Exclusive ICE Preview Q&A w/ Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay
Just a few weeks till ICE London 2023, what are you looking forward to at the year’s defining industry show?
As you say, all roads and flight routes, at least to start to year, now converge on the ExCeL Centre in London for ICE in early February. We can’t wait to set up shop at this must-attend event, and unpack our latest plans and progressive product portfolio at Stand S1-120. Needless to say, it’s a timely tradeshow which invariably sets the tone for the remainder of the year. The Atlas-IAC team will be on site, walking the floors to greet old friends and meet new clients all week. As ever, it should be a lot of fun, but also a hugely informative summit at a time when the industry needs to put its combined minds and shoulders to the wheel to confront and navigate some pressing headwinds.
As such, ICE London represents a consequential think-tank as to how the industry can best provide operators and bettors with engaging, innovative betting experiences across some tent-pole, revenue-driving events this year. Add to that some excellent networking opportunities with senior peers to debate many of the most topical and pressing issues from panels and talks to the bar and tables of the Atlas stand. Whatever’s on your mind: looming recession and the cost of living crisis, affordability checks, player profiling, the unfolding scene across the Americas or Africa, regulation closer to home, player engagement, retention strategy, acquisition and bonusing alternatives – it’s always helpful and often illuminating to trade thoughts on broad plans and specific innovations with other industry leaders, in order that we can collectively converge on the best path forward and overcome the headwinds.
Atlas seems to be making some great strides in emerging markets of late. Is that your exclusive focus and what’s coming next?
Ultimately, Atlas offers the sector’s most scalable, flexible, and efficient sports betting and gaming platform. If that makes us the go-to platform for emerging markets, like LatAm and Africa (where we’ve done some excellent recent work and are just about to announce another deal with a Pan-African powerhouse) then so be it! But we plan on gaining traction across established, mature and new-regulating markets over time with our highly modular and agile solutions. Driven by live data, Atlas’ highly automated software helps traders focus on value-added risk management decisions and eliminates the manual labour required to run most legacy systems, which you see more of in mature markets, as the result of entrenched deals. In time, those deals will end or evolve as more and more customers come to realise and value the provision of flexible and modular solutions to support any customer’s bespoke operational strategy. On top of which, the Atlas CRM System also offers a fully automated marketing solution that allows operators to manage all of their marketing and communication activities with your customers from one place. These efficiencies of cost and scalability will win out over time, no matter where you set your scene on the global stage.
What are the unique challenges in Africa?
Quick or immediate access to funds, from deposit to withdrawals, is vital to making your brand the preferred wallet of any customer. That’s a universal truth, not restricted to Africa. Instead, Africa differs in that more nuanced payment systems are required than in more developed countries, and the customer trust in any operator really hinges on their capacity to payout in timely fashion. Especially because customers heavily favour the BetBuilder / accumulator model of small-stakes-big-win scenarios. You have to localise your payment methods in many cases country-by-country in a patchwork assembly of needs across Africa which isn’t too dissimilar to what you’re seeing state-by-state in the US. That calls for unparalleled agility if you want to service Pan-African multiplicity as Atlas is already doing.
In essence, though, as with South America, you have to localise on Customer Support too. That’s one area where automation can’t currently help you too much. African players want to speak to a human, fluent in their native language and preferably dialect. And the User Experience of your site has to be familiar, so you can’t reinvent the wheel for UX if you want to take on the leaders in any given territory. Ultimately, and again like LatAm (where the sleeping giant of sports betting in Brazil is soon to spring to life) Africa is a football-mad emerging market that is rich with possibilities and presents us with opportunities to build on our international expansion. As we continue to grow Atlas’ incredibly modular B2B software division, deals like this highlight how our breakout proprietary technology is fit for purpose in emerging markets all over the world.
You’re big on automation. But is machine learning genuinely a thing in sports betting? Are we still light years behind other tech-driven industries and if so how do you see us catching up?
I’m happy to say, though, that even our sector, which has traditionally been glacial in adopting the advances in tech of other industries, has made huge strides in the past 18 months – and happier still to relate that Atlas’ innovation in this area has us at the forefront of disruption in what has historically been a copycat space, too often tied to cautious thinking or legacy systems.
Machine-learning is increasingly introducing generalizable tools that can adapt and improve their own programmatic code, giving operators the edge on the competition and a deep understanding of their customers. For instance, there’s an old saying in trading that the further ahead of an event you bet, the shrewder you are likely to be as a punter. Needless to say, that’s a generalization with many exceptions, but it does explain why operators relax their limits closer to the start time of any event (when most unknowns are known) so it’s harder to steal an advantage. That said, the latest AI tech can probabilistically drill down on these “tells” (e.g. time/size of the bet, location, gender) across the board and effectively profile your customer within a few trades. It’s a similar story with marketing and trading tools. Bonus abusers get weeded out, high rollers who got lucky early on get accommodated. You get the idea.
