Sports bettors have been making wagers for almost as long as there have been events to bet on. But the practice has changed with the times — now, instead of having to go to racing tracks or betting shops, bets can be placed online, from anywhere, 24/7. With the online sector booming, starting an online sports betting platform has never been a better prospect; this article covers what an online sportsbook needs to be a success.
Betting sites have become the go-to option for modern punters. Betting from a laptop or a mobile phone is faster, easier, and far more convenient than having to travel to a bookmaker — not to mention the fact that many online sportsbooks can offer a wider variety of sports disciplines and events to bet on, up-to-the-minute data feeds, and new options like virtual sports and esports. In order to keep up with the constantly growing demand, more and more companies are opening online sports betting sites. Below, we’ll walk you through the main elements of a high-quality online sportsbook.
Table of contents
Elements of a perfect sportsbook
Variety of bets
There is a huge variety of bets and wagers for punters to choose from. The same kind of bet can be known by different names in different regions, and types of wagering that are popular in one country are sometimes virtually unheard of elsewhere.
Sportsbook operators will need in-depth knowledge of the different kinds of bets that their bettors will want to place, so before we dive into the technical know-how of running a sports betting platform, let’s quickly go over the bets themselves.Win bet/Moneyline Wager/Straight bet
The most popular and most straightforward type of bet, this is a simple wager on who is going to win a game, race, or other event. The odds depend on the perceived likelihood of victory: the underdog’s success will bring the bettor a bigger payoff than that of the favorite. In sports where a draw is possible, bets can be placed on this outcome as well.
Point Spreads/Spread Betting
Punters participating in a point spread wager are not necessarily trying to predict who will win a game or match. Rather, the bookmaker calculates a “spread,” or a difference in points, that makes both the underdog and the favorite worth betting on. Punters who bet on the underdog win if their team wins outright or loses by a margin smaller than the spread. Bettors who wager on the favorite win if the team wins by a margin greater than the spread. Bets are refunded in the case of a tie, unless the bookmaker has a stated policy such as “ties win” or “ties lose.
Even less focused on win and loss, this bet is made on the total number of goals or points scored. Quite simply, the bookmaker sets the “line,” and punters bet either that the total will be higher (Over) or lower (Under) than the bookmaker’s estimate.
Proposition bet/Special bet
This is a bet made on something that does not necessarily affect the final outcome of an event, such as predicting which player will score, what team will score first, or the time until the first goal is scored in a match. The variety of proposition bets is practically endless, as even the smallest element of the sport can be analyzed and bet on. These events are typically quite hard to predict, so bettors that prefer this type of wager are experts in their chosen field and challenge themselves for the chance of a higher payout.
Parlay bets are when several wagers are grouped together. The payouts are big, but the risks are great. If the bettor puts his money on seven teams to win their next matches, if even a single team loses, the parlay is lost. Parlays can aggregate several different types of bets, such as spreads, win bets, and over-unders.
This form of betting is associated with horse racing and similar events. There are no odds set by the bookmaker. Instead, all bets are joined together in a pool and then divided among the winners. The betting platform typically takes a small part of the total for providing the service of accepting and processing the bets.
Punters usually wager on the winner, but there are many other bet types that call for higher precision, like predicting which horses will finish in first, second and third place, and in which order. Bettors can place bets on several races — similar to parlay betting.
Distinctions can also be made for when the bets are placed. In-play or in-running bets, for example, are bets made after the event has already started. The convenience of devices like mobile phones and laptops makes them perfect for in-play betting, but unfortunately, it is against the law in many countries that otherwise allow sports betting.
There are many more varieties of betting specific to particular sports or countries. When expanding into new markets, it’s a good idea to perform extensive research on betting practices in the region.
The key is to avoid confusion and give your audience the experience they are looking for. If bettors struggle to find a type of bet they’re used to on your sportsbook, it will quickly lead to frustration and cost you a customer.
The odds are also a big factor. Many punters have in-depth knowledge of their sport of choice and keep a close eye on the odds offered by different providers. As a result, if the odds you offer are not competitive, your sportsbook will lose a lot of traffic, so make sure your odds are attractive and well calculated.
The world of sports betting is a big one. Every discipline has local and international matches, races, and tournaments, all of which attract a sizable audience. While bettors that are devoted to a single sport make up a large portion of the traffic of a typical online sportsbook, there is also a category of people that view betting as a business, making a number of large bets on a variety of sports – volume bettors.
