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NEWS 16 July 2019

Analysis: EFL survey exposes myths about gambling sponsorship

By Tim Poole

During surveys or science experiments at school, teachers would go over methodology and sample sizes with a fine-tooth comb. If your experiment wasn’t up to scratch, you either failed or had to conduct it all over again.

Why, then, do the same rules not apply to those scrutinising the gambling industry?

All too often, UK politicians have completely fabricated claims, national newspapers have grossly exaggerated figures and researchers have based extrapolated data on minute sample sizes to promote their anti-gambling narrative.

So it’s funny to see the results when the English Football League (EFL) conducted a survey with 27,854 supporters – a strong sample size containing an objective, impartial crowd of many different ages. The findings showed an overwhelmingly positive outcome for the perception of gambling sponsorship.

A 71% majority of fans believed gambling sponsorship within football was acceptable during the recent survey. Of these, 9% found gambling sponsorship acceptable in all circumstances, with 62% deeming it acceptable with responsible gambling safeguards in place.

Just 25% were against football gambling sponsorship, with the remainder not sure. That doesn’t exactly scream anti-gambling sentiment, does it?

Importantly, of the respondents, 46% had placed a bet online within the last 12 months, with 13% of fans betting once a week. Only 2% of respondents said they wagered every day.

Even then, the EFL's report was keen to emphasise its responsible gambling partnership with Sky Bet, with the aim of helping that 2% and any other problem gamblers.

But the overall results were clear. There just isn’t the hatred for gambling in the UK certain sections of Parliament or the media would have you believe.

What these survey findings have done is expose the many myths flying around about betting sponsorship.

Coincidentally, Sky Bet was the operator on the receiving end of another positive gambling news story last week, as its appeal against an Advertising Standards Authority ad ban was deemed successful. Common sense prevailed on that occasion and it seems it will again on the topic of sponsorship.

Despite the toxic atmosphere surrounding so much of the UK gambling sector, operators have rallied this summer to increase collective sponsorship levels. Amid the myriad of agreements within English football’s top two divisions, 1xBet recently signed partnerships with both Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC, while Paddy Power entered a rare shirt sponsorship with Huddersfield Town.

If 71% of EFL supporters think there’s nothing wrong with such deals, what leg is there really for bookie bashers to stand on?

Granted, GVC Holdings itself has called for a ban on sponsorship, although many within the industry have labelled this move a PR stunt. A sponsorship ban would reduce both costs and competition for GVC; as the owner of some of the oldest and largest brands in the market, sponsorship is nowhere near as beneficial for the operator as it is smaller or newer firms.

The remainder of the industry however, stands unanimous. So too, it seems, does the public.

It’s interesting, but of course unsurprising, to see a lack of mainstream coverage for the survey's results. It will also be interesting to see if the usual suspects suggest the EFL’s partnership with Sky Bet has influenced the outcome – a question they wouldn’t dare asking when the results suit their own agendas.

Then we come full circle to sample size. Here’s a little tester for you: keep an eye out for anyone suggesting 27,854 replies isn’t a big enough collection of data to be reliable. It’s almost guaranteed those same critics will have previously relied on no more than a three-figure sample size.

Genuine research and statistics have become a bit of a rarity in mainstream coverage of the gambling industry. Here, we finally have some concrete evidence and it doesn’t look for the anti-gambling brigade.

Perhaps that’s why they don’t like using real facts and figures.

RELATED TAGS: Marketing | Sports Betting
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IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.

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