Alternative markets have increasingly come to the fore over the last few months as bookmakers sought to offer new betting opportunities for punters during the global pandemic. While these markets have proven popular, Matt Scarrott, Director of Sportsbook at BetVictor, stated that they will never provide the same allure as the big sports that we are used to.
Speaking at the SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital on a COVID contingency planning panel, sponsored by Abelson Info, Scarrott discussed how BetVictor offered markets on sports such as table tennis and kung volley, but felt as though interest in such sports will dwindle once a full sporting calendar resumes.
He explained: “You’re never going to replace the big sports. When they’re on, you’re going to get the engagement, and that’s the key for us. You can roll out all this extra content in their absence, and some of this will stick around. Kung Volley and tiddlywinks probably won’t be markets that we see for a long time.
“But markets on esports, DOTA, League of Legends are all round-the-clock – so I think they will hang around. You’re never going to beat the thrill of a ‘real sport’.
“Racing is probably the only sport that survived without the crowds, everything else just feels very weird and different. But I think in terms of interest, that will increase once we get the crowds back into the stadiums.”
Scarrott was joined on the panel by GVC Group’s Head of Commercial Jamie McKittrick, Fitzdares CEO William Woodhams and Bayes Esports CEO Martin Dachselt. It was moderated by Marc Thomas, Partner at Propus Partners.
In agreement with Scarrott, McKittrick explained that there has been a ‘residual demand’ in what he called COVID products, pointing out that markets such as esports are here to stay.
He said: “We continue to be surprised by the residual demand that we are seeing from ‘COVID products’. There was a week towards the end of the main peak-COVID period where we were beginning to see a return of some sports – nonetheless there was a week when we took more money on table tennis than we did in the corresponding week in 2019 on tennis. Esports continues to hold up with its popularity.”
One thing that McKittrick highlighted was that COVID-19 has forced the betting and gaming industry to place a spotlight on responsible gambling and compliance measures as we emerge into what has been dubbed a ‘new normal’.
As a result of this, he explained that operators must ensure that they ‘don’t just do things right, but that they do the right thing’: “I think the one massive focus for sportsbooks is going to be responsible gambling. Certainly in the two largest jurisdictions that we operate in, that is arguably one of the largest risks to the business.
“It was notable when Shay took over as our CEO that responsible gambling took such a prominent place in our company strategy. It is in our interests as an industry to not just do things right, but to do the right thing.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Woodhams stressed the importance of being ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to responsible gambling measures – something which he explained has been a key focus for Fitzdares.
He added: “The competitive edge in a post-COVID, new normal period is those who can win when it comes to compliance, responsible gambling and anti-money laundering protocols and the remaining issues that previously bookmakers may have brushed aside. If you’re not ahead of the curve on this, your business is going to be destroyed.”
Looking to the future, Woodhams concluded: “For the UK at least, I think our focus will be on a smaller body of paying clients who are looked after and cared for better in terms of responsible gambling and AML – but also with levels of customer experience. It still shocks me that lots of bookmakers have closed their telephone operations because I think that punter is still there.
“What we’re seeing, especially with the US not being quite the gold rush that it was initially perceived to be, we’re seeing operators try to service a body of half a million active players – and yes, that is brilliant for your book because there are less ups and downs. But in terms of compliance, we need to work with a smaller group of clients in a safer manner.
“For us, going in the direction that we are going in isn’t a bad thing at all. Level of service and experience remains a priority for us – I don’t see the UKGC accepting brands that are churning millions of players for much longer.”
Further details, including the agenda, full line-up of 200 speakers and list of the 100 virtual exhibitors, are available from the official SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital website.
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