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Today (May 25) marks the third annual instalment of one of the most innovative and forward-thinking award shows in our industry.
Better Collectives’ chief objective–demonstrated via this international ceremony–is to make sports betting and gaming entertaining, transparent and fair for the global network of online bettors. With so much competition in key regulated markets around the world, it’s often difficult for players to discern the best brands to engage with, leaving them at risk of having an unsatisfying gaming experience.
Shona O’Donnell is Head of Strategic Events at Better Collective and Panos Konstantopoulos is the Vice President of previous award winners, Stoiximan (Kaizen Gaming).
We caught up with them to find out whether the Bookmaker Awards really can be the solution to this ongoing industry issue of transparency, and also to ask how the power of data can be leveraged in the process.
There are so many different awards in the iGaming industry. What makes the Bookmaker Awards so different and how will it impact the sector going forward?
“The Bookmaker Awards enjoy a high level of trust due mainly to two different reasons. The most important is that it’s the betting consumers who vote and decide on these awards, so these awards truly go “down to the source”. Secondly, there’s a big amount of data behind the different category winners – data, for example, coming from the users of betting platforms such as our own. This aggregated data is important information that, if used correctly by the operators, can be the source of important decisions for each and every operator as well as the future of our industry.”
“All of the awards that are currently established in the industry are largely for the industry itself. As a sports betting affiliate we have close connections with the bettors themselves in all of the markets we operate in. In many of these markets, bettors have a very strong affiliation and sense of community within the sites we run, so the Bookmaker Awards are designed to help the bettors make the best decisions based on what they look for in a bookmaker. We know what matters to them because we start each new market with extensive research and follow this up with focus groups where further clarification is required.
“The Better Collective Bookmaker Awards are based on data, not subjective opinions. We are also happy to share our methodology and have conversations with the bookmakers about their own individual results so they can see where they perform well, and where they can improve. So, while these awards were established for the bettors, they also allow us to help operators improve in the areas they want to focus on.
“In addition, we invite the operators to attend, at no cost to themselves. We want to be very clear that nothing influences the outcome, such as sponsorship of events which is often suggested by the industry. If an operator can’t attend, we are happy to get the award to them and help them promote their achievements without charging them for this.”
Better Collective has a clear objective to create transparency in the markets for the players. Is this still a major problem in our sector and, apart from the Bookmaker Awards, how else can operators and affiliates best collaborate to improve this going forward?
“At Kaizen Gaming, we believe that a regulatory framework is crucial for the transparency of our sector. It is for this reason that, when it comes to our new launches, we target mainly markets with a clear gaming legislation or ones that are on the verge of implementing a policy framework that will regulate online gaming.”
“A Nielsen survey in the German sports betting market showed that transparency and trustworthiness were both key drivers for bettors when selecting bookmakers. We want to help improve this in all markets, for example, by being clear on sponsored content from the affiliate side. And on the operator side, key first steps in this are making sure that any terms and conditions around offers are clear and easy to understand.
“Smartbets is a great example of this from our side. Based on data-driven algorithms that show real sports trends, and how those trends relate to valuable bets, it openly presents the percentage pay-out of every bookmaker, so each user knows how much commission bookmakers take from the bettors’ actual winnings.”
At the first-ever Bookmaker Awards in 2020 Stoiximan received an impressive number of awards. What is it about the brand that makes it so popular among the players in Greece? And what can the rest of our industry learn from their success?
“Our goal at Kaizen Gaming is clear and straightforward: to always offer our customers the best online gaming experience through the two brands we operate: Stoiximan and Betano. I believe our success relies mainly on exceptional customer support and a superior product that is always evolving and responding to changing customer needs.
“In addition, our solid commitment to our communities–through programmes like the Stoiximan “Young Heroes” focusing on educational initiatives, support for children in remote areas, and much more, as well the sponsoring of Olympic, and other, athletes–has been another major factor that sets us apart from the competition.”
In 2021 bet365 stood out as the winner of the most awards. What do you think it is about this operator that makes them so popular with the players, and what can they teach our industry?
“The 2021 awards covered five markets: Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Romania and Greece. Greece being the first market we launched in 2020. The awards are based on data, rather than player opinions. Feedback from focus groups suggests that bettors really like the functionality of bet365, both desktop and app. They provide good and easy banking options that are popular with players in the markets. They provide a very extensive market selection and strong welcome offers.
“What we have seen in past years is a strong mix of local brands that are very focused on the local market and global brands. Cross-referencing market share and winners sees a strong correlation.”
The Bookmaker Awards are based on clean data and extensive market research of what players actually value. Out of all the awards, which ones, according to data, are the most important? And why is this the case?
“All categories offer valuable insight to our market and therefore all are of significant value. But if I were to highlight the most significant ones, these would be: Best Customer Service and Players’ Choice awards. The former because customer support is something we consider crucial at Kaizen Gaming, and the latter because it encompasses the essence of the player experience and what’s most important in a product offering.”
“This varies from market to market. As you would expect, football is the most popular sport in all markets, however the second sports really varies: from basketball in Greece to ice hockey in Sweden and horse racing in the UK. We have really tried to only have the categories that matter most. That said, we’re looking to introduce some new awards for 2023; one of which will shine a light on new operators in the market, which we hope bettors will find really useful as they have less information available on newer entrants.”
Collecting and analysing data from so many sources is a mammoth task. What does this process look like in practical terms and will operators who don’t win awards still have the opportunity to view data as a way to benchmark their individual market performance going forward?
“To be recognised by one’s consumers is the highest award of them all. Not winning would only motivate me to work even harder. Having access to user-data is always an important ingredient to understand where you can improve your product and services. Nevertheless, winning will always be the ultimate goal when you operate in a competitive market.”
“Yes indeed, it’s an absolutely mammoth task. And we are very fortunate to have an extremely talented group of project managers and local freelancers, plus some very, very big spreadsheets.
“Currently, all of the data is manually collected and this year, with the introduction of the UK Bookmaker Awards, we have set up the first system to automate data collection for horse racing odds. It’s been a game changer, allowing us to capture hundreds of thousands of odds over the past 12 months.
“For categories like banking and customer services, these are all real people in the market with real accounts replicating the experience of real bettors. We understand that everyone can have a day where things don’t go as planned, and this is why we test all of these at the same time in each market and continuously over a 12-month period so it really represents the true betting experience.
“After the awards we make the methodology available to all operators and moving forward we will offer face-to-face meetings with any operator that wants to deep dive into the market. We believe that this is a great opportunity for the operators to access a huge amount of information at no cost at all to themselves.”
It’s really exciting to see the positive direction the iGaming industry is moving in, spearheaded by forward-thinking organisations like Better Collective.
We are living in the ‘Age of Data’ and initiatives like the Bookmaker Awards are just one of the many ways our industry can leverage an almost infinite amount of player-related data to drive a thriving and safe industry. In-turn, this enables us to create a better understood environment and provides sustainable gaming experiences that the entire iGaming ecosystem will be able to benefit from, well into the future.
Tomorrow (May 25th 2022) the iGaming community comes together to celebrate the Greek and Romanian Bookmaker Awards in Athens.
This will be followed by a second awards ceremony on July 5 for the Danish, Polish, Swedish and UK Awards held in Amsterdam alongside iGB Live!
For more information on the awards click HERE.