Growing since Italia ‘90

By Gambling Insider
Digitain Founder Vardges Vardanyan completes our World Cup hat-trick, as he discusses the sports betting supplier’s expectations for this November’s showpiece event with Gambling Insider.

Hi Vardges, it's good to speak with you. First off, what are your expectations of betting volumes for the World Cup?

We expect betting levels to significantly exceed those seen in the 2018 tournament. If you look at the betting history of the World Cup, the turnover has grown over every tournament since Italia ’90 and we do not feel this pattern will change.

I read that the total amount of bets placed globally on the 2018 World Cup Finals exceeded €130bn ($144/06bn), an average per match of €2.1bn, with over €7bn being gambled on the France v Croatia final. That is spectacular and just underlines the popularity of football across the world.

Since then, a number of significant new markets have been regulated and interest in football continues to grow, so we are confident that, despite this tournament being the first one to be held in winter, the 2022 World Cup will beat all records for betting.

From a Digitain perspective, our partner network has grown significantly since the last World Cup, so we will obviously see much higher volumes being processed through our platform than previously. However, we still feel that our World Cup 2022 organic growth with be significant over the previous competition. Coincidently, we are launching our new iGaming platform, Centrivo, at ICE and that enables us to provide more customer choice in terms of betting options and supporting content; as well as processing even higher levels of bets per second than previously, so we will ensure there is an even better player experience during the tournament.

Globally, I would not be surprised if this year’s World Cup generates over €250bn in stakes, with football fans ignoring the controversies surrounding the event and focusing on the spectacle.

How will the World Cup happening in November impact betting levels?

This is a great question. I think there’s two parts to this. There will be an obvious impact on the expected betting turnover on the domestic football leagues, especially the key European ones; the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Primera Liga and Serie A that all plan to take a six-week break when the World Cup is on. However, this will balance out as the postponed games will be squeezed into an extended season, ending in late May 2023.

As already stated, we’re confident that this year’s tournament will be a betting bonanza, with regular bettors on premium football switching to betting on the tournament.

The games are being played at 6pm and 11pm locally, which is reasonably attractive from a European, African, Asian and even North and South American betting fan’s perspective, fairly similar to current domestic league timing.

There could be some impact on the dynamic nature of the games, given the heat of Qatar, even at this time; but I think the levels of excitement watching the world’s best teams will overcome any potential obstacles. It’s going to be a wonderful spectacle, in my opinion.

How will it compare to the Euros?

Last year’s tournament was brilliant, for drama, entertainment and excitement; but also as a betting event.

From a dramatic perspective, we had the near tragedy affecting Denmark’s Christian Eriksen and the brilliant way his team-mates responded, during the match and later in the tournament.

Later, we had the excitement and emotion of the final being decided on penalties and the trophy not “going home” to England but instead going to an Italy team who few forecasted as winners at the beginning of the tournament, after a disappointing qualification campaign.

Globally, betting revenues were significant but not in the same ballpark as the World Cup. Average betting turnover per match was reported at €1.2bn, with €4bn staked on the final. France as the outright winner was not a brilliant result but, at Digitain, we saw a lot of support for Croatia too, so balance was achieved.

What’s it like trading during a World Cup?

Hectic, I’m reliably informed by my hard-working Trading team! They do look forward to these massive tournaments as they’re all football fans; but there is definitely pressure, with much bigger liabilities to manage.

We have responsibilities to our partners to deliver a competitive product for them, but one that also delivers revenue; which can be a challenge at times, especially during such a high-profile tournament.

Bets and liabilities can be much bigger than normal, which adds to the general level of drama, but that’s what we’re here for. There’s a real sense of excitement, especially in the group stages, when the games come thick and fast.

From our operator partners’ perspectives, the World Cup is a prime opportunity to recruit new players, and it is our job to make sure the experience they get is faultless, ensuring a wide choice of betting and supporting content, delivered on a stable and secure platform.

Profitability of the tournament, especially in the early rounds, can depend on the number of draws, as this result is generally the least popular with players, who normally seek to bet on a positive outcome. The final games of the Group stages can sometimes be fun to trade, though...

How much of betting is down to fans backing their home nation?

That’s a good question again, but difficult to quantify. Bets on individual countries to win the competition is a favourite option, particularly for patriotic recreational customers, whose behaviour can skew odds away from the “true” chances – just another thing for the traders to keep an eye on.

If a country goes on a successful run in the competition, such as Croatia in the last World Cup, or England in the Euros, then excitement in their country builds up as their media get behind them and as they progress – with a result that we see an uplift in “patriotic bets” to win the tournament and also to win their individual games.

Regular players tend to be a bit more logical, betting more often with the head rather than the heart, although if your national team goes on a successful run in the tournament, then everyone can get a bit excited.

So, the answer to your question is “it depends.” Overall, we see most money bet per day in the group stages, due, of course to the number of games being played. As the tournament progresses the games become spread out and there's less daily activity.

How did AFCON betting do?

It was generally positive. TV coverage internationally is much more limited outside Africa than for the Euros and World Cup, so we see betting stakes mainly coming from regular players; as opposed to newer,
more recreational customers.

With so many top-class African players playing in the main European leagues, the betting customers can have knowledge and, importantly, a view on the likely outcomes.

Live betting on the AFCON tournament was the hero for us – we saw very good turnover growth over the last tournament in 2019 in Egypt.

Generally, betting stakes in this year’s tournament were up over 2019, right across our partner network; especially in the week where there were no Premier League matches, where we saw some substitution from players seeking quality betting events.

The result in the final was also good for the bookmakers, with Senegal beating favourites Egypt after a dramatic penalty shoot-out – what a way to win a tournament!

Does Digitain have any specific plans for the World Cup, either product-wise or marketing/strategy-wise?

As an iGaming platform and sportsbook supplier, we have two main aims for this year’s World Cup tournament.

Firstly, to make sure our platform and products are the very best they can be, so that our existing partners and their customers have the very best World Cup experience possible. This year, we will be launching our new iGaming platform, Centrivo, powered by the latest AI technology. This will ensure our partners have a scalable, stable and flexible solution that can optimise the opportunity provided by the World Cup.

Secondly, we are developing our sportsbook product, especially our easy-to-integrate API version, adding more football bet types, enhancing the bonus engine, especially for the World Cup and delivering additional supporting content such as stats and data.

The marketing strategy is being developed currently and we are listening to our partners now to ensure we develop flexible customer offers, bonuses and promotions that meet their local needs – wherever they are located in the world.

Lastly, who will win the World Cup!?

That’s a great way to put me on the spot. With qualification still open to a number of countries, the question is if the winner will come from one of the 13 countries already confirmed or from one of the 19 nations still to achieve qualification? (At press time.)

From the already qualified teams, I think Brazil, Germany and England will have good tournaments (no big surprise there), but France may find it is difficult to defend the trophy – it hasn’t been done since Brazil in 1962!

From the countries still to qualify, Italy and Portugal have been successful tournament teams in the recent past, so it’s unfortunate that they have been drawn in the same qualifying group and only one of these great teams will be in the Finals.

So, to get off the fence I’ll give you two selections, one a favourite and one with an outside chance:

A win bet on England at around 10/1 – they have been very good in the last two tournaments.

A small each-way bet on Denmark around 50/1.

Hopefully, the Denmark team includes Christian Eriksen, now playing well in the English Premier League – what a heart-warming story that would be!