Interview for Yogonet.com
By Alessandro Fried, CEO at BtoBet
1. Which have been the financial/social/corporate consequences of the coronavirus health crisis for the industry as a whole?
With live sports events, which previously ran into the hundreds of daily events and are now reduced to just a handful, the whole sportsbook vertical has been affected by the current situation. The lack of live content 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.
However, it is the retail operators that faced the major brunt of the whole situation with governments all over the world imposing social distancing measures. Whereas other operators could opt to diversify their revenue stream by integrating new content and expanding alternative and complementary verticals by cross-selling these expanded verticals to their target players, these retail licensees have had to face the conundrum of diversifying their business setup towards digital mediums.
2. Which were the measures/restrictions/limits/changes your company implemented voluntarily or had to adopt in accordance with local and/or regional policies when the pandemic first began? What can you tell us about the results of your current approach so far? Has the situation changed now? Have new measures been taken and/or left out?
As a company we were very agile in adapting to the situation from a corporate perspective and ensured the safety of our employees. Being a multinational company, we already had the right practices and mentality in place ensuring that work can still be carried out without a hiccup from the safety of one’s home, thus observing the various government’s appeals for social distancing. We highly value our employees, and will continue to take all of the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
The current situation also meant that we had to take a new approach regarding our technifying tours that we had planned for LatAm and Africa. With a widespread travel ban in place, travelling to different countries in these regions to meet current and potential customers had to be shelved for the time being. Nonetheless, our local experts are conducting their meetings digitally, and thus we have not been impacted from this point of view.
3. Has this situation changed your company’s short and long term strategies and business plans? If so, in what ways?
Whilst the long term strategy of the company remains intact, for the short term we shifted our attention to assisting all of our partners throughout this period which is characterised by a shortfall in the live sports events. Luckily, throughout the past months, we have invested a lot of our resources in expanding all of the verticals and have not focused solely on providing the best content for the live sports events. This has come in handy for our partners who had the opportunity to diversify their strategy and mitigate the current lack of live sports events by expanding the content of the other verticals in the least time-to-market.
Nonetheless, even if we are at an advantageous position – having developed among other things the most in-depth online casino portfolio with over 8,000 games from over 100 different providers – we continue to work hard to provide our partners with the widest content solutions available on the market. Even from a sportsbook perspective, our trading team have compensated for the lack of live events by adding new markets such as live simulated Tennis games based on a vast historical Tennis database, Fifa e-soccer with a selection of pre-match and in-play offers, a wide selection of special bets covering a wide array of topics, extended racing content, a virtual league that includes the top leagues which have been suspended, and an accumulative jackpot based on these matches.
4. What about the global and local gambling industry? Do you think the tendencies and customer behaviour expected for this year and beyond will change in light of the pandemic? If so, in which ways?
Live sport events are resuming sooner rather than later. And I expect a high player engagement, if not actually higher, once the situation normalises itself. Does this mean that the industry will resume in its usual steps before the Covid-19 pandemic ensued? The iGaming industry is a very agile industry and operators will pick up where they left off. Nonetheless, I also expect the industry to accelerate in its shift from the retail to the online channels, with players increasingly opting to place their bets from their mobile, smartphone, tablets or laptops. These are set to be the primary point of sales in the medium to long term.
Operators are now seeing the opportunities that reside in other verticals. Since sport events have been cancelled, sportsbetting players have turned their focus to alternative betting products, be they virtual sports, esports or 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 in terms of their gambling behaviour.
Retail operators will further seek to diversify their business strategy and move towards the online channels, with BtoBet already registering a strong interest from operators to make use of its technologies and facilitate their process as they 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, with operators necessitating a diversification of their revenue stream, while also being better placed to retain their current fold of players and acquire new customers through targeted marketing campaigns.
The post-Covid-19 situation could also see a shift towards mass regularisations of the online gambling industry, which are still lagging behind in the process. Governments are already gauging how they can weather the economic fallout brought about by the pandemic. The iGaming industry will be seen as a resource not only in terms of tax revenue, but also as a source for job opportunities during these trying times.
5. Are there any bright sides to this situation? If so, could you detail them and explain how your company and the industry could capitalise on this experience?
I truly believe that the post-Covid-19 situation will eventually result in operators seeking to diversify their strategy, especially those basing their business model on vast retail networks. Thus, those platform providers who are able to provide the right technology for all channels, will eventually be at the forefront of the market.
Throughout the years, we have invested heavily on interconnecting all betting channels to create a single betting experience that is totally independent of place and medium used. This work is evident in our Neuron 3 platform, which takes an in-depth consideration of the retail approach, allowing operators to target their non-registered customers at the retail level and transform them into registered players and thus have their betting experience extended to the digital mediums.
*This interview was initially published by Yogonet.com