Creating a top online sportsbook

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Rachael Church–Sanders asks industry experts what sportsbook operators can do to make their propositions more entertaining and increase customer loyalty at a time of increasing competition from other types of gaming in an extract from her new iGaming Business report, "Online Sports Betting: A Market Assessment and Outlook'. Here they reveal what the 'must–have' elements are for a successful online sportsbook and what innovations can be expected in the future to further enhance the customer experience.

Olivier Goulon, CEO of Gamned (owner of French sites including RueDesJoueurs. com, Transfert–foot. net and RueDesJoueuses. com):In the current context, bookmakers will have to continue finding innovative ways to enhance gamblers experience and meet their needs. Online gamblers profiles are evolving and customers are becoming more demanding. From our point of view, there are three major tendencies that will become increasingly important. The first concerns the offer: the more bets are available, the higher the chance for the bookmaker to meet his customers needs. In France, the ARJEL regulations strictly control which sports and competitions are available for online betting, but in most other countries, the bookmakers are free to decide which bets are available, and should therefore focus on widening their offer. The second concerns the means: modern technology such as smartphones is increasingly present in our everyday lives, and can be used by bookmakers to promote their products. Applications for smartphones have been developed by a few online bookmakers, and we expect to see more and more sites offering this service in the next few months. We also expect online betting to be available via cable television: customers will soon be able to bet with their remote controls via secure channels on the sport that they are currently watching. Finally, we expect to see a development of the live betting offer. So far, only a small part of sporting events are available for live betting. If bookmakers broaden their offer and develop applications that will enable their clients to bet from anywhere, it seems logical that the live betting option will increase accordingly to meet the demand. Online poker sites have paved the way for customer loyalty when it comes to online gambling. So far very few online bookmakers reward their clients, whereas many poker sites have entire VIP programmes. It is quite possible that in the future, more bookmakers will develop loyalty programmes just like the ones available for poker, casino and bingo. David Trunkfield, partner and UK head of gaming, PricewaterhouseCoopers:The sports betting industry is not alone in the online world in facing increasing competition for customers as the industry matures, and there are interesting parallels with what we see going on in other industries. Two key trends – both of which have been growing in importance – are around content and personalisation. On the content side, adding more content, and developing rich content (e. g. video content) will make a sportsbook more compelling to customers. It is analogous to the online travel industry, which is some way ahead of the online gaming industry in its development – where the major online travel agents are adding more and more content (e. g. more hotels available to book), and bringing this content to life through video footage, user–generated content, and editorial content (such as suggestions for where to go). In the sports book arena, more content means adding more markets – particularly in–running – and rich content could be video feeds of sporting events to enhance the user experience on the site, or fantasy sports content. Personalisation is something that many online retailers like Amazon have well developed, such as tailoring landing pages and promotions based on who you are and your previous browsing and shopping history, but so far this hasnt really been introduced in the sportsbook arena, with landing pages typically promoting upcoming events across a range of sports, rather than being personalised for a user. These are two of the areas we expect to see more innovation in going forwards, as sports betting sites move from being heavily transactional focused to having more of a focus on providing stimulating content for users as a means of creating a point of differentiation beyond price and generating loyalty with customers. John OConnor, business development executive, Racing Post:Microwavable betting is the future of the online industry – consumers dont want to have to wait for information to defrost. Information that helps punters choose their bets needs to be quick to find and easy to digest for cash rich, time poor people. The Racing Post aims to do this by taking statistical betting content and making it available quickly and succinctly. The new breed of online punters doesnt necessarily want to spend hours reading through volumes of tables – instead they want contemporary topline stats that allow them to assess the value in a particular bet. They want to bet quickly, get a return quickly and then get on with their lives. Speed and immediacy are therefore key to a successful sports betting site. In terms of the future, mobile will ultimately replicate what online has already done for betting. Regardless of the platform however, content will always remain king. The days of betting establishments being dark satanic mills are now long gone, and thats thanks to online. James Garmston, head of racing and sports betting, Press Association:Football betting is growing and growing and there are so many opportunities created by online that cant be done in a bricks and mortar environment such as in–running betting. Bookmakers need to get into bed with content companies – such as newspapers – and be there from the start of the engagement. For example, someone reading sports news on an Android phone or iPhone in the future could be able to place a bet without being sent off to another website – that would be compelling. Gambling is benefiting from a change of image – from boring and niche – into an entertainment stream. It is now up to operators to get their new offerings out there first and stand out from the crowd. Youve got to have an edge or a gimmick if you want to enter the market now – whether it is a new bet type, a spread, an interesting odds variation or an app. To flourish, a new offering has to be functional and appropriate and also be presented in an understandable way. Simplicity should be key when it comes to a new customer opening an account. The social space for betting is going to be massive. Operators need to get forums going. As soon as theres a discussion theres a betting opportunity and therefore the potential for an operator to sit