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Keeping it simple
Published:  06 April, 2011

A new sports-betting system encourages customers to make repeated small wagers on what happens next in a game, reports Jon Bruford

Most sports betting depends on both the punter and the bookmaker having, and understanding, information about the event that’s being bet on – for example, the team line-ups for a football match. Who wins the bet is partly a function of who understands that information most fully and makes the more accurate prediction based on it, as well as on luck, of course.

But imagine a betting shop where this kind of information is irrelevant, and all that punters need to know is the rules of the game. BuzzSports has just such a product, which the company says will bring younger players into the bookmaker’s and keep them there.

Zone Play is a sports-betting product where customers place wagers on what happens next in a live televised game. It’s interesting, exciting, and, BuzzSports marketing director Ian Williams told us, drives greater returns for the betting shop. Punters who place small bets will do so more frequently, and stick around for longer – the outlet becomes a destination.

“We are aiming it at people betting between 25p and a pound, though it can cater for a bigger punter. An average game of football features around 60 and 80 settlements during the game; a player might not play on all of them, but with our system they might play 30 to 50 percent of them. For a traditional bookmaker offering in-play betting, these guys are almost lost to them, so this is a way of extracting further revenue during a game in a more entertaining fashion,” said Williams.

“This isn’t about who is going to win the game, this is a product that keeps someone entertained for 90 minutes regardless of the score or if it’s a terrible game. The worst 0-0 draw doesn’t matter because you’re always betting on what happens next during play. You take the winning and losing out of it and add a more immediate excitement for the player – I’ve backed a corner at 30-1, or a goal at 100-1. That buzz is what drives the whole product and keeps people entertained and glued to their seat, and betting multiple times, albeit with smaller stakes.”

How it works

The punter simply goes to the counter and buys an RFID (radio-frequency identification) card, which stores information on how much they’ve paid. The card is then inserted into the slot on top of the player terminal, a small battery-powered device with a 7-inch touchscreen, weighing just over a kilogram, battery-operated and employing wireless technology, so it can be placed anywhere in the outlet.

The screen is used to place in-play bets, and the stored value on the customer’s card is updated in real time, with stakes deducted when they lose and winnings added when they’re successful in a bet. The cards don’t hold any personal information about the individual player, but betting patterns can be studied and evaluated so the product can be tweaked in future.

Of course, the use of kiosk-type devices for sports betting is nothing new – there are already established systems such as the Touch2Win II terminal from Quanmax’s Funworld division, which offers up to 1750 live matches per month, and the Touch2Win-Club, aimed at pubs and bars and described as “the smallest betting office in the world”.

The key difference with Zone Play lies in the frequency and pattern of betting – and visits to the bookmaker – that it encourages. The returns that Zone Play brings are not huge per player, but they promise to be more frequent than in conventional sports betting.

“From a retail point of view, people don’t go into betting shops to watch football games. They just don’t, that’s a fact,” said Williams. “But the product we have increases the action. We have a deal with one of the big three bookmakers in the UK after their managing director saw the product. That bookmaker is taking our product on trial in 50 shops very soon – and that’s a company that recently took Sky out of their shops because of the costs. Now they’ve put it back in their shops, and they’re making Zone Play areas for in-play betting and to try and make their shops destinations for watching sport.

“It potentially drives footfall and increases dwell time – they want people hanging around in the shop. Most bookies are empty at 8pm, but they don’t have to be if there’s a game on, and there are likely to be bets on other events as a result.

“We’re not saying it will replace fixed odds betting terminals [FOBTs], but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting, and people will bet on it rather than on virtual dog racing where the player knows it’s computer-generated. There’s no doubting the authenticity of it, there’s no random-number generation involved, it can’t be fixed. The punter can trust it, and he knows football, so regardless of whether he knows the teams playing, he knows and understands the game.”

Indeed, BuzzSports says that its product can generate approximately the same return through in-play betting as the average home/draw/away coupon betting slip. It’s as flexible as the sport you’re watching, too: football is currently available and cricket is coming soon, as are Australian rules football, NFL, tennis, rugby league and more.

Younger customers

And it’s not just about revenue: BuzzSports also promises that Zone Play will bring the average age of a betting-shop punter down. Williams observes: “If you look at the demographic, the betting-shop customer is dying slowly. This will hopefully bring people back into the shops, to watch games. Bookmakers online can show football from all over the world, through legal feeds. If bookmakers start publishing these inside betting shops, you will drive people into the shops. The average age of the customer will fall for sure.”

To raise awareness of Zone Play and acquaint customers with how it works before they even put a pound on a card, there’s a free-play version online which runs alongside the pay-and-play version. For example, during a football tournament there are free-to-play opportunities where the top player actually receives their winnings in real money. In the online pay version, stakes per game zone go up to £100; the retail version is limited to £10 per zone.

The Website could become even more popular with a planned 3D version, enhanced social features and improved stats and data in the pipeline. But first, says Williams, must come 24-hour coverage: “The first step is to get 24-hour coverage for players worldwide, so at any point you can come to the game and there’s something on.”

Praesepe ponders sports

Praesepe, the operator of more than 170 adult gaming centres (AGCs) across the UK, is contemplating an entry into the world of sports betting as it extends its portfolio of low-stake, high-volume gaming businesses.

The group says it is “continuing to monitor suitable acquisitions. Any acquisitions are likely to be significantly earnings-enhancing but are likely to involve the issue of additional equity. Specific areas of interest are gaming machines, cash bingo and sports betting” as well as online gaming, it suggests.

The firm adds: “Sports betting fits well in terms of the demographic, the location, [and] the increasing emphasis on revenue from gaming machines and provides a clear opportunity to develop venues that provide both slots (the AGC element) and sports betting. Praesepe management also see considerable benefit from accelerating the embracing of new technology and the merging of offers (AGCs juxtaposed with licensed betting offices) and also a softening of the image of sports betting to encourage more female players.

“A recent survey conducted by Praesepe into a well-known betting-shop chain produced only two female customers in over 60 site visits. There can be no doubt that a fresh approach, with no dogma, will yield significant benefits in repositioning the licensed betting office as a legitimate part of the entertainment industry as opposed to its more traditional hard gambling image.”

Betting on the move

Mobile sports technology company Bet Tracker has signed a partnership deal with OpenBet to connect its mobile betting and tracking application to the OpenBet platform, which will enable OpenBet’s sportsbook customers to integrate Bet Tracker into their offering.

Bet Tracker allows sports betting customers to monitor and track the performance of their bets in-play, view published betting lines and live game stats, calculate advanced win-loss probabilities during the game, and view final scores in real time from any smartphone or tablet including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices. Bet Tracker is, the company says, the only mobile application to offer this level of statistical information as events play out.

“Bet Tracker gives players the opportunity not just to bet on their mobiles but gets them involved in the game in real time from their mobile device. Providing players up-to-date stats anywhere, anytime is a significant opportunity for exponential growth in the mobile betting sector. Players now have unlimited access to place and track bets and interact with sportsbooks provided by OpenBet,” said Steve Cook, European managing director for Bet Tracker.

He added: “With our imminent launch of a new viral marketing functionality, sports betting customers connected to Bet Tracker can set up a social betting league and invite their friends to join. Together, they can compare how their simulated bets are performing against the other members in their personal league. Bet Tracker will track and rank how each player is performing. This social media feature alone will maximise traffic by exposing new users to the sportsbook brand. At a minimum, a sportsbook will gain one additional customer per betting league that an existing customer creates.”

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