Suren Khachatryan: Digitain – The Eastern Promise of World Cup 2018

Suren Khachatryan, Chief Executive of Digitain, details to SBC readers and #bofcon2018 delegates why Russia 2018 will be a challenge for all industry operators. A key stakeholder in CIS betting, for Khachatryan World Cup 2018 further holds a personal connection for Digitain operations…

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The Betting on Football Conference (#bofcon2018) and World Cup 2018 complement each other and like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Indeed, with so many hot topics rearing their heads at Stamford Bridge this week, you might’ve expected a gunfight of competing ideas to break out.

Nevertheless, far from resembling the Wild West, #bofcon2018 was a timely conference at which to meet coherently, debate the merits and let good ideas win at a crucial time for the industry as a whole.

Whatever your issue: PASPA stateside, regulation closer to home, player engagement, acquisition and bonusing alternatives, World Cup impact, social media marketing, post-event retention strategy… these questions needed answers. And sometimes definitive ones. So it was great to trade thoughts on broad plans and specific innovations with other industry leaders, in order that we might converge on the wisest path forward, with #bofcon2018 being the perfect lens through which to distil details of every colour.

While the overall growth of the igaming industry remains incredibly encouraging, particularly in emerging markets, the international advance of sportsbook continues unchecked in most developing countries, although it has admittedly slowed a little in mature territories such as the UK. That said, innovation remains the watchword, both in the markets you offer and the tools with which you allow your clients to engage.

For Digitain, as a local provider with an expanding portfolio of CIS-facing partnerships, the staging of Russia’s first World Cup obviously draws our distinct focus this June. That said, regardless of territory, the World Cup is self-evidently a core attraction for all operators, and getting heard above the white noise of a crowded marketplace is crucial to both client acquisition, reactivation and retention.

Staying positively demarcated from the competition is naturally pivotal. However, that’s a progressively problematic feat to pull off amongst a sea of standardised prices and offers. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, varied bet and offer functionality, allied to an agile platform, will allow operators to tailor their products to specific territories. Especially in a World Cup, whose truly global reach intrinsically caters for different betting tastes, not to mention national allegiances.

Accordingly, we have focussed our efforts for the coming year on rolling out a genuine omni-channel solution (which can sell the World Cup via a wide range of complimentary casino products, or a new multiple-bet reselection tool like Digitain’s Edit My Bet) coupled to the most flexible mobile platform. After all, smartphone-adoption rates are ramping in most domains, so only a complete package will set operators apart.

Our recent partnership with Pokerdom, the largest online poker operation in the CIS, was an eloquent case in point for a happy collision of timing and geography. As one of the globe’s Top 10 poker rooms (with a registered user-base of over one million clients) they had been looking to secure a top-notch sportsbook supplier for some time, with an eye to migrating their clients over to a new sports-betting vertical before the curtain was drawn back on football’s showpiece event in their own backyard. The deal allowed us to stake another flag in the CIS sands, where proximate venue and time zone mean their players are primed to follow all the action at peak times throughout the tournament, benefiting from Digitain’s myriad of pre-match and in-play options on every World Cup game, available through both our online and offline channels.

That said, I feel operators should always be wary of trying to force their way into congested territories, while also weighing up the risk-reward of near-regulating, emerging markets. At Digitain, we’ve also looked to expand in Africa’s football-mad continent (with promising integrations in Kenya and Nigeria) but baulked at more crowded markets like Italy. Africa’s mobile community remains more simple than smart when it comes to interfaces, though, so you have to find the right solution and manage your expectations accordingly. Indeed, EPOS terminals are perhaps the best way for operators to target untapped African players, especially in more rural areas.

More generally, when it comes to the World Cup, operators who can sustain a competitive product suite and a differentiated local offering will be well-placed to capitalise. There’s nothing wrong with planning internationally, as long as your journey to market adopts a local product and voice. The market provision itself, of course, needs to be deep in every game, above all in-play. But a higher-margin, quick-strike strategy currently seems to be the best route to maximizing the player betting cycle.

Rest assured, this industry will always change and naturally evolve as we respond to opportunities and challenges. In a World Cup year (always a major revenue-driver) some of these issues are understandably more pressing, given the backdrop. However, the importance of suppliers and partners coming together to exchange their expert knowledge (be it niche or overarching) remains undimmed. So summits like#bofcon2018 continue to grant us the best way out of the woods.

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Suren Khachatryan  – Group CEO – Digitain

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