on the sidelines and offer bets as and when appropriate. The red button has had its day and it was a rather short one at that. However, there could be a revival in television–based betting once televisions with online capabilities become mainstream. Even more interesting is that some television manufacturers that are considering putting bookmaking functionality into their sets. Those sorts of conversations between television manufacturers and bookmakers are happening now, such as between Betfair and Samsung, and the potential is incredible. Thats something to watch out for in the next 6–12 months. Mickey Charles, president & CEO, The Sports Network:There will always be competition, no matter the end result. It is inevitable. It is the American way. It is the nature of the planet. Lions and tigers struggle in mortal combat for food, five other guys had their eyes on your wife before she chose you, hundreds of applicants for that choice job and politicians who fancy power€ªladen with promises and lies to secure your support and vote. It is ceaseless. It affects the world of sports wagering as it would any other. All contest for the monies of the player or punter and then, lo and behold, as occurred with the demise of horse racing in the US, the competition is not another track or horse race€ªit is another sport, a casino, an influx of movies and theatres to replace the social appeal of the track and the races. Dining out. Family trips. Online gaming always had a similar situation and it was never a serious threat to their bottom line(s) but it is now. No, reformatting propositions is not the answer. Odds are not going to change. Payouts will be payouts. All the games played will remain the same. Charm will become better and increase. Attitude will rise to a new level. Telephonic, technological and personal embraces will be enhanced. All good stuff. You need more. It is not customer loyalty. They will go where the winds blow most favourably, with more entertainment, greater opportunity, to the creative and inventive. Customers will gravitate to in running betting if it appeals to them but, as has been said ad nausea by yours truly, nothing is original on the internet for more than a few seconds. Then minutes to replicate it, likely improve upon it, whatever it might be. Fantasy games, suicide pools, content to support your efforts since the player will go somewhere for the statistics, news, odds in the industry, weather and injury reports, match–up data, latest instant score updates so why not see it all on your site? And, again, newness. Sportsbooks must become inventive, imaginative and resourceful. They must be all–inclusive and offer poker, bingo, parlay cards, lotteries and a literal plethora of sports. There is no magic to this, only ideas and resourcefulness, a realisation that loyalty is as certain as the next advantage and bouquet of roses with a glass of Merlot. More games and expansion of those already in place. This short a brief can only tell you direction and what must be on the agenda€ªthere is not enough time, regrettably, to build it for you in great detail. But I caution you to have a sense of urgency about this or, sooner than later, that will not be necessary. Thierry Claus, marketing director and Thibault Maitre, online sportsbook consultant, INOVEN: As opposed to poker and horse betting operators and online casinos, sportsbook operators play against players. Any win on the players side is a loss to them and vice versa. Therefore, they need to acquire as many players as possible to compensate for potential losses. As a consequence, they have to maintain attractive prices coupled with a large selection of bets and well–timed promotions. Hence the question remains: what can sportsbook operators do to resist competition? Some have already started using techniques such as friend referral programs or rich content broadcasts. However, there are other tactical moves to look forward to€ªThe more you play, the more you get. Operators need to develop strategies to promote regular betting patterns. Organising contests and offering goodies to players based on their betting behaviours is an interesting way to create a special bond with the brand and ensure that players do not spend their money elsewhere. Indeed, money being in limited supply, increasing ones expenditures on a given website would mean decreasing expenditures on other websites for most players. It is all about recognition and community. Customers strive for recognition, at least as much as they do for money. They want their skills to be acknowledged and put forward. Creating communities – or, even better, clubs – using social networks but also promoting outstanding individuals on the operators website will foster a communitarian spirit, which will likely generate more traffic and revenues. Go interactive! The real opportunity for sportsbook operators lies in their capacity to offer betting services anytime, anywhere. That is to say, sportsbook operators will have to develop partnerships with content providers and telecom operators, so that betting services would be integrated directly on screens while watching a match, whether it be on a smartphone or on a TV connected to the internet. Michael Maerz, director of sports betting, PartyGaming. "Online sports betting operations have set a frenetic pace with regards to introducing innovative products in the last couple of years and there are plenty more developments in the tank. However, improving the experience and service for customers is not just about adding more sports betting products: it's about treating other forms of online gaming as an opportunity and not as the competition. For instance, the shared wallet that PartyGaming developed and introduced almost five years ago means that we can embed PartyBets in the PartyPoker Client and vice versa. In addition to enabling customers to move easily from one form of betting to another, we are starting to bring elements of the casino and poker world into sports betting such as PartyBets' combo slot offering for tennis tournaments: customers place a stake and then spin to receive three random selections covering the next points being played in three live tennis matches. Overlaying all of these developments is a loyalty programme that rewards customers for whether they place a bet on the 2. 