Listen in as Dr. Laila Mintas, the CEO at PlayUp, joins us to talk a bit about her career and what she’s up to with PlayUp. We also talk a bit about legalization of sports betting in the United States.

Video from Dr. Laila Mintas Interview

Show notes from Dr. Laila Mintas Interview

Ryan Knuppel: All right, welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host Ryan Knuppel, here with you each and every time. Thank you guys so much for giving us a little bit of your time, carving it out of your day to listen and watch this show today. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest, I have the CEO and board director at PlayUp, Dr. Laila Mintas. Dr. Laila, thank you for joining me.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Thank you for having me.

Ryan Knuppel: Oh, it’s my pleasure. I appreciate you being here and I’m looking forward to hearing your story a little bit and I’m sure the audience is as well so thank you for your time. First of all, are you staying safe through all of this COVID shutdown?

Dr. Laila Mintas: Yes. Thank you for asking. Yeah, I’m staying safe. I’m based in Vegas. All the [inaudible 00:00:44] is pretty quiet here and we have self-quarantined more or less since March, so now because of the young kids that I’m having, I keep it pretty safe and don’t want to take any risk.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. I’m here in Florida and that’s, if you know anything about Florida right now, the numbers are skyrocketing, so I’m playing it pretty safe here as well. Luckily, my family and friends and everybody I know are safe as well, but we’re definitely playing it safe here in Florida.

Ryan Knuppel: All right, let’s jump right in. I want to hear a little bit about your background, so give us a little bit about your background in the iGaming space. Maybe some jobs you’ve had or just how you got to where you are today.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Yeah, funny enough, I’m a lawyer by trade. I would never have thought that I end up was in the sports betting industry to be honest. I wrote my PhD in law about sports betting via the internet published in Germany, where I’m originally from, and it was basically picked up by someone at FIFA who then hired me to run FIFA’s integrity efforts. So I was the head of integrity and international development at the subsidiary of FIFA cards, early warning system. We were basically monitoring the betting market and the performance of the players to see if there are any irregularities that could be linked to match manipulation, and that’s how I really started off becoming interested in sports betting and sports and I did a few years for FIFA and afterwards for CONCACAF, which is the soccer administration body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and after that basically started with Sportradar, which most people I think are more familiar with in the sports industry nowadays. So we basically were, and Sportradar still is, one of the biggest sports data companies, so basically selling data across the industry.

Dr. Laila Mintas: When I left Sportradar, we had a market share of over 80% already in the US and on a global level in the regulated markets, and I saw that from there on, there was nothing more for me to basically win, so I felt it’s time for a new adventure and basically left and consulted for a few years, here in Las Vegas actually, and met the guys from PlayUp, was very impressed by what they have built in a short time in Australia and New Zealand and India, and they had the plans to come into as a US, so it was basically a no brainer for us to work together for me to help them with getting into the US.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s amazing. It sounds like quite the career path you’ve had and some really, really cool experiences as well along the way, so congrats on all that success and more success to come.

Ryan Knuppel: So tell us a little bit about PlayUp and, give the audience the hundred foot view of what PlayUp is, and where you are going.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Yeah, so what is exciting about PlayUp is that we have our own technology in-house, so we are a sports betting and fantasy company. So the company started off initially with fantasy sports, was one of the first fantasy platforms in Australia where you actually had to pay and then developed over time by acquiring a few more companies, and create in-house technology, it’s an in-house tech platform, risk and trading is in-house. We even have a customer service team in-house, and that all was [inaudible 00:04:39] team.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Headquarters is in Australia, in Sydney, and now we’re here for the US in Nevada where I’m based, and yeah, we’re excited. We acquired market access in a few States here in the US already, and we will be launching that step by step in the next couple of weeks and months, and yeah, it’s very exciting.

Dr. Laila Mintas: I have always seen so many things from the eyes of a betting operator, so when I was working on the league side, we worked with the operators on a global level and did agreements, and then basically with Sportradar we were supplying data to the entire sports betting and gaming industry, and then I consulted also with a company called Bet.Works, where I’m also the chairwoman of the advisory board, and therefore I know the platform business pretty well, so I was very excited then to hear that PlayUp has their own tech, their own platform in-house, which makes the company pretty agile in developing new products.

Dr. Laila Mintas: I don’t think I would have joined PlayUp just to have another sports betting brand out there in the US. What we really want to do is disrupt the market, being innovative, being that young and fresh company that’s has innovative and disruptive ideas, and basically rock the US market, so here we are.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s amazing. So you said you’ve already kind of gotten into a couple of the States. Can you share what States you guys are going to be working in here soon, or is that private knowledge at this point?

