Betting’s C-level agenda holds no respite, as European markets prepare for another round of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown enforcements.
Moderating a CEO panel at this morning’s Betting on Sports Europe – Digital, Keith O’Loughlin, SVP of Sportsbook & Platforms for SG Digital, asked participants whether a second wave has created further disruptions for betting returning to any semblance of normality.
Replying to O’Loughlin’s opening remarks, Niels Erik Folmann, Chief Executive of Danske Spil, stated that his executive team had long-accepted that there would be ‘no soft landing to 2020 proceedings’.
Folmann observed: “The inevitable second wave has forced us to be even more agile in responding and dealing with instant impacts. I don’t want my team to be fixated on planning six to 12 months ahead under these conditions, as standard procedures cannot be applied.
“Our main concerns are on whether governments or regulators will apply restrictions on business and wider sports… that is what is unsettling to our business.”
O’Loughlin probed the panel on whether 2020 has set a new precedent for the betting industry in terms of operator conduct and new compliance responsibilities.
Having navigated the dramas of COVID-19 first lockdown, Jesper Svensson, CEO of Betsson Group, said that betting leadership needed to prioritise ‘innovation, conduct and cooperation’ at the forefront of their agendas.
Offering an astute perspective, Svensson said: “Betting needs to be at the forefront of digitalisation. Compared to other industries, we should be positive in that we have adapted to challenges better than the majority of sectors.”
However, Svensson has warned that betting will likely face further heightened regulatory scrutiny as autumn and winter months arrive placing consumers under lockdown: “What we do know is that a second wave will see a higher regulatory focus on how we engage with customers,” he added.
Facing new realities, Svensson stressed that leadership now holds a duty to ‘safeguard betting’s digitalisation’ – a key demand on all industries facing radical consumer changes.
Alexis Murphy, CEO of Benelux operator BetFirst, concurred with Svensson’s consumer observations, adding that industry shortcomings can be pointed to the fact that ‘betting is still trying to find a common ground for its business’.
A key concern beyond covid impacts, Murphy stated that betting ‘needs to be astutely aware of its political environment’ as a multi-billion sector.
“BetFirst operators from Brussels the heart of Europe, and we see a lot of lobbying from other sectors at this time,” he said. “It’s hard to grab political attention at a time when all sectors are looking for relief… I don’t see us being on any top political agenda in 2021 and beyond.”
The importance of Murphy’s remarks are underlined by the panel, as in 2021 Germany and the Netherlands will launch their regulated marketplaces becoming new European jurisdictions.
“We cannot afford to reinvent the wheel every time a marketplace is regulated,” he continued. “And we know that politicians can act in an information vacuum. We have to be prepared to do the hard work of representing ourselves better and seeking an alignment on laws and standards.”
Betting on Sports Europe – Digital is the foremost conference for senior executives from European sports betting operators, providing a forum for high-level discussions that will help to shape the future of the industry.
The fully virtual event will bring together major players from markets across the continent on a single platform, where they will share best practice for tackling the industry’s major challenges and ideas about emerging opportunities.
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