Daniel Kustelski: “Start customer acquisition work today”

Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline.
Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline.

Exclusive interview.- Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline, speaks with Focus Gaming News about the online gaming scenario in the US in the last few months.

Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline, was an early mover in North America’s regulated sports betting landscape. Chalkline was founded in 2016, a full two years before the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA.

Having run a sports book in South Africa at Sun International’s casino group, he understood first-hand the challenges operators face as they seek to build and retain their player database. 

Daniel shared his personal experience and perspective with Focus Gaming News as we near the third anniversary of the repeal of PASPA.

What should operators in states yet to regulate sports betting do now to ensure they are in a strong position once the activity is legalized? 

The single biggest head start comes from beginning customer acquisition work today. 

Yes, it’s hard when you’re doing all of the things required to run the current states that you’re running, and managing all the prep work for future betting states, but there is no better day to acquire customers than today. 

Whether it’s building state-level partnerships or cultivating influencers or launching freeplay games, get started as early as you possibly can. 

What role can freeplay games play in engaging and educating players ahead of legal sports betting coming to a state? 

According to the American Gaming Association, 30 to 40 MILLION Americans will place their first legal bet before the end of 2025. 

“The single biggest head start comes from beginning customer acquisition work today.”

Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline.

How are they going to get comfortable enough with your product to give you their personal ID and fund an account? 

Freeplay games are essentially product sampling around events that your future customers care about. Based on data we see every day, it’s an effective part of any Player Acquisition Manager’s toolbox. 

Why is it so important to educate players at such an early stage in the process? Is now the most cost-effective time to acquire players? Why? 

When I ran a book (Sunbet in South Africa), we’d see that even players that were on our Casino Loyalty program would take five or six interactions before creating an account in the Sun-owned book.

For completely new customers, they’d visit our site 10+ times before creating and funding an account. You must build trust, and engagement does exactly that. 

The quicker you recognize the realities of customer acquisition in the USA right now, the sooner you’re going to want to get started. 

What are some of the challenges that come with successfully deploying freeplay games? How can these be overcome? 

If you’re running a book, freeplay will be one of the simplest marketing tools you can set up. 

There can be challenges: freeplay games are a tool that MUST be a part of a strong marketing program–they’re not going to cure everything that ails you, but they give you a strong set of implements to farm your owned, earned and paid media. 

“You must build trust (for new customers), and engagement does exactly that.”

Daniel Kustelski, CEO of Chalkline.

Look at this as an opportunity: freeplay games complement many marketing campaigns, since sports betting revolves around big sporting events. Some of our very creative clients recently ran freeplay games for casual customers (on events like the Grammy’s) to strong response. 

How easy is it to switch players from freeplay to real-money betting once the activity is legalized in the state? 

Freeplay players convert over to real money on a regular basis. An operator’s conversion will depend on a number of factors, and while nobody will say it’s ‘easy,’ it works better than many other tactics. 

An important thing to remember, as long as you have players engaged in freeplay, they’re listening to you and building a player profile with you. That’s a great place to start to get to know customers and give them what they want as they think about real money options. 

Anything else to add? 

This is a uniquely exciting time for sports betting and iGaming in North America. Canada is moving towards regulation, and US states continue to regulate new gaming products. 

Savvy, proactive operators (and their media partners) will be actively engaging, educating and acclimating players in current and future sports betting jurisdictions. 

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