WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE US SPORTS BETTING MARKET?

It’s too long time when I wrote my blog last time. I spent last week in New York/New Jersey in the excellent Betting on Sports America event. I learnt there quite a lot about US Sports Betting opportunities and among other things had chance to give my advices to US lotteries.

I got also some feedback about my blog. I heard that quite many is reading my stories via mobile phone and it has been difficult to read it when I’m writing too long paragraphs. I now try to change my style a little bit and hopefully it will help.

It’s not 100 % sure what will finally happen there in USA. The PASPA decision seemed to chance everything and in fact made Sports Betting legal or at least made it “non-illegal”. But after that there was another court decision which changed almost everything… At this moment there are less than 10 States where Sports Betting is already allowed. There are also 10 – 15 States which are planning to make it possible quite soon. It’s possible that about half of US States will have legal Sports Betting in next few years.

About 90 % or even more of participants of the European Sports Betting seminars are already somehow involved in that business. That’s why I was surprised there in New Jersey when I noticed that at least half of audience didn’t have so much knowledge about our business. That was strange but at the same time fascinating. The whole business might change due/thanks to those newcomers and I’m keen on seeing what will really happen!

I try to make short analyzes about different interest groups who are involved in Sports Betting in USA. The first group is of course customers. There has been huge unregulated/illegal Sports Betting market in USA. Customers are already used to make a bet and that would help a lot but at the same time it means that customers are more critical and enlightened. If US companies won’t succeed very well it would be possible that the unregulated market will stay quite big.

There are lack of information and knowledge about gambling and Sports Betting among politicians and regulators. They should make big decisions but how they could take care of that if they don’t understand enough about consequences? The whole gambling industry should deliver as much valid information as possible, but we should understand that politicians won’t so much for our issues.

All top sports leagues are interested in Sports Betting. Their attitudes vary quite a lot but all of them are now thinking about their role in that new business in USA. The biggest ones NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL have already extremely big business by themselves, but they would like to control and get some more revenue also from gambling side. I don’t believe that any leagues would start their own Sports Betting business.

Las Vegas has been the only place in USA where Sports Betting has had legal role already many years. There are lots of gambling companies operating Sports Betting. Those companies might have good position if they could utilize scalability but I’m not sure if they can do that. The most popular sports in USA are different ones compared to Europe. Vegas bookmakers have razor-sharp analyzes about American football, baseball and basketball and it will be very difficult to beat them in those areas.

Some big European Sports Betting companies like William Hill have already established their operations to USA. Those companies are used to offer same products all over the world and scalability is one key word for their success. They have of course chance to manage in US market too, but it would be more difficult than they have expected it to be because they have to make it in slightly different way in all States. I have heard that they haven’t got so good revenues for example in New Jersey as they have expected.

How about US lotteries? They are used to outsourced they business operations to technology suppliers and probably they will do the same if they will decide to move to Sports Betting business. If they would like to manage in the heavy competition, they should control their customer database and operate at least in some areas in different way than the other operators are doing. I gave them two potential business ideas: they could offer “the most responsible” Sports Betting in US or/and they could offer “more lottery style” pool-based sports games too.

Big technology companies are used to operate some gambling products on the behalf of license holders and of course they would like to do the same also in Sports Betting. I won’t be surprised if some of those tech companies would like to own operating license by themselves too.

The big new player in gambling business might be media companies. The message from BOSA seminar was clear – all big US media companies are considering the business possibilities in Sports Betting market. The main scope is to make Sports Betting more entertaining than it has used to be. Media companies’ core customer group is sports fans not heavy punters. I have had that same idea already 15 years… Those big companies like ESPN or NBC have lots of money and if they decide to be big player in Sports Betting business I wouldn’t be surprised if we talk about 9 or even 10 digits investments! I guess that they won’t try to get operating licenses for themselves but some important roles they will have for sure.

