Industry predictions for 2020 - including UK regulation, affiliates and online poker

RAIG chairman Clive Hawkswood and Rory Anderson of 12BET predict the big industry themes for the next 12 months

Clive Hawkswood, RAIG chairman

British gambling legislation

We have had references in the election manifestos of the main parties to some vague but major reforms of the gambling laws. We have had ongoing criticism in Parliament and the media of the so-called outdated laws. We have even had some in the industry calling for changes. Taken together these could easily lead to some kind of received wisdom that a new root and branch Gambling Bill is on the horizon. Well it isn’t. So my prediction for 2020 is that while the soul-searching will continue, there is almost zero chance of any legislation being brought forward. Let’s not forget that from inception of the consultation process to implementation the last Gambling Bill took eight years. Soundbites are easy, bringing forward detailed legislation that won’t get ripped to shreds in Parliament is a different matter. It also wouldn’t seek to extend its remit or that of the Gambling Commission to Northern Ireland.

British regulation

As calls for legislation continue to be frustrated, the passion and venom of campaigners will increasingly be targeted at regulators with further demands for them to take a tougher line. This applies not just to the Gambling Commission, but also to other regulators like the ASA and ICO. That pressure, coupled unfortunately with persistent industry failures, will embolden them to impose tighter controls and harsher punishments.

Affiliate relationships

Regulators in lots of jurisdictions, belatedly perhaps, are waking up to the fact that affiliates are a key part of the online gambling industry. Most don’t want to license affiliates directly, but it is anathema to regulators to not be able to exercise some kind of control over what is a central part of the gambling supply chain. It is already a subject that comes up at international regulator forums.  2020 could easily see a step change in terms of regulatory scrutiny and compliance. The requirements of operators will also become more stringent as they strive to demonstrate their own regulatory compliance. As with any change this can present opportunities as well as threats, but any affiliates who are not planning for this new world are in for especially challenging times.

Rory Anderson

Rory Anderson, 12BET

– It’s going to be a tough year for sports betting operators which are reliant on the UK market, especially for those outside of the big four/five. It’s a market where a £15m marketing budget doesn’t even make a dent anymore. There is also the potential for stake restrictions on slots, while the situation around racing rights seems to get more complicated by the day.  Matched betting, punters betting solely on overlays in the form of price boosts, and multi accounting are another major headache for marketing teams. Take all this into consideration, and I predict more operators will exit the UK market in 2020.

– Bigger brands will almost certainly move away from shouty, bonus-led, me-too advertising; a last click wins mentality that feels dated and an approach that, as is well documented, has damaged the industry’s reputation. Brands should start to find their purpose, beyond simply making as much money as they can, and a fresh, thoughtful, crafted, holistic approach to marketing, PR, CRM and customer support will likely occur. The industry will put the customer at the heart of what they do, developing a more empathetic approach with the customer, and a more collaborative approach with regulators and organisations like GambleAware too. This crucial gear change in the way operators view their relationship with the customer is essential. It’s adapt or die!

– Online poker will continue to decline rapidly due to the adverse effects of AI and HUDs. The same can be said for any real-money, so called “peer to peer”, offering. On the upside, as a consequence of this, live tournament poker is thriving. It will continue to do so in 2020 with tournaments like Triton Poker with their million-pound buy-ins adding the glamour and leading the way.

12BET | Affiliates | Clive Hawkswood | Rory Anderson | Strategy