The group stages of the World Cup are now well and truly in full swing, and at around 6pm (UK time) each nation will have competed in 2018’s competition once.
Gambling industry data specialists H2GC estimates that the Russian World Cup could break numerous betting records, with an expectation that total gross win could topple €1.7bn detailed, as the showpiece emphasises its place as a hugely significant industry event.
With the tournament now underway, Keith O’Loughlin, SVP Sportsbook and Platforms at SG Digital, has been speaking to SBC News to talk through some of the top trends to expect this summer.
- Key acquisition period for sportsbook operators
With the Premier League season over for another year, the summer is typically a quieter month for operators, except when a major football tournament takes place. Not only is it a chance to acquire new customers, but it also presents an opportunity to reactivate lapsed users, for instance, those who may have signed up to sites earlier this year for the likes of Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National.
It’s little wonder why operators invested heavily in marketing during the build up to this summer’s tournament. We’ve seen famous faces installed as brand ambassadors, while others have come with creative ideas, such as promotions and competitions, to raise brand awareness.
- Opportunity for revenue growth in newly regulated territories
When England last reached the quarter-final of a major tournament back in 2006, it was also the first World Cup following the introduction of regulated betting in the UK. Twelve years later, the landscape is entirely different.
Even in the last couple of years alone, we’ve witnessed sweeping changes in regulation and major M&A activity across the globe. In mature territories such as the UK, we now have a saturated market, which means making your voice heard is becoming increasingly difficult.
However, for newly regulated regions, it presents a real opportunity for significant growth in revenues and gross win. Many of these markets will not have operated within a regulated framework during the World Cup before, and it’s sure to have a positive impact on revenue growth for operators as a result.
- Time zones are of the essence
The 2018 World Cup returns to a European-friendly time zone, something that will go down very well with European-focused operators. Matches will kick off at convenient times, which hasn’t always been the case in recent years, and is expected to lead to greater interest and wagering. It’s also likely that Asian operators will benefit too, given its proximity to Russia.
The 2014 tournament in Brazil saw some awkward times for the European audience. However, it was highly beneficial for the Latin America market, which saw a huge jump in online betting, as local punters embraced the carnival atmosphere that gripped the region.
Looking ahead to the future, with the US [in a joint-bid alongside Canada and Mexico] winning the right to host the 2026 World Cup, it’s likely to have a major impact and lead to an increase in betting activity, given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on PASPA.
- Patriotism goes a long way
As club rivalries are put aside for the month-long tournament, it means bettors are more inclined to turn to their home nation to place bets on. UK-based operators will be hoping England can advance from the group stage this time around, as it keeps bettors, particularly recreational ones, interested and active during the latter stages of the tournament. For newly emerging markets, a strong performance from a home nation can provide a real boost in engagement and help drive interest in sports betting.
- Reliable technology is a must
With so many games happening throughout the month-long tournament, platform reliability will be put to the test as a higher volume of bettors visit desktop sites and mobile applications. Operators will want as little downtime as possible, as any technical issues at key times can lead to revenue loss and see customers turn elsewhere for their entertainment.
Customers expect to be able to transact and engage with their bookmaker of choice at the peak times, as well as their normal custom. In a marketplace where there are plenty of sportsbook providers vying for position, those with a solid platform and robust performance during major occasions will prosper.