The recent European Championships and Tokyo Olympics acted as key drivers of sports betting business, but little has been shared on the impact that major summertime sporting events have on the igaming industry, especially casino offerings and player engagement. Here, we look at user behaviour off the back of this summer’s sporting events and focus on the influence these events have had on some of the industry’s biggest brands.

In the first section of a two part roundtable, CasinoBeats spoke to Ciara Nic Liam, commercial director of gaming of Betsson Group, Alex Kornilov, CEO and co-founder of Betegy, and Maria Luisa Malfasi, business development manager at Esa Gaming, examine the impact upon gambling by summertime sporting showpieces and potential drawbacks of such a surge.

CB: Has online gambling been impacted by major summertime sporting events such as Euro 2020? If so, how?

MLM: We can see that gameplay during sporting events definitely increases. More people betting on sports naturally offer the possibility of cross-selling to casino games. Our EasySwipe titles are designed especially to offer bettors a casino experience without disrupting the sports betting experience and this summer’s major events offered a great platform to showcase our growing portfolio.

Sporting events also enable us to gain some good business intelligence which we use to create different games that we know will appeal to players. We are currently developing new games with a variety of sporting events in mind, enabling operators to better target players based on their personal sports betting and gaming preferences.

“Capitalising on the opportunity around these major sports events was a huge focus”

Ciara Nic Liam, commercial director of gaming of Betsson Group.

CNL: Euro 2020, as well as Copa América 2021, were huge events for us at Betsson this year. They also coincided with other large sporting events around the world that appealed to our broad regional base like 2021 Ice Hockey World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics. It truly was a summer of sport!

That coupled with the return of normal events like Wimbledon and the US Open in tennis, golf’s British Open and the Tour de France meant that we have come full circle in the space of a year, from a sportsbook with very few live events to offer customers to struggling to decide on lead offers in some markets.

Of course, when you have a busy sportsbook, it is good for your gaming business. Customers are logging into their accounts more regularly and it is the perfect opportunity to target them with relevant cross sell offers and gaming products. Capitalising on the opportunity around these major sports events was a huge focus for us at Betsson. 

In fact, we even built a custom live casino studio that used a live score and data feed so that customers were updated on match scores during their play and could ask the dealers questions in real time. It was a true single company approach to winning market share this summer with live data on all screens around the office, daily reports on not only sports but gaming and cross sell numbers from the day before.

We also had marketing activation packs ready to go on the back of big results. Each customer journey was broken down and we ensured not only to optimise the journey but to maximise our chances of further engagement. We also built custom content for the events, with a number of in house developed games targeting the football customer trying gaming products for the first time.

“We believe that sports betting and casino go hand in hand”

Alex Kornilov, CEO and co-founder of Betegy.

We have no shortage of football themed slots, so we spent our effort in developing newer concepts that this audience may like. We broke down all the possible outcomes of the football matches (win, lose, draw, surge in live betting, heavy liability pre match) and matched our own in house and third party supplier CRM functionality with the key objective of the campaigns, recommending cash drops for customers who experienced a near miss, ‘spin until you win’ campaigns for customers with a losing bet and match deposit offers or bet and get campaigns for those who won and were likely to want to continue playing.

This activity all drove our positive numbers over both the traditional drop we see in the summer, increased by hotter than usual weather and loosened COVID restrictions that allowed people to travel.

AK: We believe that sports betting and casino go hand in hand, and that’s been seen this year with some fantastic numbers from some of our tier-one partners. This isn’t limited to us, of course, and throughout the industry, the vast majority of betting operators also have a casino offering, and vice versa.

Usually, from a revenue point of view, the margins in casino products are higher, while sports betting relies on plenty of live events, tournaments and traffic to reach similar levels of revenue. 

However, it doesn’t work backwards. Having a strong relationship between sports betting operators and casinos is the key to driving traffic between the two, with a combined effort undoubtedly leading to more shared wins.

CB: Are there any drawbacks to the surge in online activity experienced during these events?

CNL: The main focus for us in advance of our summer of sport was ensuring seamless access to our products for customers. We thoroughly load tested each individual part of our platforms and front end services as well as end to end. We focussed our technical teams on site and content availability around times of peak load and reduced the amount of releases we would normally make to protect this.

“Sporting events also enable us to gain some good business intelligence which we use to create different games”

Maria Luisa Malfasi, business development manager at Esa Gaming.

It meant that we perhaps didn’t release as many new features or developments during the summer, but the team worked tirelessly in the background, iterating and improving, based on an increase in customer data, and we were able to release everything post-tournament.

The other drawback that some companies can face is focussing entirely on cross sell. As a predominantly casino driven company we did not let that happen, but we saw a number of our competitors struggle to maintain their normal casino base of customers as they chased the opportunity of a new customer base.

A huge volume of low value, high volume offers on site with little focus on retention and segmentation yields little return in the long run. Activity around these events needs to be on top of your normal campaigns and processes, not instead of. If you have to cut your spend in key customer targeted areas to fund big ATL campaigns, you are making the wrong decision.

AK: Every time a leading betting operator is working on a top event, be it a European Championship or another any other showpiece, it is vital that the server has capacity to focus on the traffic generated, while other internal teams will also switch their focus to this. This isn’t necessarily the same for casinos, whose interconnectivity and APIs allow them to be far more flexible during any major traffic surges. 

Why is this? The answer is relatively simple – online casinos have the capacity to function across various verticals, enabling them to spread the surge across different parts of their platform. Couple that with any solid PAM (player account management) system, as well as a sound server base, and you’re set to handle even the World Cup Final, the Rugby World Cup and the Grand National happening on the same day.

MLM: Not really as they offer operators a good opportunity to acquire new users and, in the case of our games, to also establish a new vertical by cross selling casino games within their sports betting pages, without inhibiting the betting experience.