The World Cup as a mobile phenomenon

17 Jun 2010

Internet bookmakers take a punt on iPhone apps.

While, sadly, South Africa won’t see hordes of people bedecked in Irish green adding to the festivities surrounding the World Cup, the next few weeks will no doubt witness the onset of a different kind of phenomenon.

Until now, online betting was pretty much a PC-centric activity. Punters who wanted to take a bet on a match or an economic outcome via their mobile phone browser most often didn’t because of all the steps and trickery involved.

But no more! Just in time for the World Cup, top online bookies Betfair and Paddy Power have unleashed new iPhone apps aimed at making it easier for punters to place a bet and manage their accounts from anywhere: the pub, the office or the street.

iPhone Betfair

“In the context of the World Cup, the amount of betting could exceed €1bn and from our own perspective the number of people betting online have increased 140pc since the last World Cup,” explains Graham Ross, managing director of Betfair in Ireland.

“The first ball hadn’t even been kicked and already we saw €17m traded in the World Cup Winner Market on Betfair. The key, however, is making sure people can access a comprehensive service and that’s why the iPhone app is exciting because it allows people to get unrivalled access to Betfair in a way that wasn’t possible on mobile before.

“We’ve already seen 200,000 downloads of the Betfair app since we launched it last month.”

Not to be outdone, Paddy Power has also launched a new iPhone web application specifically for users with either an iPhone or iPod touch, just in time for the World Cup. The company will follow this up with an app for Android devices.

The new app has been optimised specifically for the iPhone/iPod touch, including opening a new account, depositing and withdrawing, betting and full transaction history and is one of the few iPhone sites that allows full functionality to place multiples.

James Grimes, online sportsbook product manager at Paddy Power, explains: “Every year for a number of years, people have been coming up to us saying: ‘This is the year of the mobile’ but, with the onset of smartphones and in particular the iPhone, 2010 is definitely the year of the mobile.

“We’ve seen magnificent growth in mobile channels over the last 12 months, so the time was right to do an iPhone app. We have released an iPhone web app that allows anyone with an iPhone to go to the website and get an iPhone-optimised version of the website.”

Grimes says Paddy Power was particularly keen to get the app out to the marketplace in time for the World Cup in South Africa.

“We are driven by what the market dictates, and the iPhone has driven internet on mobile and we’re seeing emerging devices like Android phones and the iPad as doing much the same.

“Our strategy is following what the market is dictating and we’ll be bringing out new services and apps in the future,” he adds.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years