The constantly evolving nature of the sports betting industry might be coming full circle as the sector re-adopts a ‘customer-focused’ approach, according to Paris Smith, CEO of Pinnacle.

Speaking to Kelly Kehn, SBC’s Global Relationships Director, in the seventh instalment of the SBC Leaders podcast Smith reflected on almost 15 years with the sports betting operator and the trends that she has observed during her time with Pinnacle.

“One of the most interesting transitions within the industry was, of course, phone betting going into online,” she stated. “That was the first big milestone, I think.

And then it was really how the industry shifted from hardcore bookmaking into being technology companies. Now it’s shifting back to really trying to be more customer-focused and less technology – technology has to drive it but really focusing on the customer and the people.”

Pinnacle, which has offered esports betting since 2010, as Kehn pointed out, introduced the product as a means to engage customers and become one of the first operators to do so.

When asked how the company continues to innovate in the betting space and ‘set the pace’ for the market, Smith was somewhat modest in her response, praising the team at Pinnacle.

She added: “For myself as the leader, it’s to step back and listen and allow my people to do what they know needs to be done. These are true esports passionate and they’re leaders so that’s where that innovation can come from. It certainly isn’t coming from me directly to say the least.

“It’s constantly getting new people in and keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry.

“Sometimes it’s subtle things – it’s not having a brand new look and feel, which is actually coming – but sometimes it’s more about the product and the offering that we have, with the quality of the product. There’s a constant evolution and iteration of what we can do better.”

In particular, Smith lauded Marco Blume as the ‘crème de la crème’ of the esports betting space, recalling when Pinnacle’s Trading Director first floated the idea of introducing esports betting.

“I remember it vividly,” she said. “It was Marco Blume just saying, ‘I think we should try something different’. And it was to engage the traders that we had because they do have a passion for it. We started out with a $25 maximum bet and it kept growing.

“There was so much confidence in his capability. He’d also grown other products within the organisation that he wasn’t as passionate about and he still did a phenomenal job, so we just allowed him to take the reins and drive it.”

SBC Leaders: Betting industry undergoing shift back to ‘customer-focused’ approach