As the iGaming sector continues to grow and evolve, shaped by changing consumer trends and industry regulation, operators must adapt alongside it to stay competitive.
Legacy brands such as The Pools which have been operating for almost 100 years are no strangers to this. With the impending Gambling Act Review soon to be published, against the backdrop of the global transition to a digital landscape, now is a time to embrace change for the whole industry.
We caught up with Mark McGuinness, Head of Marketing at The Pools to get his perspective on how to best navigate these uncertain times and ensure sustainable growth going forward, hopefully for another 100 years!
What are your thoughts on the review of the 2005 Gambling Act? Will it have a significant impact on the products that operators can offer players in the UK?
“The Pools has always fully supported socially responsible gaming and now more than ever it is important to ensure players are properly protected. As such, we welcome the government’s review of the Gambling Act to determine whether it is still fit for purpose, or whether new requirements need to be brought into force. At this point in time, it is difficult to assess what the long-term impact of the review and any resulting changes might be – this is really the first time since gambling was first legalised in the UK back in the 1960s that the level or proposed change has arisen. With the economic turbulence that the UK is facing, it would be prudent to think that discretionary consumer spending, not just on gambling but across the board, will be negatively impacted. It is my belief that some of the proposed changes could result in a reset in the market in terms of supply perhaps outstripping demand for the first time.”
Is there a risk that the UK market is heading towards over-regulation? Would the significant tightening of requirements make it unviable for some operators?
“Within any industry, there needs to be a balance between providing an environment in which businesses can enjoy sustainable commercial growth while also protecting consumers and meeting the needs of the government. There are certainly some early indicators that the UK is heading towards over-regulation with some of the proposed changes that have made the headlines in recent months. We have also seen a number of operators leave the market. With tighter regulations, and increased costs incurred to serve the UK market, I would not be surprised if we see more brands make an exit once the review of the Gambling Act is published.”
How are The Football Pools and The Pools navigating these uncertain waters?
“Our teams across the business are always monitoring changes in the UK market and what impact this might have on The Football Pools and The Pools. This is not only from a regulatory perspective but also in terms of player trends and preferences. We have been around for a long time now – in fact, we are approaching our 100th birthday – and have successfully navigated times of uncertainty before and we have the experience and market understanding to be able to do it again if necessary.”
Is more casual betting with smaller stakes the way that the market is heading?
“The recreational market has always been there, and it has always been strong. The majority of the UK gambling population does so responsibly and with a certain amount of spend. For these players, online gambling is just like any other type of discretionary spending, from clothes shopping to eating out and subscribing to streaming services such as Netflix. You have a budget, you stick to it. This demographic is at the core of The Football Pools and The Pools and given the scope of the changes being looked at as part of the government’s review of the Gambling Act, it is products such as ours that will likely be less severely impacted by any resulting changes. Small stakes, big fun – that is exactly what online gambling products should be.”
How are you using the power of The Pools brand to continue to engage players as you approach your 100th year?
“We have some really exciting activities planned to mark our centenary year, one of which was the appointment of the new Pools Panel – this includes football legend Michael Owen and its first-ever female expert, former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis. Delivering a successful product for 100 years is no mean feat, so we plan to celebrate in style and in a way that makes our players feel part of our success and valued for their loyalty.”
Is having a legacy brand enough to keep players engaged in such a competitive market? If not, how are you staying relevant and delivering the experience players have come to expect?
“Legacy brands are important and in the times of uncertainty that we currently live in, allow consumers to engage with a product that reminds them of better days or, in the case of The Football Pools and The Pools, to connect with a brand and a product that their parents or other family members once enjoyed. This nostalgia should not be underestimated in the power of brand equity, certainly at a time when all businesses are heading towards uncertainty in regard to the UK and even the global economy.
“How do we remain relevant? We listen to our players’ needs and curate them. We then meet those needs through new and exciting products, delivered within the familiarity of The Football Pools brand. This is an important value to us – we are customer-centric and look to always engage our players and not just meet but exceed their expectations and needs throughout their time spent with us.”
After catching up with Mark it seems clear that, of course, player protection and more specifically the Gambling Act Review are well-welcomed initiatives that are seen as necessary for the sustained growth of our industry. However, with the full details still uncertain, it’s difficult to assess the true impact it’s going to have on the wider industry and whether additional measures will be needed to make it fit for purpose. Furthermore, considering the economic environment, Mark believes it could result in the first time ever that supply outweighs demand in the gambling industry – only time will tell.
As far as the next 100 years, having a legacy brand comes with an intrinsic value that can be leveraged in many ways and Mark believes that involving the community, staying as close to their players as possible and giving them something to celebrate is the best way to do this. Exciting times ahead!