Our Sportsbook and Trading Director, Tom Molloy, discusses the new trends since COVID-19 and the outlook for the sports betting market in Asia
Have you noted any new trends since Covid?
The disruption to real sports events forced a rollercoaster of trends upon us, from the surge in activity on esports, virtual sports and simulated reality products, right through to the revenue slump in retail. What hasn’t changed is the appetite of players to wager. Since the return of live sports, betting behaviours have gravitated back towards pre-Covid-19 norms, especially with staple sports events like top-flight football. Although punters may have been forced to bet through different channels, money lines, handicaps and totals remain as popular as ever.
What did you do to keep going when all sporting events were cancelled — did you find any unusual sports/leagues.
Pronet Gaming had a discernible advantage in providing one of the most extensive offers in the market. We even broke company records by offering over 50,000 in-play events per month. Whereas many sportsbooks faltered, our flexibility allowed us to quickly expand our product range with a huge increase in esports and virtual sports content. We also rolled out our brand new ‘simulated reality’ product. This offered players the chance to wager on all top-level football events in the sporting calendar which had been postponed. Running these events in a simulated environment created an experience that was as close to the real thing as it gets and proved to be a real winner for our clients. Turnover also increased across some of our other favoured sports, with table tennis seeing a notable spike in activity.
What lessons have sports betting companies learned as a result of the pandemic?
The challenges of the last few months have allowed us to put into practice our hard work in building a fully flexible front-end solution. Our clients were able to quickly amend their UI/UX in order to promote different products to their players in response to the sudden drop in spots betting content. The functionality to expose different sports or tournaments and redesign our websites at the touch of a button ensured all our clients’ needs were catered for. While many sports betting websites were ill prepared for such a drastic change in betting activity, Pronet Gaming’s nimble and agile solution allowed us to deal with the difficulties head on and come out stronger. We are now preparing for what happens next. Whether normal service resumes or not – we will be ready.
What’s the outlook for the sports betting market in Asia?
Sports betting is a big part of Asian culture today and will continue to be long into the future. Wagering activities are gaining ground in countries that formerly had strict gambling policies — especially the ones in the Asia-Pacific region. That said, the short-term outlook very much depends on the pandemic itself. We are all hoping to avoid a second wave, but if it happens, then those whose revenues come through retail bet shops are likely to suffer further. Activity will again flush through into the online environment, with esports and virtual sports products seeing another spike in volumes. If not, the future is bright and as gambling regulation and laws relax, sports betting on the continent will go from strength to strength. Here’s hoping for the latter.
The U.S. only legalized sports betting in the past few years, do you think anywhere in Asia would follow suit?
Countries like China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam have very active online sports betting communities, which has opened the door for even more activity across the region and encouraged movements towards increased legalisation. This is evidenced in countries like the Philippines, where sports betting hasn’t been heavily regulated, thus becoming a hotbed for offshore sports betting operators to register their sites. In the Philippines, India and Singapore, the gambling situation is stable. The local governments understand the advantages of legalising and regulating gambling. Overall, the Asian market is seeing a trend towards increases in betting and gaming revenue, which will continue to rise as more countries give the greenlight to online markets.
How is the recovery now sports leagues are playing again?
The return of sports is a shot in the arm for the industry. Players have flooded back in their droves to wager on their favourite sports again. We have enjoyed our best summer on record and with the start of all top-level football back in September we are in for a busy end to 2020, providing Covid-19 remains under control. Who knows, we may soon see full stadiums again!