Fonbet Betting Company Chairman of the Board Maxim Kiryukhin shares his thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the betting market
In particular, Maxim Kiryukhin focuses on how the company tackled the challenges faced due to the closure of betting shops and the changes that happened prior to their reopening. The company Chairman also explains why certain customers are not rushing to change their habits towards online betting.
Betting shops were closed voluntarily in spring
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the majority of Fonbet customers bet online. Out of all bets placed, about 70% are made online, and 30% are placed in betting shops. The pandemic hit our business hard not only due to a massive cancellation of sports events, but also due to the closure of betting shops. Our network spans about 1,000 betting shops throughout Russia’, Maxim Kiryukhin explains.
When Russia introduced strict quarantine measures, restaurants, stores and other retail outlets were closed immediately, all betting shops were closed much later. We made a decision to close our shops before an official order came out. Our primary concern was and continues to be our customers’ safety. The COVID situation was very serious and the number of infected people was growing rapidly’, Maxim Kiryukhin shares. ‘We closed our betting shops voluntarily. We also processed withdrawals from the accounts of any customer who requested it.
Now our betting shops are gradually reopening in full compliance with health safety standards, which is very important, Maxim Kiryukhin emphasises. Our betting shop seating adheres to social distancing restrictions, and cashiers are regularly tested for COVID-19. Customers are only allowed to enter if they are wearing a protective mask and gloves. If they do not have their own, Fonbet provides the kit at the door. It is a good thing that our betting shops are spacious, so even taking into account social distancing we can comfortably accommodate everyone.
It is also interesting to look at what happened during the pandemic’, Maxim Kiryukhin comments. ‘In most industries, customers went online and stayed there. For example, people started buying groceries online. This turned out to be more convenient, faster and better for most people, not to mention there was more variety and choice. In other words, consumer preferences shifted towards digital.
The same thing probably would have happened in the betting industry if sports events had not been put on hold. But since there were no sports at all, there was also nothing to bet on, whether it was online or offline. Maxim Kiryukhin notes that there was a massive outflow of the customers who only placed bets at betting shops before the quarantine, simply saying they also went on a break, however they are now coming back to the offline shops after their reopening.
According to Maxim Kiryukhin, during the pandemic, 40% of Fonbet customers who used to only bet in betting shops did not make any bets at all, but returned to the betting shops after they reopened, and 35% now play both online and offline.
Among our customers who used to only bet in betting shops, only 15% started playing online, but they continue to bet in betting shops regularly.But I believe this number is much lower compared to the other industries and the percentage of customers who migrated online is probably higher, Maxim Kiryukhin asserts. Therefore, we can not surely say that we had a serious transition to online betting.
Perhaps the essence of the matter lies in the fact that under the Russian law, it is impossible to have a single account for offline and online betting. If there was a single account, then the percentage of customers playing in both segments would be higher.
VIP players returned to betting shops
I should note that we do not focus on online betting solely. Fonbet is an excellent service both online and offline’, Maxim Kiryukhin explains. ‘For many industries, the pandemic has divided business development into the two parts: ‘before’ and ‘after’. Yet, this is not the case with us – everything is back to normal. And offline is still an important part of our business.
Maxim Kiryukhin adds: “after the reopening, customers returned to our betting shops straight away. They like the special atmosphere there, the concentration of like-minded individuals. For some people, it is a way to escape their routine. Some people go to the gym or saunas, but our customers go to betting shops — for them it is a way to relax and be part of some sort of gentlemen society.
As Maxim Kiryukhin says, VIP players make up a special category of Fonbet’s betting shop customers. For them, going to betting shops is not just about making bets… It is about a special form of entertainment with high-quality service.
In our betting shops, we have special privileges for VIP players, including VIP rooms with massage chairs where customers can invite their friends to watch a game and enjoy food and drinks, Maxim Kiryukhin explains.
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