he cancellation of live sport proved to be a key test for the industry – and operators would do well to take on board the lessons learned from the last few months. With retail likely to be out of action for the foreseeable future across the majority of emerging markets, the second half of 2020 is likely to be a challenge for many.
Ahead of her appearance at SBC's CasinoBeats Malta Digital (June 30 - July 2), BetGames.TV’s COO Aiste Garneviciene tells Yogonet that operators need to fundamentally rethink their approach to product diversification – and start providing entertainment that goes beyond RNG action to keep players engaged.
How much has BetGames.TV benefited from virtual conferences since the lockdown began?
The transition of industry conferences to the online domain has been a critical tool in ensuring the industry’s perseverance through challenging circumstances. These virtual events have allowed us to continue sharing our own insights as well as learning from others, and we applaud the innovation demonstrated by the organisers. As much as I miss meeting my industry friends and colleagues face to face, we’ve done well to show agility and innovation. In spite of the current restrictions on face-to-face networking, maintaining mutually beneficial commercial relationships remains key to success; and the industry has adapted well. Those who have been hit particularly hard, such as the retail betting sector, need to evolve faster than ever - and we’ve been there to help.
Where do you see global markets in terms of recovery at the moment?
Self-evidently, the industry’s short-term future lies online; at least for as long as lockdown persists. Although the land-based and retail sectors will return to strength in the fullness of time, I anticipate much of this summer in Europe and the US will be about the digital space. Despite the frequent focus on online gaming, many land-based and retail players will likely return to what they know once it becomes safe. However, with much of the southern hemisphere now entering the winter season, I expect the transition to online to continue given we haven’t yet beaten COVID. In my view, it will likely take up to 12 months for retail to recover – but to be frank, I’m not sure all operators will be successful in making it that far.
What parts of casino have attracted sports betting fans? Have betting habits been changed by the pandemic?
Product diversification has long been an essential feature of the operator toolkit. The pandemic has only increased its importance. Pre-COVID, many focused the lion’s share of their operations exclusively on sports betting with casino products much further down the list. Companies in that category have learned the hard way about just how important a varied portfolio can be. As for player behaviour, most bettors want entertainment that goes beyond simple RNG action. Sports betting enthusiasts are not used to taking their chances at random – rather, they have an intrinsic preference for calculated risk and the skill that comes with it. That is why live products remain the most promising options for operators looking to acquire and retain newly migrated sports punters. While we don’t do RNG-based games, so I can’t back up the numbers, I’m happy to wager that live betting products have far outperformed slots and virtuals. This isn’t a criticism of the products; I just do not believe that RNG-based betting outcomes lend themselves well to most sports betting fans that have crossed over into casino.
Should we expect to see a return to normal market activity soon enough?
Short term, it will certainly stay as a ‘new normal’; in that we should expect online to be the key channel on the global stage, for at least the next few months. Success for most heavily invested in retail will depend on their ability to shift online and refocus their efforts. Longer term, I certainly wouldn’t want to predict the date that the pandemic passes us by, but suffice to say – with the return of live sport and relaxation in global restrictions, we’re certainly far closer to normal than we have been for a few months!
And finally, how can operators and suppliers differentiate themselves in a post-COVID environment?
We’re going to need to see changes. It is essential that suppliers take onboard the lessons learned from betting activity, especially when it comes to providing the entertaining, low-spend, extended sessions that have proven to work so well. Moving forward, there also needs to be far more focus on alternatives beyond just RNG-based gaming. Clearly the majority of sportsbook customers are not accustomed to riding their luck on algorithms; and any future-proofed portfolio needs to do more to incorporate the live-betting products that have been proven player favourites in recent months.
Also, while I believe the industry will welcome a return to the year’s headline annual events, advances in technology have opened up a whole host of possibilities that were unimaginable just a year ago for the digital side. Virtual platforms have shown a lot of potential, particularly for younger companies looking to stand out – and I expect we’ll see plenty of industry disruption when it comes to new operators and suppliers looking to make their mark.
Aiste Garneviciene will be joined by Alex Tomic (CEO, Slotsmillions), Marco Castaldo (CEO, Microgame) and Cristiano Blanco (Head of Gaming Kindred) for the Operators & Innovation session at CasinoBeats Malta Digital. The panel is part of the Technology & Innovation track at the virtual conference and exhibition which takes place this week from Tuesday to Thursday. Passes are available at the official website.