Terminal velocity sees William Hill playing catch-up

Terminal velocity sees William Hill playing catch-up

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
The Self Service Betting Terminal (SSBT) is becoming a formidable part of the product mix

Battle has truly been joined on the UK high street for the next generation of sports-betting customer now that William Hill have joined Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Coral in installing self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) in its 2,371-strong betting shop estate.

The belated move from William Hill demonstrates again that this new way of betting has already established itself as a mainstay of the land-based betting experience. It also arguably is another sign of the influence of online operations in retail betting.

Indeed, at both Coral and now William Hill SSBTs are being touted as one of the main pillars of their respective omni-channel strategies. In announcing the introduction of its own in-house SSBTs at the time of the company’s last full-year results in February, William Hill chief executive James Henderson said that along with instituting a single wallet across both channels, SSBTs was a “big priority”.

William Hill is the only firm to have taken the proprietary route with its machines and the company said the initial reaction from trials of their version of the product had been positive. “We were on target for 2,000 by the start Euros and customer feedback has been good,” said a spokesperson.

Clear evidence of customer enthusiasm for the SSBT product comes from William Hill’s major rival Ladbrokes which is at least two years’ ahead in terms of terminal installs. In April of 2015 it announced it was boosting its then existing machine coverage from an estate of 1,730-plus with the addition of a further 2,050 terminals, all of which were in place by August last year.

In its full-year 2015 results, the company said the additional machines had helped SSBT revenue rise 144% for the year, generating stakes of £117.4m. Answering the fears regarding cannibalization, the company pointed out with the help of SSBTs total over-the-counter staking (OTC) in the second half rose 1.3%.

Richard Lang, commercial director for retail at Ladbrokes, says SSBTs are attracting a new audience to the shops as much as enticing the current customer base. “Our business mix reveals that we are taking business on sports and events that we have never done in the past,” he says. “We are seeing volumes of business in sports on SSBTs that have never been seen in retail shops before. For example, basketball remains the third most staked sport on the terminals.”

But it is football that remains central to the SSBT proposition, accounting for 80% of all stakes. Scott Ferguson, head of UK product at Best Gaming Technology (BGT), the major supplier in the sector, points out that interest in football has “exploded” and that the terminals provide the depth of coverage, from European leagues and further afield, to give coverage around the clock. “It’s not just the top leagues available, you can drill down several divisions in many countries,” he says. “The old days of only ever betting on leagues you can see on TV are far behind us.”

“The availability of pre-match and in-play statistics gives the customer confidence to bet anywhere,” he adds. “One thing you never need to worry about is the absence of data on matches from far-flung places, it’s all available on the terminal and it clearly drives turnover on matches played in places few people could ever pinpoint on a map.”

It’s the data-rich nature of SSBTs that, like online gaming, is attracting the attention of ancillary suppliers eyeing a new opportunity to broaden their potential addressable market. One such is iSport Genius, an Australia-based sports data provider, which provides “data clues” for customers looking to bet on any given game. The company is the provider behind the Ladbrokes Australia ‘Infohub’ product and Nathan Rothschild, co-founder at iSport Genius, saw the terminals in action on a recent trip to London and believes his company’s data nuggets would be ideal for SSBT punters.

“The provision of sports statistics at point of sale provides a key element of user experience,” he says. “The operators have made the point with these products that they are often used by punters in a very solitary way, partly because in the UK they attract a larger share of non-native speakers. The opportunity with SSBTs is to provide genuine identifiable insight – and further bet prompts -  for the punter.”

Totally Gaming Says: "What is yet to be seen is whether the rise of the SSBT necessarily means a change in the way people bet in shops. Despite helping to contribute to Ladbrokes’ increase retail sports-betting stakes in the second half, the company admits the product does cannibalise OTC to a degree. But as Lang says, the research the company has conducted indicates that a behavioural change has occurred with customers placing more varied bets by event and sport. As he says, SSBTs are now an “integral part of the betting shop environment”, and one that will evolve over time."


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