As more countries begin to open their doors to the prospect of a regulated gaming market, Latin America has swiftly become the region to watch for those looking to grow their global footprint.
But to be successful in the region, Dmitry Starostenkov, CEO of EvenBet Gaming, believes that operators and suppliers must localise their product and take into account that many jurisdictions take a mobile-only approach.
CasinoBeats: Firstly, congratulations on strengthening your position in the South American market. What was it that initially attracted EvenBet Gaming to this region?
DS: Thank you! Initially, we entered the market in late 2019, looking for new opportunities for growth in the online poker vertical. Mature and over-regulated European markets were already saturated, and the regulation in the USA didn’t move forward as fast as expected. So we have decided to place our bet on the emerging markets in South and Latin America.
The demand for quality and safe online gaming is high there, and the example of Colombia has shown us that there’s a huge potential for operators and vendors to grow there.
Therefore, at the end of 2019, we launched the first rooms in the online poker network; we are looking forward to creating an online poker hub covering all the countries in the region that have already introduced or are introducing igaming regulation.
CasinoBeats: In terms of players, what would you say have been the biggest differences in terms of casino and poker preferences?
DS: Most countries in South America are not just mobile-first, but mobile-only; up to 90 per cent of regular players and bettors prefer to use mobile devices to access casinos and sports betting operators online. That’s a crucial difference for online poker, as in Europe and in North America, players are more inclined and used to play poker with desktop devices.
“Both in Asia and in South America, mobile recreational players are predominant”
There’s a higher number of skilled and professional players, which are using the multi-table mode, additional software for games analytics, and even making a living by playing poker online. In Latin and South America, such players are very rare. The lion share of users prefers to play for brief entertainment in the first place, between other activities, without even getting in front of their laptops or computers.
These audience specifics undoubtedly define the games’ preferences. The sessions are shorter, the game formats are faster, there are more random elements (like in Spin & Go or Fast Fold games). Everything that is intended not to make a player wait for too long or get too bored during the game is welcome here. This also extends to the application interface, preferable casino game types, and so on.
And of course, due to the general lower players’ level in poker, the mass audience is more likely to play in local operators’ rooms with a lot of active recreational players, but a relatively small number of “sharks”. This way they get their dose of entertainment, but will not lose too much money too fast, which often happens to newbies coming to play in major global poker rooms.
CasinoBeats: And how have you had to adapt your offering to meet these differing needs?
DS: Luckily, we didn’t have to do much to enter the market. Even before starting the network, we have already performed the full client software localisation, and our previous experience in the Asian markets helped us a lot in terms of adaptation to market specifics.
Both in Asia and in South America, mobile recreational players are predominant, though in Asia you also need to offer specific game formats like Rummy or Teen Patti in India, and there’s a crucial difference when speaking about the payments processing or KYC procedures. Yet, the challenges of switching from the audience that knows the game to the one that just wants to have fun were well-known to us.
“Grey markets are still the biggest threat for all poker and casino operators in Latin and South America”
Of course, we needed to do a few things: localising operators’ tools used to manage the poker rooms, integrating some popular side games’ types demanded in the region, like video bingo, but these were mostly cosmetic changes. We came to the market with the software fully ready to satisfy both players’ and operators’ needs.
CasinoBeats: With regulatory developments sweeping across the region, how has EvenBet Gaming overcome the challenges posed by the grey markets, taxation systems, and the need for localisation?
DS: Grey markets are still the biggest threat for all poker and casino operators in Latin and South America. For example, in Brazil, the demand for online gaming is only increasing, and as the regulation is not moving forward recently, the niche has been taken by the underground online casinos and operators working in the grey areas, for example, in poker, these are poker clubs and unions. It’s not possible to overcome this until the regulation for the licensed operators is introduced.
Speaking about the taxation and the clarity of regulatory processes, I hope that while introducing licensing, the governments will use the successful example of Colombia, which continues to evolve its regulatory and compliance system.
CasinoBeats: And finally, what would be your biggest piece of advice for European companies looking to enter the Latin American market?
DS: I suppose that it’s already been said a thousand times – don’t just launch your product as is, regardless of however successful it has been in Europe. Learn from the existing companies in the market, do research and adapt. All the failures of big brands in recent years were due to the approach that simple language localisation could be enough to succeed in LatAm. It is not.
If you can secure a partnership with the local igaming company or a company working with the igaming sector to use their experience in the market, that would be a ground-breaking advantage for a successful start.