As global regulatory frameworks continue to evolve – with Asia and the US embracing sports betting at an accelerated pace, operators are faced with unique challenges.
Sharing his insights into operating a sports betting platform in the Asian betting sector and beyond, Simon Noble, Head of Sportsbook Product at Champion Sports, highlighted key regional markets as well as hurdles firms must address in order to secure success.
SBC – You launched your Sportsbook V3 platform last year, what have your main success stories been and what challenges have you encountered?
Simon Noble – The launch of our Sportsbook V3 platform has been incredibly well received by operators who have clearly been able to see the technical leap forwards we made with our technology.
The success of the launch has actually caused the greatest challenge, and that has been working with our partners to customise the technology to their individual requirements while ensuring that the short-term efforts on our product roadmap match our long-term business goals.
This is a major selling point for our platform – we offer high levels of customisation, but we also have lots of exciting enhancements and feature releases scheduled on our product roadmap that we are keen to deliver.
To overcome this, we are now hiring 50 additional developers so that we can continue to go the extra mile for our clients while also bringing more updates and innovations to our platform.
SBC – Champion is active in Asia through its sportsbook, poker and lottery platforms. Are you able to detail some of the different player preferences in each market and how you have to adapt your offering?
SN – The entire Asian market is fiercely competitive, especially when it comes to prices and margins. This means benchmarking against incumbents and competitors and constantly revising prices where it is opportune and viable to do so.
For example, in Asia we often need to entertain markets priced between 1% to 2% to gain an edge. Another major challenge is around the predictability of certain leagues such as the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) which caused some tremendous headaches and much soul searching towards the end of the regular season in January.
SBC – By extension, are there any emerging markets in Asia which sportsbooks should keep an eye on?
SN – India is shaping up to be a really interesting market and one where there is a lot of potential for sportsbook operators. We have recently made huge in-roads with our cricket product, which now includes markets for all of the major and minor leagues across the country as well as the headline tournaments such as the IPL, ICC Cricket World Cup, Big Bash, Sheffield Shield, Caribbean Premier League and the LV= Insurance County Championships to name but a few. This reflects cricket’s near-religious status in the country.
Of course, it goes without saying that we also offer a wide range of betting formats all available live in-play. To leverage the full potential on the table in markets such as the Indian sub-continent, operators will need to completely localise their propositions beyond the sports offered to include other aspects such as language, currency and even layout and design.
SBC – As the US betting and gaming sector continues to grow, with New York recently opening its doors to four operators, does Champion have plans for increased activity in the country?
SN – The US is a market that is absolutely on everyone’s radar and Champion Sports is no different. That being said, it is a hugely challenging market given the state-by-state nature of how regulations are written and imposed, as well as the high levels of competition and that “spend your way to the top” approach that is currently being taken.
For these reasons, we plan to take a more considered approach and leverage what we would refer to as the second mover advantage. The US market really is still in its infancy, and over time the dust will settle and a more stable, sustainable market will emerge.
Sure, there are some that will have gone in early and gone in hard and secured a sizable share of the market, but I believe there is a huge opportunity for operators and suppliers that come to the US in a few years’ time when the education process is further advanced and acquire and retain bettors at a fraction of the cost as players are often typically promiscuous. For Champion Sports, this is the time when we will look to make our play in the US.
SBC – As a sportsbook platform provider, how are you preparing for the unique challenge of a mid-season, winter World Cup?
SN – We are just about to start ramping up our development plans to roll out new features and functionalities ahead of the World Cup. This includes acquiring and securing additional line feeds through our data partners, and also integrating official data and feeds from the World Cup organisers.
This may not sound overly glamorous, but around headline sports events it is important to ensure the basics have been mastered so that our partners can be confident of the stability and security of our platform, as well as the leading player experience it allows them to offer.
SBC – Do you foresee any possible challenges for sportsbook platform providers in the UK as a result of the Gambling Act review?
SN – At this stage, I think it is a case of just having to wait and see what comes out of the review. I think it is fair to say that regulations will become tighter but exactly how we will find out in the coming months.
I think I can speak for the wider industry when I say we welcome any ideas that better protect players and that the last thing we want to do is encourage problem gambling, but at the same time regulations need to be realistic and ensure a viable market for operators and suppliers. If they don’t, the only beneficiary of that will be the black market.
SBC – How can operators incorporate a tailored sportsbook platform to promote their overall brand identity?
SN – First, they need to identify a platform provider that really does allow them to customise the platform. In a lot of cases, provider’s promise operators the world but then once the contract is signed and the initial site has been launched, they then go back on the bespoke work they have previously offered.
That is not something we do at Champion Sports and the customisable nature of our platform is one of our USPs providing product and feature differentiation. For example, we have been working with one partner to create a system based on betting tokens as this will allow them to enter more global markets.
With another, we reworked our commission structure as they wanted to develop an innovative rewards system based on returning a percentage of its profits back to players. As you can see, for us, customisation goes way beyond changing a logo, a font and a colour scheme.