Colossus Bets is sponsoring Betting on Football 2017, the fourth edition of the largest international football and betting trade conference at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge.
Ahead of the 3-5 May event, we spoke to Bernard Marantelli, the CEO and Founder of Colossus Bets about why football is such an attractive sport for betting, new technology that will impact football betting and what he’s looking forward to at the conference.
SBC: Why is football such an attractive sport for betting?
BM: Driven by many historical and socio-economic reasons, football is the world’s most popular – played and followed – sport. From a sports fan’s perspective, the passion and adrenaline surrounding the defining 1-2-3 goals scored in each game makes it an intense, fun watching experience. Also, the supporters are loyal, virtually tribal – they have a strong emotional connection with their team, they live the game.
So, it is not surprising that a recent study showed that football is the most bet on sport in almost every country in the world, with very few exceptions such as the NFL in the USA, the AFL in Australia and a few other niche markets. The rest is really a case of a virtuous, self-fulfilling cycle – the more volume a sports betting market attracts, the more attractive it grows for players and operators.
SBC: From a consumer perspective, how is football betting changing?
BM: Carrying on from the point above, the biggest change is the rapid growth in global volumes, driven by wall-to-wall televised games, extended coverage and massive tournaments every second summer. People want to watch football and when they watch they want to bet, as a means of making it more meaningful to them. At Colossus, we regard betting as an integral part of a sports fan’s experience – we believe it augments what would otherwise be a pure follower experience.
For the same reasons and although the functionality itself is no longer news, we continue to observe rapid growth in in-play betting. The other big change that was quickly adopted as a standard is the availability of cash-out functionality across all forms of betting. As with in-play, cash-out provides more opportunities for engagement. Finally, we anticipate a rise of social betting or ‘crowdfunding’ models as a soft entry for a more mass audience to football jackpots.
SBC: How can betting & football stakeholders work better and more effectively together?
BM: It is a complex issue. The elephant in the room is that betting – and gambling more broadly – is still seen as a seedy business even where legal. Luckily, Colossus operates in a segment, pools betting, which has historically enjoyed social acceptance thanks to its ‘small stakes, life-changing wins’ ethos, like the lottery segment.
And even though I partly sympathise with the underlying drivers of the persistent, negative connotations – lack of industry-wide transparency, the potential for consumer exploitation or addiction, etc., we cannot afford to ignore two realities: first, betting has gone hand in hand with sports since ancient times so it is not going away; and second, there is more to be gained in terms of protecting and better serving consumers when all stakeholders work together.
As things stand, football’s association with gambling seems to exist as a slightly distanced, mercenary activity. Essentially, betting operators are still viewed as an advertising ‘war chest’ to be accepted as a necessary evil, but any stronger links are not fully acceptable yet. But I do think that as betting comes more into the mainstream and the perception evolves into one of a healthy entertainment activity, which seems to be the focus of many brands like ours now, football stakeholders will seek to be involved more intimately.
America surprisingly seems more progressive, with sports stakeholders frequently investing in betting, for instance, major league baseball investing in DraftKings during its infancy in 2013 and Fox Sports and the Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots, following up in 2015.
SBC: What new technology do you feel will have the biggest impact on football betting?
BM: Many people in the industry are trying to claim the ‘next best innovation’ in football betting – emerging bet types like BTTS, instant games, Daily Fantasy variants, social betting solutions including ‘crowdbetting’, free-to-play models and a new wave of P2P betting. I think that all of them are relevant as they appeal to different audiences, beyond the core sports bettor segment. They will therefore add to the player base and the overall ‘pie’.
But at the same time, I feel that they remain customer recruitment mechanisms, more than direct P&L drivers. Sky Bet has perhaps more ‘casual’ pathways into betting than anyone and they are a rapidly growing firm so it seems to be working for them. All in all, I think you will see more innovation on bets to attract players, but a lot of the core handle markets will not change that much, perhaps except for an increase in instant bet types and jackpot bet types.
SBC: What key agenda, debate or discussion do you want to hear at BOFCON 2017?
BM: I very much look forward to the sessions on LATAM and Africa, both complex markets to ‘crack’ but with amazing potential. Betting is exploding in Africa and governments are making policy decisions in catch-up mode, which makes market dynamics very volatile. On a broader point, the clarification of grey markets globally is one of the most interesting discussions in 2017 for me.