Betting on Wimbledon: More than just strawberries and cream

The summer of sporting fun has begun in earnest. Not only is the 2016 UEFA European Football Championship now well underway, but the Rio Olympic Games are now beginning to creep up on the horizon, and what a festival of fun that promises to be if our athletes can replicate the outstanding performances of London 2012. That being said, nothing quite heralds the beginning of the quintessential British summer like the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships.

The oldest, and widely considered most prestigious, event on the tennis sporting calendar, Wimbledon has historically been synonymous with rain delays, strawberries and cream, Henman Hill (later rebranded as Murray Mound), and the infamous snaking queues of patrons, eager to see their heroes strut their stuff on the famous grass courts. However, change is afoot and now there is another addition to the list of things synonymous with Wimbledon: online gambling.

The mobile consumer

The increasing take up and use of mobile devices is transforming most industries and the gaming and betting industries are no different. In fact, they are maximising on the opportunities presented by mobile to not only engage with existing players, but also to reach new customers. Online gambling is on course to become the most popular form of gambling in the UK and mobile is set to claim a sizable chunk of this expansion. Being constantly connected and able to instantly place bets, check odds and claim winnings without ever setting foot in a betting shop is transforming the industry unequivocally -- a recent report by Smart Live Gaming not only suggests that mobile gambling will account for over 40 per cent of the online gambling market by 2018, but states that the number of players gambling online will increase by approximately 100 million by 2018.

Unbeknownst to many though, fuelled by a boom in online and in-play betting, the tennis gambling market has experienced exponential growth of late and is now second only to football in terms of the amount of business generated for British bookmakers. You only have to look at how well William Hill did on the opening day of this year’s Australian Open, in which it experienced an 80 per cent surge in betting turnover with an incredible 20,000 more bets placed on the first day of the competition than in 2015. William Hill also reported a sizable increase in in-play bets which were up 297 per cent on the previous year. In fact, the rise of online gambling and the recent proliferation of in-play betting options has seen turnover from tennis betting rise to billions of pounds every year.

I remember, in the not too distant past, that some industry observers believed that the move to mobile in this industry had been too slow. It was also felt that many operators had focused on adapting existing propositions to the mobile environment rather than designing products specifically for this channel.

Although this has improved somewhat, some consumers still find many of the apps and mobile interfaces difficult to use, primarily because some developers fail to take into consideration the technical constraints mobile devices have in comparison to desktop and laptop computers. As a consequence, there are still plenty of opportunities for operators to disrupt the market by developing more innovative approaches.

The future of online gambling

As an industry insider I can speak with some certainty that mobile will continue to be the biggest growth area in remote betting and gaming. Betting and gaming have become culturally more accepted leisure activities and the mobile channel is providing the industry with opportunities to widen its customer base by allowing customers, who haven’t traditionally gone to a betting shop or bingo hall, to play in a way that fits their lifestyle.

However, this new generation of betting and gaming consumers, whilst presenting potentially lucrative sources of income for recognised industry players, will also demand a seamless, satisfying experience. This may present a challenge for many established operators, as their mobile propositions are still not as user friendly as they could be.

This does however offer opportunities for a few new innovative market entrants and I believe we could see some big media brands, that understand mobile consumers and who have developed effective propositions in other areas, entering the market and being well placed to capture market share. By partnering with leading product providers, such brands have the opportunity to enter the industry solely through the mobile channel and disrupt the market with new approaches to technology.

As a developer of apps, my belief is that consumers will expect operators to offer them new and exciting products to keep them engaged, so offering the same as existing vendors is not going to win a new entrant market share. True product differentiation can be achieved by identifying new game formats or features that are specifically developed for mobile and that take into account the way in which consumers use and interact with their mobile devices. For example, this could include developing apps that use location specific data in tailoring content to players.

Betting on Wimbledon

No doubt towards the back end of the tournament, many of you will be stood in front of your television screens screaming out the annual war cry of 'come on Andy' while simultaneously reviewing your betting app to see just how much you are in line to win.

This year, there will be increased interactivity between patron and betting app. Statistics now show that its once the game actually starts that the turnover really starts to ramp up due to in-play betting opportunities. No longer is it just a matter of betting on the final outcome of the match, punters can now bet on who will win the next set, or next game or even next point.

It’s not only the betting patron that has increased opportunities this year, there are also massive opportunities for organisations keen to gate-crash this particularly lucrative party by developing customer friendly and intuitive betting apps.

So, even if ‘game, set and match’ is called on your overall pick for this year’s tournament, there are still plenty more opportunities for you to be a winner!

Paul Swaddle, CEO at Pocket App