Dr. Laila Mintas: It’s still top secret but it’s coming out in the next couple of weeks, but what I can share so far is that we do online only. I think in times of pandemics that’s probably a good approach. So the company has always been an online only brand in Australia and the other markets that they are in, so that makes sense now for the US as well, and it helps us be more scalable.

Dr. Laila Mintas: So our products are online only, we will have a big variety of different products or full suite of different products in the market, but it’s too early to tell you what exactly that will be, that’s all kind of like top secret at the moment.

Ryan Knuppel: Well, we’ll be on the lookout for that, for sure. But I mean, you can talk a little bit about… What I’ve always said is the United States is like a different beast when we’re dealing with this legalization of sports betting, right? It’s like every single state feels like its own country when you’re dealing with them, and so speak a little bit about what it’s like, just trying to navigate through the different legal rules and the different States and things like that. You don’t have to talk about specific States, but just what that’s like from a planning perspective for an operator like you guys.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Yeah, so what we’re looking for is where you have a high population. Basically, those markets are pretty interested. So three biggest States in the US Florida, California, and Texas have not legalized sports betting yet, but I think it’s coming pretty soon and it is good for us, so it gives us time to get into the market and then go step by step into the markets that have legalized online sports betting and stop there, and then basically extend over the entire country.

Dr. Laila Mintas: But I think it’s very important that States legalize online sports betting. As we all know, before the US had that before PASPA was repealed, there was a huge, illegal offshore sports betting market, so people outside the US basically accepting US customers, and we have now to establish legalized sports betting across the country, so people have a legal opportunity to play sports betting, and that only helps basically converting the offshore players into legal players. I think it’s human nature that people want to play, especially if you love sport, you want to place a bet, and I think… I have always seen sports betting as entertainment. So if you are out with your friends, even if you’re by yourself, you’re watching sport, you want to engage deeper into sport and you can do that by placing bets. So it’s really entertainment.

Ryan Knuppel: There’s a lot of great points in there. I’ve always been the same way where I don’t even consider it gambling. I consider it entertainment. I consider it investing more than I would consider it gambling from my perspective, but I love that outlook on it.

Ryan Knuppel: You mentioned something else in there that caught my ear and caught my attention. You said you think or hope that Florida, Texas, California will come around here sooner than later. Obviously me being in Florida, I’m like, “Come on Florida, let’s go, quit dragging your feet.”

Ryan Knuppel: What do you truly think the realistic timeframe is for, let’s just say Florida or any of those States that you mentioned? Are we talking still a couple years away here, or you think there’ll be some pretty accelerated growth here in a fairly short timeframe?

Dr. Laila Mintas: I’m still hoping for some shortcuts to get there, but I think California is expected now to go live 2023. I wouldn’t be surprised if Florida and Texas are in the same range, so that gives us a few more years that we probably have to wait for it, but until then, I think it’s really important to start basically developing other states, and the more States that legalize sports betting, the neighbor’s states basically see the revenues that are coming in and it helps. Competition always helps in a business right?

Dr. Laila Mintas: So if you have the other neighbor states basically making a lot of revenues through legal sports betting, and you as a state are sitting there and you have no revenues coming in, all your population’s basically going off shore. So people are betting offshore. Take Texas, where you are based or Florida, or other big States, California… Everywhere where you don’t have legalized sports betting yet, people that love sports and want to bet, they find ways to do that as they have done before PASPA was repealed. So therefore it’s urgently needed to have legalized offerings in place, and I think we’ll accelerate at a certain point in time, but fingers crossed hopefully sooner than later.

Ryan Knuppel: Oh I 100% agree with that. I hope it’s sooner than later, and I hope that the coming back of sports here will kind of drive some conversations and maybe we’ll start seeing a little activity pick up there, because we had quite a bit of momentum for… and when I say we, the US legalization industry, it was quite a bit of momentum before COVID hit, and then when once the pandemic hit, I feel like it’s kind of down, but I’m hoping it just skyrockets again here, once we kind of get back to civilization and normal life,

Dr. Laila Mintas: Some people think because the states need money right now that that will help accelerating the process for them to legalize sports betting. So fingers crossed that we get there, but also with the states that have legalized sports betting so far, almost half a percent of the adult population of the US has access to sports betting or will have access pretty soon, so I mean we’re halfway in already, which is good and well PASPA was repealed May 2018, which is just a bit more than over two years ago, some people didn’t expect that to go so fast. So I think it’s great what the US have established so far, and of course there is a bit work ahead of us, but it is great momentum and for an online brand like PlayUp, I think we feel pretty confident because we are online only, people don’t want to leave their homes. They still have the option to play, and I think that’s what people want to do.

