21Bet is a new entrant to the UK betting market, launched in March 2016. Here, 21Bet CEO Richard Hogg discusses the challenges and pitfalls facing an upstart operator in the highly competitive UK online betting sector.
When we first talked about setting up a new UK-focused bookmaker in 2015, people thought we were mad. How could we possibly compete with the industry’s giants they asked, especially given the vast amount the marketing and publicity resources they have at their disposal? Well, we thought we could do things differently.
We saw a gap in the market for an online sportsbook that would take betting back to basics. Collectively as a team, we have decades of experience in the UK sports betting industry and this, together with market and consumer research, told us what customers want. Primarily, this is about offering easy to find bets on the sports and markets people want to bet on.
We set out to create a clean and intuitive site, unelaborate with no overly-confusing gimmicks to distract punters from their primary purpose, which is of course to place bets. This also offers the added benefits of faster speeds and enhanced reliability. The brand that resulted from this ambition was 21Bet and, with 20,000 customers signed up in six months, we feel that our initial hunch has been vindicated.
We quickly realised that, if we wanted to do this right, we needed to run a tight ship. It was decided to outsource the backend of the site, ultimately to FSB Technology, so that we could concentrate on the brand and the site itself. We worked hard to achieve our vision of a back-to-basics betting proposition, and to launch in March 2016, just in time for Cheltenham.
It was never our intention to park our tanks on the front lawn of Ladbrokes, William Hill or bet365. We recognise that we have neither the scale or resources to make that work. But we did feel that we could fill a gap in the market aimed at punters who find existing operators both overtly complex and a little bit over-bearing in terms of their endless offers and complicated promotions.
It’s not that we don’t do offers and promotions. We offer an innovative sign-up offer that also rewards loyalty, best odds guaranteed for racing fans, and some great football promotions. We make the offers generous and limit them to a certain number of members so that people have a genuine incentive to place a bet. We also refuse to discriminate against existing customers over new sign-ups, primarily because we recognise that it’s easier and cheaper to retain a customer than it is to attract a new one.
We’re now six months into the journey with 21Bet and things are going well. For the first few months we stayed very focused on developing a core user base, before launching a casino and affiliate partnership programme this summer. We’ve also recently completed our first partnership deals with Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and upcoming British boxer Charlie Edwards.
We are not claiming to be ‘disruptive’, which is an over-used and misunderstood phrase in the betting industry. Instead, we aim to deliver on our commitment to our customers. For example, we have ensured payments back to customers are done quickly and promptly with no hidden delays.
The ultimate goal is of course to grow 21Bet, but we won’t lose sight of the ethos that drove the launch of the business. We will continue to deliver a focused online sports betting service, with great odds and plenty of markets, but none of the trappings that many UK punters dislike.
About the author:
Currently CEO of 21Bet, Richard Hogg is an industry veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the sports and betting industries, both in senior roles and as an independent consultant. He began his career working in Hong Kong and has also worked in the charity sector.