ctober was a busy month for Paysafe Group’s Income Access, with the marketing tech and services company out in force at a landmark edition of G2E, alongside additional Paysafe Group business units including Digital Wallets (behind the NETELLER and Skrill wallet solutions), Payment Processing and paysafecard. The company also exhibited at the first-ever Lisbon Affiliate Conference (LiAC).
This was the first G2E since the repeal of PASPA, the US federal ban on single-event sports-betting, in May. What was the mood at the event on how the American gaming space could evolve?
Unsurprisingly, there was a big focus on sports-betting – it was by far the dominant vertical discussed, especially compared to previous years. G2E also came after the strong August data on New Jersey sportsbook revenue, with the Division of Gaming Enforcement reporting over $95 million wagered.
The overall mood at G2E about American sports-betting’s future was very optimistic, with the vertical seen as a massive opportunity for the American gaming market – from land-based casinos, online operators and daily fantasy sports (DFS) brands to affiliates. Unregulated states seem to be watching New Jersey closely to see how their potential sports-betting markets could evolve.
Another talking point was the imminent launch of Pennsylvania’s online casino and poker market. However, even there, sports-betting dominated conversations, as the state regulator has yet to announce iGaming’s official launch date.
Referring to affiliates, how big a role will they play in the post-PASPA US sportsbook market?
Since 2013, affiliate marketing has played a key role in growing the New Jersey iGaming market. Given the close attention the wider industry has always paid to the Garden State, affiliate marketing’s impact has not gone unnoticed. Operators we spoke to at G2E tended to be fully aware of the marketing value of affiliates, so the big question was when to expand their acquisition to include the channel.
Many of the operators looking to launch sportsbooks are already well-established with strong brand recognition. The first phase of their marketing will focus on direct acquisition through their own channels before adding affiliates to their marketing mixes as part of phase two. Overall, the role of affiliates over the long-term is expected to be very significant, especially considering the high player values of American consumers.
After G2E, you headed to LiAC. Which markets aside from the US were affiliates focused on?
The American market was certainly mentioned by affiliates at LiAC, but the channel is today so globally-oriented that it was only one focus among many. Scandinavia was a future target market for numerous affiliates we met, especially Sweden, given its launch in January of a regulated iGaming market for private operators alongside the state-owned Svenska Spel. There was much excitement about Sweden, considering the perceived player values.
Given that there was a high proportion of local affiliates at LiAC, the Portuguese market was much discussed. Following regulation in 2015, the iGaming market has enjoyed strong growth, with over €122 million in online gambling revenue accrued in 2017 alone. With growth expected to continue and the regulatory framework considered stable, domestic and even international affiliates at LiAC emphasized the Portuguese market’s enduring potential.
Further afield, there was yet more evidence of the growth of the African affiliate market at LiAC. With Nigerian online sportsbooks like Bet9ja exhibiting at the event and affiliates showing considerable interest in this emerging market.
What about other affiliate trends you saw at LiAC?
One trend I noticed was the emergence of new vertical hybrids like crypto-currency casinos, and these brands’ displaying an interest in leveraging affiliates more, as well as vice-versa. Based on my conversations at LiAC, affiliate M&A and the sectors’ consolidation is expected to gather pace in 2019.
Affiliates are also having to become ever-more creative in their exploration of new marketing channels and approaches, especially given the restrictions on PPC and social media advertising in some markets. Personally, I feel that the emergence of a larger US, Scandinavian and African iGaming market will likely also galvanize and expand the global affiliate market.