Fruitful discussions on market trends, illegal betting, data rights, integrity & responsible practices take place during the 2022 EL/WLA Sports Betting Seminar.
It was November 2019, we were in Madrid with around 130 Lotteries’ sport betting professionals from all over the world, on the occasion of the EL/WLA joint Sports Betting Seminar. After attending the quarter finals of the Davis Cup, participants were unaware that this would be one of the last physical events together for the next two and half years. 2020 was then the year of the pandemic shock, where everyone tried to make sense of what was going. From Spring 2020 until the end of 2021 the only safe way of hosting EL and WLA events were online in remote mode.
Then finally it was 16 May 2022, and lottery and sports betting professionals could finally meet in Spain again, in Seville this time. Over 120 attendees could reconnect and re-establish the great network during the annual EL/WLA Sports Betting Seminar. It goes without saying that it was not easy, still some Members could not make it due to certain stricter measures still in place in their countries (especially in Asia) but the atmosphere at the opening reception created the usual enthusiasm that participants were used to, and it was great to see.
The Seminar had a tight and fruitful programme of one full day and half with a side-workshop for EL/WLA Regular-Members-only dedicated to Data rights. The 2022 Seminar hosted in Seville kept up the good habit of having the event in connection with an important international sport event. This year participants had the opportunity to attend the 2022 UEFA Europa League Final and experience its unique atmosphere at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
Running your Sportsbook: From market trends to responsible practices
The Seminar programme focused on “Running your Sportsbook”, with special attention given to ''market trends, illegal betting, data rights, integrity & responsible practices'' and was moderated by Alvise Angelini, EL Senior Policy Advisor & Sport Secretary and Luca Esposito Poleo, WLA Executive Director.
On day one Members of the EL Sport Working Group were actively involved in the programme. Zoltán Horváth (Sports Betting Director, Szerencsejáték Zrt., Hungary) highlighted points to consider when running a sportsbook such as market environment, regulations, competitors and tip mix propositioning.
Markus Stefan (Head of Sports Betting Operation, Austrian Lotteries) explained their multi-client system with different suppliers and how they worked their odds distribution, events entry and odds creation and Jens Nielsen (Sports Betting Director, Danske Spil, Denmark) shared how his company develops and safeguards its position in a competitive market, by positive differentiation on domestic sports and athletes and sports fan engagement, with unique offerings in new areas i.e.esports and other promotional opportunities outside of sports and deploying efficient responsibility measures.
On day two, Francesco Taricone (Betting Experience Innovation Manager, Sisal, Italy) gave the audience a taste of “Tipster”, the first social betting platform integrated in a sportsbook, a turning point in the betting experience which acknowledges the emerging trends about digitalisation and socialisation.
Ola Carlsson (Head of Pools, Svenska Spel, Sweden) focused on “The Interest of ‘Pooling’ Pool Games among several Countries” and last but not least, Supervisory Chair of the EL Sport WG and CEO of Loterie Romande,Switzerland, Jean-Luc Moner-Banet, gave insights on “How to Market and Advertise Sport Betting Products in a more Responsible Way”.
The lottery industry ensures responsible gaming for players and markets and advertises sports betting products responsibly, by taking measures, such as player registration, setting mandatory loss limits and ensuring players receive real-time information on losses and game sessions.
Regulated lotteries and sport betting operators have to be attractive and competitive while being responsible. It is possible to generate GGR by marketing and advertising sports betting products in a responsible way. A side of the great contributions from the EL Members of the Sport Working Group, there was a very enlightening Global Sport Betting & Operator Analysis given by David Henwood, Director at H2 Gambling Capital (UK). A data-oriented overview of the fast-changing sport betting market as it relates to the lottery sector, including key trends from private operators in the space, and the overall impact on illegal market channelisation.
Henwood also noted a decade of ‘’digital’’ and the shift to online operations; convergence of entertainment with betting/gaming lotteries; digitalisation of payments; responsible gaming and player protection as standard and innovation hubs such as virtual and augmented reality and the metaverse; sustainability, and emergence of new markets.
In recent years, the global pandemic pushed operators to go even more digital and to explore multi-channel opportunities as well as new developments such as e-sports betting. This all while maintaining the highest level of sports integrity.
Another appreciated presentation was given by Martin Purbrick, Chair of the Council on Anti-Illegal Betting & Related Financial Crime of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF), a regional federation comprising 27 national racing authorities and racing related organisations from across Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Middle East.
Purbrick presented a new report produced by the ARF Council on the 'State of Illegal Betting' that intends to inform stakeholders about the state of illegal betting in 2022, assess recent changes in illegal betting markets and predict how they will change further in the coming years. The report covers issues such as problem gambling, organised crime and money laundering.
