Wagering giant Tabcorp says punters are embracing its effort to merge online and offline betting at its thousands of affiliated pubs and clubs, with a third of its active customers in Victoria and NSW placing an online bet in a venue since October.
The shift to digital betting led by the likes of Sportsbet and Ladbrokes over the past 15 years presented a challenge for Tabcorp and its retail network, made up of about 4000 betting agencies and entertainment venues.
The $9 billion group’s managing director of wagering Adam Rytenskild said many punters went to its pubs and clubs to watch live sport and racing but placed bets on their phones, not the TAB betting terminals, meaning the venue would not get its cut of the gambling turnover.
“That’s not good for the publicans, that’s not good for the clubs and it’s not good for TAB,” he said.
“There were some extreme situations of marching customers out of the venue if they weren’t betting cash with them.”
TAB’s online wagering turnover grew by 7.4 per cent last year, while its retail turnover fell 7.7 per cent, with its wagering revenue now roughly split 50/50 between the two channels.
Overall wagering revenue fell 3.6 per cent last year, with Tabcorp’s bottom line propped up by the lotteries business acquired through its 2017 merger with Tatts.
Tabcorp started rolling out systems in late 2016 that used geolocation technology to identify when a customer placed a bet on the TAB’s smartphone app within a venue, so the revenue could be shared.
But Mr Rytenskild said that did not stop up to 60 per cent of the online bets in venues being placed with rival bookmakers.
Tabcorp is now trying to combat that by rolling out “venue mode” on its app, which gives customers special offers or deals only accessible in TAB venues.
Mr Rytenskild said the feature was designed to encourage punters to both choose TAB over its competitors and also drive patronage at TAB venues.
Mr Rytenskild said the early signs were positive, with the number of customers re-activating their accounts and placing a bet in venues after not doing so for six months jumping by 60 per cent, and the number new digital customers placing bets in venues growing 20 per cent.
About 160,000 customers have used venue mode in Victoria and NSW since its launch, which is about a third of its active customers in those states.
“What has changed now is we’ve got venues saying: go for your life, you choose how you want to bet, as long as you’re building with TAB,” Mr Rytenskild said. “That’s the big change.”
Tabcorp has recently signed broadcasting deals with the National Basketball Association and National Football League in the hope showing their games will drive patronage in TAB venues.
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