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Interviews

Epoxy.ai interview: Bringing AI-based betting to Europe

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Epoxy.ai has already firmly established itself as North America’s most exciting AI-personalised betting providers – with major deals signed with the likes of Playtech, AWS, Kambi and Nascar, as well as multi-million dollar investment from some of the biggest funds in the industry, including SeventySix Capital.

With exciting plans to cross the Atlantic and bring the AI betting revolution to Europe, we caught up with Epoxy.ai’s Co-Founder and President Jason Angelides, to talk through the tech behind providing individual personalised betting offers for each player.

For our European readers who might not yet know about Epoxy.ai’s success stateside – can you talk us through your company and what you bring to the market?

Sure.  Thank you for your interest in our business.  Our business really is all about the end user and making the betting experience easier, more engaging, and most importantly – driving retention.  I understand that that claim is somewhat cliche, but in the case of Epoxy.ai, it’s completely true.  We do this by harnessing the power of our proprietary AI – providing technology that personalises the end-user experience and takes into account the specific preferences of each individual player to give them a unique and fully tailored betting experience based on their preferences.

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I use this analogy a lot – think of us as the technology behind what powers the way Spotify helps listeners find and discover new music via automatic suggestions.  Or how Netflix, or any other leading video service, puts the content you want directly in front of you without being prompted. Of course, this personalisation really streamlines and improves the user experience with navigation, discovery and selection.

Just like with Spotify and Netflix, we provide what can broadly be termed an AI-driven personalisation platform, and it’s a true gamechanger for operators when it comes to creating a

much more personalised experience for their end users.  It is a proven method of driving engagement, retention, and customer lifetime value – and in my view, the technology that will transform betting and iGaming in the years to come.

How much of a game-changer do you see AI being for the European market? How essential is it to improving the European UX and what are the real benefits in terms of engagement and incremental revenue?

We see AI and personalisation being a game-changer globally – and Europe’s certainly no exception. Being one of the world’s most advanced markets when it comes to the end-user experience, we’ve already seen how much of a difference-maker personalisation has been for leader companies in other verticals such as Search, Advertising, Social, E-Commerce, Video, Music and Retail.

Winners in all of these industries have mastered delivery (ease of consumption) and delivering an individually tailored UX for each customer. For example, Netflix and Amazon first made it easier to consume their offerings, and then via the extensive use of data, they then honed personalisation to the point that it has become synonymous with their product.

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We’ve already covered how Spotify’s hyper-personalisation AI keeps customers engaged by consistently suggesting new music that aligns with their listening preferences. The number of resources they’ve channelled into AI-driven personalisation has ensured that it has become the dominant music streaming platform with little or no competitors to take them on.  And, nearly 35% of Amazon’s sales come directly from personalisation efforts while 56% of these shoppers are more likely to be repeat buyers. We see the gaming industry as being no different.  It’s really just the next tech sector where personalisation will create meaningful revenue benefits.  Thus far, no one has emerged as the winner in iGaming, and we’re here to change that.

In terms of adoption – are you one of the first to be offering AI-based personalisation for sportsbook and casino? Do you see Europe as being slower to adopt than the US?

Yes, we are certainly one of the first, if not the only company taking a different approach to addressing the problem.  There are some legacy providers that utilise different methodologies, but we are certainly breaking new ground in the space. We actually have received over 30 claims of our Omnibus patent (which is part of our proprietary AI) – so I guess we are doing something unique!

I believe the major advantage we have here is how long we have been doing this as a business.

The last company we founded built personalised fan engagement experiences for viewers across North America.  That company, largely because of its personalisation platform, was bought for millions by Comcast and now powers some of the largest personalised sports video portals across Sky TV, NBC, and Comcast Xfinity.

In terms of the adoption of personalisation in the EU, I think the interest and pace of adoption are going to be equally as aggressive as it is in the US right now.  The EU is a mature market with established players that can meaningfully impact their businesses with AI and ML.

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While the US is innovating more with personalisation, the US is still a growing market so there are many other things happening at the same time such as new market rollouts and platform migrations that can get in the way. Europe on the other hand, is an established and mature market – where tech solutions to give operators an edge over the competition are already in hot demand.

You recently launched Personalised Same Game Parlays in time for the US football season, can you see products like these being easily adapted for European betting habits – such as pre-match accumulators for soccer?

