Convergence is key

29th May 2020 | By Josephine Watson

Recent months have led to rapid evolution and adaptation in igaming. Uri Poliavich looks to what he believes will be a more diverse and flexible future

Uri Poliavich is the co-founder and chief business development officer at Casino and sportsbook group Soft2Bet. In the four years since the company’s inception he has been instrumental in its rapid global expansion. He is responsible for B2C online activities across Europe and LATAM and runs day-to-day online gaming operations which have helped the company enhance its growing reputation. The dust is beginning to settle after the initial impact of COVID-19, and businesses can begin to look towards recovery. However, the future remains unclear – with the virus still lingering and a vaccine still absent, industries the world over must begin to assess what their version of the “new normal” is. As well as impacting online sports betting, this holds true especially for land-based operators and suppliers, and especially those with a singular, specific focus and no digital arm. This is the view of Uri Poliavich, co-founder and chief business development officer at Soft2Bet, a company originally launched with a B2C focus that has since expanded to offer its services to the B2B market. Commenting on this, he says: “Faced with a lot of industry difficulties and market peculiarities, Soft2bet decided to focus on B2B to provide experienced services for our clients, focused on product promotion and not operational part. “From the other hand our clients can bring fresh blood and experience for us as B2B solution to hear market voices promptly.”

The COVID-19 effect

For Poliavich, the biggest takeaway from COVID-19’s impact on the industry is that it serves as the ultimate proof that companies should always be able to diversify their offerings to the customers. “We already knew the “one-man-show” approach doesn’t work. Now, the lockdown has pushed the online and virtual industry to limits never seen before.” he says that the situation also lends itself to innovation, with different verticals coming to the fore: “Online casinos, esports betting products and virtual sports have let industry survive. Moreover, the lockdown has already formed a new set of consumer habits. “When the world returns to a normal lifestyle, esports will have a formed consumer cluster and it will continue to grow.“ While these changes may be welcomed by some as the next phase of igaming commences, it does necessitate change from operators used to functioning on a one – or even two-vertical basis. Poliavich says the situation calls for flexibility and diversity: “It’s time to expand your options. Casino and sports betting mixed. Leverage traditional and virtual events. Explore content localisation as well as maximising general player engagement. “That’s our receipt, and that’s how we are developing and keep growing.”

Make the change

So, should operators start from scratch, building player bases from the ground-up, or should they look to transition bettors typically focused on sports betting, for example, to other verticals? Poliavich says: “It depends on resources you have. Doing it from scratch is the most expensive option.” “If you are limited in your own funds, use your R&D team’s abilities to switch players to other vertical environments, incorporating your management and marketing team’s experience.” The other option, he suggests, is collaborating with a supplier with a B2B business model. In his experience at Soft2Bet, this seems to be how many are approaching the situation. “Now we have a boom of such deals, and our partners are coming to us and investing in multiple projects in parallel, preferring to share the risk and relying on our expertise here.” The question on the minds of many, however, is how much return of investment such changes might have if, when the pandemic ends, business goes back to normal. While Poliavich feels that we are already seeing the early stages of recovery for the sports betting industry, some evolutions triggered by COVID-19 will not revert. “As I have mentioned before, consumer habits have already changed. Virtual sports, esports, and live casinos received new blood, and these providers have significant profit now to invest in quality content and new technologies development.” This, he says will also impact the playing field for the industry as an ecosystem, too: “The landscape of exhibitions will be changed – you will see a lot newcomers with a variety of sports and eye catching solutions to enhance operators’ portfolios.”