Live from Bet-Markets: Day One

31 March 2008

The Bet-Markets conference is officially underway in Vienna, offering two days of intensive discussion on issues and developments in the sports betting sector. A good number of delegates, however, had already gathered on Sunday night under the guise of "networking" to sample a traditional Austrian bierkeller.

But there was to be no gentle start to the conference for those who had overindulged the night before because the first session launched straight in to tackle the complex regions of South America and Asia.

Betboo Sportsbook Managing Director Luiz Zonca discussed the nature of the South American market and highlighted the curious scenario facing sports betting operators: South Americans love to bet, but don’t know how to bet. This presents operators with a peculiar challenge -- customers in the region are not willing to learn about betting, which puts added pressure on companies to provide an exceptionally high level of customer service to compensate for this fact.

Based on Zonca's presentation, "immature market" might best be used to describe the gambling markets of most South American countries.

  • There are payment issues, and e-wallets are not really used for online transactions

  • Affiliate schemes remain undeveloped, although social networking sites are a key marketing mechanism

  • In several countries -- Argentina, for example -- the regulatory situation remains unclear

In many regards Asian sports betting markets share some similar characteristics with South America. For example, Asian gamblers share the South Americans’ love of football betting but are much more sophisticated in their betting. There are also issues with online payment mechanisms and the regulation is equally uncertain.

Lorien Pilling assessed the sports betting opportunities that existed in a number of Asian countries and picked out China’s special administrative region of Macau as the market of most interest in the short term.

The spotlight then moved on to markets closer to home for the next session, with Cirsa-Ladbrokes Chief Executive Alberto Eljarrat and Pavel Moudry, chief executive, Chance, addressing developments in the Spanish and Czech sports betting markets, respectively.

Regardless of which geographical market it is, an operator’s ability to advertise its services is clearly crucial to its success. The nature of gambling means that advertising is often subject to strict regulation and Laure Alexandre, European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), offered insight into how complaints are handled and operators’ own responsibilities for self-regulation.

The data for Alexandre's case study derive from the United Kingdom, a market which has undergone radical changes to gambling advertising regulation through the implementation of the 2005 Gambling Act. In a compliance survey conducted in September and October 2007, only seven out of 784 adverts breached the new code (six television adverts and one Internet pop-up advert). This gave an unprecedented compliance rate -- across any sector -- of 99 percent.

The concept of innovation cropped up in a number of the afternoon sessions. StatsonSport Director Michael Falconer presented the results of some interesting research his company had conducted in conjunction with Betfair. The study sought to measure any link between a customer’s access to sports analysis and their betting behavior.

Five thousand Betfair users were given access to StatsonSport’s form analysis, and betting activity was measured against a control group of another 5,000 users. The research found a strong link between access to analysis and a customer’s betting action. Those users with access to analysis bet more often, bet more money and were more likely to bet on new markets than those customers without the benefit of form analysis. Access to analysis also created greater loyalty in customers and helped drive registration and funding of accounts.

Endemol Gaming Managing Director Brian MacSweeney looked at innovation in the field of content, more specifically in the area of customizable content. He drew on examples from outside the sports betting industry, such as the BBC news Web site, to show what is starting to happen in this area.

MacSweeney also revealed to delegates some of the early-stage work Endemol is undertaking to bring new ideas to the traditional fantasy league sector as a means of increasing activity on sports betting.

Staying with the theme of content, Perform Group Commercial Director Ross McEacharn made the case for greater use of live sports content on sports books as a means of increasing customer acquisition. Through its WatchandBet product, Perform makes available a portfolio of live sports content, including: football (Serie A games, World Cup qualifiers, Asian matches), basketball (games from the Italian, Spanish and German leagues) and Tennis (ATP and Masters Series matches).

When considering acquiring broadcast rights for different sports, Ross stressed the need to be:

  • Realistic -- The Champions League will not be available

  • Relevant -- Don’t buy rights for sports not relevant to your customers

  • Patient -- In some sports rights are not centralized and you may have to negotiate with multiple rights-holders

  • Prudent -- Make sure you can get a return on sports rights you buy

MacSweeney also gave the audience more details about the recently announced deal to show Championship League Snooker exclusively on bookmakers’ Web sites. It will involve 192 league matches taking place over 16 days, with £200,000 in prize money on offer. As the event will not be shown on any television channel, it is expected to help bookmakers acquire new customers and also drive turnover.

Diversification and differentiation have been the overarching themes of this first day of the Bet-Markets conference. The enduring popularity of sports betting is not in doubt but operators are finding themselves in increasingly competitive markets, offering much the same products as their competitors. All are seeking a genuinely innovative new product to set them apart from the crowd, or successful expansion into an untapped region. Today’s speakers provided no shortage of suggestions.

Related Links
BetMarkets 2008

Lorien is a research analyst with Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, and currently resides on the Isle of Man. Prior to this, he spent three years at a leading United Kingdom gambling firm, providing regulatory and market research for its various international e-gaming ventures.