Absolutely.  It’s all about making things easier and more entertaining for the end user – regardless of the market or sport.  In the case of our Personalised Parlay generator (or accumulators, as we would call them in Europe), instead of the user having to bounce from screen to screen to create a Parlay / Accumulator, our system automatically generates the parlays for the end user based on their preferences. This helps the gaming operators as well since many of them use manual processes for putting specialised offers in front of their customers.  Now this can be customised around user preferences automatically, which is real gamechanger for engagement and retention.

Last but not least – looking at the European market, what’s your take on the current state of play here in comparison to the growth of sportsbook in the US over the last 5 years?

That’s hard to answer in just a few words but certainly, the adoption of iGaming in the US is nothing but astounding.

While not without its hiccups, iGaming will no doubt continue to expand as a form of entertainment in the US markets as more and more states begin issuing licences for online casino.

I think what is really notable about the US in comparison to the EU (and indeed the rest of the world), is how AI and personalisation are at the forefront of the US growth strategy.US operators clearly understand that they cannot compete without product differentiation and multiple ways to monetise their customers.

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We can see this with the shift into entertainment. So many more brands are now taking this to the next level by providing an ecosystem that is so much more than just a place to make a bet or play a casino game.

Fanatics, for example, who really are a major online retailer of licensed sports merchandise, is now going full bore into the iGaming space, and at the forefront of its strategy is personalisation.  To put this into perspective – this is like Amazon when it was just selling books. So much more now lies ahead. In the future, just like Amazon, you can expect Fanatics to offer a lot more, whether it’s shirts, merchandise, NFTs -you name it. Of course, AI and machine learning driven personalization are going to be at the forefront of their strategy.  The same goes for the other leading companies in the US.

Of course, given we’re leading the AI adoption charge, we see this a very good for iGaming as competition, and the search for differentiated will always lead to innovation. For companies like us at Epoxy.ai – we’ll be here to provide that technology and truly power the next era of innovation.

Interviews

Time to get into the gamification game

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Tomer Baumel, Founder at CEO of Solitics, talks about why personalised gamification is the best way for operators to differentiate and bring tremendous added value to their players

Differentiation. This is something that operators strive for but, in reality, is very hard to achieve. If you take a look at the online betting and casino experiences available to players in any given market, it’s hard to come across many brands that truly stand out.

Most offer the same welcome bonuses, similar games/odds, the same payment options and deploy the same tactics for fostering loyalty once the player has signed up and deposited for the first time. But loyalty must be earned, and right now, casinos and sportsbooks are not doing enough.

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For many, retention is a tick-box exercise based around level-up loyalty schemes, offers sent out via email and SMS, and the occasional generic pop-up message that aims to keep players engaged with the sportsbook or casino – usually with free bets or free spins.

The majority of players will be familiar with these tactics and are sufficiently smart and savvy to know the sportsbook or the casino brands do this to encourage them to play for longer.

There is nothing wrong with operators taking this approach, but it is boring at best. Retention should be fun and exciting, and there is a lot that casinos and sportsbooks can do to be different to their rivals and add tremendous value to the player experience – value that will ensure they stick around.

How? Personalised gamification.

Gamification has been an industry buzzword for some time now, but few operators have yet to truly incorporate it, and personalise it using data, into the overall player experience. Personalisation is how how operators will unlock the huge potential gamification offers for both acquisition and retention, and ultimately differentiation.

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Not only can gamification be used to transform the user experience across multiple touch points, but it can also be used by operators to drive certain player behaviour such as making a deposit or continuing to play even after a run of losses.

Gamification comes in many forms, but at Solitics, we have just launched a new Gamification Module that includes Gamification Widgets with highly customisable mini-games that operators can use to elevate the player experience to boost both acquisition and retention. Mini-games are the perfect gamification tool. They can be combined with promos and bonuses to help the brand connect with the players and build trust.

Because the experience is gamified and highly customised to players’ preferences and playing patterns, operators can guide users’ behaviour in a way that is authentic, allowing them to generate a much higher life-time value from the players than when they are incentivised by traditional or generic offerings.

So long as mini-games can be customised and configured, operators can be smarter in how they bonus and run promos that are far more effective while avoiding overbonusing and overspending.