There are also lots of investors who are looking for new business opportunities from gambling business. I’m not expert on that area but I have understood that there would be some billions of dollars available investments. Normally private investors are just looking for profits and that would make Sports Betting business even heavier than it’s used to be…

There are many critical things still open in US Sports Betting business. What would happen if interstate gambling would be allowed? It’s obvious that in that case different companies would manage. What kind of limitation there will be – for example now mobile gaming in allowed just in five US States? What will happen if Silicon Valley will concentrate on the gambling technology development? That might chance the whole industry and who will manage then in our business. I’m extremely keen on seeing what will happen and hopefully I could play some role there!

HOW WELL DENMARK HAS SUCCEEDED IN GAMBLING POLICY?

I’m sorry that I made stupid mistake by accident in my previous blog! I wrote that regulated companies had ¾ of gambling marketing in Sweden. That’s not true at all. I was supposed to write that offshore companies had ¾ of that marketing! According to statistics offshore companies had 79 % of gambling marketing and that describes very well that there hasn’t been monopoly in Sweden in practical level. I also forgot to write about the reasons why the former monopoly companies ATG and Svenska Spel have managed so well. I believe that they have done good work but of course their existing brand and customer base have helped a lot. I’m keen on seeing what kind of changes there will happen later this year.

This time I’ll concentrate on Denmark. They started with new kind of gambling legislation from the beginning of 2012, so they have now 7 years’ experience about that. There is still monopoly in lottery business but nowadays the most of gambling business is based on license system. I don’t know what official goals the Danish State set for the new system, but I could guess what they were. Probably there were at least three goals? 1. To get as much gambling as possible to regulated side instead of being illegal one. 2. Maintain or even increase the gambling revenues to the Danish State. 3. Reduce or at least minimize the number of gambling problems. My analysis might be stupid one if those weren’t the goals for that big chance they made there but I’ll take that risk…

The size of offshore gambling business in Denmark increased very much before they decided to change their legislation. The regulator, Spillemyndigheten, didn’t have tools to control actions made by offshore companies and that caused problems to monopoly operator Danske Spil which started to lobby for license system. The basic idea was to get same rules and conditions to all gambling operators in Denmark and to get all companies under control of regulator. There is still illegal gambling market in Denmark but it’s relatively small compared to situation in 2011 (before the change). By the way Spillemyndigheten calls all gambling without the Danish license illegal gambling. So, I would say that Denmark has reached the first goal.

The sale of gambling products has increased over 50 % after the change in 2012. There are big differences between different gambling verticals. Some games, mainly monopoly area, have went slightly down and some areas, online casino and sports betting, have increased a lot. So, the change has been from lower payout games to high payout games. That’s why sale number don’t give the best picture if we think about the profit to the state. The total revenue to the Danish State has been surprisingly stable all the time. State gets revenue from two different sources. There is 20 % gambling tax from GGR and they also get the profit from Danske Lotteri Spil (monopoly business). We could speculate what would happen in Denmark without the big change in gambling legislation? I believe that the revenue to the Danish State would drop and that’s why in big picture Denmark has managed to reach the second goal quite well.

Sports Betting business has changed much more. There are about twenty companies operating Sports Betting in Denmark. That number has been about at the same level from 2012, just slight decrease. During that time sale of sports betting has increased by 250 % and even GGR has raised by 215 % (2018 versus 2012). There have been also big changes in payout percent and distribution channels. Seven years ago the actual payout was about 85 % and last year it was almost 90 %. Theoretical payout is of course much higher, but customers are still using longer combinations and that’s why the actual payout is lower. Sports Betting has moved to internet and mobile channels. Last year about 1/3 of sports betting (GGR) came from land-based channel and almost 50 % from mobile channel and the rest from internet. Actually here in Finland the share of retail channel is even lower than they have there in Denmark. The biggest difference is that Live betting is quite popular in Danske Spil’s retail network.

There seems to be lack of information in the third goal area. For some reason they didn’t make problem gambling survey before they changed the legislation in 2012. The previous data is from 2005 and I think that it doesn’t give the best picture of results. Because I don’t have anything else from that area I should use those old numbers… They made large problem gambling research in 2016 which showed that there has been slight increase in the number of gambling problems compared to 2005. They have dealt problem gamblers to two different groups. There are less than 0,5 % of adults who have serious problems and they call those customers as gambling addicted or problem gamblers. The size of that group has increased a little bit. The other much bigger group is called risk players who are not “sick” yet but might have big risk to get sick. Total number of those two separate group is at the level of 3 % of adults and there has been also slight increase in that amount too. So, I would say that Denmark hasn’t managed very well in that third goal but the result has been surprisingly good if I compare that to the increase of sale and GGR.

