Q&A with Lee-Ann Johnstone on ICE Totally Gaming 2017

Q&A with Lee-Ann Johnstone on ICE Totally Gaming 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

ICE is a great place to take stock of the industry’s recent evolution and where it’s heading. Following this year’s conference at ExCeL London, we chatted with Paysafe’s Lee-Ann Johnstone, VP of Business Development & Marketing (Income Access), to get her take on iGaming in 2017 and beyond. The marketing veteran held forth on industry M&A, Latin America and growth verticals like daily fantasy sports and eSports.

Totally Gaming: Which industry news made a difference at ICE this year?

Lee-Ann Johnstone: Tightening regulation in various markets for both iGaming and financial trading brands has meant that operators in both industries are looking for innovative solutions to mitigate and overcome these challenges and maximise their overall ROI. This includes the fields of processing payments, digital marketing and affiliate marketing.

As in the previous year, the impact of big-name mergers and acquisitions in the gambling space continued to drive conversations at ICE in 2017. This wave of M&A has meant an increasing consolidation of products and platforms, and it has also facilitated the entry of brands into new markets.

In this context, Paysafe’s recent acquisitions and growth were unsurprisingly of high interest to operators and service providers at ICE – including the Group’s acquisition of Income Access last September.

Totally Gaming: What did you feel was different this year to last in terms of what operators and players are interested in?

LAJ: New and regulating markets were of great interest to operators. With Brazil currently considering gambling legislation, a number of brands at ICE discussed the possibility of South America’s largest economy and most populated country launching a regulated iGaming market this year. These brands were often looking for marketing support to enter this potential market. Mexico was another emerging market on operators’ radars.

At a vertical level, daily fantasy sports (DFS) frequently came up in conversation in London, especially following the launch of FanDuel UK last summer and FanDuel’s and DraftKings’ merger back in November. The attitude towards DFS in Europe has changed slightly, as it hasn’t had quite as much traction as expected. That said, iGaming brands, particularly smaller ones, are still interested in the potential crossover between DFS and traditional sports-betting.

Another focus for operators at ICE was leveraging big data and how marketing insights can help eliminate digital ad spend wastage. More and more operators are looking to find ways to track and interpret their data to fine-tune communications targeting player segments and increase their overall conversions. Data is also increasingly important to digital marketers as competition for player traffic increases.

Totally Gaming: What were some of the buzz topics at ICE?

LAJ: Daily fantasy sports and eSports betting were still very much buzz words. There remains quite a few misconceptions about the two opportunities, but many iGaming operators are actively exploring the potential of both.

Affiliates are getting interested in these verticals too and are experimenting with the crossover with their existing databases to further monetise their businesses. Operators’ education of affiliates on DFS and eSports wagering will be key in 2017, as they dip their toes into this space. There is an important opportunity for affiliates to leverage value in both DFS and eSports, as neither vertical is currently as competitive as traditional iGaming verticals like sports-betting.

Another hot topic at ICE was virtual reality. As examples, NetEnt’s VR casino games and IGT’s VR table games are helping support brands’ penetration of new markets in which they did not previously have great visibility among B2C audiences. VR is enabling brands to position themselves at the forefront of the online gambling experience. It also creates an online bridge for brands with an offline gambling or retail betting focus.

Totally Gaming: Are there any other ICE trends you noticed?

LAJ: There are more and more gaming products on the market that are addressing niche areas of marketing for businesses. Even companies that are not focused primarily on iGaming are looking to iGaming as a growth opportunity. Companies like Captain Up, with its in-game messaging products, and the CRM tool OtherLevels had a significant presence at ICE in 2017. Basically, this is a strong indication that iGaming is a growth industry – which is, of course, good news for everyone!

With almost two decades’ experience in digital marketing in a range of sectors, Lee-Ann Johnstone oversees the Income Access marketing and business development teams at Paysafe Group. Previous roles within Paysafe, and at Centrebet and PartyGaming honed her expertise in iGaming-focused affiliate marketing and acquisition.

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