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January 20, 2019

Building for a responsible future

David O’Reilly, COO at Colossus Bets, looks at the big themes expecting to emerge in sports betting, predicting a widening of products offers for single event accumulator bets and a new CSR drive from operators.

What major innovations do you expect to see in sports betting during 2019?

David O’Reilly: “In development are a number of esports-focused betting concepts which are seeking to go beyond merely offering odds on the outcome of the next League of Legends contest. I think there will be plenty of innovation in2019 aimed at making betting on these contests attractive to esports fans, rather than trying to offer traditional punters a conventional betting interface for esports. I’m interested in this space because Colossus Bets has done a deal to build a suite of esports jackpots for a US partner, incorporating our formula of big headline prizes with leg-by-leg Cash Out and crowdfunded Syndicate tickets.

“It would be stretching things to suggest it will be a major innovation, but it seems very likely that the bet builder products which have been built around a single game of football will extend into other sports. For example a golf major, a darts final, a Six Nations rugby match and even novelty events such as the Eurovision song contest. “There is clearly appetite amongst punters for single event accumulator bets, enabling them to shoot for a big prize from a modest stake, on a marquee event. These single event bets provide an element of instant gratification, rather than having to wait for a series of events to resolve to hit a rolled-up winning bet at big odds.

What developments will we see in the personalisation of sports betting?

"I see in-app notifications as an area ripe for further development. For example: ‘Notify me when a boosted price is offered on football, or when a market involving Tiger Woods is loaded, or when a horse race I have bet on is about to start, or (in a Colossus context) when a Syndicate Captain I follow creates a new ticket for funding.’“

This type of functionality will give players an element of control over personalisation. While advancements in AI will no doubt enable operators to better target players with offers and products which are likely to be of particular interest to them, I think letting the player determine what he or she wants may be the area most ripe for advancement.”

What major regulatory challenges does your operation face in 2019, both in the UK and beyond?

"Keeping on top of the pace of change to regulations and consultations about prospective changes is an obvious challenge for us and the industry more generally. In an international context, the continuing fragmentation of regulatory standards and local licensing requirements will ensure that the safest jobs in the industry continue to be within compliance. For smaller operators the cost of licensing in newly regulating territories will make the exercise hard to justify and this is an area where scale provides an edge.“

The public and political perception of gambling in the UK has never been more negative and with FOBTs in the high street
shackled from April, the media attention will increasingly turn to online.

The public and political perception of gambling in the UK has never been more negative and with FOBTs in the high street shackled from April, the media attention will increasingly turn to online.“ I think some braver operators may seek to turn corporate and player responsibility into a competitive advantage in 2019. As one non-UK example of this, the Finnish operator Paf has recently implemented a mandatory annual loss limit of €30,000 per player. Paf is in effect saying that they are not comfortable that any of their players should lose more than this amount, regardless of an individual’s income or wealth.“ The Paf approach may be a bridge too far for most operators but aside from being socially responsible, it is consistent with maximising a player’s lifetime with the operator. It deviates from reliance on churn models which suggest every new player should be ‘monetised’ as quickly and efficiently as possible. Protecting the player and the player’s longevity is also adding value to the operator’s brand, in a sector where brands are not in good standing.”

Where do you sit in regards to the developing picture surrounding sports betting in the US?

“It is clearly an evolving and fluid landscape and a crystal ball is required to know how it will pan out. What we do know is that early results posted from New Jersey, in particular from DraftKings, are encouraging. There seems to be a ‘fear of missing out’ amongst European operators with designs on establishing a foothold in the US market. It will take a brave executive to tell his or her board that sitting on the sidelines and learning from the early mistakes of others is the right call in the short term.“ From a Colossus Bets perspective one area where we see an opportunity is with legacy pari-mutuel horse racing operators, who are no longer the only game in town for online US punters and who quickly need to respond to the newly legalised sports betting competition. We are looking to bring the same modernised features to US tote pools as we have done with British and Irish horse racing. Colossus has been granted extensive patent protection around CashOut in the US, which will underpin our US-facing product offering.”

How are advancements in technology driving change in sports betting?

“Some of the obvious changes include improved computing power driving better and more accurate pricing (in-play in particular), better use of data enabled by advances in software and an expectation for intuitive simplicity from consumers based on their online experiences outside of betting. Changing consumer behaviour in terms of social interaction, in particular the use of messaging/chat apps, is something sports betting via a number of ‘social’ initiatives is trying to grapple with. Colossus Syndicates and Skybet’sGroup Bets are two examples. “Perhaps the most fundamental point, though, is that ongoing developments in consumer hardware are driving change across all online commerce. Screen sizes and functionality offered by modern smartphones determine product design and presentation decisions in sports betting. Most punters now bet exclusively via mobile and the primary challenge is in making the journey from log on to transacting as effortless as possible.”

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