As far as I know there are some changes planned in the Danish gambling market. They have already moved some former monopoly game areas, for example horse betting and bingo, to license part. Now there is going on quite heavy discussion about marketing limitations which seems to be the trend in many other countries too. I believe that there would be quite soon more limitations to the marketing of gambling products. One rumor is that it won’t be allowed to have sports betting marketing related to live sports events. There has been also discussions about the ownership of Danske Licens Spil which is still owned mainly by the Danish State but which is competing against other license holders.

I’m keen on seeing which system, the Danish or the Swedish, will finally get better results from all those three goal areas.

LOTTERIES IN SPORTS BETTING BUSINESS

I participated in Betting on Football (BOF) event in London earlier this week. I was there as an expert in two different panel discussions. The first one was about Sports Betting market stagnation and the other one was about lotteries role in Sports Betting business. I also chaired the European Lotteries Sports Betting working group meeting before that BOF event. So I have got lots of stimulation from Sports Betting business lately and I try to think about what that information might mean for lotteries.

The first question is what companies are lotteries? I’m not trying to write any official definition because I’m not able to do it anymore. Lottery used to be a company which offered Lotto games normally based on monopoly situation. The most of lotteries are used to have also some other games too. Nowadays it is more common that lotteries still have monopoly in Lotto games are but not so often in other gambling areas anymore. Some former lotteries have wide product portfolios and they are offering all kind of games. For example, my company Veikkaus has all possible gambling products like lottery, Sports Betting, Horse Betting, bingo, casino games, slot machines etc… Is Veikkaus lottery anymore? As in our panel discussion in London also here in this blog I mean by lotteries still the companies which are offering monopoly-based Lotto games and it doesn’t matter if they are offering other games either in monopoly or in license markets.

One of the questions in BOF panel was could lotteries offer Sports Betting? It was strange question to me because we have had sports games since 1940’s and introduced fixed odds Sports Betting already 25 years ago. I see sports games as natural part of our product portfolio. There are more than 70 lotteries as members in European Lottery Association and about 2/3 of them have sports games in their product portfolio. So, lottery could and should operate in Sports Betting business, but can they do that in same way than Sports Betting companies like William Hill, Ladbrokes, Unibet & co are doing? They should do that but in some cases legislation would set restrictions. If lottery has monopoly also in Sports Betting it can’t use exactly the same tools than “normal business companies”. The reason why states have gambling monopolies is to restrict and control that business. Normal it means limitation to the business which in open market cases don’t exist.

The French gambling business consultant Christian Kalb has made survey among European lotteries to analyze how those companies are offering their Sports Betting products. He found out that there seem to be three or actually four different kind of strategies in that area. There is small group of lotteries who have positioned themselves to real competition in that area and are running Sports Betting like business as usual. The second group is offering quite many sports games but with a little bit worse rules (payout etc.) than private companies. Surprisingly big third group has Sports Betting or Football Pools but are offering it mainly like lottery games. Fourth group is that 1/3 of companies who haven’t been willing or allowed to have Sports Betting at all. Companies from those different groups are totally different ones from customer point of view and I try to analyze the first and second group to find out the question what kind of possibilities lotteries might have in Sports Betting.

Some lotteries are among the biggest Sports Betting companies in the world. Someone might be surprised that Hong Kong Jockey Club is the member of World Lottery Association and it could be called as a lottery? There are two real big European lotteries in Sports Betting business too. Those companies are OPAP from Greece and FDJ from France. FDJ is operating in heavy competition in French digital market and manages very well. The other kind of example of competitive lottery in Sports Betting is from Denmark where the state changed the legal system from the beginning of 2012. Lottery Danske Spil was split to two separate companies Danske Lotteri Spil and Danske License Spil where both are still part of Danske Spil company. Danske License Spil is in heavy competition and have exact the same tools and rules than other Sports Betting companies have. The lottery monopoly Svenska Spel from Sweden has now faced the same kind of change than Danske Spil had 7 years earlier. I’m keen on seeing the first results from there and analyzing them after few weeks. I was surprised that Christian Kalb put also Veikkaus to that first group. I agree that we are trying to operate Sports Betting as business as usual but have many limitations compared to those private companies. Anyhow for those business-oriented lotteries Sports Betting is normal business and natural part of everything else and they seem to manage very well also in competition if they would have possibility and will to have same condition than the other ones.