For example, if you would like a player to log-in each day to claim a daily surprise, instead of offering £5 bonus upon log-in, the operator can engage the player with daily challenges such as ‘login and get a daily surprise’.  During this mission, player will get to spin the wheel to determine his daily prize, and also see an interactive map of his progress. From managing the bonus economy point of view – since the widget is entirely customized by the brand. This actually adds excitement for the player while reducing the bonusing cost for the operator.

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Positive, fun experiences also generate advocacy, with players recommending the brand to others.

Personal gamification widgets are also a powerful driver of acquisition, especially when deployed as part of the onboarding journey through game introducing carousels, or spinning a prize wheel to determine the welcome bonus they receive.

Of course, operators need to be able to differentiate through the mini-games they offer to their players otherwise players will once again find themselves swimming in the sea of sameness. This is why we have ensured our mini-games offer unrivalled opportunities for customisation and personalisation including brand colours, content, bonuses configuration, all of which are easy to change.

With Solitics, marketers can choose from a pre-set library of games and customise them, or they can create their own games from scratch, all from a single UI, with no need for heavy development resources.

That said, it’s still important for the right games to be delivered to the right players at the right time and this requires the use of data and segmentation.

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Our solution is built on top of the operator’s data house which allows marketers to be incredibly granular in terms of who gets the game, the accompanying bonus, the communication that goes with it and the channel via which it is deployed. This is all done through a single platform and UI.

Despite the potential personalised gamification offers to take the entire player experience to the next level, and for brands to be heard above the noise being made by the competition, the majority of operators have yet to really get behind it.

We believe that our solution is a game-changer here and those that get in the game will be surprised by just how effective gamification can be when it comes to acquiring and retaining players at scale while offering a strong USP for their brand or brands.

The post Time to get into the gamification game appeared first on European Gaming Industry News.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

We recently sat down with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion and talk about several important aspects that shape the game studios industry.

What made you want to launch a game studio given the incredibly competitive nature of the market?

Because we have identified a gap in the market in which we can offer something truly unique. There is a large audience of players who enjoy sports-themed video and mobile games, and the ownership and skill required to master titles such as FC Ultimate Team, and who also like to place a bet on their favourite sports, teams and players. Right now, there isn’t a game format that brings these two worlds together, but Playbook Fusion is allowing them to collide to provide an entirely new experience that these consumers will absolutely want to engage with.

The addressable audience for our games will be broad but it is currently one that operators are struggling to engage. This goes beyond those who bet on sports to include those who are simply sports fans, gamers who enjoy management format titles and who are light-touch gamblers, virtual sports players looking for ownership over their teams and fantasy sports players seeking round the clock action.

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In all instances, our strongest appeal will likely be among the next generation of players – those who are unlikely to walk into a retail betting shop or have a bet on the Grand National, but who are engaging with mobile and video games, social media and streaming.

 

How will you leverage your industry experience to lead Playbook Fusion to success?

I have more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and this has enabled me to amass a deep understanding of key factors required in bringing successful betting products to market, such as regulation, compliance, content deployment and ultimately what goes into making a hit game. I have been delivering RNG sports games to operators for various companies for a long time now and have good relationships with the right people within most of the major tier one and tier two brands, opening up a clear path to deploying our games with the biggest operators in the business. My experience has also taught me what a good game looks like and has allowed me to identify the gap in the market that Playbook Fusion has an ambition to fill.

Where I lack experience or in-depth understanding, I have brought in experts including video and mobile games veteran, Santiago Jaramillo. Santiago has more than 13 years of AAA gaming experience and has previously worked as Creative Director for EA Sport’s FIFA Franchise and was Executive Producer of MonopolyGo! He was also Head of Sports at Dapper Labs where he conceived and created NBA Top Shot, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind product anchored in blockchain technology.

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Our complementary skillsets will absolutely be key to ensuring the future success of Playbook Fusion.

 

How will you stand out from your rival studios? How will your content offer something new to operators and players?

The level of ownership, the persistent progression within the games and the ability for skill development that each of our titles will offer will set Playbook Fusion apart from its competitors. We are working on a range of innovative mechanics that will allow players to boost the capabilities of their teams, which in turn will increase the chance of them winning. Gameplay will include acquiring or earning packs that players can open to strengthen their lineup before they decide what kind of contest they want to engage with. There’s really nothing like this in the sports betting space at this point and this strong, clear point of difference is what is already allowing Playbook Fusion to stand out and catch the attention of sportsbook operators.