Ryan Knuppel: 100%. So being in an online only company as PlayUp is, I’m assuming customer acquisition is going to be a major challenge for you guys. It’s going to be something that you guys really have to put a lot of work and effort into. My question around that is, a lot of the people that watch this show and, and a lot of my background comes in the affiliate marketing space, and I’m curious if PlayUp… And if you can’t talk to this again, just tell me to buzz off… But I’m curious if you guys have any plans of offering an affiliate program for people to help promote PlayUp as it starts to grow.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Absolutely yes, we will be working with affiliates. We will give bonuses away as everyone is doing, and we will have some other acquisition tools that are more like thinking outside the box, so we’re working on that right now. For us of course, the challenge is, as you said, we are new to the US, most people haven’t heard about PlayUp yet, apart from probably Australian people that live here. So as every other brand that’s coming into the US that’s a challenge right? So customer acquisition needs to be a combination of bonuses, affiliates, and other things, but I think one of the advantages that we have is we are scalable. We are online only. We don’t have to go out and take care of retail locations, so in terms of costs, that’s something that we can save and put on the bonuses right?

Dr. Laila Mintas: And then from a strategic perspective in Australia, we’ve been pretty successful because we are giving really great odds away, so we have better odds than most of the bigger players in the market, and that makes us pretty attractive to casual betters as well, that want to get the better deal in the market, but I think that would be an advantage in the US market as well. And what is really interesting is other than Europeans coming into the US, Australia and Australians, bet a lot on US sports. So US sport is something that for whatever reason is an interest of Australians, so our risk and trading team is actually used to US sports already, and if you compare that with Europeans being from Europe, myself, soccer is the number one sport and 80% of the betting volume is on soccer. In Australia, that’s different, and that’s the other advantage that we have. So we’re used to doing US sports and do risk and trading on that, and hopefully come in with better odds than everyone else, and that beats the bigger players.

Ryan Knuppel: That’s how you got to do it. You got to offer better, better odds and more promotions and things like that, so I’m sure you guys are going to do a wonderful job of that. Who doesn’t want better odds? I mean, come on, if you’re a better and you’re any kind of a smart better at all, you know you want to get the best odds out there and you’ll shop around if you have options to find those, so I think you’re onto something with that for sure.

Dr. Laila Mintas: And then also on the product development side, I always like to compare our company with a speedboat right? We are not a big dinosaur that’s sitting there forever and have had the same products for a long time. We are really the small energized people that come in can see trends in the market.

Dr. Laila Mintas: If we see that something’s not working out, for whatever reason, we can change the strategy around in hours and days, and basically adjust things that we see that need to be adjusted. So for example, during COVID, we launched eSports sports betting and even fantasy on eSports sports betting, and those have turned out to be very successful products, and we had just the best months ever during COVID, which is pretty ironic.

Dr. Laila Mintas: So that shows that even players that are new to the market and that are more agile have a chance to the market, and that’s why we are here, and as I said earlier, it’s not about duplicating what’s in the market already. It’s about disrupting what’s in there, coming up with new products, new ideas how you can really engage as a fan, and I think what we need to do at the end of the day, it’s about fan engagement sport. If you watch a game to get entertained on a second screen device, and that is what we want to do.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. That’s amazing. So, so if the listeners had any questions or maybe they even have some ideas to how to make it a little more innovative for you guys, how would they contact you? Would they contact you or contact your team? Let me know how they would get ahold of you guys.

Dr. Laila Mintas: They can contact me. I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m doing quite a good job to respond to most of my LinkedIn. Sometimes it’s just too much, but whenever I have a chance I look through and I’m pretty responsive, so I’m always open to get great ideas and discuss great ideas, and I get a lot of… Especially because I worked as a consultant for the last year… I get a lot of requests, always from young companies, startups, so a lot of product innovation, and that’s great. I love to see that and have conversations with those entrepreneurs, so that’s always fun.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, we definitely appreciate your time here, and you’ve given us a little bit of time on this show. Any last words before we go, any last words or anything you want to say to the audience? Or just anything about PlayUp that you haven’t spoken on yet before we go here?

Dr. Laila Mintas: No, I think I appreciate being on the show. I think you guys do a great job, so I love your podcast and it’s a pleasure to be on and I wish everyone to stay safe in these crazy times, and then hopefully later for this year, check out our PlayUp app.

Ryan Knuppel: Well, I appreciate the kind words and guess what you are actually episode number 100, so this is like a milestone episode. We’ve got Dr. Mintas on a very special number hundred. I don’t have balloons or anything flying up, but when this is published, it should be number one hundred, so I appreciate you being here, and I appreciate everybody tuning in listening, watching this show.

Ryan Knuppel: Until next time, Dr. Laila Mintas. Thank you for being here. Everybody go out, check out, PlayUp. It’s going to be a disruptor in the industry for years to come here, so I’m excited to see what you guys have in store.

Dr. Laila Mintas: Thank you so much.

Ryan Knuppel: All right. Take care. Bye-bye. Thanks everybody for tuning in. Have a great day.

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