Example of companies from the second group are German lotteries. They have had fixed odds Sports Betting already many years, but they don’t have competitive rules there at all. They had monopoly in Sports Betting in principle but in practice they have faced competition from the beginning. Those German lotteries have had right to cooperate with each other and they have managed to utilize their huge lottery customer potential a little bit also in Sports Betting, but they have lost the competition quite badly anyhow. Now there is new legal environment in Germany, but lotteries haven’t changed their Sports Betting offering. I’m now sure if the reason has been legal restriction or is the decision made by lotteries themselves? I think that lotteries should either offer real product or stay away that business totally. I understand some limitations like lower risk limits and a little bit lower payout percent but those shouldn’t be too far away from the market level. If lotteries are not willing to compete in fixed odds Sports Betting they could offer more “lottery style” sports games like Football Pools and pool-based sports betting products – for example Moniveto (correct scores in 3-4 football matches) here in Finland. It’s always better from customer point of view to get all products from one shop and that’s why all lotteries should have sports games in their portfolio.

Sports punters association

We’ll have historical moment on Friday here in Finland. Our active Sports Betting customers will have meeting where they are probably going to establish for the first time official association for themselves. I don’t know if that kind of association exist somewhere else? According to Google I could say that at least it’s not common at all. Maybe that Finnish association will be the first one in the world? It’s really strange if that’s the case because I advised our punters to do that already 25 years ago.

I think that it’s great that those active customers will club together! I would like to join in that association as an active punter but of course I can’t do that due to my job. I have no idea what that association will try to reach and how they are going to act. I’ll just try to guess what we might have ahead and write my thoughts about that.

There are Poker players associations in many countries, also here in Finland. Some of those poker players are also active Sports Betting customers and there might be some common members in that new association and in Poker players association. They should understand that the role of those two clubs can’t be exactly the same. Poker players are slightly like any other sportsmen. Some of them are members of teams and are getting part of their money there. So, Poker player association is more similar with Tennis or Golf players associations than Sports punters association will be. There are not only professional poker players in their association and that’s why it’s also partly some kind of customer’s association. As you know there are lots of different associations and organizations which take care of the rights of customers and try to work for better conditions of customers. I think that this should be the main purpose of that new Sports punters association too.

It’s natural that customers are willing to take care of their rights and try to get even better deals. It’s quite strange that this hasn’t been the case in gambling business at all. As I have mentioned many times in my previous blogs gambling business hasn’t been and shouldn’t be as any other businesses. Our business could cause big problems and that’s why almost all states have decided to control and limit gambling operations. Maybe that’s the main reason why customers haven’t actively required better conditions/rules for gambling. Of course, there has been often discussion about the needed of higher payout percent and some other issues too but in big picture the discussion hasn’t been so active. Due (or thanks) to digitalization gambling business has became more like common business and there are nowadays more opportunities for customers. In old days, not so many years ago, there were one or just few gambling companies and customers could just decide if there were willing to play or not. Nowadays there are hundreds or even thousands gambling companies offering their products and customers have much more options available. It’s sure that the role and power of customer has changed a lot. I know that there are still big differences between countries in that area depending on the local gambling legislation.

What Sports (& horse) punters association could do and how gambling companies should take that? It’s the fact that you won’t have any business without customers! Companies should serve their customers as well as possible. They should also listen to customers and have dialog with them. I believe that the best services will appear when you have developed them with your customers. Based on that it should be logical to have dialog with that new association too. It would make many things even easier from company’s point of view. But, would that kind of Sports punters association present the opinion of all Sports Betting customers? Very probably it won’t. They will talk by the voice of the most active and important Sports Betting customers and companies should understand that. I hope that Sports punters association will also understand that the goal should be dialog not fight with gambling industry. If both sides would have same view about that we might get excellent solutions. If it will be “we against you” no one will get good results.

