History maker


After Kambi became the first sports betting supplier to process a legal online bet in the US post-PASPA, 5 Star caught up with its CEO Kristian Nylen for an exclusive interview.

The date 1 August 2018 will long be remembered by sports betting aficionados, for it was the day the first legal online sports bet was struck following the repeal of PASPA. On any other day, a $5 wager on a baseball game may seem trivial, but for sports betting supplier Kambi, whose platform processed the bet, this wager will go down in history.  

The historic moment followed the launch of the Kambi-powered DraftKings Sportsbook app in New Jersey. The launch came shortly after Kambi, DraftKings and DraftKings’ land-based license partner Resorts casino, were first to be approved by the New Jersey regulator to provide sports betting online – beating a long list of competitors frantically trying to ready themselves to take that first bet.   

5 Star spoke with Kambi CEO Kristian Nylen to get his thoughts on his sportsbook platform taking that first and historic online bet in the US, the work that helped them to be first to market and how he sees the US market evolving.  

You must be extremely proud to have taken the first online bet following the repeal of PASPA?

Yes, I am, it is a huge achievement – a history-making one, in fact. However, our efforts weren’t solely about being first to market as I believe that in the US, quality of sportsbook product will matter just as much as, if not more than, anywhere else. So for us to be able to launch first and with a high-quality product was especially pleasing. In addition, with New Jersey being a brand new regulated market, we had to go through the regulator’s thorough initial licensing processes for the first time. Thanks to our clear corporate structure, probity and integrity measures, we were able to clear that hurdle perhaps quicker than others have experienced. 

How is the partnership working with DraftKings?

It’s been great working with DraftKings – we’ve formed a very effective partnership with both parties bringing different skills and expertise to the table. DraftKings has been able to take our highly sophisticated platform and, through our APIs and the freedom we provide, build much of the frontend themselves. Meanwhile, we have spent a lot of time developing our sportsbook product to meet the expectations of the US bettor, both in terms of depth of offer and adjustments such as American odds, flexibility on homes/away ordering and using the correct terminology. In short, we have the experience of running a sportsbook, while DraftKings have an understanding of the local players – that’s a powerful combination.  

Can you tell me a little about the product – it doesn’t look like an out-of-the-box solution?

The DraftKings frontend looks noticeably different from most of our other operators’ as they have built a large part of their frontend experience on top our APIs. We give all our customers the freedom to take control of large parts of the client and, if they wish, take full control over the frontend. So in general, the platform is providing operators with the flexibility to create unique betting experiences and offer a product which not only suits the players of today, but has the crucial ability to adapt as the market evolves. We have also modified our platform for the US market, with US-specific odds presentation, American terminology, giving the operator the choice of how to present home and away teams in different leagues, additional handicap lines, etc. We’re also providing the most comprehensive in-play offering for all US sports, including a range of unique bets and player specials – it’s a depth of offer others operators, including offshore books, can’t match.

Kambi is a B2B supplier, so what have you made of the JV deals in the US involving operators such as GVC and, although an acquisition, Paddy Power Betfair?

It’s not really for me to pass judgement on what other companies are doing, but the US is so vast that there will always be more than one route to market. What Kambi offers US operators is a high-quality sportsbook, one which gives them complete control over how they want to run their business and, crucially, ensures they continue to own their most valuable asset – their customers. Furthermore, the US market will be long-game so operators must make the right decisions now for the long-term, and resist the temptation of a quick fix for immediate market access or short-term boost to their share price.

How do you follow making history? What’s next for Kambi?

The US will continue to be a major focus for us. Although we have launched with DraftKings, we still have many other launches ahead of us due to the state-by-state nature of regulation the country has adopted. We’ll also need to keep a very keen eye on early behavioural trends in the market and adapt our product when we believe it is right to do so. The Kambi platform has the flexibility which enables us, and our partners, to do that – so we can evolve with the market and ensure we continue to meet the needs of maturing players. In parallel to the US, we continue to grow in Europe and recently signed ATG and the Latvian Loto, so the integrations and launches of those customers are also high on the agenda.