The Russia opportunity: online casino, football and the World Cup

Copyright: fifg / 123RF Stock Photo

WORLD Cup fever is sweeping the nation but it’s not just sportsbook operators who can make the most of this summer’s action.

Daniel Long, Head of Asia at Habanero; Robert Lee, Commercial Director of Realistic Games; and Melissa Summerfield, Chief Commercial Officer at Pragmatic Play, reveal how cross-selling football and slots offerings can help boost casino operators acquisition and their share of the market.

What was the process behind creating a football-themed slot?

Long: “We try to ensure the theme of the game fits its gameplay as much as we can. We have however found that past slot games failed to truly capture the spirit of the beautiful game, in that no slot really lets you play a football game where the ball is kicked around.

“In that we achieved what we set out to do with Knockout Football. The tournament is going to capture the world’s attention, as it does every four years, and we’re hoping to help our operator partners capitalise.”

Lee: “We’ve produced a number of football slots before, such as bespoke games for BetVictor to support their sponsorship deal with Liverpool Football Club, as well as their Million Pound Goal promotion around Euro 2016. These games have been very successful, as has Goal!, which we launched to all our customers in August 2016. Football is a universal language that speaks to billions of people around the world, so it makes perfect sense to launch a brand new game around the tournament.”

Summerfield:The Champions was created to engage the player in many ways. Firstly, it allows the theme and therefore the experience to be personalised, by letting the player choose his favourite international team. The player’s selection then changes the graphics of the game to the general colours of that team.

“Players can level up the experience by sliding a target up and down the reels to take shots on goal, and the more goals you score, the greater the momentum as the win multiplier increases, totalling a maximum of 20. The game has been crafted to transcend the scope of gambling and become an immersive football experience.”

“…a football-themed slot becomes a natural pick during down-time in the games or between fixtures.”

How can a football themed slot be used as a cross-selling tool between sportsbook and casino?

Long: “If the subject is on the minds of sportsbook customers and casino players, as we expect it to be over the course of the next month, then a football-themed slot becomes a natural pick during down-time in the games or between fixtures.

“It’s about giving players choice whilst also steering them towards something – sports betting – similar to what they’ve been enjoying. I suppose it’s like the Amazon model in that respect. ‘You liked this bet, so why not try this slot.'”

Lee: “Many sportsbook operators are keen to be able to successfully cross sell into their
gaming verticals. By having sports-themed content available, this makes that proposition
slightly easier to achieve. Promotions such as ‘spend X on a football-themed slot and receive a free bet for the Champions League Final’, and vice versa, are becoming more and more prevalent.

“Acquiring customers is by no means cheap, once operators are able to cross sell them into more of their products, this is where they see the real benefits and hopefully Slot It In! can help achieve that.”

“Timed free-spin campaigns and tournaments can be set up to take place alongside matches to maximise cross-selling and margin-driving potential

Summerfield: “Themed slots can be a great conversion tool into other verticals, and there is a natural bridge that operators can take advantage of between video slots styled around a certain sport and betting opportunities on its real-life counterpart. The Champions ‘team select’ feature can be used by operators in their promotions to highlight certain important
matches, before and as they are happening – allowing players to opt for the same teams
that are playing live.

“Timed free-spin campaigns and tournaments can be easily set up to take place alongside the real-life matches in order to maximise their cross-selling and margin-driving potential across both the casino and sportsbook verticals. This system can be used in the same manner to promote any important future matches.”

How does a World Cup effect slot betting patterns? Is there a spike at half-time and shortly after the final whistle, does casino betting take a hit?

Long: “You’d have to ask operators for a more detailed analysis, but we would expect turnover to fluctuate around a big event. It always does. Inevitably if casino players are football fans and there’s a big game on then you would expect peaks and troughs in and around the live action. But over the course of the day I would expect things to level up.”

Lee: “What we will see during June and July is increased activity across the sportsbook sites as people come on to place bets on the football. Once they are on the sites, operators are going to want to present them with as many opportunities as possible to play on other
product verticals and a football slot is a good starting point.”

Which markets do you expect to enjoy football slots the most? Could the game be left out in the cold if the corresponding nation goes out of the tournament early?

Long: “Football is universally popular and there are so many nations involved in the World Cup that I think we will see interest from across the gaming globe. We may see a drop-off when a nation is knocked out, but I would like to think that that will be temporary.

“Ultimately, we hope the slot is popular enough to outlive and outgrow the tournament. We want players to enjoy it in the longer term, not just as a seasonal novelty.”

Lee: “We work with all the major sportsbooks in the UK. If England’s recent record is anything to go by they will be home pretty quickly! I honestly don’t think it will have any impact on people enjoying a slot. Most football fans are fairly used to disappointment by now, so it shouldn’t have an effect on what game they choose to play. It’s more about getting into the spirit of the biggest tournament in the world.”

“With a big sporting event it’s important to make the most of the opportunities it presents.”

Do you have a range of bonus/incentives to ensure new players are retained once the tournament is over?

Long: “We tend to leave bonusing to operators, but we hope the playability of the game and great user experience will act as a retention tool. That’s what it’s about with any slot, no matter what the theme or theory behind it. You want players to try them, enjoy them, and come back for more.”

Lee: “We do offer a range of bonus options and incentives for operators and I’d expect they will be popular on themed games like Slot It In! With a big sporting event it’s important to
make the most of the opportunities it presents. As with all slots, the hope is that people
enjoy the game initially and then continue to play it. The theme is obviously important for
that initial engagement with a customer, but for those that continue to play, it’s the maths
and the gameplay that are the real retention factor.”