 

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Bringing together the worlds of gambling and video/mobile gaming is a tough task. How have you approached this? 

It comes down to building a team of the brightest minds and creative talents from both industries. From the gambling sector, we have sought to hire dynamic individuals with a passion for sports and who understand what the next generation of sports bettors are looking for. Then, from the gaming sector, we have Santiago and a growing team of designers and developers who have an in-depth understanding of the mechanics behind successful video games. We are bringing the edges of these industries together and creating an environment in which everyone can learn from each other. I truly believe that we have a game-changing concept and with the team we have in place, we can bring it to life and disrupt the industry.

 

Can you share some insights into your first game? What will it look like? How will it play? Who has it been developed for?

Our first game will be a football title. Football is the biggest sport globally and will allow us to hit the ground running with a game that has mass market appeal. It will take the football manager format, with players able to build a team by acquiring and trading players. They can also do things like buy packs and reveal cards that all help in strengthening their team. They then compete with others across several game types including seasons, player vs player and in contests with friends. Players earn points based on the performance of their team, which are posted to a real-time leaderboard. The more points players accumulate, the more league levels they clear and the more rewards they earn. Betting is a core part of the game loop but, unlike more traditional virtual sports games, the bettor will have a much greater sense of ownership over the team they are betting on, just like in real sports betting. We plan to replicate this format for other sports including basketball and cricket.

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Why should sportsbook operators partner with Playbook Fusion?

Our games will enable operators to generate incremental revenues from existing player groups, particularly Virtual Sports and Fantasy players, by offering a more engaging betting experience on a 24/7/365 basis. Also, our games will allow them to tap into a new, lucrative but hard-to-reach audience. These are not traditional sports bettors, but rather the next generation of customers looking for social, fast-paced gameplay where they can improve and display their skills and strategy with the chance of winning money – the YouTube, Fortnite, tech-savvy generation that will become a sportsbook’s core player base in the coming years.

The post Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion appeared first on European Gaming Industry News.

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eSports

How Esports Companies Can Address The Confusion Around Gambling

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An exclusive Q&A w/ Gary Denham, Founder and CEO of Wamba Technologies and Gamer’s Oasis

 

What inspired you to found Wamba Technologies and develop the patented esports platform, Gamers Oasis?

My motivation was the void of wholly accessible online gaming competitions. Wamba Technologies, in conjunction with Gamers Oasis, aims to create a platform where gamers can engage in fair and constant competition, free from any suspicions of impropriety, while winning money as a result of their performance. Basically, players will be able to pay an entry fee into an online competition, compete, and win money back if they place well enough in the competition.

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Could you elaborate on why the misconception of esports as a form of gambling exists despite the legal framework distinguishing skill-based competitions from games of chance?

This misperception arises from the similarities between online esports competitions and traditional gambling activities, particularly where participants are paying an entry fee and vying for monetary rewards. However, at the most basic level, it comes from industry ignorance. 

Anyone who has actually looked at this or participated in esports knows this is no different than tennis, golf, NASCAR, motocross, etc. This just happens to take place online. Aside from that, there is really no difference.

 

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In your recent Forbes article, you draw parallels between online video game competitions and the financial structure of online poker. How do you see this comparison influencing the perception of esports within the regulatory landscape?

This comparison sought to underscore the potential revenue from esports while addressing any misunderstandings regarding its classification as gambling. By framing esports within a recognizable regulatory context and emphasizing its skill-based nature, the intent was to facilitate clearer guidelines and regulations conducive to industry growth. Beyond that, I also wanted to illustrate just how much untapped financial potential exists in the industry, which I aim to capitalize on with Gamers Oasis.

 

How do you think the historical context of online poker and its impact on the perception of online gambling influences the current discourse surrounding esports and its legal classification?

The confusion and misconceptions stemming from the past have contributed to the ongoing debate over whether esports should be deemed a form of gambling, despite its inherent emphasis on skill. Here is where it becomes very clear: remove the internet from the equation and consider the question again.  

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Has anybody looked at “real life” video game competitions as “gambling” in the last 40 years (aside from Las Vegas trying to get their hands on it, and failing)?  Of course not.  So why would featuring the same exact competitions on the internet suddenly somehow magically make this gambling? 

