Dr Laila Mintas, CEO of sports betting entertainment and technology firm PlayUp, took time out to speak with SBC Americas about the US igaming sector this week, notably the potential for growth and some of the challenges that come with a nascent, but potentially huge business.
Can you begin by giving our readers an update as to where PlayUp currently stands in the US market and talk a little about how its offer fits into the growing igaming sector?
We are currently live in Colorado for sports betting and are planning to be live very soon in New Jersey with sports betting first and later on with igaming as well. Our road map for future growth includes a number of states for sports betting, but we are also very bullish on states where igaming is regulated.
We will be announcing some more market access agreements in the states later this summer and we feel igaming gives us a new demographic we can market to. Long term it is important to us that we have a strong and diverse product portfolio and igaming is a big part of that. Having all these product offerings in one-app and powered by our own platform will allow us to be nimble in how we respond to customer demands and market trends.
There is a great deal to be learned from the European igaming sector (good and bad). What elements of the European experience should US operators be looking to replicate, and what should they be looking to steer clear of?
Responsible gaming is a huge part of the learning we can take from the European market. The industry had huge growth from its inception and the US market will experience a meteoric rise in the next handful of years and that growth has to be done in a proper and responsible way. The diversity of games offered is a positive we can take from the European operators. The development and design of games from Europe has been phenomenal and the growing number of suppliers in the US creates almost limitless options for the types of games we can offer our users.
Corporate social responsibility is going to play a major role as the igaming sector looks for growth that is balanced against the need for safety of consumers. What is PlayUp doing on this front?
Going into highly regulated markets like New Jersey and other states means we have to be fully compliant and our board and executive team wouldn’t want it any other way. Ensuring our customers have a great experience is core to what we do, and that experience means ensuring proper responsible gaming practices are in place. We are stringently ensuring our customers aren’t on any exclusion list and our customer support team is always adding to their training to ensure they are properly equipped to provide customers with the resources they need.
What do you see as the main barriers to entry to the US igaming sector and what can entrants do to smooth the process?
Right now we see a clear ‘race to the bottom’ when it comes to user acquisition in sports betting. The current market economics are not sustainable long term for any operator, big or small.
The percentage of bonus and free bets that we see in nearly all states will have to normalize at some point and time, it is just unknown how long that process will take. The flip side to that is igaming offers a product with different margins where you also don’t need to be as aggressive with the bonus bets and promos.
The potential market size for igaming represents a huge potential as well with many analysts projecting the market to yield annual gross revenue of between $10.8bn and $14.3bn by 2025. This is more than double what is projected to be generated by the sports betting industry.
And finally, having enjoyed significant early success in the market, what is the outlook for PlayUp this year in terms of product innovation and plans for expansion into new states?
Our plan is to be live in four states – Colorado, NJ, Iowa, and Indiana – for sports betting early next year and a handful of states with igaming by the first quarter of 2022. We will be announcing those states where we look to expand for igaming very soon. As we look into 2022 we have another 10-plus skins we have finalized market access deals in and will be going in as many states as possible where igaming is allowed.
We are excited that New Jersey has embraced fixed-odds racing and we know a few other states are exploring those options as we have talked to regulators about what that could look like. Our product team has been busy already enhancing our platform to add sophisticated betting options like our Bet Builder, single game parlays, and a host of other offerings that our users have responded very positively to.
These upgrades, along with our full transparency on betting limits, and our internal risk management and trading team, mean we can cater to the discerning sports bettor. We will be able to target a mid to high end customer and position ourselves as a premium brand. Our product innovations will create a place that will welcome sharp and smart bettors who go beyond the confines of other sportsbooks.