Bryan Bennett was set up to succeed by social gaming

Bryan Bennett was set up to succeed by social gaming

The social casino boom of the early 2010s, sparked by what was then Caesars Interactive’s investment in Playtika in 2009, opened up a new audience to the gaming industry and triggered a wave of M&A.

The market leaders turned to the smaller challengers as acquisition targets due to the fact that they had to fight for market share.

Bryan Bennett was the vice president of marketing for Rocketplay, one of the challengers and one that was snapped up by AGS. Bennett moved into a career in real-money gaming after previously working for Kabam and Booyah.

He joined the sports betting wave in the States when he was named chief operating officer of Betfred USA Sports in 2019.

The 800lb gorillas are being fought

Sports betting appeals to an entirely different audience than social casino and looks set to have a more transformational and disruptive impact on the established real-money gaming sector. Bennett points out that the market dynamics of the two industries are very similar.

In terms of the macroeconomic forces at play, I think it is very similar, because we are talking about very different user bases, completely different target customers, and different technologies.

The social casino market played out very similar to what I am currently in, where I am fighting multiple 800lb gorillas on a regular basis.

Playtika, Scientific Games, and Aristocrat dominated the social gaming market, while companies like Rocketplay fought to carve out a niche. These companies are similar to those that dominate the betting market, such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars Sports.

He goes on to say that it is very similar now. Betfred is up against some really large companies with big brands and big budgets on a regular basis. Picking our spots and doing the things we need to do to be successful is what we are attempting to do.

Betfred and theBengals are going to bare their teeth in Ohio

The appetite to attack every state market as aggressively as some of its peers have done just isn’t there, and this means the business has to be strategic in picking its opportunities.

Bennett and Betfred have been looking for an opportunity to enter the Ohio market, and the partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals will give them that. Betfred will be in the first wave of launches in a state for the first time.

Bennett explains that the business has to fight to gain a foothold in states with smaller budgets and a smaller brand. He admits that it is challenging to not be in the first wave.

It will be the first time in Ohio that we are not only going out with a brand that is one of the largest in the state, but we are also going to be there on 1 January, the universal start day, alongside everyone else. We will be in an even playing field where we are ready to complete.

He says that this is the perfect time for Betfred to go big. We are going to devote a large portion of our marketing budget to Ohio. You will see us go bigger and be more competitive there as opposed to New Jersey.

There is more room for growth in the Maryland mobile market

States that are preparing for a universal start date are heavily featured in Betfred’s growth plans. Maryland is waiting for the launch of mobile betting, while Ohio is waiting for it.

Betfred has a partnership with Long Shot’s, a restaurant that offers off-track betting, as well as setting up a mobile sportsbook license, in the Old Line State.

We think we have a good chance of being in that first phase in Maryland as well, and as a result you will see us dedicate the marketing budget required to be successful there.

Betfred is a smaller player without the deep pockets of the brands that fight for supremacy in every state. That doesn’t mean that established markets are off limits. With Caesars preparing to dial down its spend, and the likes of Churchill Downs pulling back completely from sports betting, the business will alter its strategy based on the market conditions.

Betfred initially went heavy on bonusing in the states of Colorado and Arizona, but now is to take a more pragmatic approach. Bennett says that it is not a model that is a recipe for success. There is no loyalty when you are trying to compete on a transactional basis and trying to steal customers away. They are going to flip to the next person.

Across all the different operators there are bonus hunters that are doing that. We have decided not to play that game. Instead, we are more along the lines of developing an emotional connection, something deeper than just a thousand-dollar risk-free bet.

There are emotional connections in this picture

Betfred will focus on understanding players and focusing on the mid-level and elite crowd. Betfred doesn’t really have any use for casual bettors as they are more likely to flip from bonus to bonus.

We want to see something moving up that hierarchy so that we can serve that frequent player. We think in markets like Colorado, Arizona and Iowa that we can compete at that level because we are small and flexible enough to serve that core target group better than some of the larger entities can.

He says that this group is not necessarily made up of players who focus on the sportsbook product. Bennett believes that these customers are looking for a better experience overall. They like strong customer service that ensures any issues are dealt with immediately and they enjoy special experiences.

Betfred uses this final component as a key element. A lot of our sports sponsorships allow us to offer suites andVIP-level things, like meet and greets with players and autographs.

We can leverage that to provide a better experience for those players. We can really make that a calling card for Betfred, because we are finding something there.

Bennett points out that customer service is almost last in terms of what a prospective customer looks for in choosing a sportsbook, and that those tangible rewards are also an easier sell than customer service. “It doesn’t pop” is an acquisition hook.

Bonusing will still have a role to play in getting a player to give Betfred a try. That will allow them to analyse the individual’s behavior, deploy that level of customer service with a dedicated account manager, and cultivate them into a high value player.

The state of Iowa can be seen on the horizon

The business has recently migrated its Iowa sportsbook from Sportradar’s Optima to OpenBet in order to compete in the market with other states.

It is getting ready for a concerted marketing push around the start of the football season. We have never really done much in marketing in Iowa, so we are looking forward to this football season.

In our casino in the northwest corner of Iowa, we do well, but we were never competitive online. It has been a long time since we gave it a try online.

Betfred started out as a betting shop chain in England before branching out into an online operation. Bennett admits that the real success in the US has to come online.

Most of its business comes from South Dakota, he says, pointing out that its location means most of its business comes from the area. They are at the casino by the time they drive across the border.

For specific circumstances retail can be very successful, and we like having that anchor point. It is great for branding, great for customer experience, and we are able to do a lot of things with the location there. We are aware that the real success is going to come from online.

Bennett knows a thing or two about avoiding 800lb gorillas in the social casino sector, and he brings that experience to Betfred’s push for a position in the market.

Summary:

The sports betting industry is very similar to the social casino industry, according to Bryan Bennett, Chief Operating Officer of Betfred USA Sports. “I’m back in a position where I’m fighting somewhere like Churchill Downs on a regular basis, which is very similar to the way the social casino market played out,” he said. Bennett was hired by Betfred USA Sports in 2019.