Fifteen years ago, the internet was about to explode and the online betting industry was born, with the likes of Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral and bet365 scrambling to release websites that would allow customers to place bets through the web rather than visit betting shops or phone wagers through.
Wind the clock forward fifteen years and the call centres that used to process thousands of bets are now obsolete. This is the age of the smartphone, 4G and Wi-Fi. Any bookmaker worth their salt has an app that customers can download and bet through wherever they happen to be.
Mobile betting sites used to be pretty basic. We can recall speaking to the CEO of a famous bookmaker ten years ago where the mobile version of the website was a modest offering and certainly didn’t carry the functionality of the desktop equivalent.
However, with tablets and smartphones a part of everyday life, bookmakers are constantly looking to make their mobile betting site and mobile betting app as cutting-edge as possible. Paddy Power are one operator who quickly latched on to mobile trends and have released a range of mobile products to please their customers.
Indeed, the Irish bookmaker recently revealed that more than 300 different types of mobile devices now regularly connect to paddypower.mobi to use the Paddy Power mobile website. We’re now getting to the stage where 50% of bookmaker earnings are generated online with mobile being a strong driver of growth.
Paddy Power seem to be making new releases every quarter as far as mobile products are concerned. Their latest offering is One Touch which looks extremely innovative and really focuses on facilitating customers placing live In-Play bets.
Indeed, One Touch looks like proving to be a very important USP as the Irish bookmaker look to wrench some market share from power player bet365, with the new feature live across all live betting events if accessing Paddy Power on a mobile device.
When One Touch is activated on a mobile betting device, it means that bets are placed immediately when customers hit the “place bet” button rather than having to confirm their selection. In the heat of battle, it makes every difference.
This follows hard on the heels of Paddy Power’s Track My Bet release which is a canny way of getting retail customers to enjoy the merits of mobile wagering, with punters able to submit their mobile number in-store and get notification when their selections are running.
Sky Bet are another progressive online sports betting website who have really embraced mobile technology. As they don’t have betting shops, then sole focus can be given to online development and the operator have an obvious tie-in with the TV channels as part of the BskyB service.
Sky Betting and Gaming recently mentioned that big investment in technology and mobile platforms have been a key driver behind a large rise in revenue between the years 2013 and 2016. Indeed, this bookmaker are probably the biggest example of how important mobile betting has become, with 80% of stakes placed on a mobile device.
Richard Flint, chief executive of Sky Betting & Gaming, said: “During the year, we invested in both our technology and mobile platforms from our base in Yorkshire and this has helped drive our strong performance.
“As an independent company that has a strong relationship with Sky, we have continued to benefit from our Sky branding and links.
“We will maintain our focus on these two key areas in 2016 while also growing our team to ensure we are well placed to deliver another strong year of growth.”
A typical Saturday afternoon for football punters used to consist of visiting the local betting shop, doing a football coupon and having a few beers while watching the game in the pub.
However, smartphones are no longer a luxury item. They are accessories that are used daily to perform any number of activities, such as listening to music, exercising, navigating to a location and now placing a bet on a Saturday afternoon.
Sit in a pub showing a football match and you will see people on their phone, loading up their favourite bookmaker betting app and having a bet while the match is In-Play.
In-Play betting and mobile betting clearly go hand in hand. Many years ago, Stan James claimed to be the bookmaker in the UK that had pioneered In-Play wagering by allowing customers to call through at half-time and bet on the latest odds.
However, other firms soon cottoned on to the trends that suggested that people want an immediate outcome with their bets. Bookmakers offering In-Play markets could also take a succession of bets throughout the ninety minutes of a football match rather than just one which would only be settled at the final whistle.
Naturally, before the days of smartphones and tablets, then In-Play bets could only be placed on a PC and laptop, with most people generally leaving these at home when leaving the house! However, carrying a smartphone in your pocket at all times means that you have an instant gateway to the internet at any given time.
Wi Fi connection exists in virtually all parts of the United Kingdom, while 3G and 4G are also good enough to access bookmaker apps and place an In-Play bet on a mobile device. Indeed, you can also access the live streaming on a mobile device and the picture quality is as good as you’ll get on your own TV.
The 2016 Cheltenham Festival was a prime opportunity for bookmakers to strike gold, even if the results weren’t particularly favourable. The number of app downloads recorded by Paddy Power in the week leading up the meeting and then during the four-day event broke new records.
