Brandon Walker is head of business development at Amelco. Key to the company’s continued tier one global expansion over the past decade, he has been instrumental in developing the company’s operations across the Americas, Africa and Asia. Here he speaks with iGB on the importance of diversification post-Covid The Covid-19 outbreak has illustrated how sports bettors are open to different verticals, should operators offer them a range of relevant gaming experiences. Sports-focused operators have sought to broaden their portfolios in recent months due to the pandemic, with almost all sports fixtures postponed or cancelled from March until the resumption of German Bundesliga football in late May. Other European football competitions, such as the Premier League, returned in June, with sports such as golf, racing and rugby also now up and running. With almost no break between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 football seasons, it promises to be a boom-time for sportsbooks over the next year. However, concerns remain over a so-called ‘second wave’ of the Covid-19 virus in major markets around the world, and this could mean further disruption to sport and the betting industry which relies on major events. That’s why Brandon Walker, head of business development at Amelco, the sports betting platform provider, says that operators should maintain and build on the breadth of offering that many of them have expanded over the last few months. “Now it’s more important than ever to put an emphasis on diversification,” Walker said. “Moving forward, I expect sportsbooks – including tier one brands – to learn a lot from this and invest more and more in a range of products and try to build them up. “Many brands felt exposed by the pandemic and the postponement of sports, and steps must be taken to ensure they do not face the same problems again.” Eagerness to diversify With revenue streams collapsing for many operators from mid-March, Amelco saw an understandable eagerness among operators to diversify. Walker recalls conversations from early February in which some operators were starting to look at how they may be impacted by an interruption to sports fixtures. However, others only really began to take notice of the looming disaster when Italian Serie A fixtures were postponed at the end of February. Of course, cross-selling towards sports bettors was dependent on a range of factors, not least geographical trends. With their global reach, Amelco were in a strong position to assist partners in identifying popular verticals in particular regions that could prove profitable cross-selling opportunities. Walker said some of Amelco’s African partners have seen very positive results from lottery betting, while the traditionally strong virtual sports market in that region has also been perhaps an easy sell to punters there who did not have ‘real’ fixtures to bet on. In the US, where Amelco has an increasing presence, a massive spike in casino was noted as well as online poker, with players keen to compete against each other during the absence of sports. European punters were drawn to live dealer play, which, Walker said, was understandable in the circumstances. “Customers missing social interactions were perhaps attracted by the live dealer, personal element,” he explained. “The skill element maybe appealed to many – these punters who think about how they will bet on sports are not simply going to throw their money at a potential random win on a slot.” One vertical of particular interest was esports, which has been identified for some years now as a focus for growth in the long term. “Esports was a good cross-sell option for operators looking at their younger customers,” Walker said. “The Covid-19 pandemic maybe accelerated its development as people looked for live events to bet on. However, you do also still have people who would not consider it a sport or even understand what it is.” Educational support As well as choosing cross-sell opportunities that appealed in terms of geography and demographics, speed was of the essence. “Operators that came out of this best were those that diversified quickest,” Walker said. It was also important that operators educated their customer base on the new types of games they were being offered. “If you can provide support by email or text that’s one way to educate,” Walker added. “In esports, people can learn more through maybe a YouTube or Twitch clip. Some may start from a very low level of knowledge, for example with the game FIFA people would back a big team like Real Madrid not realising that the important thing is who is controlling them. “An operator should play their part in educating their customers just to make sure they are getting all they can out of the experience.” Long-term bearing With many sporting events now back, and the return of the NFL in September and competitions like Euro 2020 taking place next summer, operators may be eager to ditch their new verticals as quickly as they added them. However, Walker believes this would be a mistake. He added: “We must wait to see if the way people acted during the months between March and June will have any long-term bearing on their behaviour and whether it will impact the industry as a whole. “Sports bettors will naturally return to what they know and what they are familiar with, and operators will be delighted to see those revenues rise again. However, this crisis has shown the importance of a broad offering and operators can ensure consistent income by hedging their bets and continuing with different game options.” To learn more on the value of cross-sell, join Walker and Richard Hogg, CCO of Betgames.TV, in the upcoming iGB webinar, “Building a strong product portfolio following a global pandemic”. You can find out more details and register here.