Sportsbook has thrived and continues to do well despite all the challenges faced throughout the year
This time, at the Virtual Expo, we sat down with influential people in the sportsbook industry – namely Rob Dowling - CCO of Singular and cover story for SiGMA 2020, Paris Smith – CEO of Pinnacle and Jesper Svensson – CEO of Betsson
When it comes to sportsbook, these three companies are the main players with Singular acting as software providers bringing innovation and creativity to the industry, Pinnacle with a European focused product and Betsson as a global player.
Many industries as well as sectors in the gaming industry have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially land-based operators. Having said that, sportsbook has thrived and continues to do well despite all the challenges faced throughout the year.
Why are they doing so well?
Sports is very resilient, according to Paris Smith. While businesses were badly affected during lockdown restrictions and many events were suspended, sports was still around. Now one may argue that even during the peak of the pandemic, there were no traditional sport events. This is very true, but the suspension of traditional sports saw a few more doors open, namely eSports. The CEO of Pinnacle stated that eSports was the “biggest highlight” for the company and the industry as people flocked to this sector wanting to be entertained. Therefore, it is quite clear how online based companies are benefitting over their land-based counterparts and are able to adjust to different situations, as Paris Smith states:
“Digitalisation in general has got a push forward during this time and we actually all benefit from that, of course if you are a big land-based business it is much more difficult than what we have been having"
With the return of traditional sports, operators experienced a massive demand in relation to traditional markets, however, virtual and eSports verticals are much bigger now.
Jesper Svensson, CEO of Betsson, also states that innovation is not the main feature regarding the success of sportsbook during the pandemic but that of “traditional products getting more and more interest”, according to the current trends.
Having said that, it was not all plane sailing for sportsbook operators during these challenging times. As Paris Smith described it as “survival”. This resulted in operators, such as Pinnacle and Betsson, reaching out to each other for support.
Rob Dowling (pictured left) also found that vendors were more than happy to offer “moral support” and provide advice to fix current problems.
The CCO also describes “one of the beauties that happened during COVID” was that "a lot of small companies that had an innovative and great product managed to get their product out with the big boys as well, not just with the small innovative sites - which I think changed the landscape in sports betting as we know it today."
It’s safe to say that the pandemic really saw companies pull the same rope which has resulted in a more innovative and successful industry.
Perils of regulation
Moreover, regulators were also discussed due to all the new regulations being imposed across Europe and the world. All three speakers agreed that there must be some sort of balance were the regulators and the operators must work together. More often than not, regulators take drastic measures to protect the customers which most of the time ends up being counterproductive. Paris Smith was not afraid to say that when a “regulator becomes a dictator” Pinnacle will pull away from that jurisdiction.
Jesper Svensson (pictured right) gives a perfect example that happened to Betsson most recently. Betsson were not allowed to operate for a certain amount of time due to the Latvian government wanting to protect gamblers. Mr. Svensson shared his thoughts about this saying:
"It's very naive to think that the general population will stop to gamble so what happens is that they stopped to gamble with any company which is regulated because the only alternative they had was to gamble with companies that are not regulated in Latvia"
Furthermore, strict regulations will have major implications on the industry. As Rob Dowling clearly put it as “overly harsh regulations may stifle creation, especially in software development.”
Advising the US market
Europe is an established market when it comes to gaming and responsible gambling with many years of experience under its belt when compared to other countries, namely the US. A number of states have started to legalise sports betting and online gambling and these three veterans offered a word of advice for their colleagues across the pond.
There is agreement between them that if regulators seek too many limitations then black-market gambling will strive and regulators must find a balance to make it attractive both for the companies but more importantly for the players.
Paris Smith (pictured right) offered her advice by stating, "Don't wait for it, do it. If you wait for it, then it will be pushed upon you from people who don't really understand [the industry]” The CEO of Pinnacle goes on to say that US operators should look at the European market and build on it, evaluate the norms and be at the “forefront” as it will be “more beneficial in the long run for operators”
It is very important that regulators do not restrict companies too much otherwise punters may look at other options, such as the black market operators, that may look more attractive but will put them under a lot of risk.
About SiGMA Europe Virtual Expo:
The future of events is here. SiGMA Europe is delighted to announce, for the very first time, an innovative new Virtual Expo taking place on 24th and 25th November, 2020, from the comfort of your own screen. Hot on the heels of the success of the SiGMA Asia and SiGMA Americas Digital Summits, we are elevating your online event experience even further in the form of a fully interactive, state-of-the-art virtual events space, including a brand-new cutting-edge expo floor. Check the full agenda here and register for free!