ow have regulatory developments affected the US iGaming market in the past year?
Many at GiGse were talking about the recent regulatory and compliance discussions that are taking place in several states across the US. This area continues to be a central focus for key players in the industry this year, especially regarding daily fantasy sports (DFS), poker and sportsbetting. A vital development that has captured the attention of industry insiders is the potential for poker to regulate in California – recent legislation online poker has gone further in the Assembly than it has in the past ten years, which is giving many hope that action may be taken sooner rather than later. In the case of sportsbetting and DFS, the regulatory outlook is closely linked. At the conference a key point of discussion was made by William Hill US CEO Joe Asher, in emphasizing the critical role the professional sports leagues will play in the future of either vertical. Between state-by-state legislation and the fact that most have not formally taken any firm regularly stances, the industry is really on its toes, and it remains to be known what we can expect for this election year.
"Engaging millennials is as important now as ever"
What are three key takeaways from the conference this year?
The first is that innovation is most valuable when it is properly contextualized. There are a lot of innovative discussions happening within the industry, and it is important to consider the environment, platform for delivery and key audiences. Innovation plays different roles in different types of companies – for example, large iGaming firms can implement changes at a higher price later on rather than take the risk of being early adopters. So, when looking at exciting developments like virtual reality and eSports, iGaming professionals need to keep a purpose-oriented perspective to ensure that these innovations contribute meaningfully to company goals.
The second takeaway is that iGaming, and entertainment products in general, is all about creating engaging experiences for the player. By focusing on the end-user instead of strictly revenue, iGaming operators, affiliates and developers will get at the heart of what drives player acquisition and retention, and ultimately improve their bottom line. This is closely tied with the third takeaway: engaging millennials is as important now as ever.
"Millennials are a tricky demographic in that they respond well to novelty and innovation, but they are not forgiving customers – once you lose them, they’re gone"
What strategies are land-based casinos and other major US verticals using to target and engage with millennials?
Targeting millennials is an endeavor that really highlights the importance of creating a dynamic player experience. Land-based casinos are now trying to entice customers to come to their properties with entertainment options that aren’t necessarily centred on gambling, and they’re evolving the gambling options themselves to create more engaging player experiences. Skill-based games were a key focus of the conversation at this conference. For example, casino slot machines are evolving to include skill elements similar to those in popular games like Candy Crush and Bejewelled.
On one of the millennial panels, Roberto Coppola of YWS noted that there is potential to take older, classic gaming experiences like bingo and refurbish them into something new and personalized. Millennials are a tricky demographic in that they respond well to novelty and innovation, but they are not forgiving customers – once you lose them, they’re gone. Panelists emphasized that the best approach is to experiment frequently on a small scale to avoid large failures.
What doors do people in the industry see opening now and in the future for iGaming in the US?
Social gambling on mobile and on web continues to be a focus for many of the land-based casinos we spoke with while at GiGse, and remains a major point of entry into the digital space. What makes this so critical isn’t the social gaming itself - it’s about building a digital presence for your brand and creating a space for your customers to easily connect with you. Big brands like Penn National and CrownBet are beginning to create this space in areas other than social gaming, such as DFS and horseracing. eSports is also an excellent opportunity to do this – while it is not a gambling opportunity for land-based casinos, Chris Groves argued on a panel that it offers an excellent channel through which they can engage with potential customers. There is also potential for US casinos to build and leverage modular technology. It all comes back to innovating for the player experience; this is really the key to unlocking the potential of the US iGaming market.
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