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Panel says the next generation of online gambling will be more social, engaged and targeted

NEW YORK (AP) — The future of online gambling will be more social, more engaged with players and more targeted to their individual interests, an industry panel said Thursday.

Speaking at the Next.io conference on internet gambling and sports betting, panelists said online gambling — which is still in its infancy after a decade — already needs to change and evolve in order to survive.

That includes many more efforts to get bettors engaged with a gambling company's brand, to accommodate their fondness for social media and communal activity, and to target experiences to their interests.

“The next generation will need something different,” said Jonathan Doubilet, vice president of U.S. business operations for Playtech, the maker of online gambling and sports betting software. “We will need to innovate.”

Seth Schorr, CEO of Las Vegas-based Fifth Street Gaming, is launching a Latino-themed online social casino using his jefebet.com platform in about two weeks, using the Spanish word for “boss.” He also renovated the Lucky Club Casino and Hotel in North Las Vegas last year as the Ojos Locos Sports Cantina y Casino at Hotel Jefe.

“It is a shamefully underserved market,” said Schorr. “There are 64 million Americans who identify as Latino with a purchasing power of $3.5 trillion dollars. It's something I've been executing in a land-based casino for 15 years.

“This is far more dynamic than just having your site in Spanish,” he said. “We have put together a brand that speaks to the language, the culture, the influencers.”

Customers at the social casino buy virtual currency to use on the site, he said.

Justin Park is CEO of Betty.ca, a Canadian online slots site catering to women. He said 40 to 45% of the site's business comes from women who play slots games.

The site's customer service team is staffed solely by women to better communicate with customers, he said.

“Guys are more one-word answers: ‘yes, no.’ They don't even say ‘bye,’” Park said. “Women are much more chatty.”

He also said the company realizes that many of its female customers want entertainment they can enjoy quickly and at their convenience between professional and home responsibilities.

The average age of a Betty.ca customer is 30 to 40, which he said suggests there remains an appetite for traditional gambling products, but presented in novel ways that meet the customer where they are.

Oliver Bartlett, vice president of gaming product for BetMGM, said one challenge for the future of online gambling is matching customers to what they care about.

“We have more than 3,000 games on our site right now,” he said, suggesting that algorithms or artificial intelligence might be able to help customers navigate such a wide menu of offerings.

Speaking of the industry in general, he said, “We need to find ways to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.”

Ed Andrewes, CEO of resorts Digital Gaming, said customers are increasingly going to want “that kind of personal experience.”

Karolina Pelc is CEO of BeyondPlay, which makes player engagement software incorporating multi-player gambling and jackpots.

Online gambling needs to recognize “the importance of community and shared experience — let people play together,” she said.

Doubilet said the core gambling product, including slots, will retain the same basic characteristics.

“What we're going to innovate is what we plug into them,” he said. “A new generation of players is coming.”

He used the hypothetical example of a customer five years from now deciding he or she doesn't want to walk around a casino floor looking for a particular slot game. Instead, wearing virtual reality glasses or a headset, that player may say “I want to look through my goggles and play it right here.”

“We have to speak to players,” Pelc added. “That's where innovation is really important. That's what's changing.”

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