Currently overseeing Playtech’s US expansion efforts from the company’s New York offices, Jonathan has spent the previous 10 years in a multitude of positions in the igaming industry. Through several roles at Playtech, he has contributed to the strategic growth of the company’s sports betting vertical. Following the acquisitions of Geneity (UK), Mobenga (Sweden) and Best Gaming Technology (Austria), Jonathan most recently served on the executive team as Director of Corporate Development for the newly created Playtech Sports arm, comprising over 600 employees in seven geographic locations.
It is no secret that online gambling, fuelled by sports betting, is continuing to expand in the US at an extraordinary rate, with more states passing laws to allow players to indulge in an ever-broader range of wagering options.
However, while downsides to such a trend on paper may seem unlikely from an industry perspective, a rush to establish a foothold can come back to haunt some companies in the sector.
With this in mind, Jonathan Doubilet, Playtech’s Vice President of Business Operations for the US, stresses the importance of operators selecting their suppliers carefully in order to negotiate challenges that extend beyond the immediate term drive for market share.
“A lot of operators who were quick to launch in the US are now experiencing buyer’s remorse due to the supplier playing field becoming more competitive,” Doubilet says. “Roughly half of the US population has access to sports betting and with lessons of the pandemic still fresh, brick and mortar operators and elected officials are re-evaluating how to generate revenue.
“As igaming opens across many more US states, thanks to precedents set in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and more recently, in Michigan, operators now need a supplier that can deliver a multi-product offering.
“Another key area of competition in the US is differentiation. As more operators enter the market, the more distinctive the offering must become, particularly in the more competitive, multi-skin markets. This is putting pressure on suppliers to deliver more enhanced, innovative products.”
One step at a time
Playtech’s own 2021 half-year results revealed a 106% rise in revenue for the US and Latin American markets, illustrating the “huge potential” for growth, Doubilet adds.
However, as he is keen to point out, while the US promises to be one of the company’s largest markets in the coming years – alongside the UK, Italy and Latin America – expanding in regulated states across the country “is a marathon, not a sprint”.
“There are several things that make the US market such a unique and invigorating opportunity,” Doubilet said. “The first and most obvious is the size of the opportunity there. Conservative market sizing estimates indicate that by 2025, the US can be a $24.4m GGR market, and that doesn’t include all 50 states and products.
“The next is regulation at the state level. Differing state regulations mean operators at the national level require a technology solution that functions at scale, but also can tailor its compliance and regulatory approach at the state level. We are continuing to progress the licensing process in new states to deliver more launches and licensees in 2022.
“Finally, the US is already a very sophisticated and developed market, both as a retail market, with lots of large and developed casinos leading the industry there for many years, and as a consumer market, with highly sophisticated online consumers who expect a seamless omnichannel experience from day one.”
Playtech has adopted a state-by-state approach in the US. For example, the company has established live casino studios in New Jersey and Michigan, but can also offer scalable technology solutions to multi-state and multi-product operators that are compliant across different jurisdictions.
According to Doubilet, this variable approach is underpinned by Playtech’s Player Account Management (IMS) platform, which is GLI-19 Certified – the de facto standard respected by most US regulators. The platform is also undergoing GLI-33 certification to support further sports betting opportunities.
“The IMS Platform is not only a certified platform, but is also integrated with leading US and international content providers, including IGT, Scientific Games and others,” Doubilet says. “It provides out-of-the-box support for major payment methods used across the regulated US states and is geolocation and KYC-ready for all state regulatory requirements, through integrations with GeoComply, and others.”
As an example of how such a platform can drive growth, Doubilet references Playtech’s expansion into Michigan back in April of this year with the launch of a mobile gaming app in partnership with platform provider Parx Interactive and the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi Indians.
“The scale and distribution of our platform and services is what attracted Parx to Playtech and we are proud to be the technology partner to support their ambitious growth plans,” he says.
A different ecosystem
Reflecting on how Playtech has endeavoured to establish long-term foundations for further growth in the US, Doubilet admits that recognising a “very different industry ecosystem” has been an essential move.
“A big difference is the highly sophisticated consumer market in the US, which expects, at a minimum, omni-channel functionality,” Doubilet explains.
“US consumers demand an engaging and intelligent digital experience and for this you need technology with scale and proven omni-channel capabilities. New Jersey alone sees $1,200 in annual turnover per adult on sports wagering, which is unparalleled in the regulated gaming world.
“Playtech has a time-tested and incredibly sophisticated in-house platform, meaning our true omni-channel offering is the go-to for top-tier customers who are looking to compete.”
In spite of the relatively nascent nature of the sector in the US, it is clear that savvy consumers who have sky-high expectations are forcing operators – and their suppliers – to tailor their approach in order to scale their business effectively.