Leadership…Changing the outside perception of the gambling industry

August and September have been turbulent months for the betting sector, in which stakeholders see themselves placed at the top of political maelstrom following a number of high-profile social responsibility and advertising failures.

The industry’s wider perception and relationship with governing bodies would dominate discussion during Betting on Sports 2017 CEO panel.

Panel Moderator Vahe Baloulian, CEO of BetConstruct, set the context for debate by detailing the complex relationship between bookmakers, governing bodies and their customers.  A thoughtful Baloulian considered that perhaps betting operators have ‘played into the hands of politicians’ seeking an industry to tax by suggesting that it can offer governments a new revenue stream.

Baloulian countered: “No other industry does this, we should change this to say: please allow licensing because people have a right to entertain themselves in this fashion.”

As CEO of Pinnacle, one of the oldest online bookmakers in the world, Paris Smith pointed that the industry’s negative perception is a historical battle which it has faced since its inception. Smith advised that stakeholders have to work harder at creating clear communications with government bodies, stating: “The perception is based largely on historical events, as well as a lack of information. There is a lack of communication that we as an industry have.”

Working within the developing market of the Ukraine, Nikos Chalikias CEO of Favbet emphasised ‘treatment of consumers’ as the dynamic which has led to a negative perception which he states has been inevitable. Chalikias outlined his belief that operators ‘don’t help themselves’ by hindering customers who are ‘able to make proper and correct predictions in sportsbook’, as this provides a negative perception from that customer and in turn from society.

Offering guidance on marketing, Markus Peuler, CEO of Mybet, reiterated that industry players do not help their cause when communicating with customers. He recalled an advert by German bookmaker Tipico which featured former German national goalkeeper Oliver Khan holding a betting slip with the tagline of ‘your bet in secure hands.’ Peuler quipped that ‘the problem with the advert is that people perceive the industry to be insecure’.

At present, within the UK market, the vast majority of the negative press is directed towards retail-based fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), machines that aren’t allowed in Irish bookmakers.  CEO of Irish independent operator Betbright Marcus Brennan was keen to point out that he felt the terminals have made the industry an easy target, detailing that perhaps industry leadership has to communicate to government stakeholders the ample differences between online and land-based environments.

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