The online gaming boom has resulted not only in a massive influx of players to the growing space, but also increased competitivity for companies operating within the sector. Additionally, with iGaming at a constant change, leveraging new technologies and novelties becomes a must, with all stakeholders needing to adapt their offering to the ever-changing landscape.
In conversation with Yogonet, Esports Entertainment Group's Michael Wilson, President of iGaming, discusses these topics and the importance of proprietary tech and a solid product and content offering. Additionally, the executive talks about the latest developments for the esports betting giant's online gaming vertical, opportunities in the US and abroad, and synergies with other areas of the company.
As the online gaming industry becomes more competitive and changes, what role do you see proprietary technology playing for operators within the space? What capabilities and opportunities does in-house tech allow for businesses when compared to those leveraging third-party platforms?
Proprietary technology is the key to offering customers a unique betting experience and standing out from the crowd against the competition. When discussing proprietary technology, the first topic is often the "next big thing" from a product perspective. These tend to be thought of as the rockstars or headline acts for differentiation, but every aspect of the product is important and often the major uplift can be doing the basics better than anyone else: registration, deposit methods, customer support, KYC requests, RG tools, etc. If a product is failing to be world-class with the basics, all the bells and whistles mean nothing as customers aren't going to hang around to experience them.
What proprietary technology allows EEG to do in these areas is analyze the data, look at what is working and where improvements can be made, and allow our customers to show us what they want through their activity. We're then in a position to actually make the changes and make a difference.
With more operators competing for customers within the iGaming space, what can brands do to offer unique experiences to their customers? How does Esports Entertainment Group approach this issue, in terms of rewards, loyalty programs, etc.?
This can be split into two areas. Product and content. From a product perspective, this starts at the basics. We're always looking for ways to improve the user experience, especially first impressions. This could be offering PayNPlay as a registration method, automated affordability checks, or a smooth KYC process with auto verification. These are quick and early wins to show our customers that we care about our product.
Then we can bring out the rockstars which for us are our unique rewards and loyalty systems. When customers play, they earn points or coins (depending on the site). Customers can then use these to purchase rewards in our stores. This not only provides the customers with a unique experience but puts our customers in control where they can decide if they'd like smaller frequent redemptions or save up for higher-value products.
For content, our football odds were recently voted best in the UK at the Better Collective awards. Our in-house trading team is constantly providing our customers with a great value product and a range of specials that can't be found anywhere else.
What can you tell us about latest product integrations and developments for EEG’s online gaming segment? Where do you see the customer demand focused right now?
There's always plenty going on at EEG, as we often say "there's never a dull day." In the last few months, we've integrated new payment methods, CRM tools, and new layouts for specials with the start of the new football season. Customers are demanding choices right now. Gone are the days when 1x2, BBT and cash out will serve the purpose.
On the sports side, in-game accas are all the rage right now and the customers are loving what our traders are putting up. Across both sports and casino, we continue to take a data-based approach to provide personalized offerings and keep the power in the customers’ hands with our loyalty stores where customers can purchase free spins, cash back, or even donate to plant a tree.
EEG currently offers iGaming in a number of jurisdictions, both within the US and internationally. Can you provide us an update on expansion for existing markets? Additionally, which new ones could offer an opportunity going forward?
The acquisitions that EEG has made have provided a footprint in the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and New Jersey. Our focus remains to grow in our existing markets whilst drawing on the expertise of the team and in-house technology to increase the efficiency of the operation. Looking further ahead we're excited about the licensing opportunities in Ontario and The Netherlands along with exploring the upsides in LATAM and Africa.
As a company with a presence in esports and sports betting, which synergies do you see between those segments and online gaming within EEG’s operations? Are there crossovers and overlaps with players/bettors of esports?
Gamification is what immediately springs to mind here. eSports (by its very nature) is the pinnacle of gamification and progression within a competitive environment. The online gambling world is only scratching the surface here. Our loyalty systems already have the foundations for "leveling" and drawing on the eSports influence we're well positioned and excited about taking our loyalty programs to the next level, enhancing the customer experience while increasing retention and LTVs.
We have seen iGaming expand since the pandemic, but that boom could potentially cool down amid widespread macroeconomic concerns. How has the share of iGaming advanced within the company’s operations throughout this time, and how is the company currently approaching investment and marketing within the segment?
In the last few years, we've seen unprecedented events impact the gambling industry – the widespread shutdown of sports along with temporary regulatory measures during the pandemic. During this time, we saw shifts in player behavior around eSports and iGaming before reverting to more regular habits as sports returned.
This further underpins the rationale to invest in our own technology and have a diverse product suite. This doesn't stop with new product integrations but also offering in-house prices that cater to the here and now including small stake, big win markets for in-game accas as we continue to monitor player behavior and what our customers are betting on.
While a majority of states in the US have now embraced sports betting, online gaming is currently available at just six. A recent report claims iGaming legalization in the US could lead to a $30.37 billion GGR a year market. How do you assess the opportunity here, and the way online gaming is expanding?
Wherever there's an opportunity, there's competition and this is palpable in the US market. At the moment we're seeing fierce fights around the various states for market share which go hand in hand with significant sign-up bonuses. Now the offers are so rich that customers will be lapping these up as they move from site to site. Once these have been exhausted (and the market starts to settle), then companies with the highest quality product rather than the biggest sign-up bonus will come to the fore as the market leaders. At this point I see a second wave of opportunity as customers search for the best experience which will most likely be offered by those with proprietary technology.
EEG is an esports betting pioneer in the US, having launched an esportsbook in New Jersey, the first in the jurisdiction. There, the company is also exploring potential links with the traditional casino industry. Do you see a potential overlap of EEG’s iGaming offering with land-based casinos as well, or with this esports betting product?
This is something we've spoken about at length and in short, we see a significant tie-up between land-based and online offerings. We have some product developments in the works at the moment which focus on our loyalty system. At this point, I think we'll leave it there and say "watch this space" and use this as the pick-up point for a future article.