An interview with John O’Malia, founder of VAIX.ai – Part 1

Go back

John O’Malia has a reputation in the online gambling space as someone who get things done. He sold Gamebookers to PartyGaming back in 2006 and subsequently went on to assume the post of chief operating officer at the company until he resigned in 2009, subsequently becoming a board member at Betclic where he remains. He knowledge of the industry is extensive, hence anything he has to say about the way the sector will develop is inherently interesting. The fact that it is an AI-based enterprise is particularly noteworthy. As he says below, AI “changes everything at a very fundamental level about how people will interact in the future” and that the product has an initial roll-out in bingo chat shouldn’t obscure just how far-reaching and transformational he believes the adoption of AI be. VAIX.ai has only just begin its journey. It is one of the most exciting startups that GamCrowd has come across in recent years. This week and next week, we reproduce our conversation with O’Malia as he does some future-gazing, starting with how AI will make its mark in terms of personalisation.

GamCrowd: To what degree do you think that AI will transform the gambling sector?
John O’Malia:
The more I got into the science of AI, the more it tied into everything I have always done in gaming. That is the focus on the player, the importance of entertainment and interface. It changes everything at a very fundamental level about how people will interact in the future and what people expect about those interactions. Everything about the way we acquire information – the fact that we have started to talk to our phones to get information – means that they will start to expect other things from other interfaces in their lives. There is a very powerful wave coming. The potential for making betting interfaces better through bet recommendations, for instance. So when you load a sports-betting website or app, a frequent bettor should see a dramatically better service level. The app should know precisely what that customer would be interested in based on their previous behaviour, and should be able to make a very precise prediction about what five bets he would make next. It can then present them in a way that he can make these bets almost instantly, resulting in a vastly better experience. That in turn gives the operator some time to engage the user with propositions they wouldn’t have thought of before. You can capture their attention with a few spins in the casino, or with other popular bets. Consider the number of bets that are available at any one time - the volume is extraordinary. Yet that isn’t always great for the user. It’s like walking into a huge department store with a million pieces of clothing - the result is disorientation and confusion. What the operator really needs to be doing is smoothly directing them to the items they will instantly like.

GamCrowd: Do you think personalised bet options are on their way to be deliverable?
John O’Malia:
Absolutely. That’s something we can really help the operators with. For me there is a massive opportunity space that we need completely different tools to take advantage of. That is in social. On Twitter, if you have people talking about topics that are relevant to your business, you can just buy ads and put up generic branding content - or you can be proactive and generate content that is responding to individual tweets, and tying in relevant odds or content from that precise moment. And you would need a bot for that. One of the tools we have built pulls in tweet streams and refines those tweet stream and can respond to each one of those tweets with the most likely bet and the best odds on that bet. That sort of micro-event marketing is taking what Paddy Power did and moving it into the world of AI and 24-hour social. With any event in a match, there is a most likely bet on the follow and AI can tell you what they bet is. All of a sudden, the whole social world is the front of a bookmakers shop. It’s precision and personalised marketing. When you look at what we are doing in bingo – look at the number of hours generated by bingo chat messages on a given day – the tools we have built for bingo are fascinating to use. You can look at this in all sorts of dimensions. You can find out what kind of chat-host activity leads to better bingo player engagement. In business people talk about white spaces, new areas of value, and bingo and chat is this huge white space. Take the whole paradigm, this thing called chat, and operators spend a bunch of money on it, but they don’t have any idea about its effectiveness. So let’s find out how to improve it. Make them all better. So – we have another layer of AI that builds on this insight. We pull messages across from Twitter, content that is relevant to bingo players, and hand that to the chat hosts – bits they can drop into the room to get people talking and that can add a new dimension of value. And the revenues which result can be a game-changer for an operator. There is free money sitting there.

GamCrowd: Is bingo chat applications something of a prove case?
John O’Malia:
Absolutely. For me the bingo chat space is fascinating as a contrast with the explosion of chat bots. There, people are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Ordering pizza via chat when you can do it with an app, for instance. It’s already pretty easy; three clicks and done. Whereas we are taking an existing chat environment and saying, ‘let’s make it great and get players excited.’ That is a huge white space. That drew us into the social space. The way that companies interact with players to acquire them is going to evolve fundamentally. Look at these micro-events – tweets, Instagram posts, and the like - and see how operators can tap into that now. That’s a huge white space. What does any brand look for? It’s creating a connection to its customers. If you can be personal and relevant to your players, why not do it? Be responsive to their needs. Present the 10 bets they want to make, and make the player’s experience terrific.  That’s how you deepen a relationship with the customer.