Minja Bolesnikov: “I think we are boring as an industry”

This year has seen a seismic shift in the sports betting landscape. Retail in Europe at times became temporarily null and void, whilst operators have had to adapt to new sectors in order to provide a market for their punters when live-sport was unavailable.

Speaking at SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital’s ‘Future Landscape of Sports Betting’ panel Minja Bolesnikov, CEO, MaxBet, highlighted that more innovation is needed by the industry if it wishes to catch the next generation of bettors.

“People are looking for new ways to play. I think we are boring as an industry. I think we need to be more proactive,” stated Bolesnikov. 

“If we know that this esports player is World’s Most paid sports person, although I’m not in favour, and somehow we did not catch the wave of them being able to advocate that it’s okay to be an esport player and its okay to play esports, people are spending huge amounts of money and they’re potentially in the future going to go to the Olympics.  We need to catch that wave, we need to be part of that train.

“Innovate, innovate, innovate, if you have a good product, if you have awesome marketing, it’s all going to go to waste if, for example, you have a horrible process of registration for your player or if you’re not there to support him. So, looking into those side/back office services is as important as the offer itself because we are not going to be dumping each other anymore with margins because there is nothing left.”

As Bolesnikov alluded to, one betting sector that has taken the world by storm is esports, however, despite the success of the industry during the global health pandemic, its validity as a sustainable betting market still raises questions.

Giovanni Garrisi, CEO & Founder of Stanleybet, discussed that the industry must create a balancing act between going into the esports sector and sustaining the needs of its traditional fanbase. Garrisi even expressed his doubts that esports may not be marketed for a general customer base right now given that it primarily targets a younger demographic.

“I have seen that everybody is enthusiastic of esports. You know, this is a sign of the time because if you think that we have a problem with the regulators, we are now considering that one of the most important things for the future are esports,” explained Garrisi. “Don’t forget that video games are played mainly by minors and we are now taking bets on this kind of situation.”

“As an industry altogether we have not been able to find a wealthy way for the future. Now everybody is interested and enthusiastic about esports. I’m not and in fact, we offer esports but it’s minimal. But just because I cannot be vigilant every day because if it was for me I will not introduce esports for the moment. However, I can appreciate that this will be the future.

“We need to consider that we need to find the right trade off between freedom of our wishes and expression and the real need of the players.”

However Alexis Murphy, the CEO of betFIRST, expressed that if esports is targeting a younger demographic then it is imperative to invest in the sector as they will continue to bet on the industry for years to come. 

Murphy stated: “I think the issue with esports is that there’s such a seismic shift between different generations. To say that people who play esports are minors unfortunately is wrong.   

“If you look at the demographics, the 20 to 40 year old generation, they’re absolutely crazy on esports and that’s where a lot of the business drivers are, it’s our generation for whom grew up with it, and for whom it’s a big part of their leisure activities.”

“There’s a huge audience and I think the generation of gamers, the 20 to 40 year olds, they’re going to continue gaming until they’re in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and they’ll keep on gaming. So I think it’s absolutely here to stay although I agree with you that with the nature of esports there’s going to be significant challenges in terms of regulation.”

The panel, which was moderated by Digitain’s Head of Sales, Simon Westbury, also highlighted the ever changing perception of the gaming industry to the public eye, in particular as European markets such as the UK, Italy and Spain have recently discussed or implemented stricter gambling regulations. 

Pinnacle’s CEO Paris Smith nevertheless expressed her optimism that the industry’s perception is rising globally, with the growing acceptance of the sports betting in the US a major factor.

Smith commented: “Where the regulator’s have tried to dictate not regulate, that is where the perception changes because of the media. I think the biggest answer to that is educating them. We could do that more collectively than doing it ourselves. But with the US coming in, that has changed the perception of gaming. It’s made it so much more acceptable.

“Of course, it’s gaming, people get too greedy they think we make gazillions of billions of dollars and everybody wants a piece of that and that goes from data to providers, all different things. But I actually feel like the perception has become more positive.”

“I feel like globally, it is shifting in a more positive way, other than in those specific jurisdictions where the media has put forward more of a negative perception.”

SBC Barcelona Summit’s panel came to a close with the line-up discussing predictions and expectations for the industry following a tumultuous year. Garrisi concluded that the companies which have been willing to invest throughout the pandemic will undoubtedly reap the rewards, with the CEO feeling that a shift in the market is coming in the near future.

“I think that what we will see is a new mixture of the market,” he said. “For the company that invested during the lockdown and the company that didn’t invest during the lockdown I’m certainly aware that this will make the difference in changing the market share. I think that we will see some companies that were stronger before become weaker in each jurisdiction.

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit – https://sbcevents.com/sbc-summit-barcelona-digital/

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