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Envisioning a world beyond bonuses

| By iGB Editorial Team | Reading Time: 3 minutes
With the industry’s most tried-and-tested incentives being curtailed by regulators across Europe, many operators are looking at new ways to attract and retain players. Among the alternative options being considered is free fantasy football, writes Jacob Kalms, CEO and co-founder of 20Shots.

Bonuses have long been one of the most relied-upon tools in online gambling operators’ armoury, and with good reason.

There’s no denying that bonuses are a proven way to both attract and retain players. But across Europe, rightly or wrongly, there seems to be a growing view among regulators that they might be working a bit too well for gambling companies and that this is to the detriment of players.

We’ve already seen countries such as Spain, Sweden and Denmark bring in restrictions on what bonuses operators can offer. France indicated last year that it intends to follow suit. The publication of the UK government’s Gambling Act review white paper, and now the Gambling Commission’s ongoing consultations, suggest changes could also be ahead in the UK.

But even before the threat of limits on their ability to use bonuses came into play, many operators had already started looking at alternate ways to engage players.

Giving fantasy football a shot

While they are undoubtedly effective, bonuses can also be expensive. This is especially true when one considers the number of players who abuse them.

For this reason, free-to-play games have been attracting operators’ attention for some time – fantasy football in particular.

In the past, some operators dismissed such games as appealing to those not willing to spend on real money betting. It’s easy to see why this attitude prevailed. After all, fantasy was always biggest in the US where, until the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was repealed, sports betting was largely illegal.

But fantasy football acted as more than just a bridge for the US market to move between being a non-gambling market to a gambling market. It also proved how much crossover there is between fantasy players and bettors. This is also true of the UK market. 

Before launching our Fantasy5 game back in 2021, we carried out field research where we surveyed 5,000 football fans outside stadiums in the UK. We found that 45% of people who bet on sports on a weekly basis were also playing fantasy football.

And, while in the past UK fantasy players were more casual than those in the US, this is definitely changing. The number of fantasy-related education sites and third-party products in the market has increased significantly of late. This can only be a good thing for the market.

Customer retention

The more popular fantasy becomes, the better it is as an acquisition and retention tool. Among new sign-ups to our UK partner sites the 30-day retention rate is 40%, the 90-day figure is 30% and the one-year figure is 22%.

The conversion rate from registration to first-time deposit is 15%. This comes at a cost much lower than other models of affiliation – at present our cost per registration in the UK is just £2.15.

Data from our operator partners shows that the average Fantasy5 user returns to their sites 2.3 times a week.

While it’s true these repeat visits may not immediately offer additional revenue to operators, they do improve lifetime value by keeping players coming back to their sites.

One of the other ways operators typically do this is by cross-selling bettors’ other products, such as casino. However, among the Gambling Commission’s proposals in the open consultation is that customers should be able to opt out of marketing communications by product vertical.

This suggests an operator might not be able to send a casino offer to a betting customer in the future. It seems likely it will still be able to send out communications offering its players fantasy football.

Therefore, fantasy may become an even more important tool to keep brands at the front of players’ minds. This is especially important when it comes to bettors, as some will only think about going to a betting site when their team is playing.

Offering them something additional that doesn’t cost them anything, but keeps them engaged, is a smart way of making sure that when their team is playing next, they play with the same operator. Because as is true of most industries, in gambling acquiring customers costs far more than retaining them.

Jacob Kalms is CEO and co-founder of 20Shots. Its main product is Fantasy5, a free-to-play fantasy football game that allows customers to win weekly jackpots and prizes. 20Shots has B2B partnerships with leading operators in the UK, Ireland and Brazil. 

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