Norsk Tipping is state-owned, making it the people’s gaming company. With more than two million customers, it serves almost half of Norway’s adult population.
How does society benefit? The Ministry of Culture dispenses Norsk Tipping’s surplus funds to a range of good causes—63% to sport, 18% to culture and 18% to humanitarian organizations. In 2022, the company contributed more than USD 630 million to such pursuits.
To foster responsible gambling, Norsk Tipping tracks games played, betting frequency, losses and more for each user. Then, it gently intervenes when data analytics discover patterns that show increased risk of developing gambling problems. Users logging in can see their responsible gaming status as green, yellow or red, and when necessary are provided with personal feedback and recommendations on how to lower their risk score.
Mining the gaming data presents a real challenge. Weekly, up to a million users in peak timeframes generate many thousands of transactions per second to be processed, stored and analyzed. The processing is so intensive that it’s usually done in batch mode.
Pulling data from the data warehouse in batches and analyzing it for responsible gaming insights takes 24 hours, and batch processing of user lottery subscriptions used to take 8 – 9 hours. Such delays led Norsk Tipping IT architects to explore a more modern, event-driven data architecture. The goal is to process data events in motion so as to accelerate application response and improve the user experience.
“In our legacy architecture, we pull data from a system or a database when a request comes in from the internet,” explains Jan Harald Fonås, Middleware Systems Engineer at Norsk Tipping. “We are testing an event-based architecture where that data is already present, because when it was generated, it was sent through an event streaming engine and is waiting to be consumed.”
“In some cases, an event-based architecture would be faster and wouldn’t put as much load on the infrastructure,” adds Tormod Kvalheim, Head of Applications. “It could also drive innovation, providing data to developers for creating new products and services.”
Still, in order to experiment with event-driven architecture, the IT team first had to choose an event streaming platform that would meet Norsk Tipping’s needs.
In a busy period, Norsk Tipping must process more than 5,000 gaming transactions per second
Processing lottery subscriptions under Event Streams is 6X faster than before
The IT architects had several requirements for a streaming platform. Apache Kafka is the leading open-source solution, and as part of Norsk Tipping’s infrastructure modernization program, Kafka needed to run in Kubernetes containers. The architects also sought a vendor that would provide strong ongoing support, rather than just a transactional relationship.
After trying different streaming solutions, they chose IBM® Event Streams, an enterprise-class event streaming and automation platform built on Apache Kafka. Event Streams incorporates open-source Strimzi technology for deploying Kafka in a resilient and manageable way, and it provides a range of additional capabilities to extend the core functionality. Like all products in the IBM Cloud Pak® for Integration, Event Streams is designed to run on Red Hat® OpenShift® (link resides outside of ibm.com) and other Kubernetes container platforms.
“When we saw that IBM was working with OpenShift and Strimzi, we realized that this is what we wanted,” explains Andrea Knagenhjelm, Middleware Systems Engineer at Norsk Tipping. “Being operator based, Event Streams resources are very easy to manage.”
“Event Streams is really reliable and IBM has always been there to support us,” says Fonås. “If IBM Norway isn’t able to help, someone in the IBM world always steps in.”
Although it’s still early, Norsk Tipping has started to capitalize on Event Streams. It powers a popular service that lets users subscribe to their favorite lottery games and play each week. The service stores favorite numbers or selects them at random, and every Monday sends users SMS updates on purchases the system made.
The service demonstrates Event Streams’ processing power. Before, batch processing the subscription list took 8 – 9 hours. Now, it takes 1.5 hours, a 6X improvement. This speed makes the service more responsive to users, helping to improve their experience.
In another use case, Event Streams improves the partner experience by quickly calculating sales commissions owed to affiliates when users buy games on their websites. And it powers a new customer application, now in testing, that will boost developers’ efficiency in creating customer-centric games and services.
Norsk Tipping also plans to apply event streaming to responsible gaming updates by enabling greater personalization. Instead of taking 24 hours for batch-mode processing of user profiles, Event Streams could do it much faster—and perhaps help trigger interventions in near real-time when user behavior approaches red-zone thresholds.
“Event Streams should help our systems respond faster and personalization should be better,” says Fonås. “Once multiple customer data events converge in a system, it could build a response, providing a unique user experience for that specific customer.”
The subscription service’s speed and improved user experience shows the potential of Event Streams. It’s one of many use cases on the drawing board that support Norsk Tipping’s mission of contributing to Norwegian society.
“The subscription service is quite important to our customers because they can just subscribe and not have to think about buying lottery games again and again,” says Kvalheim. “It’s popular because the system does it for them.”
Indeed, many customers use the service weekly, with turnover increasing each week. And, of course, the profits finance the worthwhile projects that set Norsk Tipping apart.
“Sometimes in our company, jokingly, we measure things by kids’ football fields,” quips Kvalheim. “When we succeed, it’s more money for culture, humanitarian organizations and football fields for kids. That’s the bright side of gambling.”
Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Hamar, Norway, Norsk Tipping (link resides outside of ibm.com) is a state-owned gambling company that returns all profits to society. Actively working to reduce gambling addiction, Norsk Tipping employs around 400 people and in 2022 contributed more than USD 630 million to sports, culture and humanitarian organizations.
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