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Ladbrokes – Behind in Betting and Behind in Gaming?

Written by:
Payton
Published on:
Aug/12/2016

As noted previously, the move of Ladbrokes into the Australian sports betting market was seen by many as being too little, too late, with many of their biggest name competitors having already entered the market and having made huge investments to solidify their position among bettors. Anyone that has kept a close eye on Ladbrokes’ involvement with online gaming, even dating back to the days when it remained a UK exclusive, will be aware that the brand has always seemed to be a little behind the times when it comes to bringing their service offering to an online audience. They have always been competent when it comes to sports betting and their online service has always been solid, but it is in the area of online casino gaming that the company seems to have always struggled.

Initially, Ladbrokes launched the official Ladbrokes Online Casino using the Microgaming software platform and it is fair to say that the casino was not much more than a clone of the likes of 32Red, but without the finesse and experience that continues to make that brand one of the best performing online casinos in the world. The company fell into a similar trap as many of its peers that were more accustomed to offering high street sports betting, adding an online casino on to the existing service offering but then treating it as something of an afterthought.

However, progress has been made and it is a good thing for the sake of Ladbrokes to say the least, with the likes of Paddy Power and Bet365 being well known as sports betting companies that also offer online casino experiences that could rival even the leading standalone casinos. Microgaming has been cut from the deal almost completely, with developers such as NetEnt, IGT, Ash and Barcrest filling the void, along with the old favourite among sports betting providers, Playtech. With gamers increasingly looking for a mix of quantity and quality among their online experiences, it will come as no surprise to learn that refocusing the game selection onto exactly what players are looking for has made for quite the change in fortunes for the brand.

However, when it comes to availability in Australia, Ladbrokes appears to once again be somewhat behind the times, with sports betting continuing to be the primary focus. Indeed, their online casino is not currently available in the country, and that is something that is certainly worthy of further discussion. Technically, online gaming is not allowed in Australia and that is all part of the same 2001 IGA ruleset as that which prohibits live betting in the country. However, Ladbrokes’ actions such as choosing to reactivate the live betting service following the failed legal challenge handled by William Hill indicates that this is one brand that feels that it is much easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

While online casinos are not specifically allowed in Australia, this generally only leads to the fact that casino operators cannot physically be based in the country. Outside of there, the government and authorities naturally have no jurisdiction and it is then up to the players to decide where to participate in their online and mobile casino gaming. Bet365 and Paddy Power are in a similar position, where they too offer sports betting in the country but have opted to leave their frankly excellent casino products out of the service. Incidentally, Bet365 also happens to be one of the few online casinos to offer official Aristocrat poker machines through the site and this is another kettle of fish, as Aristocrat itself specifically prohibits players from partaking in their online games within Australia.

It all comes down to companies having something – or nothing – to lose. Ladbrokes, Bet365 and Paddy Power have a presence in Australia and not just in name. They offer some of the most recognisable sports betting services both online and on land through a network of land based betting shops. Given the passion for sports betting that exists in Australia and the profits being made, it is safe to assume that they are fairly happy with where they stand. In offering online casino gaming, the companies would essentially be jeopardising what they have built up over the last few years. Generally speaking, sports betting is more profitable than casino gaming to a large extent from a company perspective. If the government decided that laws were being broken to any great extent then it is not just the online casino arm of the respective companies that would suffer. Legally speaking, it is within the powers of gaming regulators to not just close down an online presence but withdraw a gambling licence completely, leaving the likes of Ladbrokes with a lot of real estate but no core business to operate from it.

Conversely, some of the biggest names in online casino gaming in Australia have relatively little to lose. Many of them, just as with the sports betting operators, are major international names with presences in most major regulated markets and even some unregulated. The US is well-known for looking unfavourably upon online gambling, more so than any other country in the world, but it is correct to say that online players in that country can still find action online, although they must jump through a number of hoops in order to do so as payment providers are not all that keen on getting involved either.

In comparison, Australia is almost as liberal about online gaming as the UK and plenty of big name brands have made their mark. The likes of All Slots, Platinum Play and the aforementioned 32Red all have online presences in Australia, with some brands such as Casino Mate and All Australian Casino going out of their way to appeal to Aussie players. Something that each of these brands has going for it is the fact that software providers have as little to lose as the casinos themselves. What each of these names has in common is that they each primarily offers games served by Microgaming or NetEnt, the biggest online developers in the world in terms of the number of games. Microgaming is not willing to offer its games to casinos that accept US players, but has no such issues with doing so in Australia, meaning one less hurdle for the gaming brands to navigate and plenty of great games for Aussie punters to enjoy.

All Slots, Platinum Play and 32Red each operate in dozens of countries around the world, having already deeply diversified their offerings in order to appeal to players of different nationalities through the use of numerous currencies and languages throughout all aspects of the experience. Casino Mate and All Australian, while clearly being Aussie focused, are part of larger casino groups that essentially cover as much ground as the bigger names, with the Australian versions simply being skinned and designed in a way that makes them feel as localised as possible.

Simply put, if the Australian government turned around and said to any or all of these operators that their gaming services were no longer required in the country, and even went out of their way to block them, that is just one part of the business that is no longer operational. Australia is certainly a highly significant gaming market, but one which names of this size can comfortably do without. With the majority of them being based in the likes of Malta and Gibraltar, the Australian government would have no jurisdiction over the companies themselves and business would essentially continue as normal, albeit with a slight cut in profits.

Without this luxury, some of the biggest names that do have something to lose, such as Ladbrokes, Bet365 and Paddy Power, have opted instead to toe the line. Fortunately, they know their core business unlike anyone else and remain the best places for sports betting. Casino gaming, on the other hand, is best taken care of by playing at one of the leading names that specialises in such an area. Ladbrokes is not behind the times in this regard, no matter what some detractors may say. They are simply making the smart decision for their business and focusing on their core contribution to the market – one which continues to appeal to all sorts of players and delivers one of the most complete betting experiences around, apart from in-play sports.

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