We look at some of the game changing events that have shaped the industry over the past 12 months…
As is tradition when approaching the end of the year, now this is a perfect time to reflect upon an historic 12 months across the gambling industry.
While our sector rarely takes a moment to catch its breath, this year has been particularly transformative, with regulatory developments throwing up new opportunities and challenges across Europe and beyond.
In many respects, we are on the front line of industry evolution at BettingJobs.com. When the sector changes, operators and suppliers alike turn to us to help them adapt their teams to the new landscape.
This gives us a great deal of perspective on the defining trends we all face within the gambling industry.
With everything 2018 threw at us as a sector, it tended to be the companies which could draw on the best talent that thrived.
You don’t need us to tell you that in a sector as fast-moving as ours, agility and flexibility are the only ways forward.
With this in mind, here is the BettingJobs.com round-up of a 2018 that changed the face of our industry.
Where else to start?
Without a doubt the biggest news of the year - indeed, the biggest news for many years - was the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to repeal PASPA, the effective federal ban on sports betting.
Of course, this was only the beginning of a story that will run and run.
The repeal of PASPA handed power back to individual states to determine whether they wanted to build regulatory frameworks for legal sports betting, and many have taken up the challenge.
In some states, things have moved remarkably quickly; eight states are already live with sports betting, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
And there are encouraging signs that the market will live up to its obvious potential. In New Jersey, handle for October was $260.7m, up a remarkable 41 percent on the previous month. It may be early days, but it is clear the US could very quickly become the world’s most important sports betting market.
And that is with the biggest prizes yet to be won. The PASPA repeal is only a few months old, and we would expect more states to regulate throughout 2019. New York, Illinois and California could all be game-changers. Certainly, this should be a multi-billion dollar sector within the next five years.
Amid the excitement, the industry is facing challenges to capitalise on the opportunity in the US. When the BettingJobs.com team visited Las Vegas for G2E in October and New York for the inaugural ICE Sports Betting USA in November, we chatted with stakeholders to discuss their biggest issues around growing operations in newly-regulated states.
Without a doubt the most consistent response was recruitment. A lack of local expertise combined with the difficulty of obtaining visas for foreign nationals make staffing up a particularly tricky undertaking. At the moment it is proving a major roadblock for many.
But those we spoke with at G2E and ICE were already implementing a range of creative solutions to the problem. Some are hiring locally from related industries, such as social gaming and daily fantasy sports.
Others are turning to project-based consultants who can be brought on-board for fixed-term contracts to upskill local staff. This avoids many of the complications associated with full-time hires, but still brings world-class talent to a project.
There are even some particularly unexpected solutions that have been found; many operators are hiring from Australia’s vibrant and mature gaming sector on the basis that the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) makes it easier for Australian citizens to gain the required work visas.
Beyond staffing, there are other minor teething troubles, such as occasional software issues forcing operators to pay out on incorrect odds, but nothing that isn’t to be expected from an industry that has moved at breakneck speed to achieve so much in the few months since PASPA was repealed.
While in Vegas at G2E, it is also worth recalling the inaugural BettingJobs.com Golf Classic, a fantastic event that brought together the gaming industry’s finest golfers from both sides of the pond.
As we said, while 2018 may be drawing to an end, this is just the start of the American sportsbook journey. We expect 2019 to deliver even more innovation, growth and excitement, and BettingJobs.com is looking forward to enjoying the ride.
Closer to home, the focus for many in the UK gaming sector was also firmly fixed on regulatory issues, albeit ones which were not quite so exciting in terms of growth potential.
Indeed, 2018 has been a year of tightening for a market that has performed remarkably well since it was regulated via the Point of Consumption tax in 2014.
Over the past few months there have been a number of developments that have caused a degree of consternation among those in the industry.
Top of the list is the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to two pounds, an amount many across the sector warned would lead to significant job losses.
While the reduction of stake has been delayed until October of next year, there is every chance political pressure could move that forward, particularly in light of the resignation of Tracey Crouch MP over the issue.
There has also been discussion on a ban or limit on television advertising. It appears the sector has learned some of the lessons of the FOBT experience, and this time is being more proactive in its approach, with rumours that it will voluntarily place strict limits on the nature of television advertising.
We are watching closely, but the only thing that is certain is that it will heavily impact the way operators market to customers.
What both the FOBT and television advertising episodes tell us is that compliance is the single most important issue facing UK gaming right now.
There are many reasons why it is critically important that we get this right, not least the Gambling Commission’s willingness to levy weighty, seven-figure fines against those who break its rules. Several top tier operators learned this lesson the hard way in 2018.