It doesn’t. Ergo, this is CLEARLY not gambling.

 

What measures do you believe are necessary to establish clear guidelines and regulations for esports, ensuring both consumer protection and industry growth?

Nothing governmental. I think where esports are concerned, regulators need to stay out of it. 

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Will they? Only time will tell — but we don’t regulate golf, NASCAR, tennis, or any other sports. Sure, they each have their own rulemaking bodies, but those are not governmental entities, nor should they be.  

I think that to make an exception for esports would set an extremely dangerous precedent and open up all sports to such regulatory oversight. Quite frankly, the day I see the government actually make something in corporate America better, I may be willing to revisit this sentiment. Until then….

 

How much of the gaming population do you expect to be interested in a platform like Gamers Oasis?

With approximately 660 million actual and potential esports players globally, I expect a significant portion of the gaming population to be interested in a platform like Gamers Oasis. Hundreds of millions of players are traveling to various locations to participate in competitions already.  

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To give them the ability to simply access this from the convenience and comfort of their own home is something that has gone over exceedingly well in all other comparable situations which we’ve seen. Banking. Shopping. Poker. Collectibles. Multiplayer, casual gaming. Now we’ll see it with video game competition.

 

What can you share about monetization issues in esports and how Gamers Oasis plans to tackle the problem?

Monetization challenges in esports often stem from an attempt to mirror the traditional sports’ viewer-based model, where money is made by bringing fans out to stadiums or by encouraging them to buy merchandise.  In this model, revenue comes from ad sales and sponsorships in addition to gate sales and merchandising. 

While that works with traditional sports, it doesn’t translate well to esports. However, with the ease of access to gaming reaching an exponentially larger number of players than traditional sports reaches viewers (basically, not everyone can throw a baseball, but 40% of earth’s population plays video games), focusing on a player-based model that encourages everyone to participate, rather than merely making them a viewer, can produce far greater emotional attachment to the sport resulting in more participation time, more monetization opportunities in general, and ultimately, as a result, more revenue. Simply put, viewers generate some revenue for the sport, but players can be worth much much more than viewers. In video games, every viewer is a potential player, so, let’s make them players!

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This is where Gamers Oasis will shine. We are developing technology that will allow players of all skill levels to compete and to know that they are engaging in fair competition. Basically, you could be a bad player, but know that you will only be competing against other bad players, giving you a real chance to win money. This is something that nobody else has seemed to be able to produce in a meaningful manner.  We have a way to do this and to ensure this fair play. When anyone can win, all will play.  When everyone is playing, the industry experiences exponential growth.

 

Looking toward the future, what do you see as the future of esports, more specifically in terms of regulatory frameworks and industry development?

One of the fundamental problems esports has had up until now is there is no universal set of guidelines. As I said before, I firmly believe that the government is not the answer.  

With our patent, one of the things we intend to do is to have all parties who are licensing the patent join us in setting up core guidelines for all games which feature our technology.  We see this as a sort of a start in creating that centralized entity which can help establish and enforce certain guidelines, keeping it as a consensus based entity composed of the major parties who are involved with us in these endeavors, a democratic approach of sorts, with us primarily facilitating the laying of the foundation.

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What kind of a relationship do you envision between the casino industry and the esports industry?

Casinos are all about entertainment, and esports bring a whole new level of that to their customers. The possibilities are exciting in that whole new esport-themed experiences can be hosted within casinos. And as casinos seek to diversify their offerings to attract younger demographics, esports present a lucrative opportunity for engagement and revenue generation through esports betting and tournaments themselves. 

I think that third-party betting should be separated from any true esports platform. A true esports platform should only have the player paying their entry fees and should not involve third parties wagering on the outcome when they are not actually involved in the competition.  

This is where the casino industry comes in. The casinos can be a distinct and separate entity to facilitate those kinds of transactions, keeping them wholly separated from the platforms featuring esports. 

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One of the major reasons for this separation is age requirements. A true esports platform should allow kids (with parental permission) to be allowed to compete just as they do in real life. However, I feel very strongly that wagering on anything as a non-participant should have some restrictions, as it has the means to cause harm to younger, developing minds. By separating the two, we can keep the competition platforms “kid friendly” while still serving the needs of the audience that seeks the other service.

 

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