A Q&A with BtoBet – the AI frontier in sports-betting

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One company that is hoping to make its mark with AI in the sports-betting world is BtoBet, a pioneering news sports-betting backend supplier with big plans for how the technology can drive the sportsbook of the future. GamCrowd caught up with the company’s chief executive Kostandina Zafirovska to talk about how the company sees developments and how they think AI is set to transform the industry.

GamCrowd: Broadly, how do you think AI changes the activities of online gambling operators?
Kostandina Zafirovska: Artificial intelligence is a fundamental tool in the iGaming industry. It radically changes all facets of the operator’s activity by sustaining and guiding him to make the best decisions for the management, acquisition and retention of players. The artificial intelligence software, through precise algorithms, works on different processes simultaneously while monitoring the player’s behaviour, suggesting operator information about players’ preferences and, at the same time,  proposing suitable offers to every single player. Operators need suitable tools to manage their business with flexibility and an omnichannel platform and sportsbook software, based on AI, is the key for operators to deliver the right product at the ideal time for every single customer by studying their past behaviour and also by aggregating players with similar gaming habits. The possibility to anticipate the player’s desires by suggesting the bets and games that can trigger his interest is fundamental to extend users’ life cycle to the advantage of the operator who can drive a targeted marketing campaigns, propose tailor-made offers and increase the wagering activity.

GamCrowd: What were the technology challenges that had to be overcome when building your AI platform?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
We spent months on multiple testing, making significant changes along the way to keep the AI interaction and system performing optimally. We had to work through an extremely sophisticated algorithm which copies the human brain system and processes while monitoring the player’s data, activity, preferences and automatically suggesting to licensees the action to be taken for the acquisition and retention of players.

GamCrowd: What technological advances have you leveraged in order to build the platform?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
Honestly, the real challenge we faced has been to deliver to clients our cutting-edge recommendation engine for sportsbook and casino games, based on AI. The AI of our platform was already acquiring, analysing, filtering and re-organizing a huge quantity of player’s data with the objective of managing automatically fraud, risk and a marketing campaign. We adapted the algorithm for the recommendation engine purposes, following a similar logic, technology and process. It needed time to be properly developed by our efficient IT team. Nowadays, we are extremely proud of our hybrid recommendation engine, which can provide more accurate recommendations than pure approaches. It is based on both content and collaborative methods and it is extremely useful to overcome some of the common problems in recommendation systems such as cold start and the sparsity issues.

GamCrowd: What impact do you think AI will have on trading operations with sports-betting operators? What impact does your technology have on risk-management systems?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
AI plays a key role in the trading operations as it automatically identifies potential fraud, taking the necessary action whilst also advising the operator. It is extremely important to guarantee a totally secure management process. BtoBet has an extremely advanced anti-fraud system; it is able to independently analyse the player’s activity automatically identifying any possible fraudulent behaviour. Points are assigned according to the type of fraudulent actions and this gives the licensee the possibility to define different measures according to the player’s behaviour. With specific BtoBet-friendly tools, operators can keep track of the transaction data, and manage it by reviewing analytics via the risk and fraud dashboards. The most important benefits of implementing advanced tools for fraud management are the real-time visibility of fraud vulnerability, the ability to immediately respond to fraud with timely and relevant actions and to prevent monetary loss due to fraud.

GamCrowd: Does AI utterly change the marketing model for online gambling?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
AI, combined with the recommendation engine, completely changes the marketing for online gaming. It allows operators to study and monitor any single player, to select segments of players by similarities and preferences and enables them to elaborate automatic offers that perfectly meet the interest of every user. In fact, AI provides a huge amount of key information such as the players’ level of happiness, the types of players (e.g. if they are VIP), and what type of segment they belong to. Licensees can independently access all this data by using a single and customisable screen to easily build their strategies, diversify the actions of different types of users and to run intelligent targeted marketing campaigns.

GamCrowd: How does your relationship with Betradar work?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
BtoBet has gained Betradar’s Gold Partner Certification complying with all its advanced requirements. BtoBet perfectly integrates Betradar’s data feed and MTS service into its sportsbook and iGaming platform, including over 40 types of sports, over 330,000 pre-match events per year, over 20,000 live matches per year, 3,400 competitions, 3,6 million odds updates every minute, live betting and eSports. We have considerable proven expertise in developing sportsbook software, and have a solid knowledge of Betradar’s services. Betradar’s solutions and BtoBet’s AI software are a perfect combination to face the sports-betting market, providing benefits for bookmakers and players, also Millennials.

GamCrowd: What is next for AI in gambling? How far away are we from fully automated online gambling platforms driven by AI and machine learning?
Kostandina Zafirovska:
The future of AI is improving the possibility to deliver suggestions of the right games or bets to players which are becoming ever more demanding and tech-savvy. The gamblers are increasingly moving from retail to online and mobile, pushing operators - also retailers - to adopt automatic cross-selling strategies, able to deliver the best betting/gaming experience possible, through a totally personalised front-end, to any single player. Nowadays, we can’t underestimate the importance of personalisation through technology, especially considering  that lots of gamblers are Millennials who love to feel special and to receive unique and dedicated offers.