Why Sky Bet joining the Senet Group is important

By David Cook
Self-regulatory body the Senet Group has welcomed a sixth member, with the announcement that Sky Betting and Gaming has become the first online-only operator to join the watchdog.

The body was set up in 2014 by founder members Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Gala Coral, who were joined by Scotbet in May.

Sky Bet’s inclusion comes as a slight surprise, given that some of the Senet Group’s measures have been tailored towards land-based practices, such as members being required to remove the advertising of gaming machines from shop windows and dedicate 20% of shop window advertising to responsible gambling messages. For an online-only operator, these measures are obviously irrelevant.

What does relate to Sky Bet however, is the voluntary TV advertising ban on sign-up offers, including free bets and free money, something Sky Bet has done in the past, before 9pm.

Industry-wise, it is the first noticeable noise to have come out of Sky Bet since private equity firm CVC Capital Partners acquired an 80% stake in the operator in March last year, which valued it at £800m.

Having Sky Bet on board is certainly significant for the Senet Group, as while it may not have a history dating back anywhere near as far as some of the other members, such as William Hill or Ladbrokes, it is an operator which is ranked inside the world’s top 15 online operators. That is in terms of revenue generated in the 12 months up to November 2015, with £210m, in a Barclays Research report which cited a presentation put together by Paddy Power and Betfair.

When news of the Senet Group’s creation surfaced, a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “The bookmakers are engaging in desperate conjuring tricks to protect their FOBT [fixed-odds betting terminals] market monopoly and, put simply, this is just more smoke and mirrors.” Having an online-only operator join the body aids the argument against this view.

The jury could perhaps still be out on the Senet Group, as it is still in its fairly early stages, but from Sky Bet’s point of view, jumping aboard the Senet Group ship can be used as a valuable CSR tool as the body’s TV advertising and social media campaigns increase their presence.

Sky Bet features regularly within bookmaker-related content that appears on Sky Sports, Sky’s pay TV sports broadcasting network, where its biggest events can attract millions of viewers. Sky Bet was also one of the early pioneers of online gaming, after purchasing the Sports Internet Group in 2000 and rebranding Surrey Sports as Sky Bet.

Sky Bet will be given a three-month “grace period” to comply with Senet Group regulations.
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