HomeIn-depthThe growth of social casinos: Why are European suppliers using these as a gateway to the US?

The growth of social casinos: Why are European suppliers using these as a gateway to the US?

11 min. read
roundtable social casinos

A growing number of European-based slot providers are entering the US social casino landscape, driven by the potential of their games resonating with US players before entering the real money market. We spoke with multiple companies taking this approach to understand how it fits within their strategy to conquer the US casino environment.

Q: Why do you think many new entrants to the US are starting out at social casinos? Will creating a player base be top of a supplier’s agenda or could it be to gain more research into player trends?

Tamas Kusztos, Chief Commercial Officer, Playson: For many new entrants, social casinos provide them with access to a huge market with limited regulatory obstacles to jump through. Entering the region in this way can be beneficial in building brand recognition, which is also useful should a provider hold long-term plans to offer real money titles within states that have already regulated iGaming. It also presents a lucrative opportunity for studios due to the limited number of B2C and B2B operators currently in the market.

Sebastian Damian, Managing Director, 3 Oaks Gaming: The online US casino market has clear potential to be the biggest worldwide and naturally attracts game providers who are looking into a vast array of options for entering the region. Traditionally, getting into the regulated market state-by-state takes time and comes with huge financial constraints, alongside a long period for a litany of different developments. The social casino industry offers an easy way for entry and gives providers the ability to test the appetite of US players for the type of game math and design that each supplier is developing. From a 3 Oaks Gaming perspective, it makes complete sense for us to go down this initial route before committing resources for a US iGaming push. This is a moving trend that may change quickly as everyone wants a piece of the pie at this moment in time.

Denys Cherievko, Chief Business Development Officer, Infingame: The US social casino landscape offers a fresh product for game providers and players. We are excited by the potential this brings as we begin to focus on the US market. Brands that are active in more mature regions are always looking for new opportunities to maximise engagement and social casinos provide this.

The suppliers that are taking advantage of social casinos from this early stage are able to understand the preferences and trends of the audience base and therefore will be able to enhance their platforms and products accordingly.

When speaking with our partners, interest to explore this vertical is big enough right now and we expect a boom in the near future as they understand the benefits of the social casino industry. At the same time, the total number of providers exploring the market is quite small, with about 40+ brands looking at the potential opportunities. Social casino will definitely become a key focus for providers in the next year.

Svante Sahlström, Chief Commercial Officer, Thunderkick: Thunderkick is growing, so it is only natural that we are always on the lookout for new opportunities in emerging markets. As more states in the US become regulated, this of course opens up a sizeable new player base that we could reach.

Many providers will be hoping they can establish a loyal player base before going live in regulated US states, and Thunderkick is no different. If we can obtain traction with our games in social casinos across North America, this will generate a stable player base ahead of securing licences in those states which allow online casinos.

Jelena Popović, Regional Manager, Greentube: There are several reasons. Firstly, social casinos provide a low-risk environment to establish a player base without the need for regulatory approvals required for real-money gambling. This allows new entrants to build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Secondly, social casinos offer valuable insights into player behavior and preferences. By analysing data on player interactions, suppliers can better understand trends and tailor their offerings to meet market demands. Therefore, while creating a player base is a primary goal, gaining research into player trends is equally important for long-term success.

Q: When it comes to player preferences, have you been able to gain more insights into the favourite game types of US social casino players?

SD: 3 Oaks Gaming’s Hold and Win games have been very successful in markets with a long tradition for brick and mortar casinos and the US is no different in this respect. Understanding what the region’s players enjoy is hugely important for our product team and the US social gaming scene contributes decisively to the direction of our global roadmap.

DC: Although not limited to this type of slot, the array of Hold and Win mechanic-based games is proving to be very popular with US social casino audiences, and this is also the case in other mature markets. In many ways, this range of content has revolutionised the casino industry by combining already popular mechanics with new, innovative features that elevate experiences.

What makes them particularly appealing in the social casino realm is their simplicity and the thrill of chance. Players can enjoy the excitement of hitting a "jackpot" without the risk of losing real money.

SS: We are considering our options with regards to tackling the US market and are confident we know what games of ours will be successful. Launching over there is one of the many steps in our growth strategy and releasing games in social casinos will give us the insight required to hit the ground running once we do go live.

