Betting Innovation: Interview with Onionsack CEO Jonathan Power

Onionsack is a unique provider of text betting messaging platforms for most of the major UK and Irish bookmakers, including Ladbrokes , Paddy Power , William Hill and Totepool . The company's platform drives the IM and Text betting channels, generating and delivering personalized in-play bet marketing messages. It allows customers to simply type and send their bet and, within seconds, they receive a receipt of the transaction, followed by another if they win.

Onionsack prides itself on understanding the written bet. Most recently the text betting messaging provider worked with Paddy Power to provide the bookmaker's customers with the ability to place bets directly via the Facebook Messenger mobile app.

VegasMaster had the pleasure of interviewing Onionsack CEO Jonathan Power in order to learn more about the innovative company, its success in the UK market and its plans for the future. Check out our interview below!

1. With so many betting apps and options to bet on mobile, what is the advantage of using your service and why do you think so many leading UK Sports Operators choose to use it?

Sports bettors are not short of channels and markets on which they can have an online sports bet. But the reason they use messaging apps – and operators use our services – is that messaging is simply the easiest way to do it. They use the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp in their every day life, so it takes little effort to use it for their betting too.

They key to make this really effective, however, is the use of Chatbots, which are proving to be excellent retention tools for operators. They can personalize content and send push notifications, with the customer deciding what he or she wants to receive. It is tailored, personalized betting that utilities their preferred medium.

The chatbot is able to send real-time messages to the customer, such as the latest news on jockeys, trainers, horses, team news and goal updates based on the interests of each customer. For instance, if you’re a Liverpool fan, you’ll be able to receive the latest betting information related to the Reds. You won’t have to wade through stuff people think you might want to bet on.

Paddy Power sports betting section

Paddy Power has taken a big step in providing players with more option to bet on the go.

These push notifications will pop up on a user’s phone exactly the same way in which a friend messages them. Push notifications are nothing new to the industry, but the key differentiator with our chatbot is that they will sit alongside an app which the customer is already using, and probably more likely interact with and read.

Our own transactional bot is capable of reading, understanding, and executing bets through messaging channels including the recently launched Paddy Power Facebook Messenger chatbot.
The potential of chatbots within social media apps in the igaming industry is huge, and could revolutionise the way in which players, particularly recreational punters, look to place bets.

2. Your UK & Ireland company base started working with PMU [France] last year. Do you have any plans to branch out to more countries in the future?

Yes, this is very much a launchpad for us. Traditionally, we’ve focused on the UK and Irish markets, but winning the major tender messaging betting project with PMU France in 2016 was validation of our platform and a milestone in our international expansion.

We are now focused on mainland Europe, Australia, and Africa and are working with a lot of international brands to extend our services into their markets. It’s a very exciting period of development for the company, and we’re very well placed to scale up to meet demand, both in our home market and overseas.

3. What was your main goal when you began working on social platforms (Facebook and Twitter)? Have you placed your focus more on being where the players are and expanding your reach and/or do these platforms allow for other advantages, such as features\activities, etc.?

It sometimes feels like the whole world is connected to social media in one way or another, and to think of life without Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp is inconceivable for many millions of people. Businesses have for years been trying to find the best way to maximize the potential and monetize these social channels, but to date have struggled to find a solution to this challenge.

Since our foundation in 2005, the way we message one another has evolved dramatically thanks to the introduction of social media platforms. As well as texting, billions of people around the world send messages through messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Onionsack CEO Jonathan Power

Jonathan Power, Onionsack CEO: "UK gamblers, due the longevity of the market, are a sophisticated audience and a demanding one."

Through our transaction chatbot, sports operators can now be able to interact with their customers through Facebook Messenger and execute bets placed via the app. It is a genuine industry-first and goes to the heart of user activity in their daily lives.

4. Can you explain in detail how your innovative transactional bot works?

For chatbot technology to work effectively in igaming, it needs a natural language processing system which is able to understand exactly how betting works. Phrases such as “a monkey on United to win” or “each way on One for Arthur” wouldn’t make much sense to a standard SaaS messaging platform. But our chatbot speaks ‘punter’, for want of a better phrase, and can understand the nuances of betting terminology.

This gets round the issues some text betting solutions has previously had, with systems failing to understand what a customers wants, much to everybody’s frustration. This is particularly important when dealing with transactions, as the customer and operator needs to have the utmost confidence that the bot can register exactly the type of bet the player has requested without any error.

At Onionsack, we have developed our own transactional bot which is capable of reading, understanding and executing bets through Facebook Messenger. We have been analyzing and understanding bet messages for over 10 years giving us a clear competitive edge in this space. Crucial to making this possible is our own SaaS platform, which has the technical prowess and intelligence to know how sports betting works.

5. Is there any information about UK gamblers that you can share? Are there any specific habits or other interesting traits that you've noticed?

UK gamblers, due the longevity of the market, are a sophisticated audience and a demanding one. they are not short of options when it comes to having a bet, so they’re not going to tolerate poor customer service. It is even more important, therefore, that operators engage with them on their level and using technology that suits them, Brands like Paddy Power have become far more customer-centric and the use of Chatbots will further help this process and bring the two closer together.

About The Author

As a member of the VegasMaster writing staff, I pride myself on delivering quality information about my favorite topic: the online gaming industry. In addition to playing a wide-variety of online casino games, I keep up on the latest iGaming news and trends. My passion for the industry has made me both an experienced player and researcher.