I start with a question: does the gambling industry have a problem with innovation? To an extent the answer is a resounding no. There is innovation in spades within the gambling industry – new companies, new ideas, new products and new perspectives.
The online industry in particular has a record of being incredibly entrepreneurial. I need only mention such companies as bet365, Gamesys, or the original PokerStars for the case to be made that new, exciting and extremely successful businesses have been born out of the disruption that came from the move towards online gambling at the turn of the Millennium.
So case closed. Except that impressive as these successes are, there remains a lack of recognition in the wider tech sector of the opportunities that exist within the gambling sector. Though it is a highly visible sector, for a variety of reasons the gambling sector somewhat hides its light under a bushel when it comes to the extent to which it is pushing at tech’s boundaries.
Most recently we have the move to mobile as an example of how quickly the sector has adapted and redefined its product to a new channel and reaped the rewards in terms of revenues and profits.
Particularly in the UK, mobile betting and gaming is ubiquitous. As the statistics from the Gambling Commission make plain, bearing in mind the degree of mobile adoption among UK gamblers and the data on the average number of accounts among UK punters, it is likely that a good deal of the population in the UK, and particularly the younger age groups, will have three, four or five betting apps on their phones at any one time.
These apps are sitting there next to some of the digital economy’s most high-profile and disruptive companies such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb. In other words, gambling is sharing mobile real estate on many consumers’ phones with some of the tech world’s biggest and brightest but, I would argue, with much less of the recognition factor.
I believe there is a blindness to the tech triumphs of the gambling industry, and that the sector needs to do more to promote itself and the achievements of the companies within it. This is partly what the new GamCrowd News & Studio site is about. We are saying we are the home of innovation for the industry, talking to and about the start-ups, the providers of new product and the new suppliers.
Both sites are about starting a conversation, not just within the gambling industry but also with the wider tech world about how to go about innovation. I look to other sector for examples of how innovation is supported and encouraged. The rise of fintech, for instance, is a great example of how things can come together. The truly innovative and disruptive are combining within the financial services space to bring forward new companies and new ideas at an impressive pace. From robo-advice to crowdfunding, blockchain to regtech, the fintech space is incredibly exciting right now.
We think the gambling sector can emulate this. Over time, I believe we can persuade more people to see the gambling industry the way many of us within the sector view it; as a leader in technology and innovation. My hope, via the GamCrowd News & Studio and the work we are doing with Clarion Gaming around Pitch ICE and the Launchpad’s at EiG and Gigse is to raise the profile of the word ‘gamtech’ in the fashion as fintech and martech before it.
It’s about time the online gambling industry got the recognition it deserved. We think it is our job to shout that from the rooftops.
By Chris North, CEO GamCrowd