More than this, it is about building a sustainable gaming industry for the benefit of all. We are already seeing both operators and suppliers finding innovative solutions that ensure gaming can be enjoyed safely. Further progress down this road will be welcome in 2019.
After all, while the mood around the UK gaming industry may be more negative right now than it has been for some time - particularly when compared with the palpable excitement surrounding the opportunities in the United States - let’s not forget that Britain is still a market leader in this sector.
That has been achieved through a strong regulatory framework, and finding ways to grow while bolstering safeguards around responsible gaming, KYC and AML is the only way forward.
At the risk of turning the BettingJobs.com end-of-year round-up into a regulatory digest, the third big story of 2018 involved another important market heading towards regulation: Sweden.
Of course, Sweden is no new name within the gaming industry.
Many of the most innovative and well-known operators and suppliers hail from the country, while anyone working in gambling is likely to have a Swedish colleague or two.
So with that in mind, it was always a bit of an anomaly that the country itself had not properly regulated its own market.
However, after a process that has taken several years, that is finally set to change, with the newly-regulated Swedish market officially opening on January 1, 2019.
This is an exciting time for everyone involved in European gaming, and it could have some interesting ramifications for the wider sector.
We will be closely watching its impact on Malta, which has long been a second-home for Swedish gaming execs.
Will the new regulation tempt them back to Stockholm, or will the pull of Malta’s talent base (not to mention the sun!) persuade them to stay put?
So far we are not seeing signs of a mass exodus, but the new legislation nonetheless has the potential to turn Stockholm into an exciting gaming hub.
Eastern Europe rises
On the topic of exciting new gaming hubs, 2018 has seen eastern Europe really scale up and emerge as a crucial outpost for gaming operators and suppliers.
While the region has long been a place gaming firms have sought cheap development expertise, it now has the breadth of talent to sustain operational centres for some of the biggest gambling companies in the world, as well as many younger, exciting start-ups.
Among the cities to keep a close eye on are Sofia, Bucharest, Kiev, Tallinn and Krakow, all of which are now genuine industry hubs.
While regulation of Eastern European markets has been a mixed affair, there is no doubting the value of these jurisdictions from a staffing perspective.
BettingJobs.com is increasingly placing candidates in new roles in these hubs. It is also becoming increasingly common to even see certain positions relocated eastwards from Malta or elsewhere.
Of course, this is part of a broader trend that is seeing gaming become increasingly diversified and internationalised. Gone are the days where 95 percent of global online gaming expertise resided in the UK, Malta and Gibraltar.
There is now genuine, game-changing talent located across the continent and the firms who best succeed in 2019 and beyond will be those who recognise and capitalise upon this.
With well established infrastructures now in place, I would expect to see these hubs continue to grow over the coming years.
A big year for BettingJobs.com
Finally, we can’t complete our summary of 2018 without a few lines about the fantastic year we have enjoyed here at BettingJobs.com.
Fifteen years on from our founding in Glasgow, it has been an incredible journey to reach where we are today. And we are glad to be able to say we are only getting started.
This year has been a record one in just about every aspect.
Our business has been steadily growing year-on-year but 2018 has been a phenomenal year by any standards. Revenues are up by 53% in 2018, underpinned by 44% growth in delivery.
We are now placing candidates in more markets than ever before. It is no coincidence that our year in review has such an international slant to it. Not only is the gaming sector now truly global, so is recruitment.
Over the course of 2018, we’ve placed candidates in 51 countries worldwide, in every continent, with a big leap forward in terms of the US.
Since the PASPA repeal, we have made significant introductions in roles such as President of Sports Betting, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Product Officer, Chief Commercial Officer, VP of Product, VP of Marketing, VP of Operations, VP of Business Development, Director of Product, Director of Sports Betting, Marketing Director, Operations Director, Business Development Director, Sales Director, Head of Business Development, Head of Sales, and more.
We are also now active in a wider range of verticals than ever before. This year we have seen the likes of eSports go from strength to strength, and the demand for talent is remarkable.
As is the emergence of new roles powered by leaps forward in technology. Just a few years ago, terms like artificial intelligence and virtual reality were only heard in science fictions films. Today, we are regularly placing experts in these fields at top gaming companies. This is nothing short of a revolution, and will change the way people gamble.
The reason for our success? Our team.
In a landmark year, we have had all records broken by one of our key team members, while we have seen huge percentage increases on 2017 from others – 84% being the highest, excluding one outlier of 1844%!
It’s all down to our dedication to providing the industry with a service it can rely on, with people they trust.
I hope 2018 was as successful for you as it was for BettingJobs. We’re all looking forward to continuing our progression next year.
Best wishes to all in 2019!