Jordan Levin on the future of OpenBet
Jordan Levin, the chief executive officer of Gaming Intelligence Awards headline sponsor OpenBet, predicts a rosy future for his company outside the Scientific Games umbrella
OpenBet is OpenBet once more. How will the new OpenBet differ from SG’s OpenSports and how do you envisage the offering after the integration of IMG’s services?
Our ability to become more agile is a game changer. Not just for us, but the entire sports betting entertainment industry. The new OpenBet is quick, modern, innovative and modular. Crucially, it allows for differentiation within our product offering. Increasingly we’re seeing how sports content, media and betting experiences are blending together and our proposition needs to reflect this. We will soon receive access to unparalleled sports rights, content and data across the Endeavor portfolio. That’s massive. Under the Endeavor banner, it will unleash unchartered territory and significant potential for OpenBet to evolve once again.
We’re now expanding into a full scale sports betting entertainment provider. To make this possible, content is highly critical. We already offer the widest range of markets, and now we want to deliver more immersive experiences. Partnering with Endeavor will help us achieve our goals. They are leaders within entertainment, sports and content, and so fusing the best of what OpenBet has to offer into their overall offering not only strengthens Endeavor’s proposition but also our own capabilities.
You have rebranded OpenBet ahead of the sale to Endeavor. How much thought did you give to a new brand that might have shaken off any lingering doubts about old technology (a frequent criticism in the past)?
The power of the OpenBet brand is too strong to ignore. OpenBet is 25 years young and we want to ensure its future for the next 25 years and beyond. Our technology stack is built on solid foundations and continues to deliver on the biggest occasions. You only have to look at our performance of zero downtime during the Super Bowl compared to other providers to understand why OpenBet has built a deserved reputation for being robust and trustworthy.
Old but trusted technology that still performs should not be neglected. Did you know that NASA’s highly sophisticated computer hardware setup onboard the Orion spacecraft includes two IBM PowerPC 750X single-core processors, which have been in use since 2002? These dinosaur chips are no faster than modern smartphones, yet NASA still uses them. Why? Because they’re totally reliable, and that’s huge when you’re building for the future. We don’t compromise the trust placed in us by switching out tiny parts of our system for vanity reasons. We surround our reliable foundations with state-of-the-art technology and services that are designed never to fail.
Of course, we also know full well that standard, indistinguishable technology has no place in today’s marketplace. OpenBet were among the pioneers of the original online betting wave at the end of the last millennium, but trends change. Demand for better and more seamless experiences keeps on increasing.
From our perspective, it’s now about adding further value to the OpenBet brand. Content is one such area that will help us grow. The SportCast acquisition has already strengthened our content portfolio with the pioneering BetBuilder product included within that. SportCast co-founder and Managing Director Ryan Coombs and his team have some visionary plans to take the concept further, including a total shake-up of the in-play betting experience. This is where we’re at with OpenBet. Exploring new spaces that drive better margins and performance for our customers.
Another good example is our Arena platform. The industry’s only sports content aggregation network. It provides operators with a wealth of third-party and proprietary content options to offer their players, all via one seamless integration. If you’re a CTO of a highly scaled, market leading operator, you don’t want your engineering teams doing endless content integrations. You want them engineering a better experience from front to back for your players. It’s meticulous work that is the difference between winning and losing – especially in regions as competitive as North America.
Do you believe in omnichannel? The US market looks like the ideal place for it with land-based casinos (generally) holding the keys to market access. But not everyone has chosen to go down that route. Flutter, for example, uses OpenBet for online and IGT for retail. Do you have other clients who are making a success of omnichannel?
A seamless omnichannel approach is becoming very important in the US market for land-based operators wanting to migrate players from retail to online, and vice versa. Our recent partnership with Golden Nugget proves this. In New Jersey, our retail solution is powering the sportsbook at Golden Nugget’s casino resort, which is complemented with our digital technology and services delivering a quality online sports betting experience. Whether a customer wants to place a bet at a retail venue, or head online as well on their mobile device, OpenBet has the ability to provide a quality omnichannel experience. Golden Nugget is one of the biggest names in our industry, so for the operator to entrust our products across online and retail clearly shows our credentials.
All operators have their own requirements, which is why having a modular portfolio is key. We’re proud of our long-term partnership with Flutter, which spans over 20 years. We can be agile and provide them with the technology they require to support their operations, while we can also deliver a more comprehensive solution to another customer that is tailored to their expectations.
The consolidation driven by the US market has been astonishing during the past year. How much of this has been driven by US operators wanting to own their own technology and how does that affect OpenBet going forward?
It’s an interesting development, and a trend we have observed closely given our position in the market. What I would say on the matter is that through experience, it’s a process that comes full circle. Operators often have an ambition to own their entire technology, which is understandable given how it would provide them with total control over operations, but such a route is sometimes flawed. The sheer volume of work and costs required to manage and evolve technology is ultimately what turns operators back to third party support.
There’s a balancing act to be found for those wanting as much control over their technology as possible. Don’t forget, we are constantly experimenting with new technology and evolving our tech stack ahead of everyone else. Unless an operator has a vast budget to play with, they’re unlikely to stay ahead of the curve compared to more focused technology provider such as OpenBet.
Talk to us about the differences between continents. Does the OpenBet product differ between North and South America, Europe and Asia? Or do different operators use it differently?
There are certain nuances in terms of features. That’s driven from existing betting behavior and we can differentiate our offering to make it more relatable to bettors within certain markets. Localization is key. It’s certainly an area we’ve significantly improved upon since entering the US market following the repeal of PASPA.
Ultimately, OpenBet’s core offering and values remain the same across the globe. Customers can expect a robust and stable performance from our technology, layered with exciting content that brings an elevated sports betting experience.
What will be the key issues for the sports betting market over the next year?
Again, it’s about understanding the new sports betting game. We’re not just competing with our industry peers, but with the wider entertainment sector too. That means continuing to develop productised technology and layer in content and experiences that keeps players immersed and coming back for more. The US is driving this, much more than the European market. The legalized US market is still in its infancy but expanding at pace, open to fresh ideas and exploring how the user experience can evolve. Europe is mature but will soon need to catch up and move away from legacy experiences when they witness what is happening in the States.
And finally, what are your long-term aspirations for OpenBet?
Redefining sports betting entertainment is the ultimate goal. The access to unparalleled sports rights, content and data from across the Endeavor portfolio will help to achieve our ambition. It’s an incredibly exciting time for everyone associated with OpenBet and there’s great anticipation for the future.
We want to challenge the status quo and bring something new to the industry. That means investing in the right talent to help expand our operations and bring further innovation to the table. OpenBet operates with the focus and precision of F1 pit crews, passionate and highly-skilled individuals who are integral to the overall operation during a live sporting event. That’s the kind of talent we’re after!