September sees Betting On Sports week based around a three day conference (18-21 September) at London’s famous Olympia. This is supported by various networking events through that week including the SBC’s Sports Betting Hall of Fame Awards. Full details see bosweek.com. Discounts available until the end of August.
As the conference fast approaches we’ve sat down to have a chat with Rasmus Sojmark, CEO and founder of SBC, the Sports Betting Community
1: You must be delighted with the way that the Betting On Sports event has so rapidly grown in recent years. Why has it made such a positive impact and who should attend?
Thanks. It’s rewarding to put on an event like Betting on Sports. I feel that our shows have grown year-on-year due to our commitment on putting forward prominent content and agendas for the sports betting sector and its wider stakeholders (clubs, governing bodies, communities, agencies, etc).
From a production standpoint, we have always emphasised our conferences as being knowledge-led events, where executives can openly discuss and debate the industry’s current context and future challenges.
As organiser, SBC seeks to cover all major functions and verticals of betting’s value chain, therefore, we have expanded conference tracks, adding executive-led discussions on the US market, industry leadership dynamics, technology and innovation, investment, marketing and sponsorship.
2: We’ve noted some 250 world class speakers through the week, but can you pick out three ‘not to be missed’ elements from the schedule?
Just three, come on . . . well I recommend that delegates attend Future of Betting’s CEO Panel, where industry leaders such as Richard Flint (Sky Bet), Per Widerström (Fortuna Entertainment Group) and George Daskalakis (Stoiximan / Betano) discuss the crucial topic of sustainability frameworks, combined with developing new corporate values amid a changing regulatory environment.
Furthermore, our Day 1 track ‘Sports in Focus’, will breakdown the industry’s critical relationship with sporting organisations. For this track alone we have lined up 30 speakers such as Len Brown (Chief Legal Officer of the PGA), Matthew Porter (CEO of PDC) and Snooker Legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.
We do also introduce the CasinoBeats Summit this year, which includes a stellar line-up with speaker representatives from likes of Paf, LeoVegas, GoWild, Slots Million, EveryMatrix, iforium, Betsson, Olympic Entertainment Group, Royal Panda, Ladbrokes Coral, AskGamblers and many more.
Personally I am very excited about our Hall of Fame Panel, in which industry legends such as Mark Blandford (Sportingbet Founder), Paris Smith (CEO of Pinnacle), Fabio Schiavolin (CEO of Snaitech) and Constantinos Antonopoulos (Vice Chairman & Co-founder of Intralot) share their industry experiences and detail future perspectives of where they believe the industry is heading. This panel is also the lead up to the Sports Betting Hall of Fame event that takes place the same evening at the iconic Natural History Museum (One evening also NOT to be missed!!)
3: Which new sports can you see breaking through in terms of betting appeal?
Without a doubt, the market that betting operators should be paying more attention to is esports.
It’s an umbrella term for sure, but on the whole it has exploded in viewership across the past few years, with an ever increasing number of big money tournaments at huge venues. An Overwatch tournament recently sold out the Barclays Center in New York City.
We have had Esports Insider as part of our SBC family since 2016. ESI is an esports business news platform, media and events company based in our London HQ. They’re hosting and organising the conference, ESI London, which is running as a part of Betting on Sports week. This will be the biggest esports business conference of the year; with a number of owners and CEOs from the world’s most established teams speaking and in attendance (400+ in attendance, over 60 speakers, 14 exhibitors and three networking parties).
It also precedes the $1 million CS:GO FaceIt Major, which is London’s first, and is sponsored by Betway, one of the bookmakers leading the way when it comes to offering esports and catering to fans.
4: Reflecting back on the 2018 World Cup, what was its biggest impact on the betting industry? VAR might have been controversial. But did it affect betting? How do you see VAR’s future?
What an awesome World Cup this year with exciting games on display pretty much every day.
England performed well and reached the semi-finals, no-doubt giving bookmakers some sleepless nights during Russia 2018. My fellow Danes were unlucky against Croatia and could have ended up playing England in the semis. They are though still on a 19 game unbeaten run. Hats off to France who won in convincing style.
As for the polemical VAR, we did see an increase in the number of penalties, awarded by referees which would have impacted match trading.
Nevertheless, VAR is now part of football, so bookmakers have to make appropriate adjustments to deal with this element. Put simply, you cannot stop the evolution of any sport through technology.