Sport integrity remains high on the agenda
Sport integrity remained a relevant topic in the programme. Luca Esposito and Ludovico Calvi, as Secretary General and President of the Global Lottery Monitoring Service (GLMS) presented the GLMS actions on the Prevention against Illegal Betting and its vision for the future. GLMS works to prevent, detect and analyse irregular and suspicious betting activities that could question the integrity of a sport competition. Through its activities, it aims to become the most credible and respected entity worldwide in the fight against match fixing. Esposito presented the work of GLMS and explained what happens behind the scenes, when investigating an integrity incident. Given the complex and often transnational nature of match fixing that is often related to other illicit activities such as money laundering through illegal sports betting operators, he stressed the need for a united effort from many stakeholders.
Calvi, focused on trends affecting the global betting industry, such as digitalisation, increasingly data-driven betting operations and greater use of mobile phones. He noted some of the challenges faced when it comes to maintaining global betting integrity, such as ensuring all key stakeholders (regulators, sports organizations, law enforcement agencies) at domestic and global level get involved,and protecting consumers through the development of effective gaming regulatory frameworks, as well as finding ways to share intelligence effectively across the global community.
EL and WLA welcomed Ennio Bovolenta, Head of Integrity at UEFA to the Seminar who outlined the aim of UEFA to protect and defend the integrity and reputation of football worldwide and adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards match manipulation. He focused his presentation on the actions undertaken, in line with UEFA President’s vision to make football truly global, in order to fight match-fixing at global level.
As part of the united effort to combat match fixing, FIFA works closely with football confederations, FIFA member associations and integrity officers, and partners with law enforcement and other sports and sports betting monitoring organisations such as GLMS, Sportradar and INTERPOL.
Uniting Members from around the world
A great strength of this yearly EL/WLA Sports Betting Seminar is the capacity of the two Associations to bring together a detailed European perspective and complementing contributions from all the other continents: this is exactly what the closing session of this year event was about.
Christian Kalb (Founder, CK Consulting), a longstanding friend of lotteries and recognised expert of the gaming and sports betting sector, moderated a panel debate on the main topics of this year’s Seminar theme: market trends, illegal betting, data rights, integrity & responsible practices. Kalb highlighted that the worldwide sports betting market now represents between 60 and 70 bn. euros, illegal betting included (without horse and greyhound betting). Sports betting is the most dynamic gaming market for one decade, but also the most controversial: Illegal betting represents around 45 percent of total GGR, and sport integrity becomes even more challenging after the pandemic. Lotteries are still part of the game, five of them being in the top 10 worldwide, with the China Sports lottery being the leader.
The four panelists - Louis Beaudet (Director for Sport and Entertainment, Loto Québec, Canada), Khalid Naili (Special Advisor, La Marocaine des Jeux et des Sports, Morocco), David Sargeant (Sports Betting Consultant, Advisor, Investor, UK) and Aleksandar Saša Pavicevic (Director of Gaming & Game channel Development Division, Hrvatska Lutrija, Croatia) discussed and tried to resume the current worldwide sports betting challenges.
Aleksandar-Saša Pavićević gave an overview of the situation of sports betting in Croatia. After many years of very strong competition, the market has been consolidated around only six operators, all the operators except the Croatian Lottery being owned by foreigners. The betting offer is really extensive with more than 250,000 games a year offered live and very low margins. Saša also presented a very innovative way of negotiating live betting data feeds, based on the aggregation of purchases through one single operator, in charge of optimizing costs with all the different data vendors.
Louis Beaudet presented the current situation in Canada, after the opening of the online market in Ontario. The main change in Canada was the recent possibility to offer single bets (2021), and as in many countries, Canada faces some important challenges such as the fight against illegal betting (in particular against operators based in Central America and the Caribbean). Making scale economies is very important for countries or provinces that do not have the critical size, as well as having a first-class product and reengineering retail.
Khalid Naili showed that the Moroccan sports betting market still has a big potential. Main challenges in the country, but also in the whole Africa, include the development of digital betting, cultural evolution, in particular creating a link between lotteries and good causes, and an increase of the betting offer. It was noted that it has been interesting to focus on the gap between Morocco and Europe regarding pay-outs, which still very low (MDJS target for 2022 is 66%!).
David Sergeant reminded participants about the sports betting history in the USA, after the big change of the Supreme Court in 2018. In less than four years, the USA became the second market in the world, just after China, and will be the leader in the coming years. In May 2022, 25 States have already legalised sports betting, with each State having a unique regulatory framework. More surprising, the market is already consolidating, and three brands represent more than 75 percent of the US market. In this new world, lotteries try to be part of the game, as a regulator, a license owner or directly an operator.
To conclude the panel, three main challenges were identified by participants who interfered through an interactive app: the fight against illegal betting, to improve the betting and trading platform and to develop the digital channel. Regarding data rights, it is interesting to mention that 80 percent of the audience was in favour of working on a common basis to avoid unfair competition.
A written summary cannot give justice to the vast number of topics, presentations, side discussions and the interactions that went on during these days in Seville that has been long awaited and according to most has managed to meet the high expectations of our lotteries’ sport betting community. It was a pleasure to see many familiar faces once again with the opportunity to reconnect and meet new colleagues. EL and WLA would like to thank all the attendees who made it to Seville and invites them and many more to the next joint sports betting seminar in 2023. Stay tuned!