In-running betting: Interview with Lee Richardson (CEO of Gaming Economics)

Lee Richardson, CEO of Gaming Economics, talks to BMR about the state of in-running betting in today's market in anticipation of a EiG workshop where he will present his forecasts for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as future trends and predictions for the sector with a focus on the USA and Africa.

When did in-running betting became popular in Europe ?

The first in-running betting (IRB) on football started in 2001 in Europe, with the then-new Betfair betting exchange offering in-running odds during a live TV-covered game. However, I would say that it wasn’t until the middle of the decade -- around 2005/2006 -- when it really began to get so-call ‘traction’. Sportingbet and Unibet (both listed operators at that time) began to publicly disclose the share of IRB with all sports bets, as a new growth-segment and for the benefit of analysts; this indicated that between 6% and 10% of all such bets in the middle of the last decade were in-running, and the trend has been strongly upward ever since.

What percentage of players are betting in-running compared to pre-match ?

This is always difficult to be precise about, because, of course, players can undertake both betting options, and many do. However, it’s very clear that both the volume and value of bets struck after the game has started has grown to anywhere between 60% and 80% of the total number of bets made on a particular game. My best estimate is that around 50% of all players who bet on football have made a bet in-running, and that share is likely to grow in the future, particularly as mobile devices get increasingly more usage from players than laptops or desk-top computers.

How important is in-running betting for online bookmakers in today's market ?

I would say it’s now vital for any sportsbook to offer a full range of in-running bets, particularly on football. It’s by far the most-promoted aspect of sportsbook offers on TV, particularly during the live sports themselves, and it’s clear there is a major battle for customer loyalty and betting frequency using this increasingly popular betting option. IRB also lends itself perfectly to betting apps on mobile devices; there has been massive investment in mobile betting development by the major sportsbooks over the past 5 years or so, and it is IRB which has largely driven the rapid uptake of that channel by players. It’s simply the ‘perfect product’ for mobile betting.

Should in-running betting be regulated as an atypical sports betting product ?

I participated in the first ‘workshop’ put on by the UKGC in early 2009, which sought to review the nature of this fast-growing sector and, in particular, horse racing, popular with ‘specialist IRB traders’. Broadly, the conclusions of the UKGC was to maintain ‘monitoring’ of this segment rather than regulate it in any special way, except to ensure that suitable ‘health warnings’ were clearly made to players who might be operating at a disadvantage to those  players using ‘faster-connections’, and who could thus potentially exploit that ‘time-advantage’ in live-betting terms. Almost 5 years on, I believe that remains a reasonable and sensible  position. However, other jurisdictions have clearly taken a different view. Since the summer of 2013, there is now a country-wide ban in Australia on the advertising of in-running odds during an event. I’ve not the seen the apparent ‘evidence’ the Australian authorities have cited concerning IRB being a cause of, or a  contributing factor toward, problem-gambling, but that was certainly part of their rationale from what I have researched. Clearly, much more robust and reliable research should be done before any other jurisdictions could reasonably take any new legislative action in my view.

Is there any sport other than football that is suitable for in-running betting ?

Any sport which is popular with players, and has a reasonable degree of ‘volatility’ inherent within it, can be a successful IRB ‘product’.  Alongside horse racing, which is popular with a small but loyal player-base in the UK and Ireland, tennis, basketball and golf all fit that category well, but they remain well behind the number-one IRB sport of football, which has around a 75% share of all IRB.

Lee Richardson, CEO of Gaming Economics, will be a speaker at the 12th European iGaming Congress & Expo, to be held in Barcelona from October 8 to October 10, 2013.

EiG 2013 Workshop - October 9: In-play sportsbetting: Addressing the challenges faced by the dominant sportsbetting channel.

The CEO of Gaming Economics will address challenges with margin dilution, trading and liability management, price harmonisation, market entry strategies and different cultural approaches to sports betting with a presentation covering detailed metrics from 2010 FIFA World Cup, EURO 2012 and predictions/forecasts for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as future trends and predictions for the sector with a focus on the USA and Africa.

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