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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

SBC Summit Tbilisi 2024 Promises Growth and a Deep-Dive into Eastern Europe & Central Asia

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SBC Summit Tbilisi 2024 Promises Growth and a Deep-Dive into Eastern Europe & Central Asia
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SBC Summit Tbilisi is poised to reclaim the spotlight on 25-26 June at the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace, marking its early return after a highly successful inaugural edition in October 2023.

1,500 senior sports betting and iGaming executives will reconvene in the heart of Georgia’s capital, to solidify their foothold in the promising markets of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, while gaining invaluable insights into the nuances that shape industry dynamics.

SBC has once again partnered with SMH to organise SBC Summit Tbilisi, continuing the event’s partnership that began with the SBC Summit CIS in Kyiv in 2021. SMH is an international iGaming and sports management organisation based in Georgia, bringing valuable local knowledge to an event that incorporates unique elements reflective of the vibrant Eastern European and Central Asian markets.

Lasha Machavariani, Founder and CEO of SMH, said: “I’m thrilled that the SBC Summit Tbilisi is making a comeback to my beautiful home country of Georgia. Witnessing all the engaging conversations and networking that took place last year filled me with pride, affirming that the effort that goes into organising an event of this calibre is absolutely and undoubtedly worthwhile.

“Offering a platform for those keen on Eastern European and Central Asian markets feels not only rewarding but also essential, especially given all the buzz in these markets we’re diving into. If this event wasn’t on your radar yet, now’s the perfect time to start considering it.”

Andrew McCarron, Managing Director at SBC, commented: “Operators, suppliers and affiliates who want to make a mark in the region simply have to attend SBC Summit Tbilisi if they are going to compete successfully. These markets are tricky to thrive in without local knowledge, which is why SBC has partnered with SMH in order to provide the platform for companies to perform effectively.”

Centered on these dynamic regions, the event promises an in-depth exploration of key markets, including Georgia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Slovenia among others, and guarantees to be a melting pot of ideas and strategies tailored for these geographically diverse regions. The conference agenda will focus on trends including the new regulatory landscapes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the influence of innovations from crypto to AI, and new developments in eSports, payments, and influencer marketing, among other topics.

Last year, the host country had a strong operator presence during the inaugural summit, with industry leaders like Adjarabet, Betlive, Crocobet, Europebet, Leaderbet, LVBet, Superbet, TotoGaming and Vbet making their mark.

Past event attendees responded exceptionally well to the inaugural edition of the event. Tereza Tokmajyan, CMO of TotoGaming, called it an ‘excellent opportunity for operators and service providers from the region.’ Dmitry Starostenkov, CEO of EvenBet Gaming, described it as “featuring a very active and representative audience, outstanding topics, and speakers”. Additionally, Vakhtang Mdivani, CPO and Co-Founder of Promofy, praised the event, expressing: “Hosting such an exceptional event in Georgia for the first time and setting the bar so high was truly awesome”.

This year’s show floor is set to be significantly larger, featuring over 60 exhibitors and sponsors, effectively doubling the count from the previous year. Moreover, there is an anticipated 70% growth in the count of operator representatives, and affiliate representatives are poised to experience a 50% increase compared to the figures reported last year.

To cater to the growing interest, this year’s event will expand its agenda, commencing with a half-day conference on the opening day (25 June). This addition brings the total number of featured speakers to 60, marking a significant 50% increase from last year.

The first day will feature a poker tournament followed by the Official Opening Party sponsored by Setanta Sports, taking place at Stamba Hotel. On the second day, a VIP dinner exclusively for C-level executives will be held at the Republic Restaurant, followed by a Closing Party at the Republic Event Hall.

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Compliance Updates

CT Gaming Obtains New Certifications for Romania

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NEXT, EZ Modulo 32/32/32, EZ Modulo 27/27/27 and Aurora slot cabinets have received certifications according to the new laws in Romania.

“Due to the new local technical laws, we had to take the needed measures and ensure that our clients can operate without any issues. We were able to acquire the needed certifications for NEXT, EZ Modulo 32/32/32, EZ Modulo 27/27/27 and Aurora slot cabinets,” said Robert Stancu, Sales Manager at CT Gaming, Romania.

The new regulations in Romania require operators to comply with strict regulations regarding the function of their gaming halls and casinos.

“To maintain the leading positions at the Romanian market, it was highly important to act fast in adapting to the new regulations. After the multigame packs such as Diamond King and Diamond King 2 were certified, we did the same for the slot machines that support these packages,” Mr. Stancu said.

He added that now they have applied for certification of Diamond King 3 and NEXT’ 32/32/32 slot machine. The certificate is being processed, so it is expected that soon the hit multigame will respond to the new laws.

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Balkans

The largest exhibition of the gaming industry in Bulgaria marks its 15 year

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The largest exhibition of the gaming industry in Bulgaria marks its 15 year
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The largest trade exhibition of the gaming industry for Central and Eastern Europe – BEGE, which takes place in Sofia, marks its 15th anniversary this year. The event will be held on November 27th and 28th at the Inter Expo Center, Sofia, and dozens of companies from Europe, the USA, and Asia have already announced their participation.

The day before the start of the exhibition, the traditional BEGE Awards will be handed out. The glamorous ceremony will take place on 26 November 2024 in a sophisticated setting with the participation of representatives from across the sector. The awards are presented to individuals and companies with significant contributions to the gaming and entertainment industry.

During the exhibition, the Eastern European conference of the gaming industry – EEGS will be held, again at the Inter Expo Center. It is a preferred platform for experts who have the opportunity to learn about regulatory changes, technological developments and the latest trends in the sector.

In 2023, dozens of exhibitors from three continents presented their latest products. “We are glad that hundreds of professionals and experts visited BEGE and our expectations for this year are to welcome even more people. For 15 years, the event has become one of the most influential exhibitions in Europe for the sector, gathering experts, professionals and companies from all over the world, covering all verticals of the online and offline segments of the industry,” explained Natalia Baevska, Project Manager of the exhibition.

BEGE provides an opportunity to make business contacts, present the latest products from the industry, which successfully applies the latest technological innovations, including artificial intelligence.

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