Digitain’s Zohrab Karapetyan talks exclusively to G3 magazine about the company’s expectations of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and his plans to deliver a special sportsbook experience.
What opportunities does the upcoming World Cup present the sports betting industry?
We expect betting levels to significantly exceed those seen in the 2018 tournament. If you look at the betting history of the World Cup, the betting turnover has grown over every tournament since Italia ’90 and we do not feel this pattern will change.
It has been estimated that the total amount of bets placed globally on the 2018 World Cup Finals exceeded €130 billion, an average per match of €2.1 billion, with over €7 billion being gambled on the France v Croatia final. That is spectacular and just underlines the popularity of football across the world.
Since then, a number of significant new markets have been regulated and interest in football continues to grow, so we are confident that, despite this tournament being the first one to be held in winter, the 2022 World Cup will beat all records for betting handle.
Excitement for the Qatar World Cup has been comparatively muted, namely due to the human rights abuses committed in the region, the excessive cost of travel and tickets, a disrupted domestic calendar, and the sweltering heat that is likely impact on the quality of matches being played. Nonetheless, does the tournament have the potential to still be an engaging and entertaining betting experience?
We’re confident that this year’s tournament will deliver some great viewing and betting experiences, with regular bettors on premium football switching to betting on the tournament.
There could be some impact on the dynamic nature of the games, given the heat of Qatar, even at his time, but I think the levels of excitement of watching the world’s best teams will overcome any potential obstacles. It’s going to be a wonderful spectacle, in my opinion.
Do you anticipate greater betting engagement rates than Russia four years ago?
From a Digitain perspective, our partner network has grown significantly since the last World Cup, so we will obviously see much higher volumes being processed through our platform than previously. However, as stated above, we still feel that our World Cup 2022 organic growth with be significant over the previous competition.
How will overall betting spend on the tournament be impacted by the cost-of-living crisis? As mortgage payments continue to rise, energy bills soar and with Christmas around the corner, how will sports betting handle be impacted?
Traditionally, sports betting tends to be recession-proof to a large extent, although the global economic picture this year may test that theory. However, I think the World Cup is such an iconic tournament, with high-profile games coming thick and fast, that the overall spend will still increase over previous tournaments.
It would not be surprising if this year’s World Cup generates over €250 billion in stakes, with football fans ignoring the controversies surrounding the event and focusing on the spectacle.
How have operator partners approached the winter tournament differently to a traditional summer event? What have been the biggest hurdles with the different timing?
The games are being played at 6pm and 11pm locally, which is reasonably attractive from a European, African, Asian and even North and South American betting fan’s perspective, fairly similar to current domestic league timing – so our partners are not expecting too much disruption to their normal operational processes.
From a partner perspective – there will be an obvious impact on the expected betting handle on the domestic football leagues, especially the key European ones; the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Primera Liga and Serie A, that all plan to take a six week break when the World Cup is on. However, this should balance out as the postponed games will be squeezed into an extended season ending later than usual at the end of May 2023.
What betting trends are you anticipating for this World Cup? Are we likely to see a greater focus on outright betting or bet builders?
Outright betting is always popular on football tournaments, particularly the World Cup where you see lots of “patriotic” bets, especially if the team have a successful run in the competition and the nation and media get behind them.
From an operator perspective, the key period for revenue in the tournament is the Group stage where we they will see the most money bet per day, due, of course, to the number of games being played. As the tournament progresses the games become more spread out and there is less daily betting activity.
What features, products and innovations have you lined up to coincide with the World Cup?
We understand the importance of the World Cup for our partners, so we have been busy preparing some new offers, promotions and additional content for them to ensure their players remain engaged and loyal for the duration of the tournament.
We have developed a World Cup Predictor game that operators can customise to suit their marketplace and can reward their players with prizes or free bets.
As well as this, we have launched a new World Cup Player Tournament application, allowing our partners’ players to participate and win prizes based on their skills in predicting and betting on the competition results.
We have a wealth of new bonuses, bet boosters and promos dedicated for the competition – one of my favourites is our “2 Goal Early Pay-out” offer, where we will settle bets as winners if a team goes ahead in a match. It applies to both singles and multi bets – so is bound to be a winner with players who like to re-invest.
Finally, your pick of this year’s winner…
I think England will have good tournament despite recent form, but France may find it is very difficult to defend the trophy –it hasn’t been done since Brazil in 1962.
Belgium at 16/1 and Croatia at 50/1 a are good each-way bets, but I might have a small bet on Argentina at around 7/1 to win – they always turn up at the big tournaments.