U.S. sports betting operators have looked far and wide for platforms to run their wagering. Since the U.S. legalized sports betting a little more than two years ago, the most successful technology was brought in from Europe, where sports betting has been legal for decades. Companies like Kambi, BetConstruct and FSB have all broken from the gate in the U.S. with notable clients and a high degree of reliability. But even American giants like IGT and Scientific Games have recognized the power of the European experience by purchasing companies adept in that space.
First to Serve
Active in regulated markets across six continents, Kambi powers some of the industry’s leading B2C brands, combining high-performance technology with sports-betting know-how to springboard operators to success.
Driven by a vision to create unique and engaging sports-betting experiences for a growing network of ambitious operators, Kambi has successfully partnered with leading U.S. brands such as DraftKings, Rush Street Interactive and Mohegan Sun, and recently announced a landmark deal with North America’s largest regional gaming operator, Penn National Gaming, to power its retail and online sportsbooks, which will be branded via Barstool.
Kambi CEO Kristian Nylen says that serving the U.S. market, with somewhat different sports, shouldn’t be a problem.
“As a Scandinavian company, we’ve had lots of experience with ice hockey. Basketball has been very popular all across Europe for many years. And (American) football is growing massively in popularity in Europe. They’re selling out the stadiums in London four times a year. So on all these sports, we’ve had a strong offering for a long, long time.
“The big challenge for us in the U.S. was to understand more deeply the college sports. We’ve always covered the top colleges, but to manage a local offering, we’ve got to go much deeper.”
From over-the-counter betting to bring-your-own devices to fully customizable self-service betting kiosks, Kambi offers brick-and-mortar operators of all shapes and sizes a world-class sportsbook solution for the modern-day player. The company’s on-property sportsbook has already been successfully deployed in regulated markets including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
Kambi’s fully managed services encompass a broad offering, from front-end user interface and odds-compiling to customer intelligence and risk management, built on and delivered through a robust, in-house-developed software platform.
Combined with a functionality for price differentiation, plus the ability to offer bespoke risk management and a comprehensive bonusing toolbox, Kambi gives its partners the ultimate freedom to become the sportsbooks they want to be.
Trading sports since 1998, Kambi has long been at the forefront of innovation-led change, delivering new and exciting sports-wagering experiences to millions of players all over the world. In 2018, Kambi made sports-betting history when it processed the first legal online wager in the U.S. post-PASPA.
Building a Better Platform
BetConstruct is an award-winning developer and provider of online and land-based gaming solutions with development, sales and service centers all around the globe. It is based in London.
The company’s innovative and proven offerings include an extensive range of products and services, including sportsbook, sports data solutions, skill games and fantasy sports.
And now, a scouting report! “Got a hunch, bet a bunch” is a fabled wagering axiom. Well, here comes the hunch, insight that is observable before a bet takes place. It’s called AJNA, tied to the Hindu sense of intuition.
The data feed solutions provider of BetConstruct presented a more refined and accurate solution for data scouting. It’s used in soccer (or football) in Europe and will spread to other sports.
Contemplating ways to provide sporting data in a faster and more efficient manner, the company developed a feed solution enhanced with AI/ML, named it AJNA and made its biggest splash at ICE in London with a live demonstration. Translated as a third eye, it’s an augmented live video streaming companion. It recognizes the game flow of the sporting events, provides advanced player tracking in live mode and collects more technical data to create new, unique markets to bet on.
“Machine learning penetrates IT sectors, and as a forward-looking company, we seek ways to infuse our solutions with methods of automated data analysis,” says company founder and CEO Vigen Badalyan. “The concept of our solution has its roots in Hindu tradition, the third-eye chakra said to reveal insights about the future, called Ajna specifically. The on-field observation of a scout provides rather accurate data, whereas the augmented streaming reveals insights to the game flow that a human eye can’t see. With AJNA, we enrich our sports betting offering with additional augmentation and more statistical data gathered.”
The solution consists of a single or double camera setup. As it delivers the streaming, the AJNA solution does an auto field geometry detection from the video. Within a few minutes, the powerful eye of FeedConstruct identifies field scheme and corners, having video frames transformed and sent to the tracking system one by one.
During the match, AJNA recognizes events like ball possession, danger, etc. It also offers an extended personal tracking like player’s speed or distance run per game. Such collected statistics can be converted into a number of markets to bet on.
As for now, BetConstruct has developed AJNA to provide full live on-field coverage of football with a further intention to expand the coverage for more sports types.
The U.K. Edge
FSB was founded in 2007 by industry veterans who understood that the consumer demand for live betting, smartphone penetration and evolving European gaming regulations would fundamentally change the operations behind a modern betting and gaming service.
FSB’s vision was shared by many in the betting and gaming world and the company is backed by senior industry individuals including the founders of both Sportingbet and Betfair.
FSB’s use of live data feeds, casino games, player verification, payment systems, affiliate management and responsible gaming from the best suppliers in the industry means there are thousands of people working together to generate the best possible betting and gaming experience for both the end user and the operator. FSB’s modern betting technology allows a much smaller team of traders to deliver higher profitability, better risk management and an improved customer experience.
