March 14, 2022 Interview

High-octane loyalty

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We spoke with Richard Pistilli, Founder and CEO of Gambit Rewards, following its acquisition by Snipp Interactive, to discuss the company’s creative take on loyalty rewards and how this approach can impact the gaming industry.

Firstly, would you be able to tell our readers about your personal and career history?

I am the Founder and CEO of Gambit Rewards; I have over 20 years of capital markets experience, spending over a decade as an investment banker in New York before launching several fintech start-up ventures. When I was an investment banker I covered a number of different industries and, as you can imagine, one of these was the loyalty sector: the loyalty and rewards space.This is where my background lies when it comes to building Gambit Rewards.

Gambit Rewards was started back in 2018, and the opportunity my partners and I saw was to create a convergence between two market trends; one of which was online sports betting and gaming in America, and the other being the loyalty space. We were thinking about these two big bubbles. In the loyalty space, the industry has grown to the point where it’s effectively ubiquitous. You as a consumer have essentially grown to the point where you have come to expect loyalty features in every corner of your consumer experience. The challenge is that the experience itself has become pretty standardized. You offer the consumer free flights, free nights or gift cards, right? Anywhere you go you get the same thing. So, we looked at this huge industry, with $100bn worth of loyalty points outstanding in the United States alone and asked how we differentiate; because the industry is in need of innovation.

On the other side, you look at the gaming sector, which for so long in the US has been prohibited and restricted but is now opening up. We said there is this huge audience, which is currently sitting on a huge amount of assets separate from their cash (their loyalty/rewards points) that they could be doing something with. And then there is this gaming experience: fast forward to 2022 online sports betting has completely transformed. It's mainstream, going from legalization to state adoption, to major media companies diving in and sports teams fully embracing it today, with the stigma being completely gone. Sports betting is now part of consumer experience and we think that’s great. Online sports betting companies are all going after a part of the consumer experience and trying to get a piece of that cash wallet. Meanwhile, we are going after something completely different; we are going after a share of their loyalty wallet, which is untapped, so we sit between these two industries, allowing us to package the thrills and the winnings of online sports betting without too many hurdles. By this, I mean there are the social gaming platforms, where you can play games but you don’t win real cash prizes; then there is the free-to-play model that has been adopted in the US, which does not provide the true core experience of single-event betting.

What we landed on was a proprietary model, powered by the loyalty points, where a consumer can say ‘if you guys can give me a free Starbucks gift card, why can’t I have a free play?’ And that is were we step in, connecting those dots and allowing people to play with their loyalty points and win cash and other benefits. That is the essence of the model; you can win, and if you lose, all you have lost is your points.

You have said in the past that the goal of the company is to make loyalty points fun again; what do you mean by that?

If the experience for loyalty points has been homogenized, we are injecting the gamification of loyalty points: stake them on tonight’s game and if you win you could double them. In essence, you are preserving the experience of betting but eliminating the negative and the cash risk. That’s what we mean by making them fun again. One of the ways we see people use them is: when we launched our pilot program, we put our product next to some of the industry’s biggest names. We then saw users were happy to use our service in an attempt to up their balance.

You have mentioned players can play for crypto... what technologies do you think we will see lead to innovation in the loyalty sector?

If you think about our model, and you take a partner like Snipp Interactive, who have partnerships and access in all corners of the loyalty industry,  they are already dealing with all different types of prizes, crypto, cash etc. Through this acquisition, we become an engine that plugs right into that; and so we can go from a simple platform that offers a limited number of prize options to an unlimited number. Now in terms of crypto, from my perspective, I view it as another good option for our players to redeem their winnings.

How will the takeover affect Gambit?
It’s taking a business that has grown organically over several years, locking down legal questions and regulatory concerns, and making sure we have a service that can operate nationwide. We have had success in this, running our pilot program next to household names like Mastercard, and within five months we shot to the top. Then you bring in Snipp. If we work on our own we have to make partnerships with all these companies on our own; with Snipp, they are already working with these Fortune 500 companies. Number one, it elevates our adoption curve. It massively enhances our technology as well; they know how to optimize user engagement and connectivity, that is another big piece. The third is the overlap; they have not really done much on the gaming side, so while we are bringing them an interesting product, it’s a good opportunity to bring what they do to the gaming sector. It’s a huge industry.

So is that what’s next? Making Gambit a household name?

Yes exactly and there are a couple ways we can do that. Firstly, what we are doing is unique. If you think about the gaming sector and what a lot of these big brands are doing, we are doing something similar but in no way competitive, because we aren’t competing for the cash dollar; we are doing something else. And so, in this aspect we can work with a lot of large operators, as we really are not competing with them. So in that sense we see an opportunity for us to partner with some of the biggest gaming companies, and that’s a way we can elevate our brand as well.

Overall, in regards to the gaming aspect, we love that experience. We are providing it, but it’s almost as if we are taking a really soft approach to it. You can play, you can win; but it’s not really costing you anything, it is the points and we think that’s a really interesting value proposition. We think it will go a long way to connecting with casual players.

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