iGaming Super Show - Day 1 round-up

13 July 2017

The 2017 iGaming Super Show got off to its usual bustling start in Amsterdam on Wednesday as four conference streams focused on affiliates, betting, top level executives and innovation. iGaming Business brings you a round-up of the first day’s main news and talking points from those conferences.

A mobile first world
Over in the affiliate conference, Bastian Grimm, director of organic search and founder of search agency Peak Ace, pictured below, said that with 60% of all searches taking place on a mobile or tablet device affiliates needed to concentrate on improving websites for mobile.

This is even more so as Google announced in October 2016 that it would soon be introducing mobile first indexing, the only question being when. Speculation over the timing says mid-2018 but it’s an open question.  

There were many issues that were unresolved and Grimm said that Google had tried to answer some of them.  

Grimm explained that when carrying out a mobile search during the Oscars, 80% of the results were ads/links that were owned by the search giant. 

So organic search has a very tough time finding a spot on those mobile pages; leaving many affiliates out in the cold, highlighting Google’s deliberate move towards mobile.

It will still only have one algorithm, there will not be an interim period where both desktop and mobile sites will be used on two algorithms — due to this it is important for affiliates to act as soon as possible to improve their mobile search results, with the emphasis on page speed and site performance.

“Speed is of the essence for mobile,” said Grimm. The speed of loading a web page is currently checked on desktop sites by Google, but this will soon change over to mobile as well, so mobile site pages must load quickly, “47% of people will leave a site if not served in two seconds”, he said.

With 90% of people using up to four devices when interacting with a website, Grimm said “it is important to have websites with pre-defined breaking points so you can serve all devices, the only solution to make it work is to deliver whatever screen size is needed”.

Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) are currently being pushed by Google, Grimm said they were “insanely fast” but also “very slim and minimalistic”, so affiliates should be careful.

He clarified that although there were no answers to some questions such as how links will work (mobile platforms have less links) and whether some sites will be switched to being ranked based on mobile before others, the most important factor was responsiveness when taking a mobile first strategy.

State of igaming, more M&A for affiliates
In the SBC Betting Forum, Scott Longley, a regular iGaming Business editorial contributor, gave an acute summary of the state of the UK betting and gaming industry and where it was headed this year and beyond.

He referenced the most recent iGaming Businesses market monitor and asked if the UK market was heading for a cliff edge?

Guy Harding from Oddschecker, who spoke later in the day,  recently discussed for iGaming Business whether punters are price sensitive

'Maybe' was the answer to Longley's question on whether the UK market was heading for a cliff edge, but rather than being caused by Brexit, he explained, the problems faced by the betting and gaming industry in the country were more likely economic and regulatory based.

The UK gambling market is currently valued at £4.5bn and is still growing, albeit at a slower pace than before, but the key issue is that this year will see a lot of regulatory changes implemented.

The CMA is investigating operators’ terms and conditions, with Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill subject to potential enforcement actions and Longley pointed out that the Information Commissioner's Office said in November “it was investigating 400 gambling affiliate marketing companies for improperly using people’s marketing data”. 

On top of this there is the Government Triennial Review, looking at limiting FOBT stakes and gambling on TV, and last but not least the introduction of point of consumption tax to gaming bonuses, which will particularly affect bingo operators.

Along with regulatory changes coming into force, consumer spending is slowing down as inflation outpaces wage growth. Longley emphasised: “As much as gambling is recession resilient, it is not recession proof.”

Despite these changes looming smaller online gaming operators have been growing and there is still a bit appetite for further M&A.

Kindred bought up 32Red this year and was the most recumbent major deal.

Longley explained that although the UK government’s investigation into FOBTs could potentially result in a stake reduction from £100 to £2, it would mainly affect operators with physical betting shops, as opposed to online operators.

“GVC is still in the mood and won’t be held back by the high street. It is the most well placed to snapping up acquisitions when it comes to gaming,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the affiliate sphere, Catena Media has made a big splash in the industry since launch and is currently offering very good money for affiliates. “I’ve counted 22 deals since November 2014,” he said, and there is seemingly little to stop the group and others completing more deals.

“There will be more consolidation in the coming months but what happens beyond that for the industry is harder to assess,” he concluded.

Lottoland as lottery disrupter
In the iGaming Executive Conference Room, Nigel Birrell, chief executive of Lottoland, discussed how his company was disrupting the lottery space.

Launched in 2013, Lottoland, which predominately uses a lottery betting model, is active in 10 countries with its biggest markets being the UK, Australia and Germany. The Gibraltar-based company said it had six million active players last year.

Birrell said: “I’m not sure if we are a disrupter, more an innovator. The good news about the lottery market is that it is a big market, you can slip in without anyone noticing, and by the time they have noticed you are seen as a disrupter.”

Lottoland has faced increasing scrutiny over the past year, one of its main opponents is the UK National Lottery provider Camelot, which has been lobbying strongly against it.

Birrell pointed out that Camelot has two employees monitoring Lottoland and contacting the UKGC if the company makes any false steps. “We have to avoid words like tickets,” he said.

Lottery is a very lucrative market for Lottoland. “One in every two Europeans play lottery and it is five times the size of the world taxi and limousine market,” said Birrell, who sees the company as aiding “lottery tourism”.

Despite Lottoland’s success the UK authorities are keeping a close eye on its activities and Birrell said the future for some of its products was unclear. “They want to squash this market before it gets any bigger,” he said.

However, the Lottoland chief executive was upbeat about the company’s growth and future as it aims to be the top international betting lottery provider.

He said that on the back of some of big recent deals with Kindred Group and William Hill in Australia, Lottoland was also working on “half a dozen acquisitions”.

The future of SEO
The final SEO panel of the day looked at the future of SEO and featured consultant Julia Logan (aka IrishWonder), Nichola Stott of The Media Flow, Luke Ormerod of Blueclaw and Andy Blackburn of GameOn.

Once again mobile was a hot topic and all agreed that speed was the issue, with page loading times needing to be decreased as much as possible before Google’s switch.

Nichola Stott said: “The biggest point of emphasis for us is efficiency, moving people over to HTTP/2,” which enables pages to load much faster. “It eliminates head of line and is multiplexed so there is no queuing (of Javascript, CSS etc.) to enter the site.”

Luke Ormerod said “the biggest problems are newspapers using no-follow links because they have been told by Google to do so, this will change the landscape”.

For Andy Blackburn “the biggest hurdle in gaming is the sheer volume of spam. Loss of followed links, in Google’s T&Cs if you are linking to someone you should follow the link.”

Julia Logan explained that natural language queries also needed to be answered properly by websites: “If you are using voice search to ask a question you aren’t doing the same as typing or using the same words, so website results need a natural answer to that type of question.”

With Google holding the key to many websites ranking it is clear mobile first will be a central topic when it comes to marketing and SEO for the year ahead.