If I think about the situation now here in Finland I would say that we have good base for dialog between company and customers. We have here just one company which take care of all gambling business. Of course there are many foreign companies offering their digital gambling products to the Finnish customers too, but those companies are physically outside the Finnish borders – except PAF. So, it should be easy to organize discussions between punters association and gambling company. But due to that monopoly based legal system there are many areas which the company can’t decided at all which means that customers should have possibility to talk with regulator and other authorities too and I’m not sure how that would happen.

As a summary I would say that we are living interesting times in gambling business and especially in Sports Betting business. I believe that based on the example of Finland you will get that kind of Sports punters clubs to other countries too and it will be good for our business in long term!

I’D LIKE TO BE A COCK BUT I’M AFRAID THAT I’M A CHICKEN

This time I write as a punter. I have played Horse and Sports Betting already more than 40 years. When I started it in 1970’s there was no discussion about responsible gaming issued so I was allowed to make my own bets with few marks (the Finnish currency those days). At the age of 16 – 17 I realized that I was much better Horse punter than an average customer and could make some money from betting. Finally there was period when I just made bets and lived with that. So, I have been serious, almost professional, punter but that was many years ago before I joined in Horse Betting company. I have understood already many years ago than I’m not able to spend enough time to analyze horses and other sports to make big money in Sports Betting. Despite of that I’m still spending lots of time, too much according to my wife, following sports and thinking about Sports Betting.

I was following some football matches yesterday evening and one of those matches was Ligue 1 game Reims – Amiens. Actually I’m not expert of the French football at all but based on my knowledge I noticed that home team Reims was better team and they were unlucky in the first period. The match was 0-2 after the first period and I just thought that there was quite high possibility that it would change during the second half. Based on my analyze and “feeling” I made bet on behalf of draw with odds 8,50 which I thought to be too high odds. I admit that it happens too seldom that I could beat the market and normally market is right and I’m wrong.

Anyhow what happened after that is the reason for this blog. The match went exactly in the way how I was expecting about that. Reims scored 1-2 in 70 mins and finally again in 84 mins. So match was 2-2 and there was about 8-9 minutes time to play. I was getting my money back with odds 8,50 – quite good win for me. I was happy but then for some reason I became a little bit worried and got “an idea” that Reims has so good spirit that they could score one more goal and then I could say goodbye to my potential winnings. As you know there is nice feature in Sports Betting called “cash out”. I think that it’s one of the best innovations in Sports Betting but I’m not normally using it because I think that I should trust on my analyzes and use cash out only in cases where I think that my live analyze is better than the market has – in practice that’s not a case almost ever. But yesterday I was too nervous and thought too much about short term money and made cash out. I won good money anyhow but of course match ended 2-2 and by waiting 7-8 more minutes I would get much more…

The gambler’s way of thinking is strange! I probably made good bet and won not only expected value but also real money, but I wasn’t so happy than I should be. Why? I think that I made stupid move when I used cash out and didn’t trust on my knowledge. I would like to be “cool guy” who knows what he is doing in Horse and Sports Betting and is ready to take risks when they are based on good analytics and will bring results in long term. Yesterday I wasn’t that kind of “cool guy” – a cock and that caused me almost sleepless night. My cash out wasn’t based on any analyze, it was made due to wrong reasons. I’m afraid that I’m rather chicken than cock and that disturbs me a lot!

Sports Betting gives at its best excellent excitement to customers. I have already earlier tried to describe how different customer groups there are in that business. I’m mentally used to be among those “sharks” but in practice I’m already far away from that group. I should admit that I’m not so talent anymore or if I think that in a little bit more positive way, I don’t have enough time to make analyzes. So, I could be better one IF I would have time… That IF causes always too many problems. You could explain many things with that and at the same time refuse to admit the realistic situation. When you are doing that you will probably make more mistakes and finally you will be totally out of business. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t enjoy in Sports Betting, of course you can. You should know how capable you are and balance your stakes to that level not to the “wannabe-level” or in my case to the level where I used to be 20 – 30 years ago.

