Rohini Sardana: Betting needs to find its Z appeal

Entering a new decade, industry leadership faces the challenge of developing stronger consumer propositions and engaging products, as the sector hits its ‘peak betting phase’.

The industry’s 2020 agenda began with UKGC Chief Executive Neil McArthur outlining concerns that the industry’s consumer confidence had ‘reached its lowest ebb’, whilst participation shrinks. 

Amid these prominent concerns, Generation-Z enters working life as the ‘Zoomer generation’ begins its consumer journey. 

Lazy rhetoric and analysis point to esports as betting’s ‘generational hook’, however, the industry faces tough questions on engagement and interaction if Zoomers are to avoid becoming a jilted generation

Rohini Sardana, head of sports and product propositions at Sports Information Services (SIS), believes that the use of streaming services and esports is key to grabbing this crucial audience.

Speaking to SBC News, Sardana stated: “A younger audience is quite used to short-form content with easy accessibility i.e. no paywalls. If you look at the majority of the betting websites at the moment there are dead zones in the mornings on weekdays.

“The data in the market as well as our own consumer research has shown that bettors will engage more with content that is short-form, easy to understand and easy to access. So certainly, we think that this content will appeal to both mainstream esports bettors as well as traditional bettors.”

The idea of creating streaming betting services takes inspiration from platforms such as Twitch or YouTube’s live system. SIS hopes that by integrating live-streaming platforms it can elevate the overall betting experience for esports enthusiasts, with the expectation that they will then be more inclined to place a bet on their favourite sport or esports teams.

SIS has highlighted the esports betting market as a key area for growth, with the data services provider launching its esports-focused competitive gaming product in 2019. In order to retain its core demographic as well as reaching the casual esports punter, SIS has limited its content to ‘more traditional’ content.

Sardana continued: “Given our heritage in betting and gaming, we know that  interest and familiarity, especially when introducing new betting content to new or existing audiences is key. By offering a lot of markets that are quite niche can be overwhelming for a lot of bettors particularly those unfamiliar with the content and those that enjoy a casual or quick betting experience.

“Our view is to keep it simple initially and as the product grows, with interest from bettors combined with performance data, perhaps we add those niche markets at a later date.”

Esports in the betting industry is arguably still an unknown entity, and with no guaranteed successful market strategy, many companies are learning to integrate different processes to overcome certain hurdles.

One major hurdle is the segmented relationship between the gambling sector and esports organisations. Game titles such as CS:GO and Call of Duty have embraced the gambling industry with open arms, however Riot Games, who runs the world’s most watched platform League of Legends, has prohibited teams from being associated with gambling firms. 

The head of sports and products propositions feels that this relationship needs to be addressed and dealt with if both industries want to prosper.

She added: “Certainly, tournament organisers, betting companies and B2B suppliers like ourselves work together to provide products that work for bettors. However, if you were to look at the top tier of the esports ecosystem then you find there is less engagement and if that was to improve, the esports betting supply chain would be more sustainable.”

Given that esports’ transition into a betting system is relatively new, another issue with fully utilising the sector and garnering Gen Z audiences is the lack of data in the industry right now. A variety of companies have dealt with this issue in many ways, with soon-to-be released opting to use totes. Meanwhile other markets using fixed odds have decided to offer tighter odds, with the hope of loosening them when an influx of bets are placed on a certain odd.

The SIS approach, according to Sardana, is to prioritise markets where data and knowledge is widely available to providers, limiting niche markets but also providing accurate odds in the process.

She emphasised: “It’s a relatively new vertical, in terms of the data and if you think about what operators require when launching a product like esports, they’ve got to speak to the right data suppliers for game/in-game data, they have got to work with the tournament organisers for the event and tournament data and then an odds provider. 

“Currently the offering is quite fragmented making it difficult for operators to be lean in this space.”

Nevertheless the gambling industry, despite the market being tough to break into, feels the allude of gaining a new generation of betters in what is proving to be difficult using ‘traditional’  methods is certainly worth the risk.

This is the reason providers like SIS have developed esports-dedicated platforms, because the demand is there. With new systems being implemented, it is only a matter of time before one strategy cements itself as the esports betting method.

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