Jussi Viljanen, Head of Sports at Bojoko sits down with SiGMA News to discuss their expansion into sports betting, responsible gaming, and how the way they review betting sites is setting them apart from the crowd.
It is clear that further restrictions will be imposed on UK sportsbook operators following the government’s review of the Gambling Act but what are the risks of over-regulation?
I personally believe that a reasonable degree of regulation in this industry is a good thing. Regulations have been tightened several times in the UK in recent years and most of these have been well-thought through and have improved player protections. This includes the decision to eliminate fake winnings (a £1 return from a £2 bet can no longer be badged up as a win) and players being able to withdraw money back from a gaming account after making a deposit without having to wager it first or go through excessive account verifications.
However, bringing in more restrictions can have downsides and finding the best possible balance can be tricky. Over-regulating can have the exact opposite effect that regulators are seeking and some of the proposed changes to the Gambling Act might have a negative impact. In particular, introducing a £2 stake limit on online slots and putting an end to sponsorship opportunities for sports betting companies.
The UK is a well-regulated gambling market, but British players still have access to non-regulated gambling sites. These sites do not have the same security and reliability as those licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. Over-regulation can drive players to unlicensed sites and to the black market; this is something that we have seen in Sweden. If the player experience is too restricted, they won’t stop gambling altogether – instead, they will move away from licensed sites to offshore brands that offer a more comprehensive player experience.
Another concern, especially after the pandemic, is how sports clubs can ensure they are financially secure if betting companies disappear from their jerseys, arena billboards and elsewhere. Betting companies are a very big part of the funding and visibility of many sports in the UK, such as darts and snooker. This is absolutely the case for lower-tier competitions and smaller clubs, many of which would struggle without commercial agreements with betting companies.
As mentioned, sensible regulation is good, but over-regulation can have the opposite effect than intended.
Are current requirements sufficient to ensure players are protected? What part do affiliates such as Bojoko play in ensuring players gamble responsibly?
One of the good things that has come from regulation is that all parties are really concentrating on responsible gaming. The iGaming industry as a whole has been great at self-regulating itself in this regard. Bojoko sees responsible gaming as an important thing to promote and we think the healthier this industry is, the better it is for everyone – this includes players, operators and companies like us.
One of the key ways we promote responsible gaming is by only working with licensed gambling sites. In our opinion, offshore sites do not provide a reliable service to players, nor do they always provide a reliable service to affiliates, either.
We’ve also added a separate section on responsible gaming to all of our brand reviews, and we explain to players exactly how each site approaches responsible gambling and the tools they provide players that might encounter problem gambling.
Can you tell us more about Bojoko Sports? How will you ensure you enjoy the same success in this vertical as you have in online casino?
Yes, expanding into sports betting is very exciting for us. Online casinos have been our main focus for many years but now we have our second vertical open in the UK. So now, in addition to casinos, users can find a huge selection of betting sites and sports betting-related content here: https://bojoko.com/betting/.
Offering sports betting in the UK was relatively easy for us as we had done it already in the past in Finland. This meant that we had the expertise in our team. Casino will, of course, remain the biggest vertical for us, but we see good potential in applying the same strategies to the sports betting side and hopefully, in the future, Bojoko will be as big in sports as it is in casino.
Does your sports offering differ to casino, or have you taken the same approach to both?
We have taken the same approach to both. Our mission is to help users choose betting sites, and now we are able to do this for sportsbooks as well as for casinos.
The verticals do have some differences, of course. Sports betting has a skill element in it and anyone who intends to deliver quality content around the topic of sports betting has to have enough expertise to write something actually valuable to bettors. This is where I believe we can stand out from our rivals.
How will you stand out in what is a hugely competitive market with several established power players? How will you offer your members even more value?
The way we do things is quite unique. In addition to the quality content that we produce about sports betting and the different topics around it, the way we review betting sites is what really sets us apart from our competitors.
At Bojoko, experts review all betting sites by playing with real money, making real deposits, testing withdrawals and all other important features of the site. This is how we ensure that all the sites we list work as they are supposed to. Our process also exposes any weaknesses that brands might have. This has been valuable feedback for the brands themselves along with the players – many brands have fixed things after we have tested their sites. This is a virtuous cycle that benefits all parties involved – operators as well as players.
Does the UK market present opportunities for new affiliates looking to get in on the action or due to its competitiveness, is it now only viable for the big players?
The UK market is challenging, but it’s not impossible. By having a clear strategy and a good team in place, any smaller affiliate can find a way to succeed. For us, having been in the UK already for many years in the online casino sector gives us an easier route to sports betting compared to a brand new affiliate site with no experience or authority.
The bigger companies have the majority of the market share and the whole market is quite saturated already, but there is always someone that comes up with a fresh perspective and something new that might shake things up. Smaller markets may be slightly easier to enter, but bigger markets like the UK can offer more opportunities because of their size whereas in some smaller markets the amount of people is a limiting factor itself.
So, it’s not viable only for the big players, but it has to be said that smaller companies do need to bring something special in order to get a foothold.
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Renowned for its beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine, rich culture, and penchant for parties, the Balkans have been sought after by both tasteful tourists and entrepreneurs with an eye on the growing iGaming ecosystem calling the region home. As the home to the global Gambling community, the SiGMA conference is known far and wide for its enlightening panels, inspiring speeches, ample opportunities to invest and network, and the ability to do it all while having the time of your life. Join us in Belgrade for the best the industry has to offer and for a window into the future of worldwide gambling. To learn more about sponsorship and speaking opportunities or to inquire about attending the event, please contact Sophie at [email protected]