Now over 3 months on from the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic we can now, hopefully as an industry, use what we’ve experienced during these extreme times to futureproof our businesses.
The lack of live sports and active retail outlets has forced the market to rethink its whole strategy, but what lasting effects will it have and how will it shape the future of the iGaming industry?
We caught up with the Managing Director of South African operator Sportingbet, Tyrone Dobbin to get his perspective on the state of play and how recent events will affect our future.
How has the lack of live sports impacted you as an operator? What effect has it had on your other products?
“As a bookmaker, live sport is fundamental to betting. With the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting mainstream and popular live sports, there can be no doubt that it’s had a profound impact on many businesses. However, the situation has also proved itself a catalyst for change and innovation with the industry moving quickly to build a line-up of alternative betting markets. In South Africa, the popular studio style live bet games (which always had a large following) is now a “must have” product for all operators.”
What has probably been the most unexpected effect of the pandemic that you’ve noticed?
“It seems this pandemic provided the first full scale trial run of a digital first business. Although initially disruptive, we are emerging as an agile, adaptable and fully digital businesses (that, and how our full trading team got really into the sport of table tennis). ”
Will gaming ever go back to how it was before the outbreak? Do you foresee any long-lasting changes as a direct result of the lockdown?
“I think we’ve already started to see some significant, and lasting changes. For example, in South Africa, customers of Sportingbet were able to watch via streaming, the popular Bundesliga return to action. Noteworthy here though, was that this was not available through any of the traditional broadcasters or networks in South Africa. I expect some seismic shifts in the sports broadcasting and streaming rights sector as content and control become front of mind in business continuity plans”
Do you think African countries will see online gaming as more of a priority now? Do you think we’ll see a rise in online betting regulation in order to recoup losses quicker?
“Unfortunately, not necessarily so. The crisis presents challenges which should force the various governments, political and business leaders to assess what needs to be done, and how urgently. The reality is that the economic destruction and degenerative impact unfolding creates a long list of priority projects and we may experience a weakening of governance in our already fragile African economies”
After our conversation with Tyrone, It seems apparent that the biggest change that requires the biggest adaptation, is the portfolio of games hosted.
Never before has the need for a diversified portfolio been so heavily highlighted. Also, TV rights and the way in which customers are consuming content will change as we experience a power shift in the world of sports broadcasting; we need to get ahead of the curve to remain competitive.
We are no longer competing with ourselves, but being treated as just another form of ‘home entertainment’. We are now competing with the likes of Netflix and Playstation for a slice of the attention pie. Now, more than ever, is the time for customer centricity, forward thinking and innovation.