On 5 October 2021, five of the biggest names in the US iGaming industry came together to take part in our inaugural All-Stars webinar.
Watch the full webinar here
Powered by EGR, the webinar was released on the first morning of G2E Vegas, providing insight on some of the hottest topics facing the iGaming industry in the US and an opportunity for those unable to travel to the event, to keep up to speed on key discussion points.
The virtual event featured:
Moderator: Susan Hensel, Founder & Partner, Hensel Grad P.C.
- Marc Brody, VP Business Development, Bally’s Interactive
- Manjit Gombra Singh, President, Global Product and Technology, PointsBet
- Alex Kane, CEO, Sporttrade
- Yaniv Sherman, Senior VP, Head of US, 888 holdings PLC
- Paris Smith, CEO, Pinnacle
During the hour-long webinar, panellists discuss the latest trends and developments in the US and how these will impact the future of the industry.
1. State and federal scrutiny of the iGaming sector
With sports wagering now live in more than half of all US states, advertising to players in regulated states is at an all-time high. When asked about the extent of federal and state scrutiny and whether the US would follow the likes of the UK Gambling Commission model, panellists Yaniv, Alex and Manjit provided their insight.
Yaniv Sherman: “I think every market, not just the UK, Europe in general and other markets in the world, have run through their cycles. Each one of them has dealt with online gaming differently based on their own culture and political climate. The UK is one of the prime examples and I think we are seeing that cycle mature in the US right now with New Jersey being at the forefront of it.”
2. Adapting during the pandemic
The pandemic had a big impact on gambling and the acceptance of online gaming as players shifted from land-based to online. Alex, Yaniv and Manjit discussed how their companies adapted, and specifically the employment market; how companies have had to change to building teams remotely, as well as the change in consumer behaviour of players and reacting to this.
Alex Kane: “For us, we are still building out our platform, so we have been doing a lot of hiring in 2020. We recently had a company get together and it was so great to see people for the first time in-person! What we saw during the pandemic was, you had historic market volatility. In the second quarter of 2020, sports were just non-existent; there was nothing on. Companies like Robinhood, Fidelity and Schwabs, saw 100, 200 and 300% increase year-on-year on account opens. Because all of the things folk look for in sports betting exist in a lot of ways in volatile financial markets.”
3. Mergers & acquisitions
The pace of mergers and acquisitions in the sports betting and online gaming world has been on a hot streak as companies seek to bring technologies and expertise in-house, rather than partner with third party providers.
Marc, Paris and Yaniv discussed the future of the industry and whether we are going to see consolidation, resulting in just a few big companies dominating the industry.
Marc Brody: “Our company has been one of the most active in the M&A space since the pandemic began. It actually started with the acquisition of Betworks, and since then we have taken Bally’s, which really didn’t exist almost 2 years ago, and we have acquired several land-based casinos, and several acquisitions in the gaming space. SportCaller notably on the free-to-play side, Monkey Knife Fight on the daily fantasy side, and we saw an opportunity during the pandemic to basically in a very short time create one of the larger gaming footprints in the United States. And that led us to the acquisition of Gamesys which completed this week.”
All eyes are on esports. When asked what the predictions are for esports and the opportunities and challenges facing the latest gambling vertical, Paris led the conversation.
Paris Smith: “There needs to be a lot of education; people always refer to underage gamblers when it comes to esports, which makes no sense. We all have things in place with regards to KYC. It is the exact situation for sports betting, as it is for esports, but the education for the regulators is going to be the biggest challenge. It is going to take a lot of effort and sharing that information, letting people understand that it is not about two guys, two kids in a basement betting – these are big, huge events… the opportunity is massive.”
5. Product innovation
The industry is always looking for new ways to attract the next generation of gambler and a lot of time, energy and attention goes into identifying what product innovations will do the trick. Panellists were asked if NFTs and streamers will capture the interest of GenZ players, who are now becoming of age to play, or will it be something else?
Alex, Paris, Manjit and Marc discussed innovation.
Manjit Gombra Singh: “Another area we should expect to happen is personalisation… As we have seen in other industries, personalisation is what really makes the experience special for the player for better, and that’s the shift we expect to accelerate in the industry, just to offer that premium player experience. In-play betting is really in its infancy in the US, we know from looking at other mature markets that 3 out of 4 bets will be in-play bets, and the US is more than ready for that. So the market will shift towards that.”
6. The blurring of lines between gambling and media
We are increasingly seeing the blurring of lines in gambling. Media companies like ESPN and Fox are getting involved in sports betting and we see streams and podcasts aimed at betting too. Panellists were asked if this blurring of the lines is good or bad for gambling.
Yaniv Sherman: “I don’t see a real downside of it… especially, and this is mostly around the US, where we are such a sophisticated, entertainment and commercial environment, where local brand matters and scale matters…
“I had some conversations two or three years ago with some executives in some of the media companies, and they told me if it doesn’t make 1, 2, 3 billion dollars in profit, then it doesn’t really move the needle for us. Well they are now starting to see a pathway, and it brings more legitimacy, more trust to online gaming, but I think it’s a matter of how you approach it. These are very, very different organisations.”
There are already a lot of companies operating in the US gaming space , with many more identifying the US as the land of opportunity, but the cost of entering the US with its state by state regulation requirements can be immense. Manjit, Alex and Marc were asked where companies will find financing in the future.
Alex Kane: “I’m able to share some personal experience from having built a very new company. We did announce recently a $36 million funding round, so it would be hard for me to argue that private funding is dead; that’s certainly not the case.
“I’ve seen dozens of investors, advisors, entrepreneurs, and ideas, decimated because of the high barriers to entry and high costs for gambling. And that will have an effect over time; this will be an industry that doesn’t have a tonne of innovation, because of those things.”
Watch the full webinar here: