Wazdan’s Andrzej Hyla: the top three takeaways from US market entry

Andrzej Hyla, CCO at Wazdan, details three of the company’s takeaways since entering the US market and growing its presence stateside.
Image: Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that online gambling regulations in several US states have been a hotly debated topic of igaming in recent years. As suppliers and operators alike continue to grow their presence stateside, Andrzej Hyla, CCO at Wazdan, details three of the company’s takeaways since entering the booming market.

The US has had an incredible journey to reach this regulatory point, becoming one of the world’s most promising markets. Wazdan holds an array of licenses that allow us to operate in 20 jurisdictions, but there is something particularly exciting about this rapidly evolving market. We are now certified to offer our games in New Jersey, West Virginia, and Michigan. 

We are in the final steps of rolling out our products in Pennsylvania, not to mention the other massive North American market, Ontario. The recent shortlisting for the prestigious SBC North America Awards in the Rising Star in Casino category proves our US market expansion is gaining momentum.

With a great deal of cultural crossover between Europe and the US, the American igaming industry stands to gain enormously from the experience that companies have accrued in more mature European markets.

That’s not to say that international expansion into the US hasn’t been without its challenges. Introducing an offer that has been successful in a mature market does not necessarily mean it will experience immediate uptake in a brand-new one. The sector will need to constantly monitor and learn from the situation to ensure continued success. The SBC North America Summit, where Wazdan will have a significant presence, will shine a bright light on this progress. For now, here are Wazdan’s top three takeaways from our first year in the US market.

Each state poses a complex regulatory challenge

The magnitude of the US opportunity has not been exaggerated, attracting both local and foreign suppliers and operators and clocking up revenue of $3.71bn in 2021, an increase of 139% on the previous year.

Promisingly, this growth shows no sign of slowing down. New Jersey is the number-one state in igaming revenue, with Pennsylvania and Michigan in second and third place. All three states generated $1bn in gaming revenue last year, a record no state had achieved before.

That being said, there are significant barriers to entry that do not exist in Europe. The challenges presented by the fragmented nature of the developing landscape are well known. Every jurisdiction has its separate licensing requirements, which vary greatly from state to state. The result is a high cost in resources spent acquiring licenses, as well as extending the amount of time it takes to be granted one.

The country’s size, scale, and potential are different from any other market, but this is also balanced out by operators and suppliers having to be regulated in individual states, which means high regulatory costs and barriers to entry for many of them. This will require a deft hand and careful attention to how customer preference sways. In our opinion, the potential gains still justify the effort.

Player retention is gaining traction, but slowly

Many operators in the US have focused on player acquisition and increasing market share, but those that place a greater emphasis on retention will be more likely to succeed in the long run. Factors to consider include customer service and quick payout, but the most important element is making sure the player enjoys the product.

We are glad to say that our products, including Power of Gods: Hades, Sun of Fortune, and Fortune Reels, have seen good uptake in these states, with Power of Gods: Hades being nominated for the Best New Game title at the prestigious EGR North America Awards. However, the reality is that this is a new market, and we are still identifying what will resonate effectively with its audience. 

We are certainly on the right track with our US portfolio containing a mix of established content from our existing catalog and innovative new games built with the flourishing US market specifically in mind.

As well as that, we’re making significant headway through our unique games with pioneering features, innovative reel arrays, attractive bonuses, and new ways to win, including new trademarked features, such as Collect to Infinity and Cash Infinity.

Of course, few tools are more effective in acquisition and retention than innovative jackpots, and it has become apparent that the US audience is strongly receptive to this dynamic. Given how iconic jackpots have been in US land-based casinos, this shouldn’t surprise us, but our 

Hold the Jackpot game series has undoubtedly captured imaginations countrywide. US players appreciate a great deal of control over their gaming experience, with highly regarded customizable volatility. With that in mind, we have ensured our Volatility Levels feature is available, enabling them to set it to what suits their style of play best.

All the right ingredients are there, and the sector needs to be watchful of what appeals to this new audience, and the answers will reveal themselves. In time, we expect this to increase our focus on new concepts that are not yet established in the market. To this end, the major online casino operators in the US are focused on mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships to enhance their brand portfolio, such as Wazdan’s partnership with Light & Wonder.

American players have high expectations

There’s no two ways to appeal to the US player by providing a mobile-first offering. This format dominates the sector stateside, with a recent report indicating that a staggering 95.3 percent of users play slots on mobile devices.

Players in every jurisdiction are always looking for something new, and the US is certainly no exception. This can be demanding, as new features don’t only need to be entertaining but also functional and easy to understand at the same time. Often, it is not a case of reinventing the wheel and more a case of finding a niche in the market. It’s still early days, but the initial signs are that the US igaming market is as seismic as anticipated.

There are some wrinkles to be ironed out, and the sector has yet to crack customer needs, expectations and preferences, but the sheer potential of the landscape will make this effort well worth the while.