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“We’re currently seeing history in the making”: Exclusive interview with Evoplay Entertainment on the regulation of Ukraine’s gambling market

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Exclusive interview with Evoplay Entertainment on the regulation of Ukraine’s gambling market
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With Ukraine getting ready to regulate online gambling for the first time in more than a decade, we caught up with Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment, to take a deep dive into the market’s potential and what we should expect to see once it goes live.

 

Can you give us the lowdown on gambling regulation in Ukraine and what’s happening right now?

VM: We’re currently seeing history in the making. In short, the Ukrainian gambling industry is coming back. While gambling peaked at almost $1.4 billion in revenue in 2008, the state monopolised the market into lotteries in 2009, making it the only legal form of gambling – and prohibiting anything else.

After more than a decade of prohibition, the current legislation being adopted by parliament will soon mean that regulated online gaming will be available to Ukrainian players. With one of Europe’s most hotly anticipated gambling bills on the table, we’re sure that regulation will be of great benefit to players, suppliers and the national economy alike.

So, once the market’s live – how’s it going to look?

VM: In its current form, the bill legally permits the operation of online gaming, as well as land-based casinos – along with retail and sportsbook outlets and commercial lotteries. The government is set to appoint a new authority to oversee licencing, compliance and inspections.

The body will outline a list of products requiring mandatory certification, as well as the regulatory authorities responsible for awarding it. The government will also be closely monitoring operator data, with a view to updating regulation by 2022 as the market develops.

How big is the potential here?

VM: Given the market has been out of action for more than 10 years, it’s difficult to evaluate the size of what we’re dealing with today. With the gambling market peaking at $1.4 billion in revenue in 2008, we’re dealing with a respectable benchmark. Conservative estimates put the expected GDP boost at close to $100 million dollars for the first year, which is enough to be taken seriously.

These figures also clearly show that the legalisation of betting causes a significant increase in economic activity. A well-formulated legal framework protects players, creates jobs and drives growth, for which we are strong proponents.

How would you define the typical Ukrainian player? What kind of demographics are we dealing with?

VM: When it comes to assessing player preferences, strong local knowledge is critical. Just as we’ve seen in other territories, it’s going to be all about getting the balance of delivery just right. Prominent Ukraine-based suppliers such as us are going to be well positioned to evaluate the behavioural patterns exhibited by Ukrainian players; and we’ll be looking to capitalise on our unique placement.

From what we can paint as a broad picture, the country’s players share a lot of similarities with their European counterparts – typically a 35 to 54-year-old male. The difference is that, with a lower average income, total bet spends in Ukraine will be lower than those observed elsewhere on the continent. As a consequence, expect low-spend, high entertainment titles to perform strongly.

How accustomed are they to online casino?

VM: The more than decade-long national ban on gambling means that most players will generally be unfamiliar with it, which means that there needs to be marketing efforts to help players migrate. Accordingly, land-based casinos will likely continue to hold most of the market for the first few years as we go through the adoption process.
At the same time, mobile usage in Ukraine is rapidly spreading, with a market share that has tripled in the last three years alone. Over 70% of internet usage is now coming from mobile in Ukraine, which shows how important a mobile-first strategy will need to be here. Digital adoption here for iGaming is definitely going to come via mobile rather than desktop and given how tech-savvy the population is, there’s plenty of potential.

And how about slots in particular?

VM: Online slots offer that classic gaming experience that arguably made Vegas great all those years ago. The same can be said for any new market – and any operator worth their salt is going to make sure they have the industry’s top suppliers in their stable. Of course, this will be a particular plus if they’re also based locally such as ourselves! I’m sure our development team can’t wait to get stuck into one or two Ukrainian-themed titles in the near future to really bring a feel of home.

Take us through the process – what does a game supplier need to get online in Ukraine?

VM: So far, the Ukrainian government has only set out requirements for operators, with suppliers still awaiting the list of mandatory B2B licenses and game certificates that are needed to go live. Once this information is received, our preparations will commence.

Regulatory approval is likely to depend on the commercial reputation of the company in question, which puts Evoplay Entertainment in a strong position given our local presence. I think if we look for a comparative style of entrance requirements, then we’re probably looking at internationally recognised certification or similar – much as you would expect for many European markets.

What does it mean for local suppliers such as yourselves? What are your plans?

VM: For a Ukrainian company like us, the legalisation of Ukraine’s gambling sector is an opportunity to show players in our native territory what we are all about. With an understanding of the country’s culture that only local knowledge can bring, we are ideally placed to become one of the market’s standout suppliers.

But this doesn’t just mean creatively speaking – our time-to-market can likely be fast accelerated too. I also expect, circumstances safely permitting, that we will be able to conduct more face-to-face meetings and attend more local trade shows than our competitors.

Who do you expect to be the biggest commercial players here?

VM: The newly regulated Ukrainian market represents an exciting prospect for some of our industry’s biggest names. We’ve already seen a surge in interest from our foreign partners, and with over 26 million potential customers up for grabs if we’re talking internet users, this will only increase in the future.

We’ll likely see a combination of big-name brands staking their claim with the usual roster of titles, along with the smaller, agile suppliers like us looking to provide operators with a more customised approach to the market.

And finally? Give us a snapshot as to how you see the first year here once we’re ready to go?

VM: In all seriousness – having seen the plans and what’s on the table, I think it’s in the Ukrainian government’s interest to provide a fair playing field for foreign and local brands, and the bill looks like it’s shaping up to do just that.

