Following the Italian national team’s failure to qualify for a second successive football World Cup, we examine the Italian sports betting market and ask what impact the shock non-participation will have on betting revenues in the country that is famed for its football fanaticism.
SBC:The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the global calendar and a key period for sportsbooks – how big an impact will Italy not travelling to Qatar have on general revenues?
Giuseppe Donato, Country Manager Italy, Kiron Interactive: The failure of our national football team to qualify for the next world championships undoubtedly breaks my heart as a fan and I hope that in the future, new sporting joys will quickly take its place. It’s unfortunately an aspect that will have a negative impact on sports betting from both an economic and betting perspective.
Most sports and betting fans love to watch their favourite teams on TV, cheering for their champions and their stakes during all the action. We anticipate a significant decline, but all is not lost.
Fortunately, there is extensive media coverage of the event, which increases the likelihood that there will be a reasonable level of interest in the event which will help mitigate the absence of the Italian team and the effect on betting during the tournament.
Francesco Papallo, Regional Director, Altenar: There is still a certain degree of uncertainty surrounding this – according to what was said in a meeting between Italian gaming operators during EGR Italy in Rome, there remains a question mark over game flow for the World Cup.
What is certain, however, is that it will be the user experience offered by sportsbook providers that will make the difference. Bettors like to bet on special markets and player props that will not be missed during the World Cup, and new customised widgets are a prime example of a product that will increase engagement for the player during live matches.
Thomas Smallwood, Head of Marketing at ESA Gaming: The World Cup is such a big event, that revenues will be impressive, even with Italy’s absence. Of course, it is disappointing that the reigning European champions won’t be there, but it’s such a festival of sport that operators will hope to find a way to maintain their revenue levels.
As is always the case in these competitions, storylines will emerge, fan favourites, or bettors may look to follow popular players, so global betting markets won’t suffer too much, but locally there could be an impact.
SBC: Might we see that other gambling verticals might receive a boost given a potentially reduced focus on sports betting?
GD: In recent years, verticals such as Virtual games and slots, have experienced very high return on investment and we expect this to continue increasing in the coming months.
Regardless of the World Cup, Virtuals will undoubtedly thrive, but I can’t rule out that the Italian team’s failure to qualify may lead Italian players to choose other products to spend their time and money on.
FB: There will surely be sports like basketball and tennis that will receive particular attention in this period, but football is always the reference point for bettors. I am confident that we will see many live betting wagers placed during the World Cup, especially for the finals and semifinals, and brand-new customised widgets will see a surge of activity due to their ability to provide further engagement.
TS: We’ll see more interest, absolutely. While sports betting will take centre stage, promotions, cross-sell and player acquisition campaigns will see a number of other verticals get a boost. That’s why it is so important that operators have complete solutions ready to attract players. Our EasySwipe portfolio has been uniquely designed for quick play, small stakes gaming sessions, which can be used within the sportsbook to deliver casino experiences.
It can be a perfect solution for operators looking to cross-sell card products or slot experiences into sports bettors, without taking them away from the main attraction, the sports book.
SBC: Have you seen Italian operators adapt their strategy ahead of the November event?
GD: I recently met with various industry professionals and I’m confident that most will launch targeted marketing promotions and campaigns assisting the sector in Italy to reach higher standards on an equitable basis.
FP: This is the second World Cup in a row that Italy has not qualified for and, from this we have learned that Italian operators do not adapt their strategy. Regardless of who has qualified, there will be top national teams and top players, some of whom still play in Italy’s domestic leagues, and this guarantees that the World Cup will always be interesting.
TS: Yes, and this is a must, given Italy’s failure to qualify. I think sportsbooks face two big challenges; one is getting people there and the other is keeping them there.
I think we will see various forms of gamification, competitions such as fantasy league, match and score predictors, quizzes etc., anything designed to get people engaged in the event.
Secondly leading up to and during the World Cup cross-selling is going to be huge. Any form of game or engagement feature that can help to bring the sports audience into, for example, casino games will be used to ensure revenue does not drop off during this period.
SBC: Given the considerable controversy surrounding Qatar winning the rights to hold this year’s event and the fact that it is taking place in November, has the industry expected betting activity to be more subdued?
GD: Italy is now a very consolidated and levelled market from a betting point of view, as we won’t be competing in the World Cup, it will certainly lead to a decline in betting but I don’t anticipate there being any collapses.
Similar incidents occurred during Covid, when the main sporting events were suspended for a few months and then resumed just before summer. The temporary pause will resume in the upcoming months with the same energy and volume as before.
FP: It will be the first time that the World Cup has been played in Qatar so we may have some surprises. There is, and will continue to be, a lot of controversy regarding this choice but I don’t think it will have any effect on the world of betting.
TS: You can look at it two ways. The later date has seen appetites get even larger, with us all eagerly awaiting the kick-off of the big footballing festival. It’s always hard to judge how activities will compare to, say, four years ago, especially because this one is during the regular season.
I would say for this reason and the innovation of operators working hard to engage with their audience, we can expect plenty of activity, even in Italy.
From a footballing standpoint, with no clear favourites, some interesting groups, and plenty of outcomes, it could be one of the most exciting competitions in recent memory. The World Cup is always an amazing tournament from our perspective, and we can’t wait for it to start.