Wager, the peer-to-peer betting start-up that launched in August, is the latest incumbent to try to overcome the industry’s ‘social wagering conundrum’.
Elliot Robinson, co-founder of the social betting start-up, has stated in the past that taking advantage of bookmaker efficiencies will be key to Wager’s success and on the eve of Responsible Gambling Week 2019, SBC looks at how Wager is fighting the good fight for safer gambling, and what the start-up has planned moving forward.
SBC: The peer-to-peer model has failed in the past. How and why do you think you can break through and succeed in a market where others have not?
Elliot Robinson: There are a few elements to that. If you go back to Flutter who tried it in 1999/2000, the timing of that was completely wrong. People weren’t on social networks, they weren’t using their phones nearly as much as they do today and there just wasn’t that quickness in response to enable something like this.
Betting against your friends via mobile app just didn’t exist and the world then was a very different place than it is today. We are mobile app first, we absolutely rely on push notifications, people checking their phones 100 times a day, which they already do, and having that response that you know your friend will see the bet and respond to it very quickly when you send it to them.
The second thing for us is probably that the players who have tried to do it in the last few years have not been, as we see it, a betting product built for football betters. They’ve been like an offline, note tracking app that can say ‘if I do this you owe me this’ – it’s very detached from a standard betting journey, it’s not a product built for betters and what we absolutely want to do is provide the core functionalities and benefits that a betting product offers.
That is efficiency of payment, depositing and withdrawing with ease, having real money committed to these bets from the outset, having odds provided in which all bets are odds adjusted so if I back Brighton to beat City then we shouldn’t be putting £10 in each because that’s fundamentally unfair and the automatic settlement of those bets so I get the money into my account just like in a bookmaker.
Those efficiencies of a bookmaker we absolutely want to keep, and you’ll even see in some elements of the user experience we’ve kept things very similar to a bookmaker because we don’t need to differentiate there as it’s what people have an ease and understanding in how to use. But where we do want to differentiate is that you’re betting against a friend here, it’s a lot more social. You’re not turning into an anti-social behaviour that uses these efficient apps. We just give you these efficiencies with a fun and social element attached, and that I think enables us to drive the retention and the usage that’s required to make this work and to drive repeat bets.
SBC: What is being done by Wager to support the Responsible Gambling Campaign?
ER: Our reason for doing this is a fundamental dislike of how the current experience and the current motivations of bookmakers are. As a house as a bookmaker it makes sense for you to drive virtual dogs betting all hours of the day, which is absolutely what we’re against. We want betting to be fundamentally social and fundamentally fun and responsible.
You are naturally limited on this platform to be betting against a friend, you need someone on the other side of the bet, so you cannot spend all hours of the morning betting against a live casino and losing fortunes. You have to have your friend on the other side, you have to be placing bets between yourselves and ultimately you’re keeping the money between the two of you.
That fundamentally changes the proposition and makes it a lot more friendly and fun and I think the gambling commission have responded very well to us as a result of that because they realised we are absolutely trying to drive fun and social behaviour, not repeat gambling.
But, we are not stopping there and assuming that’s enough to stop it. We’ve absolutely got the limits and restrictions in place to stop any of that behaviour happening. Another one for us is money laundering, so we’re really making sure we’re on top of fraud checks, age verification checks, deposit limits, self exclusions etc.
All those features and functionalities we have taken the time to implement which may seem strange for a start-up with limited time and resources, but we’ve absolutely not scraped on those and we’ve made sure all of those things are water-tight to prevent money laundering and to ensure that people can’t bet in an irresponsible way.
SBC: What are the plans for the future of Wager?
ER: We are very happy with how it has gone so far. We’ve put very minimal marketing spend to the product and it’s really those thousands of users which have signed up that are organic – they are referral, free traffic that friends have just told each other about and that is really the sort of product that we want to build, so it’s been above expectations really from launch.
We’ve just unlocked our next bunch of funding, so what we are in a position to do now is solely target the marketing to push the scale and push the product to the wide masses. The beauty of it is that we won’t experience the same traumas that bookmakers do with having to throw huge free bets every week as reactivation mechanisms to try to acquire users on a one by one basis. For us, we see marketing as fueling the fire for that organic viral growth and it’s just about nailing the product so it can be easily shared.
Ultimately our vision is to be the digital hub for all friend-to-friend competition and betting, be it sweepstakes, a round of golf or these bets on the football. That’s the ultimate dream and the ultimate vision.
We released head-to-head profiles, now we’re releasing leagues alongside the referral scheme and next on the list is the activity feed where you will be able to see two friends who’ve bet against each other, or whose lost and whose won and that sort of thing. Another thing which will come alongside these big features, which we’ve developed from feedback, is to bolster the in-play offer.
We offer in-play markets and enable people to place bets live in-play, but we really want to improve that by offering more markets, providing live scores and stats from the game so that you don’t have to go elsewhere to check what the score is before placing a bet. We want to make the in-play offer a lot slicker and it taps into us wanting the bookmaker efficiencies and the bookmaker benefits.