Mark Robson is co-founder of Champion Sports and chief executive of B2C brand King Gaming. With over two decades of gaming experience, Robson has seen many elements of the industry, including his regulatory experience from working as head of e-gaming at the Isle of Man Department of Economic Development.
The second quarter of 2020 will be studied by countless future generations of economics students who wish to understand how the global economy could crash pretty much overnight – and how the most forward-thinking businesses were able to withstand a once-in-a-lifetime headwind.
While operators across all sectors take stock of how lockdown and a predicted recession will impact their finances, the crash does also offer opportunities for businesses to ensure they are in a better place once the economic freeze has thawed.
That’s the view of Mark Robson, a gaming executive with more than two decades’ experience throughout the sector’s ecosystem. Robson, who is the chief executive of B2C brand King Gaming and co-founder of gaming & sports betting platform ‘Champion Sports’, believes this spell of inactivity gives operators and suppliers the chance to enhance their products and improve their relationships with customers.
Having also spent time looking at the sector from a regulatory point of view, while head of e-gaming at the Isle of Man Department of Economic Development, Robson believes this is a particularly opportune moment to engage further and more deeply with players.
“This is a chance for everyone to take stock and understand what they are doing,” Robson said. “Many operators are using this time to ensure they have their regulatory information in order and are carrying out KYC work. It’s good that they are doing that, but as an industry we should also look at not just making sure we know who our customers are, but also what it is that they want.”
Customers are looking for something different from brands and, more than ever, are not just searching for opportunities to win, Robson explained.
“People are crying out for interaction at the moment,” he added. “A good customer service intervention which makes a person feel valued might be the only type of conversation they have for hours. A poker chatroom is even more important than usual for players looking to chat and maybe compete.
“Customer service teams should also be feeding back to other departments, such as product development, to make sure everyone is working together and making the most of this opportunity to rethink and make changes.”
From a supplier point of view, Robson believes that many tech teams have been rubbing their hands at the opportunity to improve existing products and even fast-track schemes that had been earmarked for the future.
Isle of Man-headquartered Champion Sports has taken a step back, finalising betting platform integrations with clients, and is working on new enhanced features and functionality. The developer was created by the King Gaming team because they could not find a betting platform that suited their needs for good value, and its product was met with enthusiasm when demonstrated at ICE London 2020 earlier this year.
“Timescales have changed and we have been able to bring some planned developments forward from Q4 to Q2,” Robson said. “Sports betting has been a particular area where teams are able to enhance the product because the major events have all been cancelled.
“Once we know what sports market will look like in three months’ time we can then look more at launch.
“Champion Tech’s poker product is in the process of going live, but that can only proceed as quickly as the regulatory bodies allow. This is potentially a boomtime for poker – I expect to see growth during the lockdown period, especially in European countries – but we are not in a position to make the regulators accelerate.
“I would not want us to rush to market with poker. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so while poker is a good place to be at the moment, we simply need to be patient.”
The esports conundrum
While there are opportunities to be seized, it is important that all businesses within the sector act in a responsible and measured way. He warns that this is not the time for aggressive marketing, and that any increase in play, particularly in poker in countries such as Italy and France, needs to be accompanied by rigorous responsible gambling initiatives.
He also cautions those looking to make a quick buck from esports, an area he knows well from his time with the Isle of Man regulator.
“The way some gambling operators dive into esports can seem disingenuous” he said. “You have to be authentic and I would advise any brand looking to offer esports betting to bring in employees who know about it. Senior executives should know about esports and attend events so they can ‘get’ it.
“Gambling has to respect esports and its community. Esports has been built on a pipeline of dedicated enthusiasts moving up to the top, and that can actually be impinged by sponsorships and betting markets. So, it needs to be done in a way that does not have a negative impact.”