Paul Witten, SIS Commercial Director spoke with G3 to discuss the return of horse and greyhound racing post-lockdown and the challenges SIS has faced, and the opportunities SIS have seized during this challenging period in 2020.
Globally, horseracing has been one of the first sports to return post-lockdown. What differences have you witnessed in customer behaviour since the resumption? German horse racing was back up and running in May – have any trends emerged?
There was unquestionably pent-up demand from bettors when live sport returned following months of lockdown measures. Like most sports, horse racing experienced strong volumes of betting activity which was very encouraging. Of course, we’d love to see racecourses packed with crowds, but that’s not possible for the time being and all stakeholders have played their part in making the restart an exciting spectacle.
Major sportsbook providers recorded record volumes of account transactions on the first day of Royal Ascot, which illustrates just how important these race meetings have been for operators during what has been a tough period. The future looks healthier though, with many more meetings planned as we adjust to this new way of operating.
The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed a number of changes to upcoming races and the race programme. How has SIS adapted to the continued uncertainty surrounding fixtures and rule changes in order to maximise value for bookmakers?
We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that we have enough content to provide bookmakers with and have flexed our schedule to meet the ever-changing environment. Bookmakers have really appreciated the service that we’ve delivered to them, which has included a variety of quality race meetings. The diversity of what we have to offer has been crucial, as partners have been able to expand their international horse racing, UK and Irish greyhound racing, as well as their esports offering to meet with changing expectations.
How has greyhound racing performed since SIS’s service returned to full strength? Has the number of greyhound bettors returned to pre-lockdown levels?
Greyhound wagering has performed above expectations since the sport made its comeback from lockdown. Our operator partners were very thankful for the speed in which SIS returned to a full schedule of 54 meetings per week, providing their customer base with ample opportunities to engage with quality short-form betting events. In fact, greyhound turnover returned to pre-lockdown levels very quickly with very strong margins.
We’ve since expanded our offer to showcase all six rounds of the Irish Greyhound Derby for the first time through our online and retail channels, with premium racing taking place across eight days at Shelbourne Park in Dublin.
Moving onto esports, how has SIS Competitive Gaming developed since launch?
We secured a landmark deal with bet365 for SIS Competitive Gaming, which is testament to the strength of our offer. The familiarity of the sports-themed betting markets that are a focal point of our service, along with the availability of live pictures with ultra-low latency of these events, has led to strong engagement amongst bet365 customers since launching.
We’ve recently doubled the output of SIS Competitive Gaming as a response to sportsbooks experiencing a significant uptake in esports wagering in recent months. There will be even more opportunities to engage with popular sports themed titles such as NBA2K20, which have proven to resonate with existing bettors.
What differentiates SIS Competitive Gaming from the increasing number of competitor products in the esports space?
SIS Competitive Gaming was built with the bettor in mind and is the only esports betting product that has been optimised for the betting industry. Unlike other solutions, we have ultra-low latency and a fast gameplay that helps to drive higher margins for operators, while features such as pre-event betting information including player form, displayed in high production quality graphics has made for a much more immersive experience.
The robust integrity measures that are central to our offer are one of the most important key differentiators for us. We have vigorous procedures to ensure all matches are fair and transparent, including a unique dedicated integrity referee, trained by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC), who monitor every match, as well as real-time monitoring by our technical team for any signs of player bias and strict player due diligence. Operators and bettors therefore know the odds supplied by us are accurate and that the competitions themselves are fair and transparent, which is something our customers really value.
Has recent months seen a significant uptake in the number of esports bettors? Has there been a shift in the stance of operators towards adding an esports offering onto the sportsbook?
The shutdown of live sports forced sportsbooks to look elsewhere for products to ensure continued customer engagement and esports was an obvious choice. While the vertical certainly enjoyed a sharp rise in activity early on, it’s very encouraging to see that recent data from the Gambling Commission shows a continuation of a higher level of betting on esports even as traditional live sports return.
Sports-based esports products have recently grown significantly, as the format appeals to existing sports bettors and the markets are familiar and straight forward. However, many of the recent offers are suboptimal as they operate in an unlicensed manner, are inexperienced in developing content that works well for betting operators and innovating through data analysis, and are unused to the strict integrity measures required to build a safe environment and monitor compliance.
SIS Competitive Gaming addresses all the current issues with esports betting content and delivers a higher margin for operators, driven by competitive players, fast gameplay, and our pricing feed.
In June, SIS acquired the full shareholding of 49’s from GVC and William Hill. Could you explain the rationale behind the acquisition?
The acquisition of 49’s made sense as it will help deliver our strategy to diversify internationally and online whilst providing a broad range of engaging short-form betting content 24/7.
Numbers betting has been popular in the UK and Ireland and some other territories for many years and it’s now being enjoyed by bettors all over the world as we’ve expanded the service into new countries. Acquiring 49’s will allow us to continue to take the product forward internationally.
How big a role does numbers products play within SIS’s product strategy going forward?
We have exciting plans to invest in the 49’s offer which will include developing the range of Numbers products and Virtual Sports content, including the launch of new live draws at a much greater frequency. What’s great about the product is that it will fit seamlessly into our existing offering, such as our 24/7 Live Betting Channels, providing customers with regular betting opportunities.
What are your expectations for the rest of 2020? Is now a time for consolidation or expansion?
The ambition is to continue with our efforts to grow the business internationally across all our product areas. We’ve announced several deals in recent months that demonstrate operators from across the globe, from Europe to South America, see real value in our highly engaging, 24/7 short-form betting content, in providing their customers with frequent betting opportunities. We’re in a very strong position to continue to expand our customer base internationally to provide profitable 24/7 betting content that bettors will thoroughly enjoy.