Last year saw the rapid expansion of sports betting across the US, but also a number of regulatory and advertising clampdowns in Europe.
As the new decade gets underway, industry experts share their thoughts on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
In part four we hear from recruitment specialists. Tomorrow we'll cover technology and innovation, as well as regulation.
Andrew Bulloss, partner and head of global gaming practice, Odgers Berndtson
Alastair Cleland, managing director, Pentasia
Ellen Monaghan, director of people operations, Gambling.com Group
What were the defining developments or events of 2019?
Andrew Bulloss: From a senior talent perspective there was a definite shift towards the US and Central Europe having the greatest hiring needs in 2019. The reason for the former is obvious (although that still doesn’t make it any easier for talented people to get a working visa); the latter was driven by the opening of newly regulated markets and by private equity firms buying gaming assets and adding sophisticated leaders to their newly acquired businesses.
Alastair Cleland: The skills shortage in igaming continues to cause pain for our industry, limiting both business growth and product innovation. As fast as new commercial opportunities are developing globally, demand for talent is increasing.
Ellen Monaghan: The growth of the US sports betting market was the defining development for the industry and the one that had the biggest impact on the growth of our business. We established our new US headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, recruited a new class of leaders to spearhead our US expansion and filled a variety of new roles.
How do you see these continuing to shape the igaming space in 2020?
AB: Interestingly, the demand for non-gaming talent in senior roles is greater than ever. Gaming suppliers and operators realise that in order to compete more effectively in saturated markets, great product, great customer experience and increased personalisation need to be at the forefront of their strategy. Talent from outside the sector brings fresh ideas and tends to prioritise customer protection. Increased pressure on our industry will continue – those businesses with a customer-first mentality will win out long-term and will be magnets for the best talent from inside and outside of sector.
AC: In 2020, talent attraction and retention will feature highly on ambitious companies’ core strategies. Candidates who once included on their ‘wish lists’ features such as remote working, generous bonuses and perks like travel allowances increasingly see these as expectations – the new normal. Ultimately, in a talent-light market, candidates’ expectations will increasingly need to be met, and this will likely include further increases in salary following the 8.5% industrywide rise in 2019.
EM: As more states pass legislation, regulation is put into place and operators and affiliates go live, the American market will certainly continue to dominate all aspects of the growth areas for the igaming space in 2020.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for the sector in 2020?
AB: The operators and suppliers that still sail close to the wind on regulation need to shape up. The industry should be able to say with a common voice that there is an unwavering commitment to protecting vulnerable customers but equally that these customers should be given the choice to use this form of entertainment as and when they want it.
AC: Overall, our sector must continue to prioritise recruitment strategy and invest in attracting world-class talent to the online gaming industry. With ever-increasing competition for skilled professionals, this challenge is likely to become significantly harder, and is one we all need to invest in overcoming. In the US, the booming sports betting market will require huge recruitment activity to fuel the ongoing growth. With limited potential for talent attraction outside the US, it will require a homegrown approach that includes cross-industry hiring and significant training and development of hires with no industry experience.
EM: While the American market is overflowing with potential, recruiting top talent in what is essentially a new market will be one challenge for 2020. While we’ve been impressed with the level of excitement we are finding in recruiting for the American market, we do not underestimate the demand for talent across a new growing industry.