Encouraging customers to download the app serves a multitude of purposes. Firstly, it facilitates the placing of bets in a much easier fashion than a customer using Safari and typing in the web address while having the potential to shift across to a competitor site at any given moment.
Secondly, it encourages loyalty. People are creatures of habit and want things to happen for them quickly. If they like a particular bookmaker app and get used to the simple navigation, then it’s unlikely that they’ll migrate elsewhere in a hurry.
There’s also the fact that once a customer has a betting balance with a Paddy Power, Ladbrokes or William Hill, they won’t set about opening a new account while there’s still cash available. It explains why bookies are making free bet refunds on a regular basis to make sure that a customer stays loyal to their brand.
Bookies can also send push messages to their customers through notifications on the app. For example, betting on a horse race through the Sky Bet app means that they will send you an alert on your phone when the event is about to start, with the opportunity to watch live streaming available through their deals with ATR and Racing UK.
Global payments provider WorldPay suggested that the 2016 Cheltenham Festival would have seen online bookies process more than 50% extra betting transactions. That followed on the evidence from the 2015 meeting where there was a 47% rise in transactions and all fingers point to the evidence that mobile devices are in use like never before.
“The UK online gambling market generated around £3bn last year, and with technology continuing to propel the industry forward, we expect these figures to increase significantly as more punters use mobile devices in their attempt to win big,” Karl MacGregor, vice president of gambling and ecommerce at Worldpay, said.
“The convenience and speed online gambling offers can only make it easier than ever for today’s mobile-first customers to try their luck, and bookmakers such as Paddy Power Betfair continue to invest heavily in optimising their websites to meet this growing demand.”
William Hill spent a small fortune on their marketing campaign ahead of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, recruiting Tony McCoy as the face of their attempt to get a decent share of the pie ahead of this gambling bonanza. Especially as the Cheltenham Gold Cup is second only to the Grand National in terms of turnover.
Due to the sharp increase in mobile bets through the William Hill app, the Leeds-based firm were preparing to accept 10,000 bets per minute during peak times when the Festival was taking place.
William Hill knew they had to do something ground-breaking ahead of the four-day meeting and their guarantee not to be beaten on price along with an enhanced free bet certainly helped them do the job.
William Hill spokesman Ciaran O’Brien commented before the meeting: “Cheltenham gets bigger every year and we expect turnover will hit a record £350 million across the British betting industry.
“William Hill ducked an £8 million bullet when Annie Power fell at the last fence last year but Willie Mullins is lining up another first day four timer which could be one of the biggest paydays for punters in betting history. He is such a certainty to be top trainer at the festival we are no longer accepting bets on him.”
Indeed, there are now a generation of young punters who have never set foot in a betting shop since they turned 18. The fact that bookmakers advertise on TV on such a frequent basis and that children have grown up in the internet smartphone age means that placing a cash bet is something of a novelty.
Why would a twenty-year-old racing enthusiast visit his local betting shop when he can download a betting app on his smartphone? After all, through his phone, he can make a deposit using a debit card or even PayPal which has a fantastic app of it’s own and virtually every bookmaker now have this payment method.
Visiting a betting shop involves then returning to the shop to collect the winnings. It’s a bit like trying to cash in a cheque or send a fax – just an outmoded thing to do for a young person is probably likelier to play an FOBT in a betting shop than actually place a bet on sports.
Bookmakers with retail estates don’t do themselves any favours, with the odds generally less favourable in shops than they are when you access the mobile betting sites. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that bet365 identified the trends pointing towards technological changes in 2007.
It was in that year that bet365 sold their hundreds of betting shops to Coral for a princely sum which enabled them to make vital investments into technology. Using a cloud platform, bet365 successfully pioneered price push movements which no longer required a customer to refresh a browser to see the price changes.
Wind the clock forward nearly ten years and bet365 are reporting staggering profit figures where mobile revenue accounts for a significant chunk of the pie. Back in September 2015, bet365 reported an operating profit in excess of £400 million during their latest financial year.
This £409.3 million profit was far in excess of the previous twelve-month period, with an increase of 26.5%. An increase in profitability comes from an increase in revenue, although it was interesting to note that revenue was only up 15%.
Why the difference between 26.5% and 15%? It comes down to profitability by platform and mobile app profit margins are significantly bigger, with a mobile app customer more likely to bet more frequently and In-Play.