Raising all boats

You know the expression ‘a rising tide raises all boats’? That’s what EvenBet has in mind with its retrospective 2023 report. The Gaming Boardroom’s Jon Bruford caught up with EvenBet’s Dmitry Starostenkov at ICE to discuss the company’s report for the industry, Core iGaming Trends and Challenges in 2023. What motivated them to compile and share such a report?

We see an awful lot of ‘white papers’ and ‘reports’ in the gambling industry, and usually they are thinly-disguised self-promotion with little real-world value. In an industry so incredibly rich with data, you would think that sharing best practise – without divulging your secret sauce – might be the norm, so that everyone can benefit. But realistically, that’s not the case. Well, until shortly before ICE when EvenBet CEO Dmitry Starostenkov published the company’s Core iGaming Trends and Challenges in 2023. It’s a report compiled to represent the opinions of many of the industry’s thought and business leaders, running for some 32 pages in total.

Many reports, surveys and the like suffer from one basic but fundamental flaw: they don’t publish their methodology, or they do and it reveals their data pool is flawed or irrelevant. Not so with EvenBet’s, the methodology is up front, and everything is clearly explained. This adds gravitas to their findings, as no report or survey is worth anything without establishing the origin of its data.

Dmitry’s background lies largely outside the gambling industry in software development, where he specialised in data analysis for the finance and industrial sectors among other things. When he came into our industry, this experience helped him recognised where we were lacking clarity and knowledge, and felt that his company could add genuine value with such a report.

So why would a supplier take on such a challenge, and share its knowledge? Dmitry explained: “I have some experience in other industries, and in comparing the gambling industry with those other industries I see some gaps. I looked and thought, I would just love to fill those gaps.

“If you compare our industry with the whole high-technology ecosystem, the many gaps can be covered in a much better way. One of those is analytics; our industry is lacking analytics and I can think of only two companies which publish some reports.

“I got the idea from the information technology industry, that as a participant in the industry we can contribute and put some effort in to developing this, and to lead the way in developing it as an idea and a way of doing business.

“We have seen efforts by other companies and agencies but the reports have not been very valuable; they’re not setting out to bring value to the industry, to other companies; it’s more like they do it for PR reasons, not for the betterment of our industry. It might be something about an upcoming regulatory change, AI, something topical but it won’t be backed up with facts or numbers. We are doing this for PR reasons ourselves of course, it’s good for our company and our brand, but we don’t want to do it solely for PR, we want to combine it with real value.”

Trade events

EvenBet used the many trade events they attend to work on their data. Dmitry added: “We thought that the simplest way to do this was to ask people at the many events we attend the same questions, then analyse the answers, and make it into a report.”

The plan is to make this an annual report shared to the industry, something that evolves and develops over time. As Dmitry elaborates: “We will be changing the questions and content, we want to improve the data to make it deeper, more valuable and to bring more insight. This was our first attempt, some of it was good, some of it could perhaps have worked better, but we see it as an annual thing and something we want to improve every time.”

So what does Dmitry think didn’t work in this first iteration? Open questions, he says. “…they didn’t work very well. It limited our capability to make a data-driven, statistically solid report. In the end we had to interpret answers to convert it into data. We might combine numerical answers with a textual response in future, we are not sure yet.”

Dmitry Starostenkov, EvenBet CEO (centre)

It’s impossible to deny the report’s strengths, however – topics are explored and presented in a clear and easily understandable way, making a 30+ page report surprisingly and unusually digestible for readers. Dmitry says that the report’s strength is its lack of bias, which comes back to the company’s idea of saring knowledge for the industry’s betterment. He said: “We’re not doing it for our brand, it’s just got a small logo on the report. It’s not about us. It’s interesting for people to read it and hear other voices about what’s happened in the industry.

“Everyone is talking about AI, for example, but it’s really interesting to find out what people are really thinking about AI for the industry; or blockchain, or whatever. Sometimes what people say in public and in private is different, of course.

“We think that after two or three cycles we will have something that works really well. A series of reports will create higher value for the industry than a single report because you can compare data and show progress. When we do it regularly people will be able to recognise it as a source of information they can base decisions on, and then they will expect it from us. That’s the dream!”

The CEO recognises that this will take time, however, and that some in the industry might need convincing. Dmitry acknowledges: “EvenBet is not an analytical agency, we are a B2B provider so we need some time to establish and to teach people that we are a source of good analytical reports. People that have read it, like it; people that put a ‘like’ on LinkedIn just do that and scroll down.

“Our industry lacks a public exchange of ideas, information, opinions; we don’t have an industry association that really works like that.

“Personally, I want to open dialogue with this report, to discuss the numbers and have an open conversation for the good of the industry.”

We’re already looking forward to the publication of the Core iGaming Trends and Challenges in 2024.

Download Core iGaming trends and Challenges in 2023 here.