5: What effect is the relaxation around US sports betting having on the industry? How will the conference debate this subject?
From a growth perspective, the US is dominating the industry’s agenda. Operators will face numerous challenges when trying to tackle this market state by state.
From research via our media vertical SBCAmericas.com, we have put together a US focused track at Betting on Sports, which aims to shed light on operational, regulatory and cultural entry barriers, as well as the complexities of competing within the world’s largest sports and soon to be betting market.
We recognise that PASPA has opened the door, but in these early days, stumbling blocks remain for incumbents seeking to challenge stateside … these are interesting times for sports betting.
6: What are you yourself particularly looking forward to taking in during the week?
One of the highlights this year, will be the newly added Sports Betting Hall of Fame Awards. Not only is it a great networking event that features some of the absolute big hitters of the industry, like Pontus Lindwall & Norbert Teufelberger, but the fact that it will be hosted at the iconic Natural History Museum in London will help make it a very special night.
7: Are there innovations that you think might surprise delegates?
As always we have placed a great emphasis on ‘what comes next’ and ‘what can be improved’, therefore innovation is a key topic/debate for our event. In the agenda we have placed a high level debate on Blockchain’s disruptive make-up and how it can enhance betting’s current value chain. In addition, we will host a much-needed discussion, examining whether bookmakers can ‘gamify’ products, services or markets.
Furthermore, from our research we have seen that operators are placing a higher emphasis on building immersive and data-led products. Hosting a full track on ‘Innovation and Technology’, we want to know what future consumer trends stakeholders are seeking to tackle.
8: You are featuring various racing elements, including international product. How might racing broaden its appeal to sports punters?
This is a prominent issue that will be discussed with the Racing Post at the ‘Betting on Racing’ track.
In 2018 and beyond, all racing stakeholders face difficult questions, if they are to return the sports back to growth. Working with Racing Post, we have put together an excellent format for this vital discussion, which will not shy away from tackling racing’s current predicaments.
In my opinion, there is no simple answer, but I do believe that betting and racing have to work together to rebuild a better all-round proposition for changing audiences.
9: Retail betting is given several platforms through the conference. Do you detect a real determination to overcome the pending set-back on FOBT stakes?
Again this is a subject matter that Betting on Sports is deeply focused on. From my perspective, betting leadership is not shying away from the adjustments and restructures needed to overcome the FOBTs judgement.
However, I wouldn’t label the FOBTs judgement as a setback for industry incumbents, but more so as a new reality in which leadership has to reposition and re-think its all-round retail proposition. So there is scope to modernise assets with new concepts that we are witnessing in outside sectors.
Every industry leader we have spoken to notes that there is still much life in retail betting.
10: Social responsibility in general has taken an increasingly higher profile. Is this being reflected at the conference?
Yes, and I would add that social responsibility and industry sustainability will be part of the discussion in many of the tracks and sessions during the event.
Our content team has worked hard to place Social Responsibility within a working framework for all participants. We want to explore social responsibility as a live industry dynamic and how it will influence the direction of the industry.
A great session on this, will be Future of Betting’s ‘Big Rethink’, which will discuss how the sector is developing its resources and talent within a global marketplace, tackling modern business and social complexities.
11: The social side of the week is enjoyable and offers additional networking opportunity. Anything you’d particularly recommend?
We have a large exhibition floor with plenty of networking areas and world class hospitality for all the delegates. There will be plenty of opportunities to network and do business.
Wednesday evening we have VIP dinners and networking party on the 28th and 29th floor of Millbank Tower, with stunning 360 degree view of London. Big windows wrapping right around the venue, will ensure a perfect panoramic view of London at night time for all the Betting on Sports Week participants.
To close the event of in style, we have the Sports Betting Hall of Fame and networking party Thursday evening at the iconic Natural History Museum. We will continue here till 2 in the morning and this will certainly be a memorable evening – who hasn’t dreamt of partying underneath a historic whale and dancing between the dinosaurs.
Eugene Delaney, Racing Post’s Director of B2B, is among those who will be in attendance. He said: “We are delighted to showcase Racing Post B2B capabilities at Betting on Sports once again. The exhibition has grown year on year and has become a key date in the diary for everyone in the industry.
“With an impressive list of speakers discussing the most pressing topics in the industry it really has become an unmissable event. The Racing Post B2B team will be there all week to highlight our sport products and a range of exciting initiatives across online, mobile and retail.”