Kambi’s Festival of Sportsbook provided a detailed insight into the current state of affairs in the world of sports betting.
Topics such as sports betting integrity, esports and how the group leverages its network data to deliver sports betting experiences were discussed in the week-long event, which ran from 23-27 May 2022.
Sports betting is certainly a hot topic, with several states and provinces in North America slowly but surely legalising the pastime, all the while the European markets continue to thrive. Add in the 2022 World Cup, however, and it may just be the most significant year sports betting has ever had.
Gambling Insider was on hand to kick off Kambi’s festival in style, with Editor Tim Poole hosting the Sports Betting Focus: Executive Roundtable. He was joined by BetWarrior CEO Zeno Ossko, LeoVegas Director of Sports Christian Polsäter and Canadian Gaming Association CEO Paul Burns, to discuss the latest ins and outs of sports betting in LatAm, Europe and Canada respectively.
The three guests began with a brief introduction to their respective regions, with Ossko celebrating the third anniversary of BetWarrior, which launched in May 2019. The group focuses on LatAm, having launched regulated markets in Argentina, both in the province and city of Buenos Aires. It’s the company’s biggest market, with Brazil a close second, followed by other South American countries.
Canada, meanwhile, while not a new market when it comes to legal sports wagering, has been dominating the headlines lately when it comes to single-event sports betting. The Canadian Gaming Association has been crucial in the latest steps the country has taken with regards to sports betting, with the growing grey market a major motivation when changing the law and amending the criminal code in June 2021 to permit legal single-event sports wagering.
And LeoVegas’ Polsäter confirmed the group is most known as a casino brand, having started out with only casino 10 years ago. But times have changed for LeoVegas since then, with the company plugging its sportsbook back in 2016, before acquiring the likes of BetUK and 21.co.uk, as well as Royal Panda and Expekt, both of which operate with a sportsbook.
As mentioned, it is an exciting time for sportsbooks for more reasons than one, but perhaps leading the agenda right now is the upcoming 2022 World Cup. As explained by its CEO Ossko, BetWarrior is busy producing content and making sure everything is in place in time for the event this winter. He added the tournament is the biggest acquisition opportunity since the group launched its Argentinian licences.
“In our two biggest markets - Argentina and Brazil – everyone is already extremely excited around the World Cup,” he noted. “Our team is located in Argentina and Argentinians are extremely bullish about this year’s tournament. From my perspective as CEO of the company, the most important thing is to make sure we are ready in time to make sure we capture the maximum out of this great possibility in terms of acquisition and in terms of branding.”
There is, of course, huge European interest in the competition. And it is one in which LeoVegas aims to make the most of, particularly the longer-term aim of growing its sports betting offering.
“As always with these big tournaments, it’s super important for us – mainly as an acquisition driver – to really bring in new players,” noted LeoVegas’ Director of Sports. “We’re super excited to see how this World Cup will differ from the ones we have experienced in the past.
“A lot of our core markets participate in it, so it’s important for us, and it’s something we’ve planned for, for a while actually.”
As for Canada, and Ontario especially, everything is on the cards, as explained in more detail by Burns. The NHL playoffs have proved hugely popular with sports bettors, while NFL betting continues to be extremely popular in Canada.
“The market has left everything open, there’s really no exclusions, everything’s available, which is very important,” he said. “We wanted to make sure the customers had a wide array of choice and availability for all the products.
“Some major brands are entering the marketplace and customers are getting lots of choice, so it’s going to be an exciting time for them,” added Burns. “There’s been lots of local operators, such as NorthStar Bets and theScore, giving a Canadian flavour. It’s been a really good opportunity for those companies to build their business in Ontario.”
Of course, the 2022 World Cup isn’t the only talking point in terms of the future of the sports betting industry. The world will be watching the global event, but regions such as Canada, Europe and LatAm each have their own issues to focus on as the months and years go on.
Polsäter is expecting more of what the industry has experienced in the last couple of years, and agrees with the general consensus that esports will continue to grow. But one major development he foresees is the way in which people consume sport.
“The attention span is getting shorter and shorter, and that’s what players are expecting now when they enter a sportsbook to bet,” he said. “They expect the site to be fast, they expect to find the markets quickly, they expect to be able to place the bet quickly and get the payout quickly and so on, so I think that trend will continue.”
Another potential development for LeoVegas and indeed the industry in general is the preference of many younger sports bettors to focus on big names, as opposed to big teams. Polsäter takes football as an example, with the younger generation following the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, with stats-based markets and player props starting to emerge thanks to such world-class, high-profile players.
“I think that trend is just going to continue more and more, and customers are going to expect to be able to bet on anything player-related across different sports,” he said. “So that’s one trend that will continue for sure.”
While such player markets may not reach the popularity of the more traditional teams markets anytime soon, Polsäter believes they will continue to grow. He concludes that the current discussion within this space is very much football-oriented, but will develop into other sports in the years to come.
There are, of course, the “more boring” changes that can be expected, as Polsäter put it. With more and more markets regulating, regulations will more than likely continue to be tougher, especially around issues like bonusing and incentives.
Such issues, as explained by the LeoVegas Director of Sports, mean operators may have to slightly rethink their approach, but it is by no means a major disruption, particularly when they have a strong product to offer.
Polsäter commented: “There are going to be more and more rules around how you incentivise players, which means us operators need to sway from the strategy that might have been there historically of screaming loudest about the highest bonus, to having a really strong product players like and want to come back to.”
Increasingly tough regulations on bonusing and incentives, along with the increased costs in areas like data and live streaming, added Polsäter, could certainly scare away many sportsbook operators from starting out from scratch.
And the issue of bonuses and incentives is one that is already being closely monitored in Canada, with Burns almost matching Polsäter word for word when it comes to operators opting for a stronger product offering, as opposed to the screaming out of bonuses within their marketing campaigns.
“On advertising, one thing that has been really unique – especially from a North American perspective – is that there is no mass-market advertising of bonuses and incentives. That’s been taken away – not through affiliates, not through social media influencers, you can’t do it. You can offer them, but the player has to come to your site to find them. And so that’s really the one big change.
“What we’ve seen in the level of offers, while competitive, they’re not nearly at the levels seen in the US. That’s fine, and operators are actually quite pleased with some of this. They can compete on product or customer service, they’re looking forward to that.”
BetWarrior’s Ossko is very much in agreement with the increasing significance of regulation, with the CEO noting that the whole of LatAm is “counting down the days for Brazil to regulate.” He believes that once the biggest market in South America regulates, a lot of other markets will follow suit.
Brazil, however, may need some time to realise its full potential. “It’s a new product category for a lot of people in the market,” said Ossko. “Yes, everyone cares deeply about football in Brazil, and other indicators for the market point in the right direction as well – mobile penetration is extremely high for example. But it’ll take more time than people might think for the market to realise its full potential."He added: “But definitely in terms of market size, in terms of interest for football and other sports, there are all the right signs for Brazil to be one of the most exciting sports betting markets in the next five years.”