Interview with Tom Light (VP at SBTech)

Exactly a year ago, we had the chance to interview you for EEG Report Magazine, Issue 3. First of all, tell us the main SBTech headlines over the past 12 months.

The past year has been one of the most exciting in the history of SBTech. Key partnerships with leading omni-channel operators and state lotteries have enabled us to enter a series of newly regulated markets, each offering massive growth potential.

Uptake of the SBTech Blue semi-managed sportsbook has increased dramatically, giving operators instant access to every betting market and allowing them to adjust the odds, payout ratio and maximum win amount for any of them. As a natural progression from a fully managed sportsbook, it provides our partners with major advantages when it comes to brand differentiation and promotions.

Meanwhile, the rollout of a series of new player features, ranging from Flexible Cash Out and Add to Bet to ‘ProAct,’ our ground-breaking proprietary CRM tool, has enhanced user experience across the board. We’ve also recently launched our complete suite of fully managed services, delivering truly comprehensive marketing and CRM solutions to operators across retail, web and mobile.

The company you represent is the biggest global B2B sports betting provider and is aggressively entering the US market. What can you tell us about your plans? 

With the impending changes in regulation affecting online sports betting and casino gaming, we are currently in the process of applying for licences in various U.S. states, including New Jersey and Nevada.

We’ve already signed deals with a number of major US operators to provide our full suite of products, are currently setting up an office in Las Vegas, and will be announcing our entry into the market by sponsoring the G2E conference in Vegas in October.

We have various product innovations and localised offerings in the pipeline specifically for U.S. players, based on our deep knowledge of American sports, and are relishing the opportunity to introduce up-and-coming operators to the unique advantages offered by our Chameleon360 iGaming platform.

Which are the odd variations that your company offers?

While many our partners take advantage of our fully managed services package, the semi-managed SBTech Blue solution is now the choice of a growing number of operators. It enables them to directly manage any market within their sportsbook while leaving the rest to be controlled by us.

The operator can therefore employ a relatively small team of traders, who are experts in specific fields such as local sports leagues or major competitions, safe in the knowledge that the provider will manage all other markets.

Semi-managed is a natural progression from fully managed – as an operator grows, they inevitably want more control without necessarily wanting to invest additional resources in fully managing the operation.

Which SBTech products are the most popular?

The cutting edge Chameleon360 iGaming platform is at the heart of SBTech’s entire solution, giving operators access to an enormous variety of reports and features used for the day-to-day management of their online sportsbook, casino or omni-channel operation.

The range of options included within Chameleon360 and its user-friendly design has made it the go-to product for dozens of leafing operators. It contains a powerful CMS, a comprehensive communications centre with the newly added ProAct chat tool, a fully configurable automated bonus system and flexible payment gateway integrations.

One of the most heavily used reports is the real-time Bets Monitor, which provides a live view of all bets, including all rejected and cashed out bets. The filtering options within the report allow operators to see exactly what bets are being placed on specific markets or events, and these stats can easy be exported for further analysis.

What upcoming events is the company currently focusing on and how prepared are you for them?

The upcoming Betting on Sports conference in London is one major event where we’ll have a significant presence. Ian Bradley, our Chief Product Officer will be part of the panel on Innovation and Business Development on Day 1, and we’re very much looking forward to meeting with many of our partners and associates to discuss ways to push the boundaries of our industry.

We’re also looking forward to the second edition of the Central and Eastern European Gaming (CEEG) Conference and Awards in Budapest. After winning the award for Best Sports Betting Provider at last year’s inaugural event, we’re hoping for further success, both for ourselves and our partners in this crucial region which includes a number of exciting, newly regulated markets.

At the G2E conference in Las Vegas, we’ll be hosting a dinner party for prospective clients while we watch the MLB Wild Card game. This will be an opportunity for potential partners to learn more about our platform solution, sportsbook product and complete range of managed services.

Then in November, there’s the EiG conference in Berlin, where we’ll be hosting an intensive workshop for sports betting operators, focusing on various new technological and behavioural trends impacting the industry.

