By Tim Poole
Following his talk at the 'Business continuity in the face of COVID-19' panel at the SBC Digital Summit, Gambling Insider caught up with Betsson Group CEO Jesper Svensson.
What are the benefits of having a virtual conference and what are the drawbacks?
I think it’s good to have such conferences still happening as they bring the industry together and discuss important topics. If you think about it, when you go to one of the real-life events, there will always be these kinds of speakers and sessions people will attend and listen to. So from that point of view, it covers it really well. Of course, there is the lack of interactions you have in real-life conferences, with networking and meetings that you set up. But, from the purpose of knowledge sharing and the discussion of various topics, I think the virtual side works really well.
How was your virtual panel experience at the SBC Digital Summit and what were your main takeaway points as one of the contributors?
In a time like this, I’ve been speaking with a range of other people in the industry, including other CEOs. You do want to have an understanding of what others are doing and see if you can find any commonalities. It’s good when you sit down and hear that some of the work others are doing, you’re doing too. Particularly around how you navigate around responsible gaming at a time like this. It gives you confirmation that the initiatives you’re doing are also happening elsewhere. It’s really important to hear many are thinking along the same lines.
Did you get a sense of vindication from what you heard from the other speakers?
Yeah, I would say so. I think several mentioned they have increased the level of interactions with customers during the current situation. Not just when it comes to the responsible gaming side, but there was a discussion around the changing patterns you see. Table tennis is now a popular sport, the football leagues in Belarus and Nicaragua are getting a lot of attention. You see more shifts towards esports than before. Those are trends we have seen as well, so of course that shows the industry, as a whole, is experiencing similar types of trends right now.
For Betsson specifically, are these the kind of markets bettors are flooding to – casino, virtuals, esports and sports like table tennis?
Flooding is a strong word! But we as a company have historically been quite big on the casino side in relative terms to our other products. Before this happened, we were already at 75% of our business being casino. We see a steadiness in our casino numbers. On the sports side, of course, we have decreased significantly. Because, although you see an increase in some minor sports like table tennis, it’s by no means at the level of when you have all the big football leagues up and running. So you see a shift based on what is available but there is also a drop in general activity.
Do you have any worries about marketing and compliance failures during the pandemic?
I’ve heard that there have been instances like that. But, in general, if you take the serious regulated companies, you will not see that type of behaviour. You will instead see an extra focus on player protection. I think, unfortunately, there will always be a few that are not doing good things for the industry as a whole. That’s not what the industry needs or wants, because most operators in my view are taking responsibility at times like this. But not just in times like this – all the time.
We are very highly regulated; I think sometimes from the outside it can be hard to understand how well-regulated many of the companies are. We are licensed under 12 different jurisdictions, for example, and there is always some kind of audit going on. But also as a company, you want to do the right thing, be fair to your customers and protect your customers. That mantra I know many companies have and it’s unfortunate if some companies don’t, and try to benefit from this situation; because that gives the whole industry a bad name.
We’ve just seen this week the Betting and Gaming Council has placed a voluntary ban on all TV and radio gambling advertising in the UK, although in Spain and Sweden we’ve seen increased restrictions during this pandemic. Do you have any thoughts on regulator responses during the pandemic?
You mentioned Spain and there is one type of regulation. What is unfortunate is also what’s happening in Latvia, where they suspended licenses for the regulated operators. And also when you look at certain limits being discussed in Sweden. What you risk doing as a regulator, is pushing players to play outside the regulated market. That can severely impact the channelisation in those jurisdictions, because players will not stop to play, they will just find other places to play.
So it becomes contradictive to do that in the name of player protection. I think it’s good when you can work closely with the regulators and have a good dialogue about what are the right measurements to do at a time like this; to protect not just the consumers but the regulations in themselves.