Among its afflictions, the coronavirus outbreak has caused a severe entertainment drought. Favourite sporting pastimes were gone like the wind; the wider implications of which trickled downstream in a myriad of ways.
One by one, sports betting operators watched as leagues bid temporary farewells to live games in order to comply with local health and safety mandates. With traditional sports leagues out of the picture, sportsbooks revenue streams were reduced to mere watering holes, and the walls were closing in fast.
These combined events gave esports its 15 minutes of fame, calling up the industry to play a major role in the pandemic’s motion picture. The mainstream adoption of esports has proven a catalyst for the industry at large, including its betting precinct, which saw its most remarkable spell yet.
The betting handle has grown exponentially this year, with scores of supporting points such as the UK Gambling Commission’s 124 percent gross yield increase, but not without highlighting some limitations too. Constraints surrounding uptime and in-play options, for example, demonstrated a clear cut difference between esports and more mature, and established markets.
This is but one element Czech-based esports odds provider Oddin.gg is aiming to improve in the sector. The B2B esports technology solution utilises its AI-powered platform with official data from Bayes Esports to supply a variety of live betting opportunities. It’s a combination the company believes can help engage bettors, drive volume, and improve profitability for betting operators.
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With esports on the cusp of promotion into the global gambling industry, Esports Insider sat down with Marek Suchar, Head of Partnerships at Oddin.gg, about the industry’s potential, and how we, in fact, arrive there.
Esports Insider: For those who are unaware, can you explain what Oddin is and what it does?
Marek Suchar: Oddin is a B2B esports and risk management provider with a focus on true live engagement. Our team has a combined experience of more than 50 years in esports and betting. We worked in both the odds creation and risk management business for the most sophisticated platforms globally in the past. So there’s huge expertise within the team in these areas. What we see in the market right now as one of the key topics from the esports bettors’ perspectives is the absence of engagement. We are addressing this topic because we think the industry is significantly lacking behind its potential.
ESI: What is Oddin bringing to the market today, and what gives you an advantage over other solutions?
MS: The most paramount for us is that focus on engagement. Think about millennials and what they are used to: when they want to listen to music, they go to Spotify and they find what they want, when they want it. When they prefer to watch a movie they go to Netflix. Again, everything is on-demand. Everything is fully under their control.
When it comes to esports, they go to Twitch, they can watch whichever tournament they want, and whichever title they like. But at the same time if they want to bet, many times they are allowed to bet only on one or two objectives within the game. And usually no more than half of the time, because the lines from bookmakers are not available across the entire game.
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We are coming into the industry in a way that we want to significantly improve this experience, and we want to allow [bettors] to bet on multiple events and across the entire game. This way [Oddin] is actually improving the UX, improving the volume, and eventually improving the profitability for the sportsbooks.
ESI: Why are live markets and in-play key focal points for Oddin, and why is on-demand content so important for the esports audience?
MS: The question is definitely on spot and extremely valid since more than 80 percent of the volume in esports happens live. This is where engagement happens. That’s why it’s so important to actually provide the bettors with the options to bet along with the game; as the game is developing, as the story is being uncovered because those are the situations when the bettors feel engaged.
This is the particular moment when [bettors] want to bet, because they think they have some insight, or some knowledge about the game. At the end of the day, betting is actually about putting your money where your mouth is, right? That’s why it’s so engaging.
So the most important aspect for us is to actually allow the bettors to bet in these particular moments. And if you don’t allow it, this is where your sportsbook suffers as it lacks engagement, which has implications on volume, and eventually profitability.
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ESI: Can you talk to me about the pandemic and how traditional sports being put on pause has affected Oddin and your strategy over the last several months, as well as how this has impacted the esports betting handle at large?
MS: First of all, huge kudos to ESL, Riot Games, and all others, for the changes they were able to implement in a matter of weeks when they completely switched from offline tournaments to online and were able to deliver content. The sports world definitely lacked the content, because everything was shut down while esports was [one of] the very few options that remained to watch and bet on. With that being said, we’ve seen a lot of solution providers suddenly coming to the market being esports-focused and having an expertise around esports, which we slightly doubt.
For Oddin, the story has two dimensions. We got a lot of traction and a lot of demand for our solution. We were able to sign a strategic deal with Scientific Games and their platform OpenMarket, which we have already been integrated in. We are speaking to tier-one global operators about the cooperation. At the same time, the market was flooded with a lot of solution providers that gave deceptive information about esports betting. So we are not just doing the sell and upsell – we are trying to educate the industry about how engaging esports betting offerings for millennials can actually look like and what long-term benefits it brings.
ESI: From the effects caused by the pandemic in the betting industry, what would you say will be the biggest catalysts for the esports market’s growth moving forward?
MS: There are a couple angles depending on how you look at it. One is definitely that there were some hybrids of sports and esports that were organised, mainly one-off events, where English Premier League players were actually playing FIFA. There were also NASCAR and Formula One events that occurred.
There was a merge of sports and esports because of the [pandemic]. This allowed esports to become more noticeable and attract more eyeballs. Specifically, sporting simulators became extremely popular.
[Operators] tried to offer some content and generate volume on available sports and esports. This way esports gained some exposure and traction during the pandemic. Esports has become a limited backup plan, so to speak.
Based on the discussions that we’ve held with multiple partners, they are looking at esports a bit differently: ‘I want esports to be part of my portfolio, and if I’m doing it, I want to actually make it right’.’ One of the topics, which I considered a wasted opportunity for many operators, was to actually address esports properly for the right target group.
Not to necessarily promote esports to sports bettors, but to esports bettors instead and to start targeting those younger generations, for which esports is actually the key sport. Going forward, there will be more operators that will come out of the pandemic as winners by doing esports right.
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ESI: Could you talk to us a little about new verticals and opportunities in esports betting right now?
MS: We are moving into the area where technology, expertise, and access to data provides us the opportunity to provide additional betting opportunities like what is happening in the games and betting on certain events. In addition, we can create lines more than 80 percent of the time and allow bettors to bet almost all the time.
A completely different angle to drive the engagement will be 24/7 esports betting. An interesting option might be betting on players. If you think about sports, many of the bettors follow teams, to some extent the players, as well. But in esports, many times as soon as one player is traded to another team, the entire group of fans actually starts to support the other team. So for them, it might be preferable to follow, analyse, and to bet on that particular player and his performance within the match, and not necessarily the teams.
I think that esports betting will eventually become a similar menu as we can see with standard sports. As an esports fan, when you come to a sportsbook, you will have multiple options from which to choose: either betting live, betting long-term on fantasy, or betting on pools on specific markets.
Esports, however, has two key advantages when compared to sports: the content is produced all the time and it’s extremely rich in data. Given the target demographics, in a couple of months or years, we will experiment with different approaches to betting which might either eventually drop off, or become a huge success.
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ESI: Lastly, what will you be focusing on for the rest of the year?
MS: We are in discussion with multiple operators as well as platforms that understand there can be a much better esports solution to what they have right now, or what they wanted to bring to the market themselves.
There’s huge space to significantly improve the engagement from the current 50 percent uptime and limited market availability to a much better offering allowing bettors to bet almost all the time and on multiple events that happen live. So the plan is to bring more verticals to an already strong proposition that we have and to find the distribution partners and bookmakers who believe in our vision and want to significantly boost their esports volume and engagement.
Last but not least, we are a launching new esports vertical BERG in the next couple of weeks, that will be ground-breaking. Stay tuned.
Disclaimer: This piece is sponsored by Oddin.gg