If we look at LatAm’s recent regulatory developments to compare, everyone will no doubt be hoping for a pro-active Colombia based model similar to the stellar work done by Coljuegos, which has set a shining example. I have no doubt that this will be possible – and having seen how well Croatia, the Baltics and Romania have performed in recent years, I expect to see a market that offers player protection and a fair playing field for all.

As to how the market will look – it’s hard to define. While we can use other European markets as a benchmark, we are dealing with not only a very different culture to the likes of Italy and Romania for example. The Baltics are really the only similar regulated markets we can likely compare Ukraine to. With individual populations numbering as small as one million for Estonia, it does make things hard to compare to Ukraine’s much greater population – so this is certainly a step into the unknown for many!

Eastern Europe

PRAGMATIC PLAY TAKES BINGO LIVE WITH PRINCESS CASINO IN LANDMARK ROMANIA ENTRY

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PRAGMATIC PLAY TAKES BINGO LIVE WITH PRINCESS CASINO IN LANDMARK ROMANIA ENTRY
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Pragmatic Play, a leading content provider to the iGaming industry, has made its Bingo debut in Romania after partnering with Princess Casino.

The agreement with Crowd Entertainment will see Pragmatic Play provide its complete Bingo solution, including the hugely popular Bingo Blast, to Princess Casino’s players.

It marks yet another important step for Pragmatic Play’s growing multi-product portfolio, with its emphasis on regulated markets ensuring that players are able to enjoy the highest quality games across Slots, Live Casino, Bingo and Virtual Sports.

Daniela Asaftei, CRM Marketing Manager at Crowd Entertainment, said: “Bingo is a strong vertical, which perfectly blends with the casino background and brings an extra layer of entertainment to our players.

“Our goal is to bring the best experience to the casino players in Romania, so we have expanded our relationship with Pragmatic Play to include Bingo in Princess Casino’s offering. After a highly productive collaboration with Pragmatic Play and their slots and live games, we are glad to present another top product to our players.”

Claire McDaid, Vice President of Bingo Operations at Pragmatic Play: “We’re delighted to launch our bingo product in another new territory as well as further enhancing our partnership with Crowd Entertainment.

“With the results we’re already seeing on our slots and casino games with the Princess Casino brand, I have no doubt that the team there will make bingo equally as successful, offering the Romanian players a best-in-class experience.”

Currently producing up to five new slot titles a month, Pragmatic Play also delivers Live Casino and Virtual Sports games as part of its multi-product portfolio, available through one single API.

 

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Eastern Europe

Scientific Games announce introduction into Ukraine market

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Scientific Games announce introduction into Ukraine market
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Scientific Games Corporation has launched its industry leading products into the Ukraine market, with an extensive and world-renowned product set including Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s), Tables and Progressive Jackpot Products.

Scientific Games has deployed products to some of the country’s most high-profile casinos including Slots City, Storm Ukraine and Billionaire Casino, with more on the horizon. Its entry to the market brings something genuinely new to Ukraine’s casino floors, delivering products that are proven to drive player loyalty, engagement and deliver revenue growth opportunities for operators.

The unique EGM offer includes a range of award winning and industry leading hardware, including the Twinstar™ Matrix Upright cabinet, Twinstar Slant cabinet and Twinstar J43™ vertical screen cabinets. This hardware houses some of Scientific Games’ leading global content which is already a proven success in European markets. Titles such as the top performing Asian link themes, Duo Fu Duo Cai™ and Jin Ji Bao Xi™, as well as updated versions of player favourites like Super Colossal Reels™ Spartacus Gladiator of Rome™, are available within the market leading portfolio.

Scientific Games is a leading provider of gaming solutions across the world, releasing games which provide an element of familiarity to players, whilst at the same time delivering innovation and differentiation, to give players something unique in the market.

Stelios Tsapatos Sales Director Europe, Middle East & Northern Africa, says: “Launching our industry leading products in some of the largest casinos in Ukraine is an important step on our journey to engage and excite players across the country with a new gaming offer. Our partnerships in Ukraine are already starting to grow and casinos are benefiting from Scientific Games’ diverse product mix. We’re here for the long run, expanding our presence, building familiarity with players and always evolving their experience to maximize revenues for our partners.”

Dmitry Grechko, Slots Project Manager for Slots City in the Ukraine, widely recognised as the leading land based slot operator, says: “For Slots City, it’s all about providing a unique gaming and entertainment experience for our patrons and Scientific Games product portfolio was introduced to allow us to extend to a wider player base in the Ukraine through their internationally popular and high quality product sets.So far, the reception has been positive as the product gains popularity, while driving incremental revenue for us. I look forward to a long term relationship with Scientific Games as we both explore this new market and to benefit from the high-quality product and positive results.”

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Eastern Europe

Betsson Launches Europebet in Belarus

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Betsson Launches Europebet in Belarus
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Betsson has launched its Europebet brand in Belarus, offering players access to online sports betting and casino gaming, including online poker. A live Casino offering will also be introduced in the coming weeks.

Parallel to the launch, Betsson has opened an office in Minsk responsible for customer service as well as administrative and operational activities.

“Building on the success of Europebet in Georgia, the expansion into nearby Belarus is a natural step in our business growth strategy. We started looking into this market back in 2019 and have been preparing for this expansion ever since. As an operator, we will be introducing a high-quality and entertaining product, an excellent customer experience, innovative technology as well as providing multiple job opportunities through our new office in Minsk,” Pontus Lindwall, CEO of Betsson AB, said.

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