After all, we are creatures of habit. Whereas AI is simply a bigger-brained animal. As the trading algorithms kick in, the client-specific marketing strategy must inevitably follow, paving the way to a truly personalised experience for the punter. For any operator, the dream is to know their consumers from log-in. With Atlas’s unique AI-powered platform and its accompanying tools, that dream is now a palpable reality. After all, personalisation in the sports betting industry is a word that has been used for a long time but has never become a reality. Now it’s our ambition to steward the industry’s evolution towards delivering personalised player experiences.
Does the trading desk still have in the future?
Yes. However, its role will necessarily change in step with the ground it concedes to automation. Essentially, though, its position as the nerve centre of a trading operation need not alter that much. It can still prove the assembly point of all these progressive feeds: advanced pricing, accurate modeling, scoring data, team and player updates, the weight of money, even opinion. Corralling all these inputs and distilling precise answers for risk management and trading strategies remains the challenge – whether a human being is at the controls, or merely overseeing the machine-learning equipment. Indeed, fresh services can sometimes emerge unexpectedly out of lightning progress. Verifiable tracking is one such new test for the trading desk, but it’s also given it a new job as an integrity tool. Think of the data specialists or the sensitive market-models that now sit behind the tennis tours to guard against match-fixing – or at least flag it. Refining these tools and counting out the vagaries of human misdeeds and misinformation is the task for the brightest minds allied to the finest AI systems.
Why and how is well-placed in this domain of expertise?
We provide our own MTA (Managed Trading Service) and strongly believe in its advantages over any competitor, be they established or challenger. Our highly experienced trading team are backed up by a powerful and configurable Trading Platform which takes into account thousands of factors and data-points across sport, event, market, time (and much more) to deliver the best MTS available. Our in-depth MTS algorithms and associated tools are then cross-referenced with the data/profile of each user to ensure that we are serving the most appropriate odds at any given time. Not only can we set different pricing strategies per competition/event, we can also fully customise individual sportsbook instances to highlight/order key competitions and events all from the same back office system. Automation of our evolving algorithms constitutes the cornerstone of our MTS but we also understand a partner may desire anything from total outsourcing of management (cue our “risk free sportsbook” solution, already popular in emerging markets, where we underwrite any downside) to specific elements of control over the sportsbook. We seamlessly achieve this versatility with event/market odds and limits configurable per partner from our back office.
How about marketing and CRM – can AI tools be as effective in this domain?
The Atlas CRM System offers a fully automated marketing solution that allows operators to manage all of their marketing and communication activities with your customers from one place. As for Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM), our rules-based flows help create specific personalised communications with marketing targeted based on customer profiling and segmentation. Customers can be grouped into profiled segments based on site activity, betting behaviour, deposit regularity
and a host of additional characteristics. Typically suspected fraudulent users (arbitragers) and bonus abusers are grouped at one end of the spectrum and VIP users on the other. The Atlas-IAC platform allows for a different customer segmentation number to be assigned for each specific product vertical as well as an overall rating for each customer. Bespoke customer segmentation rules can be implemented for each client.
The heart of every CRM platform is the ability to drive the desired behaviour from individual consumers. This is done with a campaign management tool that allows our licensees to target specific customer segments with bespoke promotions. Unlike most sports betting services where one- size-fits-all campaigns are offered to the entire customer base, Atlas’ advanced marketing campaign tool helps to maximise ROI on marketing investment by allowing for pinpoint accuracy to deliver generous promotional offers to the good quality customers while ensuring lesser-value clients do not receive offers that they could abuse.
Can you succinctly break down Atlas’ areas of provision and their integration?
Sure. Firstly, the Atlas Seamless API is a service for existing gambling operators who need to bolster their product range to increase business performance. Whether you need a Sportsbook, Casino, Live Casino, Virtual sports or any other product, with one simple integration we can provide any product into your existing platform. Once integrated, an operator has full control over the look and feel of each product. Each product comes with a multifunctional back office, with an intuitive customisation module and CMS. One seamless API integration allows an operator to take advantage of all of the functionality within the Atlas CMS such as our powerful risk management and CRM tools.
As for our Atlas CRM System, it’s a fully automated marketing solution that allows you to manage all of your marketing and communication activities with your customers from one place. Rules based flows helps create specific personalised communication with each client, identify and trigger client group communication, boost the numbers of a campaign through powerful tools for in-depth marketing analysis, predict a campaign’s performance, and modify a campaign on the fly.
Its key features include real-time data collection and real-time triggered activities; unique content-creating tool for template management across any communication channel; client segmentation tool with myriad fine-grained triggers for client identification and grouping; messaging hub across all popular means of messaging and social channels
And finally, there’s our aforementioned risk management tools. These make up a wide-ranging toolbox for fully automated identification and restriction of fraudulent customers, and responsible management of your good customers. You no longer need to employ a huge team of risk analysts to weed out the “sharp” or “at-risk” customers. As an operator, all you need to do is create your own policies and rules, setup and manage categories and criteria in the constructor. The rule-flow powered engine analyses the client’s activities, and categorizes them for you. Core components include in-depth analytics which are mounted on over 200 triggers to manage client groups. Its two operational models are based on AML-scoring or trigger-based scoring and ably backed up by dedicated 24/7 support and training.
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