US iGaming: Growth in the New Era – with Jonathan Doubilet, US Managing Director at Playtech
But with so many states already opened up and major brands already taking a foothold, where is the potential for future growth?
We caught up with Jonathan Doubilet, US Managing Director at Playtech to hear his thoughts on the rate of growth of iGaming in America, what we can do as an industry to encourage growth and what the key drivers are.
Michigan, a relatively new market for Playtech, recently experienced a record-breaking month for online sports betting revenue. Why do you think this state is performing so well and will it continue into the future?
“Michigan has matured much faster than any other state, mainly due to the global pandemic. Consumers were stuck at home and downloading Sportsbook apps to place their bets, which helped to boost growth. That growth and performance, which was supported by large advertising spend from many parties, has been impressive.
“Although the Michigan market has matured quickly due to the pandemic, we are seeing it slow from pandemic-heights although growth rates continue to impress, we very much expect Michigan to follow the general growth trajectory that we are seeing across other mature gaming markets.”
Many key states in the US have now opened and regulated iGaming. Do you think this momentum will continue into the future? Which states do you see as the key drivers for this growth going forward?
“Roughly half the U.S. population has access to sports betting and with the lessons of the pandemic still fresh on their minds, brick and mortar operators and politicians alike are rethinking how to generate revenue. iGaming is opening across many more states, thanks to precedents set in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and more recently, in Michigan. However, with very few active bills under consideration this session, it’s hard to imagine more than one or two additional states legalising by next summer. The Midwest is the most likely to do so, where Sports betting was adopted early on and gambling, in general, is more widely accepted.”
New Jersey is renowned for being the benchmark of US iGaming regulation. You recently launched there with Bet365 and Entain. How has your experience been operating in this market, and do you think more states should be adopting a ‘New Jersey’ style regulatory framework?
“New Jersey is certainly a standard-bearer and raises the bar when it comes to progressive takes on interactive gaming. Every state will always have nuances, such as existing legislation, and adopting an existing model is always better than reinventing the wheel. That said, gaming regulators in some states may need to find workarounds to introduce regulation that supports operators offering iGaming as part of their product portfolio.”
As more land-based casino’s look to make the shift online, how can Playtech products help them to make this transition successfully?
“At the core of our company strategy is partnering with “local heroes,” land-based businesses that wish to take their business online. These opportunities have been accelerated with the global pandemic and many of these businesses are looking to work with Playtech to establish themselves in the digital betting and gaming space. We have had a huge amount of success in this area over the years, with land-based bookmakers in the UK, land-based casinos around Europe and, of course, land-based bingo venues. Core to this approach is offering an industry-leading platform technology with our Playtech Player Account Management System (IMS), which allows an operator to manage the full player experience from one single system, and connects all products, regardless of whether they are Playtech’s own or from a third-party. We have built a modular system over the last 20 years which allows each part of the operation to utilise the rich and sophisticated toolset to deliver the best customer experience. However, in addition to great technology, an operator also needs to partner with a supplier that shares the same philosophy as them, and Playtech has an established reputation for leading the industry on compliance, privacy and cybersecurity across growing and established markets. We have built our systems to encourage land-based players into the digital ecosystem. We have achieved this with our Playtech ONE strategy, which focuses on five specific pillars.”
“These pillars are:
- Wallet – Connecting our Player Account Management (PAM) to retail from a wallet and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) standpoint
- Personalisation – Enabling our systems to deliver a full marketing experience with personalised communications (either online or offline)
- CRM & Loyalty – Connecting CRM & loyalty systems across channels, enabling cross channel marketing
- Content – Offering content which is either replicated from retail to online or delivering experiences such as dual roulette from a specific land-based venue
- User Experience – Offering a single user experience. A good example of this would be to utilise the same brand guidelines on in-venue devices, or even, in some use cases, the same web content”
“A big part of encouraging land-based customers to move online is to deliver a digitally-led experience in venue and this is something we continually work with our partners to achieve.”
Developing a fun, omni-channel experience that engages both a land-based and online audience simultaneously is the goal for many operators, especially in the US. How can Playtech help operators to provide this experience?
“As we mentioned, the core to our strategy is building solutions for land-based companies to take their business online, which is driven by our Playtech ONE strategy. One of its key elements is delivering engaging and fun content that can encourage players to continue to play with the brand in a digital format. We have done this by providing the same games in-venue as online and extending our offering to cater to the nuances of each channel. We are also using technology to deliver a more digitally-led experience in-venue. It is important to leverage new technologies to make this experience not only useful for the operator but also engaging for the player. Examples of this include connecting digital payment systems to our land-based systems, complimentary retail applications and mobile authentication methods, and using video streaming products online. We have no doubt this offering will extend further with our partners and over time the two worlds will blend even more – we believe streaming will be a big catalyst for this.
“A great example of how a land-based casino can offer a digital product that resonates with its existing land-based players would be the dedicated Live Casino studios we create with our partners. All our top licensees are offering dedicated studios now, some from an actual land-based venue itself. This is an amazing way to bring your brand alive in the digital world and I don’t see this stopping at Live Casino. In addition, we can offer the same content available in the Casinos too, either from Playtech or our Open Platform, which has 5,000 third-party games connected to it. Playtech has a time-tested and incredibly sophisticated in-house platform, meaning our true omni-channel offering is the go-to for top tier customers who are looking to compete.”
As Jonathan mentioned, with very few active bills under consideration currently, it’s unlikely that more than one or two additional states, probably in the mid-west region, will legalise online gaming by next summer.
This means that growth will need to come from gaming providers innovating within their current markets, especially land-based operators. Now is the perfect time for them to upgrade and develop a truly omni-channel customer experience, enabling them to catch the attention of players as we transition into a new digital age, accelerated by the impact of the Pandemic.
It will always be a challenge making this shift because it requires investment, speed to market and a whole new set of skills. However, new products such as Playtech ONE will make this process as painless as possible, allowing companies to deliver fun digital content and encourage customer loyalty. A great way to guarantee growth well into the future.