The gambling industry learned the hard way in 2020 that Soccer, or Football if you prefer, is an irreplaceable part of any sportsbook offering. At a pair of panels at the SBC Digital Summit CIS, experts looked at the best way to keep the offering alive going forward, and the lessons learned from when it mostly went away.
At the first panel, named “Betting and Sports,” retired Barcelona midfielder Gaizka Mendieta discussed the need to keep sports betting safe for the customer to keep regulators in countries like, oh let’s say Spain, happy. “There’s now a sense of responsibility from official bodies and organizations to make it responsible for those who have access to these platforms. I know for sure because I’ve worked with different organizations that they’re trying to combine those two things.”
Speaking of Spain, which placed sponsorship and advertising limits on gambling operations, Mendieta believes there is a way forward to make everyone happy. “In particular, the Premier League and La Liga are working on trying to find a middle point where they’ll be allowed to do so and La Liga is now in talks with the government. In La Liga, I think about all but four or five clubs all have some sort of partnership with betting related companies.”
He revealed that sports leagues can do more thanks to gambling partnerships. “Thanks to these revenues and income, they can support grassroots, academies, etc. It’s beyond what most people do actually see in this relationship.”
Revaz Arveladze, former Head of the UEFA Committee, agreed wholeheartedly. “Our industry and the betting industry really need each other and I don’t think that is questionable,” he said. “Betting companies are reaching out to invest money in football and it is also the best way to advertise themselves, how good they are and how big they are and how many opportunities they have to do charity or sponsoring.
But if sports are forced to take a break, like they did in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, sports books need to find a way. Diversification in other sports is key, and bookies have learned their lessons. In the “How 2020 changed the industry” panel, several guests discussed what worked best, and what they learned.
Betbazar CEO Oleksandr Iaroshenko discussed what he saw working in the CIS region. “Within Ukraine, Kiev and other cities we created our esports competitions,” he said. “We actually started before COVID, but during COVID we had a very, very high demand for the product so we created eFootball events, like FIFA, and eBasketball NBA events and the same for MMA and NHL.”
“In real sports, we handle two tournaments in table tennis and regular tennis, and these names I believe are now known worldwide; the Setka Cup and Esports Battle,” Iaroshenko added. “Pretty much all bookmakers were using and are still using it in their live offering.”
That doesn’t mean everything went swell. Clever Advertising Group’s Head of Business Development Marcos Oliveira discussed the lessons the gambling industry learned the hard way. “The first mistake that we made as a company was not believing this was serious enough that at least sports betting was closing down for a while,” he said. “We didn’t switch to casino products or esports fast enough because we didn’t predict that the entire industry of sports would just stop. This is the first time in my life that I’ve seen the world completely stop. Back in March, I’d never have believed that the Premier League would stop.”
“We always thought it would just be one week then two, three, four or five weeks,” he added. “We just stood still and waited and we should have reacted more fiercely by changing the products and the cross selling, making a complete 180-degree turn.”
Enlabs COO Dainis Niedra, says we shouldn’t expect all the major events delayed from 2020 to actually happen in 2021. “I do not really believe the vaccine could help us that much,” he admitted. “I believe there will be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel somewhere but it’s quite hard to imagine how we, as a whole world, can run the Olympic Games and how we can run the European Championships. Even without having spectators, it’s still very unclear. Sports are under a big question.”