BtoBet’s chief executive officer Alessandro Fried has recently discussed short term mitigation plans in the absence of sports during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The iGaming industry is currently adapting to the shift in gambling landscape worldwide as sports ground to a halt, leaving operators needing to quickly mitigate the gap and diversify their product offering.
In a recent Q and A session, Alessandro Fried, who has been at the firm since 2017, spoke about how the sports betting industry will bounce back after the pandemic, what operators can do to diversify, potentially higher wagering activity following lock-down removal and what his company has been doing to help its partners during this unprecedented time:
In what way will the current situation impact the industry?
Everyone is expecting live sport events to surely resume shortly. They will be back, and, with them, the sports betting vertical will pick up where it left off and bounce back. At this point in time, the Italian top league clubs are all set to up resume their training in a couple of weeks. In Germany, teams have already resumed with their preparations for the final sprint of the Bundesliga.
However, it is true that the industry has undoubtedly been impacted. No one has ever imagined a scenario where live sports, on practically a global level, would be made unavailable. The pandemic and its consequences, with governments and authorities alike putting in place extraordinary measures imposing social distancing in order to curb the outbreak, have mostly disrupted bookmakers who have based their business activities on a retail network throughout the years. The same applies for the retail casino outlets, with Las Vegas as the primary example, literally closing down its doors for business.
It is with this in mind that I expect a major shift in the operators’ strategies in the immediate to short term, with retail licensees seeking to migrate their business activities to the digital mediums, thus, also mitigating for any future downturns in terms of retail customers.
Turnover from live sports betting is a major problem for most operators. However, have other verticals seen an increase in player engagement?
The current circumstances related to live sport events has had its major toll on those operators who have based their offerings primarily on live football events. The top leagues were generating an ever increasing revenue stream, as this form of gambling is nowadays being considered as an extension to the events themselves. Such are the number of followers that these events produce, as well. However, the scenario has changed abruptly, and live sport events, which on a daily basis averaged into hundreds of events, have now been reduced to merely a handful. Live betting now comprises of football events in Belarus and Nicaragua, table tennis in Russia, and racing from the United States, Hong Kong, and Australia. All in all, this amounts to a rather limited content portfolio and will not make up for the loss of revenue that other major sport events generate.
Undoubtedly this translates directly to a significant loss in terms of turnover, with many industry experts expecting as much as 70% or even higher in terms of loss. On the other hand, and this needs to be highlighted, operators and suppliers alike have been agile in identifying new means of diversifying the players’ engagement across a broader portfolio of verticals.
One of the major verticals that has seen a major bump in the immediate term has undoubtedly been virtual sports, which nowadays is accounting for as much as 40% in terms of operators’ turnover. The same can be said with reference to the E-sports vertical and online casino vertical, with certain operators doubling their turnover in these verticals over a relatively short period of time.
How will the current situation impact the industry in the short term and the long term?
I reiterate that live sport events are resuming sooner rather than later. I expect a high player engagement, if not actually higher, once the situation normalises itself. Does this mean that the industry will resume in the same steps before the COVID-19 pandemic ensued? I highly doubt so. Even though there are few historical episodes which provide us with the required data as to how we will emerge from this situation, I expect the new, more diversified content approach endorsed by the operators to also stick in the long run.
Operators are now seeing the opportunities that reside in other verticals. Since sport events have been cancelled, sports betting players have turned their focus to alternative betting products, be they virtual sports, E-sports, and online casino among other verticals.
In today’s context, I expect this “cross-selling” to other verticals to become even more determining as we go forward, because the current situation will surely have a lasting effect even on people with a certain gambling behaviour.
I also expect retail operators to adopt a diversification of their business strategies and move towards the online channels. Does this mean that the brick and mortar experience will be a thing of the past? Certainly not. Retail betting shops and casinos still offer a betting and gambling experience in their own unique way. On the other hand, I do envisage an expansion to the digital channels to complement the retail offer. More operators will have to diversify their revenue stream, while also attaining a better place in retaining their current fold of players, and acquiring new customers through targeted marketing campaigns.
You have mentioned that operators are opting to “migrate” their players from sportsbooks to other verticals.
Sports betting is an activity that nowadays is considered by the players as an enhancement to the real live action. One should also state that the vast majority of players bet on the teams, leagues, and different sports categories which they usually follow, and those of which they have a good knowledge and understanding of. There is an emotional attachment to sports betting, which in itself is driving operators to seek creative solutions in order to close the gap created by this “live sports void” in the short term.
They are not simply integrating new, innovative, and alternative vertical content. They are going to great lengths to ensure a high level of player engagement even within the sportsbook itself. This is done by exploring and expanding markets – such as the props market – which have played a rather minor role in the sportsbook vertical until recently.
Most of our partners are realising the benefits that this expanded sportsbook content can also have in terms of retaining their fold of loyal players.
How is BtoBet assisting its partners in mitigating the short term effects, and possibly putting in place a strategy for the long run?
For the past months, BtoBet has focused on boosting all of its verticals in order to place all operators in the position to determine which strategy they want to undertake for their target players – whether they want to focus on sportsbook, online casino, lotteries, virtuals, E-sports or fantasy sports.
Nonetheless, throughout these times, we are still investing and pushing to provide bookmakers with the best range of alternative vertical content, while at the same time focusing on delivering a long term plan ensuring our partners will reap the benefits by adapting a player-centric approach.
Consequently, we have developed a strategy for the short-run assisting all of our partners with the introduction of special content including:
- a daily selection of the most important horse-racing events,
- a new and engaging novelty bet section,
- extended E-Sports content,
- a boosted odds fantasy league,
- and a tennis game based on the outcome of more than 1 million matches.
We will also offer assistance to bookmakers and other operators in diversifying their business model by integrating a wider content for the Virtuals, with games from six leading industry providers natively integrated in the BtoBet platform; an Online Casino portfolio consisting of an extensive list of over 8,000 games from over 100 providers; and a wide selection of Lotteries, Instant Lotteries, and Jackpots, with prizes up to €150 million.
I am confident that the current sportsbook shortfall will be just a small blip in the radar for the majority of operators who optimise their business strategies, allowing them to reap major revenue increase opportunities from a wider portfolio of verticals in the long run.
You can read the full interview press release here.