Opinion Piece written by Will Westcott, Business Development Manager, Betgenius
Flexibility of product and quality of data will be vital as in-play growth continues across the continent
The popularity of online sports betting is exploding across Africa with growth expected to double in the next 12 months. And as the pre-match market becomes increasingly saturated, in-play betting is set to transform the African online betting industry in years to come.
Sports betting, like many forms of entertainment, is at its best when it relies on the excitement of live action. By enabling customers to interact with sport in real-time, in-play betting has emerged as leading operators’ most important customer engagement tool. The positive impact it has on sportsbook margin compared to pre-match also makes it one of the most profitable.
The growth of in-play, driven in turn by the shift to mobile and second-screening, has brought about a seismic shift in the European sports betting market. Thanks to trading technology offered by Betgenius, a number of our clients, including some of Europe’s largest online operators, now derive as much as 75% of betting turnover from in-play.
Africa is starting to experience its own in-play boom. Unlike in the UK where 3pm games can’t be televised, African sports fans can watch and directly interact with all English Premier Leagues games live – making in-play a huge and largely untapped opportunity.
As in other markets, African operators must still offer a competitive pre-match product, although market homogenisation and increased competition will continue to have a detrimental effect on margin.
All our experience from regulated markets across the globe tells us that in-play does not cannibalise pre-match. In fact, your customers will still place their long-shot accumulator in the morning, but also start making additional in-game bets while watching the action unfold.
One of our clients, a leading West African bookmaker, recently reported that in-play now accounts for over 40% of their sportsbook turnover. The tide has turned and it’s no longer a question of “if” the African market fully embraces in-play but “when”, and more crucially which operators risk missing the boat.
Rise to the challenge
To succeed in the in-play market, operators must embrace its technological and operational challenges. This not only means offering the right events at the right time, but also ensuring they are tailored to meet the specific demands of their risk profile and customer base.
Specifically, operators must retain direct control over market creation as well as their margins, odds ladders and suspension settings, enabling them to carefully adapt their product by sport, market and territory. This control is fundamental to operators being able to profitably manage the transition of their customers from pre-match to in-play.
This is a key differentiator in the market for Betgenius. Our products are designed to be fully-customisable to satisfy individual customer’s needs. Each sport provides the usual suite of configurable settings for pricing, such as the margin, and market behaviour, like suspensions and permissible odds. Automated suspensions can be configured to activate under specific match state conditions across all sports each sport and model parameters can be changed throughout the event.
Data holds the key
Key to any in-play offering is the quality of the data that powers it.
Increased internet connectivity continues to drive the global growth of online sports betting, however it has also helped create some challenges in terms of delivering successful in-play betting products. Without fast, accurate data facilitating rapid price updates, for example, operators leave themselves exposed to in-stadia fans profiting from outdated prices that haven’t been adjusted in real-time.
As well as reducing this risk, fast, accurate data creates an optimum experience for customers. Verified data allows bookmakers to result bets quickly and pay-out on customer wins immediately, enabling faster recycling of funds and driving further engagement from the in-play experience. Market suspensions – normally after goals and key game events such as red cards – can also be greatly reduced both in number and duration, helping prevent customers from simply looking to other betting sites to host their in-play gambling experience.
The data that powers our in-play products is collected by the Betgenius network of over 7,500 statisticians meaning we can rely on the highest quality data across all major sports, right around the clock.
Addressing these fundamental challenges around in-play opens up a world of opportunity for sportsbook operators across Africa. Though traditional betting habits are unlikely to change overnight, the reality is that in-play represents a win-win situation for operators and customers alike. Operators who get their product right will benefit from huge increases in margin and revenue while customers become better engaged and over time, more brand-loyal.
The in-play technology is ready and waiting to transform the African market, and the time to embrace it is now.