The biggest betting show on earth

5 June 2018

Poised for football fever to kick off later this month, eMerchantPay senior vice president Chris Smart shares his top tips for operators ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup.

The World Cup is the biggest sporting and betting event on the planet, with an estimated one billion people watching the final in 2014 – a ninth of the entire population of the planet. 

This year's tournament is just a matter of weeks away and the excitement is reaching fever pitch. There will be a feast of football to enjoy, with 64 matches played across 31 days, and only seven days without a fixture throughout that time. Pure footballing heaven for some, maybe not for others.

With the viewing figures it attracts, there's little wonder that the World Cup is the biggest betting event in the world and presents a timely opportunity for gaming companies to welcome new customers.

According to the Guardian, in 2014 industry analysts estimated that British gaming customers bet more than £1bn over the course of the tournament in Brazil.

That would make it the biggest betting event in UK history, streets ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National.

It's highly likely this will be surpassed in 2018 and careful regulation, especially from the Gambling Commission, ensures that the customer’s wellbeing is a continued focus.

European and Asian operators will benefit this year due to the tournament taking place in Russia and the scheduled kick-off times.

In contrast to the tournament in 2014, where the later games took place during unsociable hours late at night, which will have obviously impacted both viewing and betting figures. 

As the world gets caught up in the excitement and hype that surrounds the build-up to the tournament and key matches, the competition to reach and win these new customers will be fierce and unrelenting, meaning that the cost per acquisition is driven up.

What to expect

Gaming operators need to think creatively to attract new punters through innovative betting options and bonus offers, but ones that do not encourage reckless behaviour.

In many ways that’s the easy part. The real challenge is to retain new customers beyond that initial bet, to keep them engaged and secure the second and third deposit.

Operators should fully prepare themselves, for both the expected and unexpected. Here are a few points to consider:

• It will be a mobile-first World Cup. More than any previous tournament, the majority of online bets will be placed through a mobile device or smart phone. Reportedly, more than three quarters (76%) of all sports betting (by stakes/revenues) is typically done on mobile devices and some operators report that figure will be in excess of 80%.

This means that operators need to ensure they have a highly optimised user experience on mobile. Anything less than a premium service and they may lose the new customer and their potential lifetime value.

• There will be more choice than ever before. Not only will consumers be able to choose from a larger pool of betting operators than any previous World Cup, the range of different types of bets available will also be unprecedented.This World Cup will be the first to be characterised by customer-led betting. That’s where punters can build their own bets on the site, based on multiple components.

• There will also be the usual challenge of a potential increase in the decline rate on card transactions due to the high number of new account registrations during the tournament. Operators should analyse their payments configuration to find exactly the right balance between acceptance and risk. Small tweaks in this area can make big differences to their success rate.

Some matches are bigger than others
It’s easier to plan for likely betting scenarios in the group stages. We know that the four most anticipated matches in the first few weeks are likely to be the big heavyweight clashes: England vs Belgium; Portugal vs Spain; Germany vs Sweden; as well as the tournament opener which includes the host nation, Russia, when they kick off against Saudi Arabia. These matches have prime time evening kick-offs, have big football betting cultures and are likely to draw the most attention and betting activity.

Operators need to ensure their payments platforms are configured to deal with big peaks in betting activity, with fast and robust processing. They also need to ensure they are allowing customers to pay using the preferred payment methods in each market. For instance, operators will see significant volume through local payment methods such as Mister Cash in Belgium during the big England game, Multibanco in Portugal for when they take on local rivals Spain and Trustly will be popular in Scandinavia during the Germany vs Sweden encounter.

Quick reactions are key 
Operators also need to plan for beyond the group stages. History shows that betting activity drops sharply in a country when their nation’s team gets knocked out. So should England fail to qualify from the group stages, operators will need to work even harder to ensure punters remain interested and volumes of bets are maintained.

This is where operators need to stand out from the crowd by offering genuinely innovative, compelling and unique bets in order to keep people interested.

Multi-component and in-play betting need to come to the fore. We all want England to progress into the later stages of the tournament (that way, everybody wins), but, based on our showing in previous World Cups, it’s definitely worth having a strategy for round two onwards, without England. It could be a lot worse, football giants Italy and the Netherlands aren’t going to Russia at all and operators in these countries will be suffering as a result.

They have the unenviable challenge of stimulating and maintaining interest among their customers who will still be mourning the fact that their national teams didn’t qualify for the tournament.
Speed is the name of the game

Much like on the pitch, where Cristiano Ronaldo and co. will be looking to get past opponents with raw pace, operators need to put speed at the heart of their World Cup strategy. That means fast deposits, and rapid settlements. Real-time betting means speed is key.

Operators should be analysing how many steps users have to go through to make a deposit and streamline this as much as possible. Let’s face it, many of us will be watching the games with friends, maybe out socialising, and will want to be able to place a bet quickly, before getting back to the action and their friends.

Local payment methods should be made available and easily accessed, processing should be as quick as possible. Settlement timelines should be reviewed and fully optimised. This last point is crucial as the sooner a customer receives his or her winnings, the better their customer experience and ultimately the sooner they can potentially place another bet.

BetVictor is a great example of an operator that is using innovative new products as a way to stand out and drive revenue in a competitive World Cup market. BetVictor head of product Eoin Ryan (pictured) said: “Obviously the World Cup will present an opportunity to acquire new customers and therefore having exciting and innovative new products is key. Our unique PriceItUp Builder will allow our customers (both old and new) to build their own one-off bets and get exclusive odds by handpicking and predicting a number of possible components and outcomes during any game of their choice during the World Cup.

PriceItUp will provide vast choice to create exciting bets throughout each game and across the whole tournament. We’ve made it really easy for people to add in different components and to choose from a whole range of options, to build their own accumulator, completely bespoke to them. It’s going to be a great tournament and we really believe that PriceItUp will only add to the excitement for our customers.”

Cue kick-off

The World Cup is a massive event and we’re all starting to feel the excitement. However, much as is the case for Gareth Southgate and his England team, now is not the time to be carried away by the hype. Operators should be focused on meticulous planning and final preparations, to make sure their payments systems are fast, flexible, robust and fully optimised. Get the planning right now, and they’ll be primed to enjoy a winning World Cup, maybe just like England!

Chris Smart is a gaming and FX subject matter expert who partners with operators to increase their online conversions and optimise their payment efficiencies. Chris has spent nearly a decade working closely with some of the world’s leading gaming and forex brands, helping them implement online growth strategies. Prior to him joining eMerchantPay, he worked at Worldpay where he was responsible for some of the largest UK focused sports betting and casino operator acquisitions. In addition to his passion for online gaming, Chris is a keen sports fan, supporting his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Coventry City. Outside of work, he loves spending time with his family.