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Betsson CEO: opportunities and fallacies in the gaming industry

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Betsson CEO, Ulrik Bengtsson, discusses the drivers behind gambling's uptake of technology and data, and how it differs from his past in the broadcasting industry.

Ulrik Bengtsson is the CEO of Betsson Malta, an international internet company operating over 15 brands across Europe, including Betsson.com, Betsafe.com and Nordicbet.com.


The driving force behind the rapid adoption of technology in the gambling industry has always been the player.

When I joined this sector from broadcasting, technology advancements in gambling was slow because established companies here didn’t interact with technology: they operated almost entirely online, but acted in an offline manner.

“Let’s go buy a lot of TV advertising and then sit back and wait for customers to arrive.”

It was incredibly old school. If the industry dictated its own trajectory then we would still be acting in this way: passive, reactive, distrustful of change.

Fortunately, it is the player that has forced us, and other industries, to change our strategies and modernize to drive technology advancements in gambling. And modernize quickly.

That’s because their preferences have rapidly changed, and in order to stay relevant, a business must match this pace, which some companies have mastered already.

I looked at our site and I compared it directly with popular sites with customers, think Google and Amazon, and compared usability, flow and seamlessness between devices and interfaces with our own. I realised almost immediately that we had a long journey ahead of us.

To come full circle then, our journey to drive technology advancements in gambling is player driven to match the quality of experience that’s expected of large brands today.

You can only reach that quality, however, by finetuning your approach to target specific demographics and provide experiences that are both personalized and relevant.

This is why I’m a big believer and preacher of data.

Right now, there is a lot of talk and chatter about the wealth of information we have obtained, the knowledge of our customers it provides and the insights that that facilitates. In truth we haven’t started seeing the true potential of data, and that’s because we still do not know how to use it effectively.

Banks are susceptible to this fallacy.

Some of the largest banks in the world boast about their quantity of data and how well they use it and yet they still can’t qualify where you are in the world based on your spending habits.

I was recently in Barcelona where my card was declined. I called my bank; I had paid for my flights and my hotel reservations using that same credit card, so they had the necessary data of my future plans, but didn’t act upon it, forcing me to clarify my whereabouts and stall my plans for that day.

The conclusion was a terrible experience for me, despite the necessary tools being in place to make this a seamless consumer-brand transaction.

Therefore, you constantly have to ask yourself how to smooth your offering, whether you are in the fintech space or in the gambling industry, and data is now an essential part of that process.

Which is why we have made some significant investments to make sure our technology advancements in gambling plan includes data throughout.

For example, we have brought in a chief data officer to ensure that we stay at the forefront of our analytical offerings. This has significantly improved our infrastructure around data-led analytics and our processing power of large data sets. Technology wise, we have incorporated Hadoop to gain more insights from both our structured and unstructured data sets.

Back in broadcasting, I think we were clearly under investing in our technological capabilities and you can get a kickstart with some really smart, capable, people.

We now have over 400 engineers and without those development teams, we wouldn’t be able to launch our vision to drive technology advancements in gambling.

Our investments in both talent and technology in this area has also helped us own another strong trend in this industry: omni channel optimization.

It’s true that mobile as a medium is important: around the entire group, around 40% of all revenue comes via a mobile device, however it is now more important to make sure your product(s) can operate across all devices, seamlessly.

Recognizing which trends to invest in therefore is a high priority, and when you’re considering which tools to invest in, it’s no longer about sweeping transitions, but rather smaller iterations.

Invest in different tools from different vendors to solve smaller problems continually; think like a startup.

The last piece of the innovation puzzle that benefits advancements in gambling is all the regulatory requirements that we in this industry have to report to.

It directly affects the landscape in which the industry operates in, but it is also a factor of driving technological development – so should not be dismissed – as it forces you to become more efficient with your services.

It’s a macro development that changes between states, countries and continents which, despite being a challenge, is also an opportunity for your brand to create systems that can handle any regulation, no matter the constructed framework.

With these developments and trends in mind, it’s extremely difficult to predict how technology advancements in gambling will play out next year, in five years time, or 10.

Will there be a further dimension past mobile? Absolutely. What will that look like? No-one knows, yet.

What is apparent to many of us though is that these investments in technology, talent and data require a certain amount of capital, and so expect to see continued consolidation in order for brands to reach the size and scale that best facilitates the rapid adoption of technology, brought about by a new breed of player.