Note: Considering the points, Ismael mentioned above, it seems that future digital offerings will need to continually be diversified in order to maintain a competitive edge. This will be particularly difficult for smaller operators as it requires significantly more resource, and when coupled with increasingly stringent regulation, it becomes even more of a difficult task. Unfortunately, this could mean a growth in unregulated market activity going forward, which is, of course, is bad news for regulators (lost VAT revenue), and more importantly, the consumers who will be left vulnerable to rogue operators.

Clearly, as suggested by Ismael, more collaboration is necessary between industry stakeholders to create a more comprehensive framework that allows for healthy competition and consumer protection. We are already seeing some of the market’s leading operators launch self-regulation initiatives which have been received well. Hopefully, this is the sign of more things to come.

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