Bookies Matrix puts virtuals under the spotlight

4 August 2020

When major sports leagues were suspended as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19), some hoped virtual sports could help make up the shortfall. Mark Israney of Bookies Matrix looks at how they were used by operators during this period.

One of the interesting trends that emerged over the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) period was the rise to prominence of certain niche betting products such as esports and virtual sports. The reason for this growth is obvious – with a lack of ‘real’ sporting action to satisfy punter appetite, the availability of these products, at any time of day, went some way to filling the void. Alongside this, many operators ramped up their marketing associated with these products.

As live sporting action returns, it’s safe to assume that the revenue spikes that both esports and virtual sports have seen will return to somewhere near their pre-Covid levels, albeit maybe not all the way down to those levels now that that the products have been introduced to a wider group of customers and their availability has been demonstrated.

Given the industry’s focus on esports and virtual sports, we at Bookies Matrix thought it was a good time to delve a little deeper into how these products were being used, as well as analysing the global supply chain. We have collected product and supplier information for every one of the 994 brands that we monitor within Bookies Matrix and have made this data available to our subscribers. In this article we provide a high-level summary of the data that we have captured for virtual sports.

As stated above, we currently monitor just shy of 1000 unique legal and regulated online sportsbetting brands. Many of those brands operate across multiple jurisdictions, sometimes with different products and suppliers across those regions. Therefore, within this article, we will use unique websites/URLs as our sample, which stands at 1,235.

Of those 1,235 sites, approximately 50% (604 sites) offer betting on virtual sports or racing of some kind, with approximately 60% of jurisdictions (73 of the 120 that we track) having at least one online licensee that offers the product.

The main sports covered will be of no surprise to most, with soccer, greyhound racing and horseracing topping the charts – the dogs (519) beating the horses (518) by a whisker!

 

We suspect that the relatively high availability of motorsports and cycling is more to do with supplier coverage than it is to do with customer demand - it is easier to ‘reskin’ multiple versions of ‘racing’ sports than to create a new sport type from scratch, hence why these two versions are offered by the majority of suppliers.

From a regional point of view, we see similar percentage availability for the top sports, with a higher variance on some of the lower sports, largely driven by supplier availability.

 

While this may suggest that the top three sports have similar importance, we understand that the story from a revenue perspective is far more nuanced, with soccer being dominant across most of Africa, and racing approaching parity in some European regions, somewhat driven by traditional retail popularity.

What we find most interesting regarding sports coverage, is what is missing in the charts above. With the main four US sports rising in global betting relevance, it is somewhat surprising that only basketball has any real footprint in virtual sports, especially given that ice hockey, baseball and US football games are all available from at least one supplier. Given the structure of a game of baseball, with a steady flow of discrete events (‘at bats’ and ‘pitches’) - perfectly suited to a short form virtual betting game, we would expect this to change over the coming years, possibly triggered by wider regulatory acceptance of virtuals across US states.

While not being the first supplier many would associate with virtual sports, Betradar tops our list in terms of number of sites serviced. Betradar’s virtuals product is competitive, however in our view, the quality of the graphics produced is exceeded by some of its competitors. We therefore believe its success is more related to its real sports data supply, with single integrations and commercial deals offered across real and virtual sport versions.

 

In total, we have found 26 separate virtual game developers with their products on sportsbetting sites. The chart above shows the top suppliers in terms of unique sites supplied to.

NB, we track domestically licensed sportsbetting sites plus a selection of international jurisdictions (eg, Malta & Gibraltar). We have not counted any casino-only sites where virtuals appear, nor have we counted keno-only virtuals products on sportsbetting sites. For these reasons, each supplier’s total customer list could far exceed what we have in our database.

Looking at regional supply trends, we see Inspired Entertainment, Betradar and Global Bet leading the way in Europe, with Golden Race, Kiron Interactive and BetRadar leading across Africa.

Of course, the number of customers that a supplier has is not always that relevant in isolation. The chart below shows the split of customers by tier for each of the major suppliers:

 

Here we see Golden Race and Leap Gaming servicing the highest proportion of tier 1 and 2 operators (based on market share within the operator’s jurisdiction). Inspired and Global Bet’s tier 3 segments are inflated partially due to the high number of Italian tier 3 brands serviced through a small number of sportsbook platforms.

Finally, we looked at an area that caused us some surprise - the use of multiple suppliers by single operators. Our assumption was that the majority of operators would use a single supplier with a minority using a wider range. In fact, the global average we found to be 1.63 suppliers (note, this refers to game developers, not delivery/commercial partners).

Across Africa, the average number of suppliers is 1.98, with some sites having as many as six separate suppliers’ games all competing side by side.

We believe that this use of multiple suppliers gives opportunity for new providers to join the market over the next few years, especially if they have unique sports or features to offer.

Looking forward, we will continue to track this and similar data to better understand global and regional trends around these products.

Bookies Matrix is a new and exhaustive directory of all licensed sportsbetting operators in the world, providing a range of information about each brand including their licenses held, their relative size in each jurisdiction, their platform, data, odds, streaming, virtuals providers, plus details of their products, including sports and margins offered.

The service updates continuously with changes such as new market entrants, lapsed licenses, product launches, as well as when new jurisdictions move online.

As well as providing clients with access to data and analysis, Bookies Matrix will take requests for specific research projects that are relevant to individual clients.