SBC Digital Summit: What are people betting on during Covid-19?


One of the major themes of the SBC Digital Summit’s first day has been, without sports, how are iGaming operators providing their customers action to bet on? That was the question at hand in the second panel of the day, hosted by Ebbe Groes, CEO of EveryMattrix, “Off the bench – what is there to bet on?” He was joined by Dominik Beier, CEO of Interwetten, Alexander Martin, CEO of SKS 365, Minja Bolesnikov, CEO of MaxBet, and Tyrone Dobbin, Managing Director of Sportingbet South Africa.

sbc-digital-summit-what-are-people-betting-on-during-covid-19The lack of mainstream sports has hurt an industry that was already going to take a huge hit from the COVID-19 crisis. Martin noted that SKS365 has had to close all their retail shops in Italy, but even through online channels, sports betting down is down by 60%.

Beier noted that there has been a reason to smile though. Since the beginning of April, Interwetten has seen an increase in interest, after the big shock of the lockdown starting in March. Live betting has increased from 70% of the business to 90%. But as punters start to figure out how to bet on niche products like table tennis, margins have decreased by 25-30%.

Table tennis being the darling of the moment, Bolesnikov wondered if these new products will last once the pandemic is over.  In reality, so many products that the industry expected to be the new bread and butter of the moment have had to give way to entirely unexpected things. “Previously, we’ve always known what esports are, it’s counterstrike, it’s DOTA, its first person shooter games,” said Dobbin. “But the move to FIFA, NBA2k…that came as a big surprise.”

Martin agreed, noting that the majority of esports betting has been on products like FIFA. But suggesting that this is just a fad, he noted that esports has increased to 3% of the total business, up from 1%, but is actually down as a whole from pre-crisis numbers. Beier agreed, saying that as soon as normal sports come back, he expects volume to shift away from esports. Bolesnikov concluded that it would be nice to keep as a microtrend, nice add on to revenue streams, but not a major product.

Tyrone Dobbin: There’s an educational period, customer service lines were jammed, but “We’ve seen our consumers, they’ve looked at what’s of interest to them, and they’ve shifted their betting patterns towards that.”

Where the money has really gone, for the most part, has been virtual sports. Martin noted that, while it can’t be offered everywhere, it’s doubling in turnover wherever it can be offered. The only challenge has been educating customers who are a little lost at the new product.

Poker and casino had to be discussed as sports betting alternatives as well. Martin noted that poker has nearly tripled in gross gaming revenue (GGR), as people are just looking for anything to pass the time. Beier, commenting on casino, noted a growth of 10-15%. “Casino was rescuing a lot of us through this crisis,” he said.

As the conversation wound down, each panelist noted where they are focusing their energies at the moment. Martin noted that SKS 365 is investing in eLearning for its employees, while preparing to keep their retail shops sterile once reopened. He noted that while this has all been a shock, and the roadmap for the year has had to change, productivity remains high.

Beier focused on securing the long term health of employees, and everyone really. He’s confident that the company’s roadmap will be taken care of, but didn’t seem happy about continuing problems in the regulatory space.

Bolesnikov noted that his company has tried to be an example of leadership in this crisis, with Maxbet as one of the first companies in Serbia to promise not to let any employee go. That gave the operator huge positive media coverage and praise from players, which should pay off long term.

Finally, noting that we’re all trying to figure out what to do next in this crazy new world, Dobbin said that operators just need to start small with any new initiative, manage their exposure and risk, and grow as they learn in this new environment.

The SBC Digital Summit has already explored how businesses are staying afloat, and what products are helping them do it, and there’s still 4 days of it left. Check out the lineup of expert speakers the event has to offer, and head on over to their site to register so you don’t miss out.