Kambi Aiming to be a Springboard for Canadian Sportsbooks

By Tom Nightingale

When it comes to sports betting solutions, Canada is poised to become the land of opportunity. Kambi certainly wants in on the action and feels well-placed to contribute after joining the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) in recent weeks.

“There’s a huge opportunity to help Canadian operators attract customers that are dealing with offshore markets right now,” says Evan Schaffner, Kambi’s Head of Partner Success, Americas. “It feels like with the legislation in the works, it’s the right time to join the party.”

The B2B sports betting provider already has a huge global footprint. Present in six continents and with a U.S. reach that expands to 13 states, Canada was the next logical step for the company to take, given the way the conversation around sports betting is intensifying north of the border.

Indeed, Schaffner suggests they will look to the way things have progressed in the U.S. when mapping out what entry into the Canadian market may look like. Kambi, he notes, wants to deeply understand the interest, trends, and the legislation that will be present from province by province.

“One of the keys to our success has been establishing local business ties and, as we have in the U.S., we’ll really look to adapt our offering to what each local population is looking for, as well as obviously what the provinces are allowing.”

After all, Schaffner says, that approach is what’s likely to not only provide the greatest experience for customers, but also drive the biggest revenue opportunities for provinces and provincial operators alike.

“There are multiple elements of an offering that, altogether, really make this the right time for us to join the CGA,” he continues. “We’re really excited about membership and about Canada on the whole.” In particular, he notes, membership of the association provides a world of opportunities: in short, as Schaffner puts it, it’s a real “door-opener” for Kambi to get to know the market intimately ahead of time.

Bringing expert knowledge

Kambi feels it has a lot to offer to the industry, too.

The company began life as a B2B spin-off of betting and gaming giant Unibet. These days it is a global company with offices in Bucharest, London, Manila, Philadelphia, Stockholm, and Sydney, in addition to its headquarters in Malta. Schaffner says the company has an “extremely strong” Scandinavian and Nordic heritage, reflected in its knowledge of sports like hockey, which will naturally prove useful in the Canadian market.

It’s in the U.S., though, seen as the closest translation of what a progressive Canadian sports betting marketplace may look like, where the company has been making big strides in its B2B work. Kambi does significant business across most of the regulated U.S. states through partnering with both multi-state and local operators.

Because it is waiting for regulations to evolve in Canada, the company does not currently have operations in this country. However, what it does have is customers and partners in the U.S. that have Canadian operations, and it is excited to expand those relations as and when Canada comes into play.

Kambi aims to help educate the market based on its wide-ranging experience. Core to its business model is integrity, emphasizes Schaffner; Kambi is a member of organizations like the IBIA (International Betting Integrity Association) and has a full-time sportsbook control team that monitors activity 24/7 to detect signs of sports manipulation at the earliest of stages. “CGA membership is a great way to not only make those capabilities known but to really contribute to watching the industry develop into its next iteration in Canada,” says Schaffner.

Pivoting in a pandemic

Like every business in the gaming industry, Kambi’s operations were severely hit by COVID-19 in 2020. With traditional sports largely shut down until the fall or even more recently, and many of their retail partners closed due to the pandemic, the company was forced to pivot.

“While we were going through this, we started to really think forward about how the world might change and our world might change,” Schaffner explains. Key among Kambi’s initial moves was the developing of a process that allowed it to work with its operating partners to conduct retail deployments remotely. “That’s not necessarily our preference but under the circumstances, those went off without a hitch. We’re extremely proud of the fact that we were successful in those ventures but also that we were forward-thinking in our approach.”

Even prior to COVID-19, Kambi had found itself ahead of the game. It had rolled out a technology it calls “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device”, which enables bettors to view lines and construct bets anywhere, generating a QR code which can be scanned on-property at a counter or kiosk – thus placing their wagers without coming into contact with any surfaces. “That turned out to be very good foresight and a solution we were fortunate to be able to provide to our partners,” admits Schaffner. “It was extremely well-received by our partners, they appreciate us being ahead of the curve on things like that.” The technology has seen “phenomenal” adoption and, as one may imagine, took on even more prominence once COVID-19 hit.

Moving forward, Kambi is confident it can provide a long-term safer option for continuing in-person retail experiences. That adaptability could be key to success in the Canadian market.

Grand designs in Canada

On the whole, Kambi believes it has what it takes to succeed in a future Canadian market. Schaffner reiterates that the company will look to follow its varied-by-state model north of the border. Neither the U.S. nor Canada is a one-size-fits-all model: if and when Canadian legislation passes, the next step will be provinces holding numerous discussions with operators and regulators about how to proceed along their own lines, for their own demographics.

Schaffner believes Kambi is perfectly equipped to tackle that challenge head-on when the times comes. “Every U.S. state is a bit different. Every operator certainly has their own unique qualities and approach to the market, from what they offer to how they acquire their market share. We’ve been incredibly nimble with our ability to really provide a customized level of customer or partner support.”

Kambi is a true B2B operation, its goal is to build strategic partnerships with operators including some of the biggest known names in Canada and to continue its U.S. nimble footedness by reacting to what’s approved from a regulatory standpoint from province to province.

The company refers to itself as a springboard for visionary sportsbooks and they fully intend to continue that north of the border by partnering with existing market leaders or companies with the potential to achieve market leadership. Schaffner stresses that Kambi has the potential and the tools help operators with both their front end and their back end and to work in a consultative process alongside them as they move through the regulatory process.

In the U.S., that approach has brought professional collaborations with the likes of major multi-state operators Penn National Gaming and Rush Street Interactive, as well as partnerships with prominent local operators who are trusted in their markets. One of their U.S. partners, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, runs operations at Niagara’s Fallsview Casino. Schaffner cites that company as one of many who are surely awaiting legislation to move forward the sports betting scene in Canada. The audience north of the border is massive and is hungry for the kind of opportunities afforded to U.S. gamblers in recent years. Ontario alone, after all, is the fifth-largest jurisdiction in North America.

Reiterating that there is a huge opportunity to mirror and build upon what Kambi has experienced in the U.S. market, Schaffner shares the company’s excitement about what the near future may bring. “We’re incredibly optimistic about being part of the Canadian gaming community and what that may bring. We’re very excited about the potential moving forward in this market.”

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