Thunderkick’s games have been really popular everywhere we have launched to date, but understanding the quirks of each individual market is crucial to optimising our offering. We will test some of our best-performing games in social casinos to seek out an understanding of what themes, features, and mechanics American players tend to favour.

JP: Yes, we have gathered significant insights into the preferences of US social casino players. Slot games remain the most popular, owing to their simplicity and engaging graphics. Additionally, social casino players show a strong affinity for games that offer interactive features and social elements, such as tournaments and leaderboards. Table games like Blackjack and Poker also maintain a steady following, particularly among players who enjoy strategic gameplay.

TK: Our research shows that Hold and Win is the dominant mechanic, with fruit, American and Irish-themed slots particularly popular with US players. As a market, it has a strong land-based heritage, with a multitude of classic themes resonating with users in the region. This aligns closely with European player preferences, which is perhaps why studios from Europe are exploring this marketplace as a viable option to achieve further business growth.

Q: What games within your portfolio do you think will particularly resonate in the social casino market?

DC: Right now, the most popular content within the social casino vertical are slots. Crash content is fairly new to the US market and there is potential for it to resonate in the social casino space, as it has within traditional casino offerings. While crash games still have some catching up to do with slots in terms of popularity, there is certainly an opportunity to close the gap.

Live dealer content also making its first steps to the market and it will be intriguing to see the impact of that.

SS: We will be trialling games in batches of five, with each collection release providing additional insight into what US players are looking for from their gaming experience.

Some of our more popular games immediately spring to mind, but you can never be certain which ones will resonate until you roll them out. The US has an incredibly diverse player base, and each will typically enjoy something different. As a result, trialling a small number of our titles in varying regions will provide an understanding of the unique profiles we can expect, and we can therefore target those accordingly.

JP: Within our portfolio, we believe that our slot games with diverse themes and interactive bonus features will particularly resonate in the social casino market. Our most loved game families, such as Diamond CashÔ and Cash ConnectionÔ especially. Games that incorporate elements of gamification, such as progressive jackpots and daily challenges, are expected to attract and retain players.

TK: We believe that our slots will shine in the US social casino market, particularly our Hold and Win series including 3 Pots Riches Extra, Buffalo Power 2, Coin Strike, Energy Joker and Diamond Power.

Initial data since Playson launched in the US social casino landscape concludes that these five games are performing extremely well, and we are convinced that players will enjoy the way in which we evolve the experience with every new Hold and Win release that we develop.

SD: Hold and Win games create the bulk of our top performing slots in the US social gaming market. This is not a surprise for us, as we’ve seen player responses in markets with similar casino history, so we expect a plethora of our best Hold and Win titles to perform very well within this climate.

Q: What are your overall ambitions for the US casino market?

SS: The online casino industry is in its infancy in the US, but in the states where it has launched, the reception has been very positive. If others regulate, the opportunities could grow exponentially. Thunderkick is ready to capitalise on these opportunities to continue our mission of providing the ultimate online gaming experience.

JP: Our overall ambitions for the US casino market are to establish a strong presence and become a leading provider of both social and real-money gaming experiences. We aim to leverage our innovative game designs and data-driven insights to offer highly engaging and personalized experiences for players. Furthermore, we are committed to expanding our market reach through strategic partnerships and continuous innovation, ensuring that we stay ahead of industry trends and meet the evolving demands of the US market. Ultimately, our goal is to build a loyal player base and contribute to the growth and sustainability of the US casino industry.

TK: We are acutely aware of the potential that the US market holds and closely monitoring its movement. However, as of yet, we don’t have a concrete entry plan but are definitely keeping a keen eye on proceedings so watch this space!

SD: We are currently in the process of going live in a number of regulated jurisdictions within Europe and this takes priority over the next 18 months. However, we are looking very carefully at all the options for our content launching with the biggest operators in each US state and our strategy for the US casino landscape is to get the right understanding of each state before we commit to anything concrete.

DC: Our aim is to make a substantial impact on the US market. From what we have seen already, there are many opportunities for us to flourish and become one of the leading content aggregators by increasing interest to the game providers brands we represent at the market and increasing the popularity of social casinos with audiences.

The US social casino industry has experienced remarkable growth, driven by factors such as increased smartphone penetration, changing consumer preferences, and the allure of casino-style gaming without real money stakes. We know there is appetite from players, and we believe suppliers will soon see the boost that social casinos can provide to their offering.

Image credit: Unsplash.com

28 May 2024
11 min. read
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