Sports Betting Lessons Learnt From The Pandemic

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If there is one thing that COVID-19 has done, it has shaken up the world to the core. The world as we know it is not the same and everywhere you look at, has changed. The way we live has changed, the way we think has changed and even the way we gamble.  Some of the major sporting events have been cancelled, and some of them postponed. So what have we learnt as a sports betting community ….what are the challenges, and what is the way forward?

We found an interesting interview that was conducted with Sportradar’s Managing Director for Managed Trading Services (MTS) Paolo Personeni.  He gives us his thoughts and insights on how Covid-19 has affected sports betting. Have a read below.

Covid-19 and the lessons learnt, what are they?

If people tell you that the pandemic has not affected everyone negatively, they are wrong, very wrong. It has stuck us like a thunderbolt and things have changed forever. The usual business models that every bookmaker has always adopted needs to be revamped. Once sports have been cancelled worldwide, betting sites needed to include virtual sports, e sports and even Sportradar’s Simulated Reality.  Such events were never so popular prior to this world pandemic hitting us, but once all sporting events were cancelled, gamblers looked and used these channels as alternatives to betting on live events. Many challenges were faced by the new betting options, some of these include the risk factor involved with such bets , yet a quick solution was found, and gamblers had safe space and events to bet on …including when this pandemic will finally be over.

Have you (the MTS team) changed your business strategy to work more closely with your customers?

The MTS strategy did not change much, according to their MD.  Paolo Personeni stressed that both MTS’s Operational Account Managers and also the ITS managers have a strong relationship with clients and partners. He continued advising that the main focus of the company during this pandemic is to look at processes, make them swifter, customer centric and ore targeted to suit the customer needs.

MTS’s Integrated Trading Solutions is one of the biggest players when it comes to strategy, and the team has joined up to work around the clock. The focus:  the customer. The team’s role was to give the customer full autonomy. Having said that, the team made sure that they tweaked tier operational strategy.  Al-derived algorithms also played a big part, plus both the OAMs and the ITS Managers working hand in hand.  Without these key people, the company would not have survived the so called storm (work pandemic)

What is your view on how gambling operators have been impacted by this global pandemic? What are the challenges that are being faced and what does next year look like so far?

We listen closely to what our customers tell us day in day out and we work on their respective feedback. Some have faced similar challenges in the past. Bookmakers on the other hand highlight that the lack of sporting events have hit home, and hard. Costs have been high and the income generated is not as big as it was before. Gamblers did not adjust immediately to the new normal, and the loss of sports was a big hit.  Adjusting and gambling to other sports outside the norm was a big change.  Some of these sports include table tennis, esports and even Simulated Reality events. This backup plan was immediately outlined, branded  and launched as emergency content to replace the loss of sporting events. The challenge faced by most was the risk that comes along with offering new content whilst at the same time still delivering a wow customer experience.

The second challenge that most bookies faced was when the postponed sporting events were launched again, and all of this with little short notice whatsoever. Most of the events were all crammed together in a small amount of days and to launch the event, to market it and place the odds, made the task a little bit harder for bookmakers. All the rescheduled events along with the other contingency products, overloaded sites, and most of the bookmakers found themselves in a crossroad. Which content to keep, which to dump?  Apart from that, most companies had to lay off staff to keep afloat, and others did their best to retain staff. Most operators did and are still finding it hard to find a balance between generating business, keeping staff and adjusting to the new way of working, the new normal. 

MTS works with some of the largest operators in the world but also regional ones that may not have the full in-house technological capabilities… Do you see any differences in the way they experienced the pandemic?

If this pandemic has taught us something, it is how to strive to find a balance between costs and also in house and outside capabilities. Growth of business partners has always been the priority.  Business partners have always utilised the MTS ITS, even when the company is a small entity or one on a bigger scale. During such a pandemic hitting us the way that it has, MTS has offered and delivered some useful emergency content to keep everyone afloat and open for business. If further cancellations and lockdowns are imposed worldwide, MTS will continue to support businesses further. The chant of ‘ we are in this together’, translates even to business.

How do you think the industry as a whole will change/shift?

As we move forward and deal with second and third waves of this virus, all things that we have done before would need to change. Bookmakers have learnt alot from recent months and one of the things they would need to drastically change is the offerings.  On the other hand, companies that have always dealt and marketed casino and sports content would need to be ready to go back to campaigns that outline esports, virtual reality and also other alternatives.

If we look at how sportsbook operators work in their daily operations, they like to have their own trading staff and backend systems. Although change is always something that people and businesses would tend to overlook, this pandemic taught us all a hard lesson. Be flexible, be innovative and also embrace change.  If operators keep this in mind, they will overcome any challenges Covid-19 posed so far and will continue to pose.

The good news for MTS ITS is that since the start of the pandemic, it has been quite the talk of the town, with interest also deriving from traditional bookies. Some of these companies have never faced a world pandemic, and are looking for special guidance on how to change their business model, how to keep effective and their brand relevant. Companies would need to find a consistency to ensure business continuity whilst at the same time targeting growth. Two important factors to keep in mind is to safeguard the business and invest in technology.

Once this pandemic has hit us, it is evident that bookmakers and operators have found having a partner is essential. The business partner would help in many ways, this includes providing essential content, especially when such worldwide sporting events have been cancelled. The partner would also assist with other products and services that are affordable, and not impacting businesses in a negative way. Keeping a business solution going, whilst at the same time offering a way forward is essential for everyone.

How do you envisage that bookmakers would need to change their future operational setup? What should the future look like for the modern bookie following covid-19?  What measures would one need to take to ensure a solid infrastructure and business continuity?

Who knows what the future holds for us as a world, and as business owners. The future is quite blurry at the moment, and investments are hard to make at this current period. Businesses would also need to look at what brands that should onboard to maximise revenue. Businesses would need to look at the business and potentially focus one just one jurisdiction.  This is a time when businesses should focus widely and make good decisions. Internal resources and human capital should be maximised. 

Looking ahead, what can we expect from Sportradar in the months ahead?

Sportradar is 100% working hard to make sure that customer needs are always at the forefront and the centre of all the operations. Working on streamlining processes and improving is always the goal for Sportradar, and the operation is working  on aligning on what the customer needs. The focus of MTS ITS is to continue to come up with innovation, and with tailored solutions that our partners will help grow further. Integration of platforms and a seamless service is what MTS strives for as well as innovative ways to continue assisting global bookmakers to further grow their businesses.

Other products are also on the agenda, and offering more solutions in line with what the market and the world is facing is crucial in these trying times. Apart from this MTS is working on sustaining more clients and potentially support ones that are struggling.

This world pandemic is not going away any time soon, so businesses along with MTS will continue to adapt to change, and whatever is in store for us in the future to come.


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