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Unveiling the Dynamics of North American Sports Betting: Insights from Betsson’s Lance Agostino

Exploring the dynamic landscape of sports betting, particularly in the North American market, offers a unique glimpse into industry-wide trends and strategies. 

Xtremepush recently sat down with Lance Agostino, Commercial Director at Betsson Sportsbook, to get insights into North America. In this interview he provides his experiences into key surprises, strategic hacks, and future visions shaping the realm of sports betting and iGaming. 

From the rise of esports volumes to unexpected interests in nontraditional sports, Lance sheds light on navigating complexities and seizing opportunities in the fragmented North American market. 

With a focus on leveraging AI-driven features, developing in-house solutions, and emphasizing strategic partnerships, Betsson’s forward-looking approach underscores the importance of adaptability and innovation in driving success amidst evolving player trends and market dynamics.

Key Surprises and Learnings in North America

What were some of the key surprises that Betsson Sportsbook observed in the US and Canada in 2023 when it comes to player trends? Can you elaborate on the key learnings derived from these observations?

“Betsson underwent a lengthy product review and readiness exercise as we prepared the sportsbook product for North America, including total event offering, bet types (such as SGP), player props, and early payout, to name a few. We see significant contributions from those early initiatives. One surprise has been esport volumes. In Ontario for instance, we have seen six consecutive months of +150% growth in handle. Our global trading team has worked diligently to expand the total number of esports events which is reflected in our Colorado betting menu with a tenfold increase from when we launched in 2022.”

Strategic Hacks Contributing to Success

Throughout the year, were there any notable strategies or ‘hacks’ that significantly contributed to Betsson’s continued success in the North American market?

“In North America, the core sports and leagues are critical. However, one “hack” has been the Betsson sportsbook’s ability to offer a comprehensive betting catalog. However, we also see significant volume with sports such as table tennis in Colorado, European basketball leagues, and International League soccer.  A side note on the table tennis – the outsized volumes have been widely reported accounting for over 2% of all handle in Colorado.  We have seen table tennis volume in the double digits of total volume some months, which is astonishing when comparing against our Ontario operation where table tennis is a fraction of one percent most months.”

Europeans Entering North America

What are the challenges for European companies entering the North American sports betting industry? Is it a difficult market to crack?

“The first challenge is that North America is not a singular market; it’s currently 38 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico (and Ontario if we include Canada). The established hurdles getting open in many of those jurisdictions make scaling difficult – mixed with the costs to acquire players and it’s a challenging assortment.”

The Role of AI, Gamification, and Real-Time Features

Regarding capabilities, could you share insights on where Betsson Sportsbook envisions the role of AI, gamification, and real-time features within its player retention strategy? How do these elements also play a pivotal role in driving the loyalty strategy?

“We’ve seen initial iterations of AI driving suggested bets, which is a growing category for the Betsson Sportsbook. In the future, we’ll continue to see more investment in “parlay anything” functionality and the role AI will have in sourcing and pricing the markets for individual users. I also believe we will see AI or some adjacent technology continue to  bridge the gap to non-traditional sports betting audiences – things like more intuitive betting menus, real-time contextualized markets, or eliminating the endless scrolling during super bowl props.”

Betsson Doubling Down

Looking now to 2024, what specific areas is Betsson planning to emphasize or “double down” on? Are there particular focuses on martech or other strategic investments?

“Betsson recently acquired Kickertech for a host of reasons but an initial benefit to our North American business will be an in-house bet-builder product. North American players are avid users of parlay functionality and we only see this trend continuing – the ability to develop our own solution and math models will be a key focus in 2024.”

North American Operators: How to become Successful

What advice would you offer to the Sports Betting industry in North America, particularly to fellow operators, based on Betsson’s experiences and successes?

“Our advice to potential operators as they consider entering Sports Betting is to focus on their strengths. Staffing, for instance, many organizations use a mix of dedicated and shared resources – getting live with sports betting should be similar. Use dedicated resources for the things the organization already does well and identify great partners to support the areas that are new or developing.”  

iGaming Navigation

For those in the iGaming space, particularly in states that are progressively opening up, what advice would you give to navigate the unique challenges and opportunities in the evolving landscape? 

“I helped launch (in a separate product role) the Golden Nugget online casino in 2013.  We thought igaming expansion was imminent at that time. I was with a different sports betting and igaming operator during PASPA. We thought igaming expansion was imminent at that time. So, my initial advice is not to count on rapid expansion anytime soon. Rather, sensibly enter the market, manage expansion, establish variable costs that allow for efficient scaling, and find creative ways to acquire players.”

Key Takeaways

Player Trends:

  • High esports volume, especially in Ontario and Colorado, with a 150% growth in handle in the former.
  • Strong interest in nontraditional American sports and European leagues. For example, table tennis accounted for 2% of overall handle in Colorado.

Success Strategies:

  • Comprehensive betting catalog.
  • Managed services model for cost-efficient entry.

Challenges:

  • Fragmented North American market with high entry barriers.
  • Rapid acquisition costs.

Future Vision:

  • AI-driven features like “parlay anything” and personalized markets.
  • Developing an in-house bet builder product.

Advice for Operators:

  • Focus on existing strengths and partner for new expertise.
  • Manage acquisition costs and scale efficiently.
  • Don’t expect rapid expansion in iGaming.

Additional Notes:

  • Betsson highlights the importance of adapting to local preferences and offering a diverse betting catalog.
  • They see AI as a key driver of engagement and personalization in the future.
  • Entering the North American market requires careful planning and strategic partnerships.

The Betsson Sportsbook trading and managed services model allows a cost-efficient, Go-To-Market solution by keeping ramp-up costs low as operators get established and eventually bring more services in-house. Learn more about Betsson here.

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