As the world grapples with the ongoing pandemic surrounding coronavirus the future of the entire industry hangs in a balance, but there is some light ahead if the market is willing to adapt explains Sergey Portnov, CEO of leading online brand Parimatch. Investigating the potential for online betting platforms to compete with Netflix and YouTube and why customer support and transparency is more important than ever, Portnov urges the industry to embrace the chaos…
In terms of the betting industry, how do you foresee this global situation impacting trends currently and in the future?
In times like these it is always public companies who will suffer the most as they are solely focused on shares. Shares are easily influenced by public moods and macroeconomic perceptions and so the impact is felt immediately and these are the headlines we see. Looking forward it’s unfortunately inevitable that retail business will shrink even more continuing the trend which has been taking shape over the last decade. Without being too doom and gloom about it, I believe big bureaucratic companies will suffer too and we will begin to see a trend towards smaller headcounts within firms.
With so many major sports fixtures and tournaments being cancelled, how are you predicting this will impact your revenue and the growth of sports betting as an industry?
Obviously the sports betting sector is going to take a hit. With recent announcements about the Premier League, Euro 2020 and many more being cancelled, I predict there will be an approximate 20-30% decline in sport revenues going forward. However, this is where we as bookmakers need to adapt. We will build new betting habits for players and embrace new areas, as people will play games they haven’t played before. In the coming years we will see betting offers become even more diverse and through adaptation we can continue to build both the online sector and the casino sector which will carry the profits.
In light of these cancellations and potential fall in revenue, what can sports betting brands like yourselves do to counteract this?
There are myriad opportunities for companies in the sector at this time. Firstly, it’s definitely a time to focus on esports and also brands should be looking to add more casual live-streamed content such as FIFA 20, Mortal Kombat or other games with odds attached. Looking ahead this is also an opportunity to promote fast betting content such as table tennis or volleyball and work on building more casino crossovers to strengthen the position of both sectors for both operators and players alike.
Some industry analysts predict a spike in online betting with so many players now isolated, how are you targeting this situation whilst also remaining focused on CSR at this potentially vulnerable time for people in different regions?
There is no doubt that as different countries experience different levels of isolation people will be exceedingly bored at home and they will seek a pastime in the world of digital entertainment. This is where a brand like ours comes in, as we happen to be in the field of providing online pastimes. In the future, we will start competing with Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, PlayStation, etc. for the attention of users as more and more people discover new means of being entertained. At Parimatch, we stand by our belief that betting is an exciting form of entertainment which should enhance our customers’ enjoyment of sport and gaming and our policies on responsible gambling will continue to reflect this.
How are you adapting your policies around international and domestic business travel and supply?
Despite being an international company operating in more than 10 countries, we are largely unaffected. The main predicament is volatility of currencies and how this will impact investment. We are preparing our business to handle the fact that the majority of our contracts are in Euros and US Dollars, so we have to be extra careful as this will impact ROIs due to the diminishing value of local currencies.
Internally, how is Parimatch maximising employees’ and partners’ ability to work remotely whilst still committing to brand values?
We are working hard to ensure everyone we work with is still fired up to win every morning! It’s essential as a business to always be online and communicate with people 24/7 whether they are employees, partners, players or whoever. In uncertain times a proactive company sets itself apart by finding creative resolutions, such as using Digital Doctor in Zoom or other support systems, whilst also maintaining trust. In order to keep confidence in your brand, you need to be prepared to respond publicly to uncomfortable questions in order to reassure.
What are your tips on how to stay optimistic and constructive for the future?
Look, the industry will recover quickly after this major crisis but whilst it is happening don’t look to others for guidance, focus on your team instead. When things have returned to normal, everyone will reformat their company but it’s essential not to put PnL first, instead put company culture and team selection first with an eye on smaller teams. This is a time to kill bureaucracy, and add some chaos! We should start disrupting the hierarchy making our companies, sectors and entire industry more flat and open to fostering collaboration, don’t be an army of one right now! Most importantly as we look forward into the future as individuals, customers, businesses, we should be asking the question ‘why?’ a lot more, in a bid to futureproof everything we do, be different and rise to the challenges ahead of us.