Q&A with ApolloBet’s Leon Hosking (Part One of Three)

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Few people know the online sports-betting vertical as well as Leon Hosking. Before joining ApolloBet, Leon worked for a number of leading operators in the vertical. Nowadays he’s the Director of Sportsbook and Online Gaming at ApolloBet, a diverse brand that also offers players an online casino and the chance to try their luck at a wide range of international lotteries.Ahead of the ApolloBet team’s upcoming appearance at the London Affiliate Conference, Leon (photo, right) sat down with us to give his insights about the verticals in which the brand operates. He looked back at last year and also told us what we can expect from 2015.

Income Access (IA): Hi, Leon. As a sportsbook operator, what would you say have been the biggest recent innovations in the vertical?

Leon Hosking (LH): Hi. Well, technology-wise it would have to be mobile apps. As well as the apps, in-running or in-play betting functionality has become massive, especially for the fast-paced markets.

From a marketing point of view, the biggest innovation would have to be best-odds guaranteed bets. Before you had your free bets, but guaranteed odds really makes a brand stand out from the crowd.

IA: In 2014 there were a number of major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and the Winter Olympics. How did the sports-betting vertical fare last year?

LH: Well, 2014 has been massive for online sports-betting. With the technology and TV coverage getting better, we’ve seen an increasing number of younger players. With in-play betting and sophisticated ads on TV, the younger generation’s really getting into online sports-betting. We’re seeing players from the older generation, but they’re still tending to prefer betting shops.

IA: What about the future of online sports-betting, Leon?

LH: Predicting the future’s a tough one. Mobile is going to become more and more important. Within five years, you’d expect 80% of sportsbook players to be using tablets and smart phones. At the moment, we’re only seeing between 30% and 40%. Mobile’s also going to have a big impact on marketing – QR codes on beer mats is just one example I’ve seen recently.

IA: What are the keys to success for an sports-betting brand?

LH: The main key to success is an easy-to-navigate site. You also need to offer as many different markets and sporting events as possible and a good range of live-betting markets.

If you’re a smaller operator, it’s also important to focus on obscurer markets, as the big firms don’t concentrate on them – markets like snooker, boxing and rugby league. These are niches, but that’s what it’s all about – finding your own niche.

IA: What about online casino, Leon? What have been the big recent innovations in the vertical?

LH: Live-dealer casino lets players sit at a computer at home and feel like they’re actually in a real casino. There’s also been the innovation of live jackpots – as big as £5 million.

Slots are getting more and more sophisticated. The Marvel-themed slots and other branded slots have incredible graphics and are really user-friendly. Nowadays, with some slots it’s like watching TV, and the same goes for blackjack and roulette.

IA: What does a brand offering an online casino need to be successful in 2015?

LH: You need a full suite of games – slots and table games. You also need to work out who your decent players are and take care of them with loyalty schemes, points-for-pounds and the like. With loyalty schemes, you’re rewarding them for playing.

A lot of brands use the same plugins and therefore games, so the secret to success is engagement. If you engage the customers you’ll retain them.

IA: ApolloBet also offers players international lotteries. How does that complement an operator’s offering?

LH: The National Lottery in the UK is hugely popular, but the payouts from the online lotteries we offer are even better. Our international lotteries have been very popular – they’re a great addition to our brand.

Lotteries also diversify your brand. You get older, more middle-aged players and more women than you do with sports-betting, so with lotteries you cover all your bases.

IA: Thank you for your insights, Leon.

On Monday we continue our in-depth Q&A with Leon Hosking. He’ll discuss ApolloBet’s own story and the brand’s plans for the future. If you have any questions before then, please contact Leon.