I would like to be young talent cock and I’m afraid of being a chicken. Instead of that I now trying to think about new way – maybe I’m old cock who was in old way really capable and now I have became older and not so capable anymore. At least I know what it is needed to be a cock!

Do it in different way

We are used to different kinds of things and habits and don’t necessarily see that there are other ways to think about same issues. That’s the case also when we are talking about Sports Betting. If you ask the definition of Sports Betting from professionals, you might get surprisingly many different answers. I’m used to visit in many gambling related seminars and events and keen on talking with my foreign colleagues. There are many reasons for that, but one is to learn something new and new ways of thinking. I know that I have strong opinions about things where I believe that I know a lot. That feature could cause big problems because I’ll do everything in a way which I’m used to. Luckily, I know that I have that kind of “problem” and I try to fight against it. When I have recognized that from myself I have noticed the same problem from many other experts too. I claim that most people have the same problem.

If you listen to the British experts in Sports Betting seminars you will soon notice that they are talking only about fixed odds betting – nowadays both pre-game and live. Asian experts will probably speak about different kinds of bet types than their European or American colleagues. Nordic Sports Betting professionals will probably have wider definition of Sports Games. They will add to fixed odds betting also parimutuel bets and Football Pools, but less different fixed odds bet types. If you think always in same way I won’t be able to innovate anything new and in long term you will lose the competition against other Sports Betting companies.

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs the competition in gambling business has became tougher and tougher. Companies should have new content all the time or at least new ways to offer & sell those products. It’s unfortunately easy to copy what the other ones have done but you won’t win the game by doing just that and that’s good! But is it worth of spending lots of money and resources for innovation and development when other companies could copy that and offer the same quite soon? Yes and no! If you don’t even try you will be at most average operator without any specialties. If you put too much effort on that it would cause you problems with cost efficiency. I believe that there are still lots of “empty base” in Sports Betting business. It seems to me that most companies are trying to offer exactly the same products and services with same conditions. The result is that Sports Betting business is nowadays more and more just “sale competition” where the company which have the best sale and marketing capability will win. I’m sure that there is better way to win that battle!

You should be brave enough to try new kind of products and services although all of them won’t work very well in your market. Don’t take stupid risk but you shouldn’t be afraid of failures! If you just try to minimize risks you will again be just an average “grey” company. What gambling companies should do? Be innovative and use also external resources in that area. Make bench marking from your own business area in other countries and continents and from some other businesses. Identify your current strengths and try to utilize them also in new businesses. Find out good partners – everything shouldn’t be done just by yourself. There are many Sports Betting products where cooperation between companies could help you to offer better products. When it’s almost impossible to prevent “copy paste” in gambling products, you should try to innovate something new which you could get patent or at least lighter protection.

What that could be in real life? Let’s take Germany as a potential example. There seems to be heavy competition in Sport Betting business in Germany although legislation is not totally clear. In principle State Lotteries (17) should have strong position there but they haven’t been able to develop their Sports Betting offering due to many reasons. I’m not sure how big market share they now have in German Sports Betting business, but I guess it to be about 10 %? If those lotteries could now introduce something new in Sports Betting business what they should and could do? They could buy services from Sports Betting odds suppliers like Betradar or Kambi but with that offering they could raise to an average level and it would be difficult to get at least active Sports Betting customers back. State Lotteries have had and still have strong position in lottery business. How they could use that strength also in Sports Betting business? They have lots of customers who are used to play lucky games with big jackpots. Would it be possible to introduce lottery type of Sports Betting products? Or would it be possible to introduce new Sports Games which would have some lottery features like for example jackpots? One practical solution for them would be introduce pool based (parimutuel) Sports Betting – something like we have here in the Nordics. The easiest way to do it might be cooperation with already existing pools. With an average fixed odds Sports Betting and special parimutuel games where they would have possibility for big jackpots it would be still possible to get quite big market share from the German Sports Betting markets.

