Can Online Sports Betting Heavyweight bet365 Take The US By Storm?

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Describing bet365 as a global powerhouse in the world of online sports gambling is no exaggeration. However, the US is, thus far, one of the last unconquered frontiers for this betting giant.

That could be about to change, though, when bet365 finally unleashes its online sportsbook in New Jersey via its partnership with Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The operator also has a 20-year “strategic alliance” with Empire Resorts to provide online and land-based sportsbooks for Resorts World Catskills in New York.

Although bet365 will launch in New Jersey a year after many other online sportsbooks, it would be foolhardy to assume this newcomer can’t wrestle market share from the incumbent brands.

After all, this is a highly successful company with nearly 20 years of experience operating a market-leading global brand. By throwing its hat into the ring in the Garden State, bet365 should automatically disrupt the status quo.

What exactly is bet365?

This UK-headquartered firm was launched nearly 20 years ago by Denise Coates. It was initially in a temporary structure in a parking lot in England’s Stoke-on-Trent.

Coates first cut her teeth in the bookmaking jungle by helping out at her father’s chain of betting parlors while still at school. But after graduating with a first-class degree in econometrics, she returned to work for the family business in the mid-’90s.

A few years later, she realized online was gambling’s pot of gold. Coates took out a £15 million ($18 million) loan secured against the shops and reportedly snapped up the domain bet365.com on eBay for $25,000.

Coates then set about expanding the family’s Provincial Racing bookmaking operation into cyberspace. It didn’t take too long for bet365 to rub shoulders with UK household names like William Hill and Ladbrokes.

Today, bet365 employs more than 4,000 people and claims to have amassed 45 million customers worldwide. That’s more than the populations of California and Oregon combined.

Under Coates’ stewardship as the CEO, the company is in rude financial health. Its most recent results revealed profits soared by one-third to £682 million ($830 million) on revenue of £2.7 billion ($3.2 billion).

Purely to illustrate the scale of the business, bet365’s customers bet a remarkable £52.6 billion ($63.9 billion) during its most recent fiscal year.

The main ingredients to bet365’s success

A key pillar to bet365’s extraordinary growth has been its proprietary in-house technology. The operator isn’t reliant upon third-party suppliers and can control its product roadmap.

“Crucially, bet365 developed its own betting software in-house rather than purchasing it from a supplier,” said Lorien Pilling, director at Global Betting & Gaming Consultants.

“The company’s technology has been a consistent advantage to this day.”

With its palette of green, yellow and battleship gray, bet365’s desktop and mobile gaming products wouldn’t win any awards in the looks department. Yet, it is widely considered one of the best sportsbooks due to its user interface, features and functionality.

Its pages load quickly while navigating menus and adding selections to the bet slip is an intuitive process. Overall, the complete user experience, including placing a bet, is slick and fast.

“Everything was focused on speed,” said Richard Smith, an online gaming consultant who has previously worked for bet365 in technology and operations roles. “This means you get more bets on and fewer errors in terms of price movements in-play.”

If ever a tech problem crops up that affects customers, Smith said, it is always “all hands to the pump” to fix it.

“Within development teams, if you came across an issue at 5 p.m. on a Thursday, people would stay to fix it,” Smith said.

“You wouldn’t even ask if this could wait until tomorrow. Nothing could ever wait until tomorrow. If there was a customer impact from something, we fix it now. That focus and work ethic comes from the top.”

Live betting always front and center at bet365

Bet365 made in-play wagering a priority around a decade ago, which was at a time when betting after a game commenced was a niche activity.

By creating in-house pricing algorithms and including stats, scoreboards, live streaming and visualization to the products, bet365 became an in-play-centric sportsbook.

Today, in-play accounts for a whopping 77% of revenue, and 140,000 events live-stream every year.

“This in-play section has become a primary destination for live sports consumers as well as in-play bettors searching for specific markets,” said Mark Israney, a partner at Propus Partners.

