The Innovative Strategies Propelling America’s iGaming Startups

By | April 5, 2024


It’s been six years since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was repealed, allowing each state to legislate sports gambling independently. In this evolving landscape, American startups have been at the forefront of innovation in the online gambling industry. Their fresh approaches and adaptive strategies have set new benchmarks in customer acquisition and retention, reshaping the market dynamics significantly.

According to a study conducted in March 2024 by Waterhouse VC, a comprehensive analysis of customer acquisition strategies reveals key trends and tactics employed by these startups. The study outlines seven primary strategies that have been pivotal in securing the first customers for these emerging companies.

Surprisingly, most startups attributed their initial user acquisition success to a singular strategy, with only a minority leveraging more than three methods. This focused approach underscores the startups’ strategic clarity in navigating the competitive landscape.

High-touch customer engagement emerged as the most popular strategy, emphasizing the importance of personalized interaction with customers in the early stages. This approach, often considered unscalable, proves crucial in building initial momentum and establishing a loyal customer base.

Interestingly, the report noted a significant omission – the reliance on paid advertisements was not a prominent strategy for acquiring the first cohort of customers among these startups. This deviation from traditional online marketing tactics signifies a strategic shift in the industry, highlighting the innovative thinking of these companies.

An overview of the innovative strategies employed by iGaming startups. Image: Waterhouse VC



“We had to very quickly focus on being more ‘hands-on’ with customers engaged with unfamiliar sports and less traditional formats – both from a marketing and trading perspective. Be prepared to dive extremely deeply into how your vision translates into customer (revenue) upside.” — Joseph Dunnigan, Founder & CEO, ALT Sports Data

“Early on, we realized that helping customers navigate the many common pitfalls of registering, funding, and betting with online operators was more challenging than expected. Due to the complexity of passing KYC checks, linking reliable payment options, and even navigating difficult to understand app interfaces, our hand-to-hand concierge services were uniquely positioned to support customers and operator clients alike. We overcame these challenges by dedicating ourselves to becoming the resident experts on our operator products in order to properly represent them with customers, and also seamlessly guide those customers through their respective journeys, regardless of their previous betting experiences.” — Jai Maw, Co-Founder & President, Betting Hero

“We saw that in our product journeys where many potential users would see our prices/odds on another web property or chat group, and come to our site with the intention of placing a bet, but had difficulty procuring a crypto wallet (or understanding what this was). The CEO or another member of our leadership team reaches out to every single one of these users to try to ease the learning curve and onboard them to the site. This isn’t a scalable solution, but is highly important to do and valuable in an early stage company to learn about your customer base.” — Varun Sudhakar, Co-Founder & CEO, BetDex

“Prior to Low6, I had been running a sports events marketing agency and my co-founder was in retail bookmaking so we initially leaned on our connections in both fields to introduce them to our free-to-play pool betting app. We were quite fortunate that the app was built on social competition so had some early success with the power of network effects in building out our customer base.” — Jamie Mitchell, Co-Founder & Group CEO, Low6

“We leveraged the anticipation and excitement of our waitlist by offering early access to those who signed up. This created a sense of exclusivity and urgency, encouraging people to join and engage with our platform. We implemented a strong referral program that rewarded existing users for bringing in new customers. This not only helped in customer acquisition but also fostered a sense of community around our platform.” — Jacob Fortinsky, Founder & CEO, Novig

“Choosing the right strategies and being willing to pivot when necessary is critical. While some methods may yield immediate results, others may require patience and adaptation. It’s about finding that balance.” — Tom Waterhouse, CIO, Waterhouse VC

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