15 at Lingfield, or play blackjack, poker or bingo. What's next? The roll–out of high speed broadband will bring another exciting period of development for operators and customers. Live video streaming and on demand videos will certainly be a must have – an inevitable consequence of media convergence and also a door–opener to more localised, event–driven promotions and customer competitions. Innovation? We ain't seen nothing yet!"Richard Flint, managing director, Sky Betting and GamingSports betting is different from most other forms of online gaming (including casinos and console gaming) in that the consumer benefit is from enhancing another activity (i. e. watching sport) rather than it always being an entertaining experience in itself. In the face of competition from other online gaming activities, sportsbook operators can therefore either make the act of placing a bet more interesting and enjoyable, or integrate it more closely with the sport in question. I expect operators to do both: to make bet placement more interesting and exciting, with the use of easier and more tactile interfaces (easier on tablet devices) and to make the experience more like placing chips in an online casino. Further increase in stats, data, content and community will further enhance the experience, and there may be a move against ever increasing lists of more and more niche betting markets. I also expect closer and closer integration with live sport, through the presentation of markets that directly relate to the action and commentary, and the development of user interfaces that present content and betting right next to each other, whether on the PC, tablet device, PC or mobile phone. The 'must–have' elements for a successful online sportsbook are well understood and fairly widespread: a fast, reliable, easy to use website/mobile phone application, a good range of markets, competitive pricing, and easy registration and payment methods. Innovation is more interesting, and somewhat lacking between the major players. One area that I think is ripe for further innovation is the cross–over between prediction games, lotteries and sports betting. Andrew Cox, director, strategic partnerships, Opta SportsdataWith online video rights becoming more readily available and packaged in bookmaker–friendly formats, theres inevitably been a shift towards offering low latency streamed footage, typically across niche sports. Sportsbooks as quasi–broadcasters are now the norm. Those that do it well have already stolen a march on their rivals but continuity will very much depend on how rights holders choose to value and package these rights, as traditional and digital viewing platforms converge. And whilst live action can make for a more entertaining sportsbook destination, theres often too much of a disconnect between the audio–visual content and available betting propositions. In much the same way as red–button technology didnt succeed in turning the digital TV masses into punters, there is work to be done before most sportsbooks see the full benefit of providing a multimedia online experience. Integrated data is one of the methods that will help bridge that gap, with intelligent placement of relevant statistics and odds able to turn a passive viewing experience into an interactive one. Inventive market creation will continue to drive registrations and keep existing customers interested. Technical innovation around data collection will continue to fuel this growth, aligned to the willingness of sports governing bodies – integrity issues aside – to open up access, embrace technology and allow data partners to collect and distribute official data for betting purposes. Some would argue that we are already at saturation point when it comes to the granularity of available betting events, yet we are only at the tip of the iceberg of what is possible, especially for in–running betting. Top level scores information remains at the heart of same–old–same–old betting markets, though there is already an ability to provide more detailed match data, in real–time, that allows for infinitely more market generation opportunities. Match betting on player performance data, such as (un)successful tackles, shots, passes or fouls are all possible. And how long before in–running bets are being taken on golfers hitting the fairway from the tee, putting their approach shot inside their playing partner or spreads being offered on the distance from the hole? Similar levels of granularity can be envisaged in most sporting events and these low stakes, high turnover, quick turnaround events will be a useful tool in combating impulse bettors from clicking away to try their luck on softer games of chance. Ross MacEacharn, managing director, Watch & Bet:Casino, poker, bingo, virtual sports and lottery all offer instant gratification 24/7. So how do sportsbooks, above ensuring they offer a full suite of products, compete and ensure they stay ahead of the game and keep their customers entertained and loyal? There are now a variety of hygiene factors that are critical to engaging a sophisticated and demanding sportsbook audience. Chief among these is in–play betting, but simply offering three markets with no supplementary information, will fall a long way short of satisfying todays punters. A full 24hour calendar (where possible) of in–play betting opportunities, drawing on football, tennis, basketball, volleyball or whichever sports are most relevant for your users from around the world will ensure that there are always betting opportunities whatever time of the day, and by and large sports bettors are far more excited by real world betting opportunities rather than virtual/RNG offerings. Fundamental to this in–play offering is the support of live video, which increasingly is allowing sportsbooks to become sports broadcasters in their own right, often delivering output greater than much more well known sports broadcasters. This enhanced live video offering now forms part of a generally more rounded betting experience encompassing best of breed technology, up to date and relevant stats all of which encourage punters to become more engaged and increase their betting frequency. Additionally sportsbooks must ensure they are well–positioned to exploit the sudden explosion in smartphone adoption, the rise of the tablet device and connected TVs, product innovation can no longer be focused solely for the internet as the way customers interact with their preferred sports books changes on an almost daily basis. About The ReportOnline Sports Betting: A Market Assessment and Outlook, written by leading industry writer Rachael Church–Sanders, examines the main issues surrounding the growing online sportsbook industry including betting market overviews by region; areas of opportunity; factors affecting growth in the industry; the mobile revolution and how it is affecting sports betting offerings; marketing strategies of online sportsbooks; regulatory issues and demographics of players. It provides case studies of the major online sportsbook operators and suppliers and analyses them to determine their business models and revenue streams as well as who the winners and losers will be. http://www. igamingbusiness. com/content/global–business–online–sports–betting

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