This approach often involves betting on different disciplines because most sports are played seasonally, not year-round. Some sports, like American football, have short seasons (the NFL season lasts just five months) and don’t have a large volume of games, so punters that don’t want to take an extended break from betting will have to look for something else until the next season comes around. Consider having a healthy mix of summer and winter sports, as well as cycling, racing, and esports — that way, bettors always have options.
Aside from offering an array of choices, it’s critical to give your punters plenty of reasons to lay their money down. A good strategy is to promote events in the run-up to the match and offer good odds and special offers to attract new bettors. For many people, the main barrier to betting on multiple sports is perceived difficulty and lack of knowledge, so you can make it simpler for them and take steps to tell your audience more about other types of events.
Transparency and convenience
To make a good bet, punters need information – statistics, historical data, news, and insights. To put it simply, if your service offers no convenient access to the data they need, punters will inevitably find another source. And after that, why not place their bets elsewhere too?
Live feeds and real-time sports data (scores, schedules and statistics) have become an industry standard. By giving bettors the information they need to evaluate the odds and decide what outcome to wager on, you can build player trust, which in turn helps to retain your audience. The fewer reasons your players have to leave your online sportsbook for another resource, the better.
Functionality and payment processing
The technical side is extremely important for any internet-based business. Make sure you offer 24/7 customer service and take steps to prevent glitches, outages, or delays — when bettors flock to your site during a popular event, the cost of such mishaps may be catastrophic. Make sure to manage (or even better – anticipate) any issues to resolve them quickly and efficiently.
Choosing good payment providers is another big factor. Convenient, reliable payment systems are absolutely essential to win over long-term sportsbook customers, so cooperating with certified payment service providers is a necessity. Make sure your players can place their bets no matter what by offering a variety of payment methods, including not just credit cards and bank transfers but e-wallets, and accepting payments in a range of different currencies (including cryptocurrencies).
Take care of your customers
Due to the level of competition on the market, the thrill of winning alone is not enough to keep your audience coming back. To build a base of returning customers, operators should regularly offer special incentives. Free bets and sign-up bonuses will encourage potential customers to make deposits and place wagers, while loyalty and VIP programs will keep your long-term users happy even when they are on a losing streak.
Licensing and compliance
The international online sportsbook business is very lucrative, but it requires operators to comply with various rules and regulations. In some countries, online betting is still relatively new, so there is no special legislation or taxation yet. But to operate in the world’s biggest markets, sportsbook operators have to obtain licenses.
It’s important to note that in some countries where land-based sports betting is legal, online and mobile betting is not. Examples include some US states like North Carolina (where the mobile segment is specifically prohibited) and the Netherlands. However, there are also opposing examples; in Tennessee, only online betting is permitted.
How to operate in various legal frameworks is a delicate and challenging topic. We covered it in more detail in a separate article.
Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression. A sportsbook that is easy and intuitive to navigate, with a clear brand image and modern design, instantly appears reliable, which in turn helps retain users. A good website should forgo pop-ups and loud noises in favor of an overall appealing color scheme and well-placed promotional offers. Sign-up buttons should be highly visible, and it should never take bettors more than a click or two to find the sport they prefer to bet on. Remember, if bettors don’t like to look at your website, they won’t want to bet on it, either.
Last but not least, when launching any online project, it’s very important to stand out from the noise. The quality of your digital advertising, SEO marketing, and affiliate marketing will be a huge factor in the success of your online sportsbook. To keep up with your audience, you should constantly evaluate the performance of different channels, test new strategies, and make sure all of your efforts are tailored to the preferences of the market segments you are targeting.
It’s also important to closely follow the law, so make sure that advertising is legal in your target market. Governments of some countries, such as the UK, impose limitations on how online sportsbooks can advertise and what forms of marketing are permitted.
The online gambling business is a growing and dynamic industry. To meet the constantly increasing demand for their services, sportsbook operators, not unlike their customers, have to do research and take calculated risks. But when all the boxes are ticked, you are looking at a business with endless potential.
If you are new to the industry and you feel lost, or your platform has reached its peak and needs fresh new approaches for expansion – we are happy to share our hands-on experience. Contact us for a free consultation.