Last month Bojoko made its debut into the US market after launching to New Jersey players, and quickly asserted plans to enter additional states in the coming months.
Following this move, as well as group’s maiden entry into New Zealand, CasinoBeats caught up with Joonas Karhu, chief business officer at Bojoko, about how the affiliate will replicate its UK success stateside and the challenges faced in securing its coveted licence in the Garden State.
Karhu also discusses why responsible gambling will be key to ensuring online operators, suppliers and affiliates can build successful and sustainable businesses in the country.
CasinoBeats: Why was New Jersey identified as the starting block from which to launch Bojoko’s US attack?
Joonas Karhu: New Jersey was one of the first three US markets to regulate online gambling and is really starting to ramp up. Last year, online gambling revenue more than doubled to $900m making it a sizeable and substantial market for us to target.
“We can also learn from the New Jersey market and then fine-tune Bojoko to better meet player needs”
Because the state has been live for several years, we have been able to consider our approach to the market and have fully localised Bojoko so that it provides New Jersey players with the information they are seeking as well as the tools they need to select the right gambling sites for them.
We can also learn from the New Jersey market and then fine-tune Bojoko to better meet player needs in the state and other US markets as we continue our rapid roll-out across the country.
CB: What major challenges were faced with the licensing process? How were these overcome?
JK: We knew from day one that we wanted to launch Bojoko into the US market and while we have been focussed on ensuring the site delivers the best possible experience to players in the UK and Canada, we have also been working towards making our debut in the Garden State.
Towards the end of 2020 we felt the time was right to make our move in the US and started the licencing process in New Jersey. Applying for an affiliate licence is a fairly straight forward process and really just requires a lot of paperwork to be filled out and completed.
Once this has been submitted, you can launch your site but without any casinos listed while the regulator audits your website and assesses your approach. So long as they are happy with what you are doing, you are given the green light and can start on-boarding casino partners.
Of course, we are used to operating in the tightly regulated UK market so know what it takes to market online casinos to players responsibly and in compliance with regulations and requirements.
“The fundamentals of Bojoko remain the same in each market we target”
CB: Which other jurisdictions have been identified as a major priority for yourselves? And why?
JK: Ultimately, we want to build Bojoko into a global brand, so all markets are of interest to us. Of course, some are more interesting than others and with finite resources we have to select markets based on the greatest potential return.
We believe that the USA will become the largest online gambling marketing in the world so is a priority for us, but we are also live in Canada and have a Finnish language version of Bojoko. We recently made our debut in New Zealand, too.
It really comes down to finding the talent to work in each market, and of course managing resources to ensure that we receive a viable return on the investment required to launch and continue to operate in each market we are active.
CB: Will your US offering replicate that which has proven successful elsewhere? Or will you, and how if so, tailor it to meet the specific demands of players across various US regions as your growth continues?
JK: The fundamentals of Bojoko remain the same in each market we target. And that is to provide players with a place where they can access the information and tools they need to find reputable online casino brands and select those that appeal to their own likes and preferences.
At the heart of this is responsible gambling and safe gaming; we only work with licensed operators and provide players with the information and tools they need to stay in control of their play at all times. But each market is different and we do localise each version of the site.
“Ultimately, player protection and safeguarding must come before everything else”
All markets are unique and it is important to communicate to players in a way that is authentic and meets their expectations. We take the lessons we learn from all markets and apply that to each version of Bojoko that we operate. In addition, we constantly analyse trends and player preferences.
This allows us to fine-tune Bojoko and ensure that it offers the best possible experience to players. We will be onboarding more talent from the US as and when we find suitable candidates to help develop the US version of Bojoko and help us grow our share of the market.
CB: The NJDGE recently issued a warning to operators over the withdrawal process, should this serve as a stark reminder of the necessity to not fall into bad practices that have perhaps been witnessed elsewhere in the past?
JK: Best practice must be adhered to in all markets and the US is no different. The US can actually benefit from being a late adopter of regulated online gambling, and learn from the mistakes and failures in established and mature markets such as Europe.
Ultimately, player protection and safeguarding must come before everything else and so long as operators, suppliers and affiliates do all they can to ensure that players are educated about the potential problems gambling can lead to and provide the tools and support to mitigate this, then the industry in on the right path.
When it comes to it, operators, suppliers and affiliates want players to be happy and healthy as this is what ensures their businesses are sustainable. Protecting the most vulnerable while ensuring gambling remains safe and fun is the only way to achieve this.