Bet365 being a destination for live betting was, for years, the crux of the operator’s marketing campaign in the UK. This was supported by the hashtag #InPlayWithRay, in reference to the ubiquitous TV commercials with gravel-throated actor Ray Winstone.

Unlike some other brands, bet365 tends to concentrate on sports betting. Casino, poker, bingo and other games are part of the product suite, but sports wagering takes center stage.

“There wasn’t the goal to bolt on as many products as we can and try to sell casino excessively,” Smith said. “The focus was on sports and in-play betting.”

Shying away from the limelight

Bet365 also benefits enormously from remaining a private company.

Unlike public companies, management isn’t necessarily obsessing over hitting quarterly targets and continuously delivering short-term results for investors.

Instead, the business can take a longer-term view when it comes to product development and growing revenue.

Being private also means bet365 has more easily extended its tentacles into so-called gray international markets bereft of gambling regulations. Publicly listed companies tend to steer clear of jurisdictions without robust regulatory frameworks.

Smith said, “They are a private company, which has been proven is a lot easier to make decisions about where and how you operate. Certain regions of the world generate a lot easier revenue than the more competitive areas like the UK.”

Can bet365 replicate its global success in New Jersey?

Well, we know bet365 has the experience, personnel and proprietary technology to certainly make a splash.

Despite giving rivals a 12-month headstart and not being a well-known brand in New Jersey, bet365 will be entering with guns blazing to make up for lost ground. This is a state with more than a dozen online sportsbooks, with FanDuel consistently setting the pace in terms of monthly revenue.

However, it will be interesting to see if in-play betting is the focal point of the app and website like in international markets. Or, whether the product will be localized to concentrate more on pregame and parlay betting.

Also, bet365 is a company with a mountain of cash at its disposal to throw at marketing, brand awareness and user acquisition. Indeed, bet365’s cash reserves are around £1.8 billion ($2.18 billion).

Smith praises bet365 for “controlling their own technology and their own destiny.” However, Smith questions how the brand will resonate with the American audience.

“It’s a very different market in terms of how you have to sell your brand and talk to your customer. It’s not for everyone how they speak to people; for me, it is quite robotic and lacking a bit in personality.”

Should New Jersey sportsbooks worry?

Israney believes the ability to continually improve its product will stand bet365 in good stead. That said, he doesn’t think it will be all plain sailing in a competitive market like New Jersey.

“Some of the third-party suppliers will likely consider their New Jersey partners to be of the highest priority which, therefore, may benefit from development capacity and speed in a similar way to if development was done in-house,” Israney said.

“We believe that despite entering the market a year after some others, bet365 is in a relatively strong position. But we wouldn’t expect an easy ride from those defending market share.”

For Pilling, the bet365 name “resonates with gamblers” and he sees it achieving similar cut-through in the US. This and other factors make the operator the complete package. “A self-explanatory brand name, good technology and a competitive betting offer combine to make the company a global success,” he said.

One of Britain’s wealthiest families

That global success has brought untold wealth for the owners.

The Coates family is in 19th place on the UK’s the Sunday TimesRich List 2019 with an estimated fortune of £6.86 billion ($8.34 billion).

Denise’s brother, John, is joint-CEO of bet365, while their father, Peter, is chairman of soccer club Stoke City in England’s second tier. The bet365 logo is emblazoned across the front of the team’s jerseys and throughout the stadium.

However, Coates, a notoriously media-shy businesswoman, drew negative publicity last year when it was revealed she had paid herself $267 million-plus $54.7 million in dividends.

That eye-watering pay packet – equivalent to $880,000 a day – made the 51-year-old the world’s highest-paid female executive.

Some may see it as an obscene remuneration package. Bet365 would argue it pays millions of pounds in tax and employs thousands, while Denise herself is a generous philanthropist.

Moreover, bet365’s meteoric rise is one of the UK’s greatest business success stories. Few would argue with that.

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Julian is a freelance journalist who has covered the ins and outs of the global online and offline gambling industry since 2011.

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