Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Euro 2016, Olympics, fuel Asian sports betting


The recent European Championships saw a dramatic increase in betting volumes across Asia, but also raised a series of questions for both operators and suppliers as to how best to serve sports bettors in the region.

Volumes have always been tougher to estimate in Asia than in Europe, where the majority of big operators publicly report their results.

However, a number of sources have told AGB that performance during the tournament exceeded already high expectations.

Patrick Jay, a leading industry consultant who previously spent five years as director of trading at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, told AGB that on a game-by-game basis, the Asian market grew by around 50 percent compared to Euro 2012.

“There was consistent growth across the region with all the major players reporting strong increases,” Jay said.

Jay noted that an increase in the number of games at Euro 2016, which saw 51 matches compared to the 31 games played in 2012, also helped drive volumes, although games involving less popular teams tended not to perform so well in Asia as clashes between tournament favorites.

Matt Howard, head of sportsbook and trading operations at provider BetConstruct, said the firm’s sportsbook also enjoyed strong growth in Asia during the tournament.

“BetConstruct has seen significant growth in the region this year so this was simply enhanced further by a major tournament taking place over the summer,” he told AGB.

Meanwhile Joe Jordan, spokesperson for recently-launched Bitcoin sportsbook SportsBet.io, said Asia accounted for around 40 percent of global betting volumes for the operator during the European Championships, despite unfavorable scheduling which saw most games kick off in the early hours for much of the region.

Running off a handicap

There have been efforts by a number of operators in Asia in recent years to push customers towards the broader range of betting markets which is commonplace in Europe, and these were stepped up during Euro 2016.

However, the signs suggest handicap and total goals markets continue to dominate.

“You won't see the main markets in Asia being replaced any time soon,” said Howard at BetConstruct. “Handicaps and Totals make up the majority of any operator’s bets in the region.”

Jay agreed that the traditional markets still constitute the majority of betting volume, but noted that the growth of in-play betting, which accounted for more than 50 percent of Euro 2016 volume for most Asian-facing operators, could see that begin to change.

“Live betting is a huge thing in Asia and this has seen some other markets pick up steam, certainly there is more of a spread of bets on live football than pre-match,” added Howard.

The question is whether there is scope for Asian operators to use live betting as a way to introduce the European model of sports betting to Asian punters.

So far traditional ante-post markets, such as first goalscorer which has been a long-term staple in Europe, have “continued to disappoint”, according to Jay.

“While the European bookmakers offer literally hundreds of bets per match, the major Asian operators keep it much simpler with, in many cases, no more than 30-50 different markets,” said Jay.

The difference in the betting experience between Asian and European customers is pronounced enough that BetConstruct offers its clients a dedicated “Asian View” sportsbook, which was active during Euro 2016 and catered to more data-driven Asian preferences.

But there are signs there may be a growing appetite for the European approach, too.

“Interestingly we have also found that for the more recreational players some do in fact prefer a more 'European' layout,” said Howard.

Looking to the future

Despite continuing regulatory uncertainty, Euro 2016 showed that many Asia-facing sportsbooks find themselves in a position of strength.

Jordan at SportsBet.io said the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil also showed that it is possible to do serious volumes on events which aren’t traditionally strong for betting. SportsBet.io offered in excess of 360 markets across 19 different sports during the Olympics, and enjoyed strong volumes on a number of smaller sports which have followings in Asia, such as badminton and table tennis.

“The Olympics has not historically been a major betting event anywhere, but there are signs that this is changing,” Jordan said.

Jordan said that initial results on Olympic volumes have lived up to expectations - for the 16 days of the Games in Rio, the Olympics accounted for 40 percent of betting activity at SportsBet.io.

Beyond the Olympics and into the new football season, more Asian books are likely to follow the example set by European operators in chasing after the more casual sports betting demographic as a way of driving revenues.

“We are also helping our Partners look for the more recreational database of customers, which has perhaps often been ignored in the region, and are finding a lot of commonalities with other regions amongst these customers,” said Howard.

But there are still a number of challenges, particularly when it comes to the black market. Jay said it was likely that the big monopolies in the region were best placed to compete with the enormous illegal market.

“They can also invest in channel distribution - with many territories having mobile penetration at over 100 percent, this is the best way to talk to customers. The tag line needs to be to ensure they get the right price to the right customer at the right time. Then they can continue to eat into market share,” he said.

This will be the priority looking forward to the 2018 World Cup Russia, which promises to be the first World Cup to be hosted in a favourable time zone for Asia since 2002.

With Europe’s new football season kicking off, the priority for Asia’s sports betting industry will be to continue to push growth so it is well placed to capitalize on the opportunity.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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