McDonnell has been in the International Online Gambling sector for over 15 years. He filled senior roles within the online divisions of William Hill, UK Tote and Bodog Europe and, having spent time running bodog88 in the Philippines, set up kmigaming.com in 2011 to assist Operators, both Asian and European, with areas such as Licensing, Operational set up, Recruitment, Product & Marketing Strategy and Sponsorship. More recently, McDonnell has taken a number of shareholdings in niche industry businesses and non-gaming ventures and is regular attendee at most key European and Asian Gaming Conferences.
DFS, eSports, social gaming and the like are all interesting, and relatively recent developments, but to say that the continued existence of tried, tested and longstanding core gambling brands rests on their adoption by these brands is absurd, arrogant and naive. I like to think the comments are made through twinkled eyes and a cheeky smile (but maybe that’s wishful thinking). It’s like saying the future of the sport of Football depends on its adoption of magic spray. Yes, it’s an interesting development, which probably benefits the game, but would people turn their back on the sport they love if its not used?
I understand why stakeholders within these businesses will argue their importance to core gambling Operators. I did it myself. But that’s when we were trying to extoll the virtues of a DFS product as a revenue generator, customer retention tool and, the last straw, a fan engagement service. And we believed it, still do. But as part a core gambling Operator for many years, I could never bring myself to say the future existence of those Operators is threatened if they don’t use DFS, eSports or another fringe product. That’s what is being alleged by some at the moment. Apparently it’s the fault of the “Millennials” and the “Noughties”.
The Millennial, if we believe what we are being told, will be the first generation in history to take a step back from betting on sports. Incredible leap in just one generation, when you consider it’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years (maybe it’s the Trifecta along with Trump and Brexit!).
Yes, there is more competition for the discretionary spend now, and of course the internet has changed everything, but gambling has had to compete with the drink, food, travel and other mainstream industries for years when competing for disposable income. It’s adapted, it’s evolved, and its developed into a service that provides today’s generations with what it wants and will continue to do so for tomorrows. Market consolidation is happening because competition is tough, but the market continues to grow, let’s not forget that.
Don’t get me wrong. The established operators absolutely must innovate. At every Conference there seems to be a perception of a lack of innovation within the sports betting industry. Really? Cash out, partial cash-out, auto-cash out, edit bet, fast markets in play, to name but a few, are all examples of innovation driven from within. They cater for different demographics where time is a premium and immediate settlements a necessity.
It’s a lazy argument and, frankly, disrespectful, for DFS, eSports and social gaming product owners to point the finger at traditional Operators and say they lack innovation and because of that they will die by not appealing to Millennials. They are listening. They are exploring. They are innovating. And, yes, in some cases they are working with third party product owners to compliment their own efforts. All of that is good.
DFS, or any fringe product, by itself is not the silver bullet to bring in all the Millennials and nor will it be the nail in the coffin if core Operators choose not to adopt it.
Simply put, stick to highlighting the possible benefits these products can bring to a core Operator and let them decide, when assessed against their own innovation efforts and others in the market. More doors will open that way. Scare-mongering wont work against a robust long established industry that has had tougher battles to fight, and is street wise for it.