While land-based casinos suffered throughout the pandemic, many that had committed to an online model saw massive gains. But the transition to digital is not as simple as some may imagine. Tsachi Maimon, Aspire Global’s CEO, discusses the challenges facing land-based operators wishing to replicate their business online.
Progress is impossible without change, we are told. Some changes are bigger than others, however, and moving from a purely land-based to an online model can be a daunting prospect. Time and again we see the first obstacle for operators to overcome is one of mindset. It is understandably difficult to go from a brick-and-mortar set-up where the building, games and facilities are physical, to one that exists purely in the cloud.
However, even when the intangibility of an online empire is reconciled, operators still need to learn how to navigate an entirely new non-physical landscape. Connecting with players provides a different challenge online, as does CRM communication, customer support and maintaining VIP relationships.
Land-based operators are used to seeing their players in person, interacting with them, and affording them personal attention if need be. The move to online introduces a wall of technology that changes the way we deliver this kind of service.
Then, as with any business expansion, there is the issue of risk. As much as we have become familiar with the internet, it is still changing and evolving. Establishing and operating a platform on it is challenging to say the least.
This poses the question, does the operator want to do this on their own or look outwards at how these issues can be mitigated or avoided altogether? A major role of modern igaming providers is minimising the risk element for operators as much as possible. Even with the best-laid plans, things can still go awry.
As we have seen in the past 18 months, the unexpected can become a stark reality and sometimes operators can just have a bad month and fail to turn a profit. There are a number of ways the industry has tackled this issue, with one of the most effective methods being the revenue share model. This goes a long way towards allowing the operator to model the expected expense for any income they are receiving.
This stake also motivates the platform provider further to supply the best possible standard of service. Most importantly, the reduced risk gives operators the confidence they need to invest in an online offering.
Aspire Global has taken this one step further. Not only do we price every product as a revenue share, but we also developed our unique managed services offering to make this transition as seamless as possible. It is not widely known that Aspire was one of the first igaming companies to develop such a service. Many have tried to replicate it since then, but never with the same sustainability or profitability.
The service also helps operators stay on top of compliance. Even if a business can boast MGA, UKGC, and DGA licences in Europe or focus on New Jersey and Tennessee in the US, there are still constant amendments and updates that need to be implemented. A good managed services solution, which invests in these areas so the operator doesn’t need to, can prove invaluable.
When migrating from land-based to online, it is also common to see operators investing in far too many third-party suppliers, for everything from content to payment methods as well as CRM systems, KYC, fraud systems and more.
The challenge is not only choosing the right suppliers, but also striking the right legal and commercial agreements with them and integrating them all into one system. Here again, managed services can be the answer, integrating all of this under one contract. This all serves to make the operator’s journey online easier and more sustainable for growth, allowing them to focus entirely on their business.
The consolidation of services and integration of many third-party suppliers with a service such as AspireCore provides a clear competitive advantage. This goes for content as well, which plays a significant role in enticing customers to a new platform.
Variety of content is a huge draw, but for existing customers, it is vital that the operator has the same games, and game types, online that they do in their land-based operation. The integration of a leading content aggregator, such as Aspire’s Pariplay, can help to draw players looking for something different, while the operator’s existing content can keep their long-standing customers satisfied.
However, many of the issues that land-based operators face are expedited or illuminated entirely by a digital move. Repairs and maintenance are a prime example of this. Far too often in the physical world, the person who is able to fix a land-based machine is in a different city or maybe even a different country. The time to communicate the issue and then travel to the casino is time in which the machine is not generating revenue.
The best of both worlds
Of course, it does not need to be an either-or decision. If the operator plays their cards correctly, they can maintain their land-based players, but also attract new and existing players to their online business. Well-established casinos in Mexico City or even Las Vegas are still at the mercy of the clientele that can physically visit their facilities.
There is a huge tourist appeal around these destinations, but nonetheless the operator can still access a far greater population online. If they invest in the proper method and concept, this audience need not even be restricted to the same country as their land-based operations.
This is better thought of as an expansion of the business. Rather than moving the business from one platform to another, the operation is offering its customers another option. A great number of players still enjoy a gaming physical environment and look forward to returning to it. When done well and invested in correctly, we have seen no evidence of cannibalisation in the move to online to date.
One concrete example of the move from land-based into digital is provided by Funfair Casino. Operating over 25 land-based casinos across Ireland, it recently went live with our AspireCore platform. The operator has seen many of the great advantages of moving from land-based to online with the right player account management offering to complement it.
While there is endless opportunity in an online offering, making it happen from scratch is no mean feat, but it is far more achievable when a significant degree of the financial risk factor is removed. By selecting the right partner, quick fixes and speed to market are factors that take the pain away for operators, making that brave first move to the online space a seamless transition.