FSB offers everything needed to run an online betting and gaming business, including a superb customer registration platform, CRM tools, betting tools, the industry’s best casino games and a gaming license from the UK Gambling Commission. The platform can be completely customized to meet local regulatory requirements and meets ISO 27001 standards.
FSB CEO Dave McDowell says the American business is going to be huge, and an investment by gaming-centric Clairvest is proof that FSB is on the right track.
“It’s blatantly obvious that the U.S. is going to be one of the largest regulated sports betting markets in the next five years,” McDowell told the Betting on Sports conference. “We need to be there, but what we’re trying to do is leverage our contacts and relationships through Clairvest to talk to individual casinos that don’t want a ‘me too’ solution.
“The investment from Clairvest is a fantastic endorsement of FSB, the company and the technology we’ve put in place. What really attracted me to them was, as a private equity company, they’ve got a lot of experience investing into bricks-and-mortar casinos, so they bring a fantastic Rolodex of contacts for us.
“They wanted to back our vision. They were actively looking for sports betting suppliers to invest in and expose their portfolio to because they could see the rapid growth in sports betting across the globe. So, we’ve got a very exciting investment partner that allows us to make the transition from a white-label operator to an enterprise solution supplier.”
IGT imported from the U.K. an experienced expert to lead its sports betting team. As vice president of sports betting, Charles Cohen brings his European record to the states. Of course, IGT is well known in casino and lottery circles, so Cohen says it was well-positioned to demonstrate the power of its platform.
“We didn’t think it would be that difficult,” he explains. “We had an extremely mature sports betting system and a big team of developers. Sure, the prices are different, but it really shouldn’t be that difficult to convert our sports betting platform to one that works specifically for Nevada, and now the U.S.
“But it took us about three years and some crazy number like 200 man-years to get it done. It was a major effort, but it was worth it, and they’re reaping the benefits now.”
The PlayDigital system looked and felt different than anything on the market at that time. And there’s a reason, says Cohen.
“We came at this from the angle of being consumer-facing mobile people. We looked at the products that were in the market at the time and thought they were very functional, but not particularly great user experiences. The world that I’ve been in for the last 20 years was all about understanding user experience. We wanted to deliver an experience for the player that they enjoy, that they instinctively understand, and that is fast, reliable and works for them.
“We were able to take advantage of technologies that were brand-new so we could deliver an experience that wouldn’t have even been possible five years ago. With the help of our clients, we came up with some bold ideas. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t work, but it worked for the players and for our client.”
While Cohen was well-versed in IGT’s mobile betting platform—he headed that department for several years prior to being named to the sports betting post—he knew the land-based casinos would be served well.
“The platform that IGT brought into the U.S. is offered worldwide, and is a very successful retail solution as well,” Cohen says. “Retail outside of the U.S. means tens of thousands of terminals in bars, convenience stores, all the way up to full-scale betting shops. So we have that capability in that platform.
“But we did have to change it for the U.S., because sports betting here is focused around the casino. A casino is not a corner bar or convenience store, and it’s certainly different than a betting shop on the high street. We treat the retail and the mobile as equal citizens. We’ve been working on providing a streamlined retail experience in a casino that is equal to our mobile experience. Not an easy task.”
At Scientific Games, the acquisition of the OpenBet platform in 2018 was just the start. The company provides sports betting technology and services to global regulated markets through its Digital Sports Betting and Lottery groups. A global corporation with a rich history in betting, lottery and responsible gaming initiatives, the company is uniquely positioned to provide operators with its world-class OpenSports solution.
In 2019, the company launched OpenSports, a full suite of sports betting solutions that allow customers to mix and match technologies that suit their sportsbook needs. OpenSports is live with customers in six regulated states with more on the way.
In 2020, Scientific Games continues to keenly focus on launching in new markets across the globe, including new U.S. states as they regulate sports betting, officials say.
Keith O’Loughlin, senior vice president, sportsbook and platforms for Scientific Games, is bullish on the direction of the sector.
“It’s ever-changing, but in the best possible way,” he says. “Sports betting is on the rise, and the general dynamic is one of excitement and growth. In 2019, I think the launch of sportsbooks in multiple states was one of the most pivotal developments, which led—and continues to lead—to globalization of sports that were once more regional.
“American football, for example, is making waves globally in ways it’s never done before, reaching new international audiences. Tennis is growing in popularity, too. I expect that trend to continue in both ways, with sports making their way to new demographics, using betting as a vehicle to get there.”
Scientific Games plays multiple roles in this formation.
“We’re one of the world’s leading suppliers, so we’re powering a lot of sports betting growth through our customers,” he asserts. “We’re exceeding market needs by giving operators a full-stack solution that includes components and services they can take or leave as needed. So instead of our historical ‘one size fits all’ model, we’ve broken down our product into its components and are now offering those individually.
“In a market where regulations, operators and bettors differ greatly, this is the ideal approach, because it empowers us to bring sports betting to any type of partner who wants to make a splash in the industry.”