As 2019 starts to wind down, many are reflecting on the year that was and where to for 2020. Attention remained on the US, as states continued to enact sports betting legislation there. But, in turn, this generated excitement for the potential in Asia, with many suggesting that the market there could be worth a lot more.
And there are a lot of reasons for this. Asia as a whole has a huge population, there are a variety of sports that are popular and technology and mobile penetration are huge in several areas. Like many emerging markets, Asia is quite fragmented. In some countries, sports betting is still considered illegal, while others have legislation in place. Additionally, amongst the regions where sports betting is legal, there are variances as to whether it is allowed online or in person.
Despite this, the benefits of legal betting, both commercially and from an integrity perspective, are there for all to grasp. And if this continues to catch on in Asia, there are plenty of reasons why operators of all sizes should be looking to make plans for the region now if they want to capitalize on the foreseeable future.
Given the size of Asia, it is important to do your homework, looking at both the trends that currently exist, with one eye on the horizon. Generally speaking, Virtual Sports, Fantasy Sports and Esports continue to prove popular in Asia. From a product and service perspective, many of our customers operating in the region rely on our Virtual Sports solutions as well as our betting and integrity services for their Fantasy Sports or Esports offering. This is part of the reason why we further expanded our Gaming Solutions portfolio this year to incorporate a new Virtual Asian Cup and Virtual Football Champions Cup. We also sealed big deals in the Esports space and enhanced our Premium Cricket Services with even more coverage.
More recently, we announced the acquisition of the Optima platform to bolster our hi-tech 360-degree betting portfolio. This means as new legal markets open in Asia, bookmakers can come to us for everything they need to establish a successful sportsbook that pertains to local regulations, whether that be retail, mobile or online. Given the flexibility of the platform and all our services, they can also expand their offering at any point to suit regional transitions.
Aside from services to leverage the potential of Asia, as a young market, it’s equally as important that bookmakers safeguard their business. This is one reason our risk management and trading solution, Managed Trading Services (MTS), is continuing to see increasing take-up in Asia. MTS utilises a range of cutting-edge innovation together with a group of expert sports traders to monitor the market, helping bookmakers set their pricing while protecting their business from risk, using machine learning algorithms and player profiling.
The balance of suitable measures to both leverage the commercial opportunities whilst managing risk is essential in any market, but especially so in emerging markets like Asia where prospects are still in the early days of being realised. The good news is we worked with a lot of customers across both areas this year and expect this activity to grow even more in Asia.
*Michael Maerz is Managing Director Asia at Sportradar.