SBTech recently collected the Best In-Play Betting Software award at the annual EGR B2B Awards for the second consecutive year, cementing its status as the industry leader in Live Betting. Congratulations! What does this award mean to you? Does it inspire you?

We were very proud to win the Best In-Play Betting Software award once again. There’s no doubt that live betting is the future of the industry, especially with the continuing rise in prominence of mobile gaming. So, as the biggest B2B sportsbook solution provider, it’s important for us to underline our commitment to innovation in in-play and continuously push the boundaries.

We are always focused on taking the product forward, to give our customers even more exciting and attractive live betting features and options. One of the major development areas is in Fast Markets – giving players the opportunity to bet on what will happen in the next minute or 5 minutes of a game has proven to be particularly popular and we are now taking these markets to the next level. As technology advances the sky really is the limit when it comes to in-play, with bespoke player messaging using BI likely to become even more focused on live events.

Tell us about SBTech’s plans regarding the 2018 FIFA Football Cup, and the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. How is the company preparing for these massive sports events, and what new products and services will be launched this time?

At major international football tournaments, acca/combo bets are always popular, since there’s so much action happening on a daily basis. That’s why we’re working on various new acca-based betting features that will appeal to the casual bettors that high-profile events like the World Cup attract.

And whilst the Olympics haven’t traditionally been a major focus for sports betting operators, we’re also working several live betting functionalities designed to cater to those who might not have detailed knowledge of certain winter sports, but who relish the thrill of the moment and want a real stake in the outcome.

Which has been your most gratifying experience since you started working at SBTech?

One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is seeing start-ups grow into major players. That’s exactly what happened with SBTech client Bet PT, which went from a standing start to become the biggest operator in the Portuguese regulated market, hitting GGR of €50 million just a few months after launch and now commanding over 67% market share.

Another very gratifying experience is when operators move over to our sportsbook and platform from a rival solution. Spanish operator Luckia is a good example of a major player which was able to dramatically improve performance across all its KPIs, including margin, average bet amount and player engagement, partly through offering a far wider range of live events, an area in which SBTech is a recognised industry leader.

At the end of the day, success for our partner operators equates to success for SBTech, and it’s only through close collaboration and constant communication that effective, productive and profitable relationships can be created.

What is your personal opinion about the gambling industry in general, in Europe, or in any other regions?

The rapid pace of regulation over the past few years, both in Europe and globally, has created numerous opportunities for agile providers to establish new partnerships and deliver consistent growth. It’s certainly a very exciting time to be working in the iGaming industry, but I’m certain that the best is yet come. Technological advances are already driving ever-increasing levels of personalisation.

If you could change anything about the world of gambling, what would it be?

I think there’s always been a reluctance amongst sports bettors to reveal their selection and strategies. But now that we’ve entered the era of the social media star, I’d like to see more players sharing their tactics and successes with a wider audience, in the way that social trading has shaken up the world of forex.

It all comes down to how you view betting – whether you think there’s something shameful about it, or if you understand that there’s no reason players shouldn’t have the opportunity to be rewarded for their knowledge and passion – as they would be in virtually any other field.

Who is your favorite actor or actress?

I’m a huge fan of Michael Fassbender. He’s just a magnetic screen presence and, more importantly, he’s a genuinely versatile actor. That appeals to me in terms of the nature of our industry, where flexibility and the ability to adapt are at the core of everything we do.

Where do you travel to the most in Central Europe?

With key partners Sky Bet, Bet90 and Sunmaker in Germany, I’m currently spending a lot of time in the EU’s economic powerhouse.

Our partnership with SAZKA, the Czech Republic’s state lottery also takes me to Prague on a regular basis. We’re now partnering with numerous state lotteries, and this represents a key element of our global strategy.

And with several new clients soon to launch in Poland, I’m visiting Warsaw very frequently right now.

Is there anywhere in in Central Europe that you are not interested in and would not like to visit?

That’s a strange question! I’ve been fortunate to travel widely all over Central Europe and I have to say there’s nowhere in the region I wouldn’t like to visit.

Due to the sensitivity of operations in Asian markets, we feel it is more appropriate to focus on the US market, in which we are taking steps to establish SBTech as industry leaders.