As we edge closer to the return of mainstream sports betting, we caught up with Sergey Tsukanov, Chief Risk Officer at Betby (pictured), to talk esports, alternative markets and the need for industry innovation following the current downturn.
SBC: How has Betby adapted products and services for its partners since the cancellation of sporting fixtures began?
ST: The cancellation of sporting events has put the industry in an unprecedented situation. To add to the uncertainty, nobody is still fully sure when they will start again, or how big the knock-on effect will be.
Our aim has been to continue to provide the widest possible coverage of sports as possible for our operators – including an extensive range of virtuals and a massively revamped esports package. We’ve seen our partners reap the rewards as a result – with esports leading the way.
FIFA in particular has proven to be a mainstay on the fixture list, with over 7,500 games from professional esports players streamed around the clock, offering more than 12 betting markets and a 24/7 service.
SBC: We’ve seen a phenomenal rise in the popularity of esports and alternative betting markets recently – is their popularity here to stay?
ST: It is clearly a great opportunity, however it really depends on the sport and the product. Esports as a vertical should maintain its current follower-base, as it is quickly becoming an established, popular alternative, but smaller, niche sports will have to compete with verticals and esports as players stick with a product that remains recognisable, rather than trying to learn about an entire new sport.
With such ingrained love for global sports, such as football or golf or tennis which currently lacks competitions, any sport that tries to fill that gap in the betting market may be an afterthought after worldwide sporting events return, whenever that may be.
SBC: Do you believe the industry has an obligation to educate players on these sports in a responsible way given they’re new markets for many?
ST: The industry needs to be able to present sports or esports or virtuals as a normal product, while also preparing for questions from players. If football bettors try a new product, be it Dota 2 or darts, there will undoubtedly be a learning curve and we can assist on that level. There isn’t necessarily a need to invent new ways of attracting players’ attention, as that is something that operators are well versed in, but by offering familiar markets and clear explanations with the intention of raising awareness and education of live sports that still run, or the alternatives, such as esports and virtuals.
SBC: Has the industry adopted the right approach to responsible gambling in lockdown?
ST: We are eager to offer as many events as possible, to give our operator partners and their customers a wide range of sporting competitions to choose from. However, with added competition from slots, live casino and other sporting contests like esports and virtuals, having a differentiator is key. The conversation should never stray too far from responsible gambling, and although there may not be as many sporting events as we are used to, it hasn’t changed our stance on safeguards.
SBC: Do we need to see more innovation as the coronavirus crisis continues?
ST: The gambling industry is incredibly resilient and strong and although the current crisis is significant, it will provide yet another opportunity for us to reinvent what we believe is possible and create new experiences for customers. It is a time for companies to be proactive rather than reactive, and to become stronger and wiser when the period is over.
In my opinion, operators who deal with the end-user directly are patently aware that if they don’t innovate, they are going to lose ground quickly. We’ve already seen a trend towards a far more discerning customer, with the end-user far better educated nowadays as to what they should expect from gaming – which has made players more demanding as a result.
Data analytics and machine learning software have proven key in the last few months for customer segmentation and CRM – ensuring our systems can harness customer data to identify patterns and make accurate decisions with minimal human intervention; whether that be for player protection or introducing players to new markets. We’ve also looked to embrace innovation with our latest UI/UX layouts, which have been widely acclaimed thanks to their unique approach.
Apart from the traditional sports format, we are also offering different options, many of which will improve the user experience for players coming from a casino background and looking to get in on the hugely popular esports action, which is proving an invaluable cross-sell.