To be honest I’m not sure if for example parimutuel Sports Betting would be huge success in all countries because customers have their own habits too. But if you won’t try you will never win!

I’m fan of eSports

There have been lots of news and stories about eSports in past few years. There seem to be lots of hype around eSports but not only hype but also serious new business opportunities. I have tried to be active in that area and have visited in many seminars and some events to learn and understand more about that “rising star”. It was great to notice last week in ICE event in London how big part of expo and seminar was about eSports.

I think that it’s fun story how eSports became to my life. I was going to participate in one gambling seminar about 5 years ago. I studied the agenda of that event and noticed that there was one session about eSports. That was totally new item to me and for some reason I decided to find out information about that from internet. I read about Counter Strike, Dota 2 and League of Legends. I also was interested in understanding how big that sport was in Finland and found out the ranking list of Finnish players. There was one very familiar name on that list – the same name than my son has. I told that to my son and mentioned that I didn’t know that there is another person in Finland who has the same name (my family name is not common) than he has. The even stranger thing was exact the same nickname. My son looked at me and said “You can’t be serious! It’s me!” It’s obvious that I’m not so good dad when I didn’t know that my son was among the best players in Finland. I didn’t even know that he was playing at all because he hasn’t been active PlayStation-player as a kid.

After that incident I have learnt a lot about eSports. I have got lots of information from stories, events but also from my son. He is not playing eSports actively anymore, but his good friends Jesse and Lasse are doing that at world-class level. Thanks to good sources I have understood how tough sport it’s at the top level. Those players are real professionals who are practicing hours and hours every day. It’s not at all just geeks with energy drinks!

Is eSports sport or not? That has been the theme of public discussion here in Finland. To me it’s sport for sure but I think that it’s totally irrelevant question. I believe that active eSports players don’t care about that at all. That discussion started in big newspapers more than one year ago when the organizer of the Finnish Sport Gala published the candidates for the best athlete in Finland. One of those candidates was MATUMBAMAN who won with his team The International tournament in Dota 2 (World Championship). Almost at the same time the Finnish Olympic Committee took eSports under their umbrella. Last year the same kind of discussion started again when JERAX and TOPSON won the same The International tournament and got invitation to the President Palace and SERRAL won the World Championship in Star Craft II game. It’s obvious that we have lots of top level eSports players here in Finland!

What is the relationship between eSports and Sports Betting? Some years ago, gambling companies were thinking about to introduce some gambling features inside eSports games, but it didn’t finally happen because that kind of action would change those games and that should be purpose. Instead of that companies decided to offer eSports in Sports Betting as any other sports. It has worked well at least here in Finland. It depends a little bit how you analyze the popularity of different sports in Sports Betting, but I could say that eSports in nowadays among the 4 – 6 most popular sports in Veikkaus offering. It’s at the same level or even higher than for example basketball. I believe that there would be lots of new ideas and options left. We tested one new thing, probably as the first company in the world, this week. We introduced eSports “Football Pools”-game. You know the game where you should select “home win”, “draw” or “away win” from 12 – 14 matches. This time those matches were eSports matches.

What gambling companies could reach by offering eSports and what are the biggest risks? Customers who are making bets in eSports are younger (not too young!) than average Sports Betting customers. They are not using a lot of money but are quite active to do it from weekly basis. That new potential target group is also reason why some gambling companies are nowadays sponsoring eSports events – it will give good reputation among younger customers. I visited in Counter Strike Major tournament in London and were surprised about the structure of audience. There were lots of young people but not so young than I expected them to be. There were quite few who were under 18 years old. I was probably the oldest one at the Wembley Arena but that’s another story… Of course, there is also few quite big risks due to those quite young players. The first on is the risk of match fixing. eSports players don’t understand those risks because they are not aware about that. That’s why gambling companies and eSports organizations should concentrate on education. The other risk is more related to Sports Betting. Companies shouldn’t make any marketing campaigns in the events where are underage audience than that’s very difficult to control.

I believe that the popularity of eSports will increase and there is also huge potential from Sports Betting business point of view too. But we should seriously take care of the integrity of eSports at the same time!