Market research

Esports, young bettors, and match trackers. Slava Zhuk discusses the future of sports betting

It’s time for the first one of the series of STATSCORE’s interviews with some of the most inspiring leaders of the world of sports betting! Today, Slava Zhuk, Ukrainian entrepreneur, and adviser at Turbo Games, a future-oriented games provider, answers several questions regarding the state of the industry.

Find out more about this new series of STATSCORE interviews!

STATSCORE: What are the 3 biggest opportunities for the online betting industry in 2022?

Slava Zhuk:  First of all, I think it’s the new markets. As I see it, the focus on the markets such as LatAm continues to surprise. The interest in this region continues to grow for global operators. This means that the market will develop as well.

The second thing is the development of esports and instant games, because this is something new on the market of gambling. This is really interesting, for the young audience mostly. And when we’re talking about the young audience, we mean not 18-year-old people, but more the 25-35 age group. This is a very interesting audience.

The third point of the opportunities is Twitch and YouTube as the main marketing channels for advertising for the gambling industry. So we see that classic marketing channels are in stagnation because the young audience spends a lot of time on Twitch and YouTube and they don’t use the classic channels which we’d preferred in the past. That’s why this is a big opportunity for any operator to use these channels of marketing.

STATSCORE: What are the 3 biggest threats to the industry?

Slava Zhuk: As for me, I’m from Ukraine, I think the biggest threat is the war. Today the war takes place only in Ukraine but affects the whole world. The extension of war beyond the borders of Ukraine can change the distribution of world forces and predictability. So, I think, for me, this is the first thing.

The second thing is the development of monopolists. There are companies, and I will not mention their names, especially in the field of sports data, that monopolize markets and try to impose their unfavorable conditions on the market. The strategy of monopolists is understandable, but what about the small and medium-sized companies that cannot afford the high prices of data? For example, if I want to be in the market with my sportsbook, I have to buy very expensive data from a monopolist, so I’m not thinking about money which I could put into my product to develop it when it comes to the technology, engagement, or UI/UX design of the interface. I will put the money only into buying the data, and I think this is not fair. 

The third point is the changes at the legislative level regarding licencing, processing of cryptocurrencies. For example, some countries impose high taxes, and that’s why a lot of offshore businesses grow, and legal businesses don’t grow. We see that some countries are trying to regulate cryptocurrency, and it can change the market, too.

STATSCORE: What has been the biggest achievement of your organization since the beginning of 2020?

Slava Zhuk: I think we have successfully launched a number of new products in a niche with a huge number of strong competitors. It was difficult for us, but we have our own unique features in the products, and thanks to that we stand out from the market and attract attention. But the biggest achievement is that we’ve managed to survive the beginning of the war in Ukraine, our company has transformed this year, and we continue to grow in the face of war. It’s a success for me, and I’m proud of my team.

STATSCORE: We’re witnessing that esport is getting increasingly popular and professional. How will its growth influence sports betting?

Slava Zhuk: Esports is really taking over a huge share of the sports betting industry. For some major Eastern European operators, over the past two years of the pandemic, esports have grown from fifth to second place. It’s higher than basketball, for example. It’s second, right after football! It’s in terms of GGR and turnover, not only in the number of bets.

We see that esports’ audience has grown already, and these guys do not have small incomes monthly, that’s why every sports betting operator needs to focus on them.

So, one way or another, esports will be on par with football in five years. I’m sure of this. 

Therefore, if we talk about how it will affect sports betting, then the presence of esports will be the biggest thing in the next five years.

Esports will also affect the marketing of all betting operators because as I said previously, the channels of traffic are different. If we’re talking about sports betting operators, they’re trying to gain an audience from, for example, scores websites. When we talk about the esports audience, yes, of course, there’s scores websites, too, but mostly it’s streaming platforms, like Twitch and YouTube. 

STATSCORE: It has been reported that young people, the so-called Generation Z, have their own specific ways of consuming sports content. How should the betting industry approach them?

Slava Zhuk: We’ve made a lot of research on young audiences to understand them better. What do we know about them?

They don’t want to read manuals, they want to know what to do, how to play, from the first look. So, for example, if I’m going to make some recommendations for sports betting operators, I will recommend simplifying the interfaces. The previous generation of gamblers wanted interfaces overloaded with information, but the young audience wants to have everything simplified. 

What else do we know? For example, they don’t like casino slots, they prefer instant games, because it’s simpler. So, for example, the very popular Windows game Minesweeper is now a very popular instant game called Mines. It’s in demand among a young audience. So, this is a trend. 

We also know that 60% of the esports audience don’t play computer games, they just watch them.

For example, if you look at any Twitch stream with an esports tournament, 60% of the audience doesn’t play, they just watch. And 60% of the esports audience places bets on classic sports, but they don’t like niche sports such as golf, water polo, volleyball, handball… It’s not interesting for them. Only top sports like basketball, football, and only the top tournaments.

Thus, when you look at this audience, you get the combination of esports and the top classic sports. That’s all that interests the young generation of bettors. 

When it comes to bets, they don’t want to bet on difficult markets, such as totals – only winners. Who will win, that’s all! When they see the question who will winteam one or team two, then they understand it.

STATSCORE: What should be the steps a successful betting company needs to take to secure its growth in 2022?

Slava Zhuk: I’m sure that the development of esports content is a key to the development this year. The pandemic has shown everyone the importance of esports. When we see that the classic sports stop, every operator wants to live, and have some content to provide bets, esports turned out to let them survive.

STATSCORE: What will be the next “big thing” for the betting industry (specific sport, technology?) 

Slava Zhuk: I think I have the answer to this question. In recent years they have seen a huge growth in the esports niche, but not in the classic esports, like Counterstrike, DOTA 2, League of Legends. I’m talking about disciplines such as e-football, e-basketball, e-tennis. This is truly a breakthrough in sports betting. Why? Because we get a discipline, a sport, that’s between esports and classic sports. For example, we have the classic football mechanics with the implementation of esports.

We have a FIFA tournament, a console game. The match time is only 5 minutes so you’ll get a very quick result. For a young audience, it’s amazing, because when you bet on classic football, to receive the result you need to wait 1.5 hours, and here it’s 5 minutes. It’s amazing. 

By the way, this content is very interesting for any sportsbook operator in the world, because you can use this content to cover the timeframes when there are no other sports events. For example in the morning or at night in Europe. So, this content can cover 24/7 in any part of the world. I think it’s a really big thing. 

Another thing that I see concerns match streaming. In the past, we saw that betting companies used to buy a lot of streams, but I think that 5 years ago they stopped buying so many streams, and increased the number of match trackers, such as STATSCORE offers.

This is more informative for the players than the streams. For example, when they see streams from some exotic football leagues, they may not understand what exactly is going on on the field, what’s the strategy. With widgets or trackers, it’s much easier to follow – you’ve got the dangerous attacks, corners, yellow and red cards. It’s more understandable to see it on trackers than to follow the stream.

Very often when you watch, for example, some football event, you use the second screen. I know that 70% of bettors use the second screen when they watch TV, and a bookmaker can be the second screen – if this bookmaker will use some interesting data, and I’m sure that match tracker is the kind of content they need for that second screen. So, that’s why streaming will not be a profitable field of data for operators. Match tracker is the future, I’m sure!

STATSCORE: Thank you very much!

Slava Zhuk Bio

Slava Zhuk is a Ukrainian entrepreneur, iGaming and betting expert, who currently works as an adviser at Turbo Games, a future-oriented games provider.

Previously, he collaborated with such betting and iGaming companies as Betsy Games, and E-SPORT LAB.



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