Hundreds of betting shops have closed in Ireland over the past seven years. In the midst of it all, Boylesports has found a way to grow. What’s their secret?
If you don’t like how the sportsbetting industry works, wait ten minutes. Few markets have changed as rapidly over the past 20 years, as technological innovations like the internet and mobile devices have changed the way we place wagers on our favorite sporting events.
Old school brick-and-mortar betting shops simply aren’t as lucrative as they once were. But don’t expect them to go away altogether. The success of Boylesports proves that betting shops can still succeed if management is savvy enough.
John Boyle, the founder and CEO of the company, recently shared the secrets to the company’s success as well as some insights on where the betting industry is headed.
Boylesports has embraced change while staying old school
When John Boyle opened his first betting shop in 1982 business was booming and the internet was still a decade away. He bought his second shop, in the larger town of Draghoda, in 1989 and continued to acquire new operations as revenue continued to pour in.
• Roughly 400 betting shops have closed in Ireland since 2007
• Over that span, Boylesports has doubled its number of shops
• Modern bettors demand more choices, convenience and information
It’s a testament to Boyle’s mind for business that he was able to expand the company even as online sportsbooks in Ireland began to provide competition. The Boylesports business model has been simple.
Boyle buys successful betting shops, puts good people in charge, and invests the profits by buying even more shops: “The opportunities were there so I started to look for them… We bought 20 of Ivan Yates (Celtic Bookmakers) shops and they were good stores.”
The most impressive thing about the success of the company is that over the past seven years it has expanded even as mobile betting and economic recession have pushed the industry onto a steep decline. Ireland now has less than a thousand betting shops, down from its peak of 1,400.
While the sector is on the downtrend, Boylesports’ number of stores has more than doubled from 98 in 2007 to 198 today, currently employing 1,500 people. That is astounding considering that most competitors like William Hill and Ladbrokes have closed significant numbers of stores over the same period.
Successful Irish betting sites are diversifying
Bookies have been hurt in particular by the fact that the average bet size has shrunk since 2007. Bettors in Ireland are putting up only half as much money per wager as they were pre-recession.
However, forward-thinking firms like Boylesports but also Bet365 and BetVictor have overcome that by catering to more people and diversifying their offerings. For example, these days more women are spending part of their entertainment budgets gambling online.
Market research shows that most female gamblers in Ireland and the UK prefer online casino gaming and bingo to betting on sports, so successful firms have astutely invested in adding these games to their Irish betting sites.
Bettors want a wide range of choices, and they’re demanding the chance to bet on a lot more than the Premier League and the World Cup. Online sportsbooks are now offering odds on financials, political outcomes and pop culture events like reality TV. Last year bettors worldwide placed wagers on the gender of the royal baby.
The magic of mobile
A large portion of Boylesports’ recent growth can be chalked up to the success of its mobile app. Revenue from mobile betting and casino gaming is up 180% from the same period last year, and “every customer a full bookie’s shop in their pocket, anytime and anywhere, and they expect no less.”
Other successful bookies have also invested heavily on mobile offerings, with BetVictor’s receiving top marks from many customers. Customers love betting on smartphones and tablets because they can place wagers on the go, but many of prefer it because we can access information on all of our favorite bets in real time.
When Boyle said that customers “expect no less,” he was serious. Companies that have gotten out front of the emerging mobile market have kept revenue streams flowing hot over the last few years, while Ladbrokes has seen market declines as it has been slow to move into mobile.
Survival of the fittest
The combination of tech innovations and a less-robust economy have made things harder than ever for sportsbooks in Ireland and the UK, but the success of Boylesports and competitors Bet365 and BetVictor proves that there is still money to be made.
Brick-and-mortar betting shops are closing, but they won’t go away entirely. People go to the local betting shop to socialize as much as to place wagers, and that’s something that will never change.
But in order keep money flowing in spite of reduced income from land-based betting, a sportsbook needs to harness the power of technology to its advantage. That means giving internet and smartphone userspiles of real-time information, betting lines on non-traditional events, and casino games to go on top of it all.
While bookies these days tend to spew a lot of gloom and doom, in reality the future looks bright. Providers simply need to do what service-sector companies were created to do: give people what they want.