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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

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Evoplay Entertainment on the regulation of Ukraine’s gambling market
Reading Time: 5 minutes

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!

Central Europe

STS strengthens its presence on foreign markets with a new version of stsbet.com

George Miller

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STS strengthens its presence on foreign markets with a new version of stsbet.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

STS, a leading company in the Central and Eastern European gaming industry, launched a new website. It will allow the company to enter new foreign markets and offer innovative solutions that are nowadays necessary to acquire an advantage over competitors and effectively acquire customers.

For the past few months, a team of developers from the STS Gaming Group have been working on a number of changes to the stsbet. com site, which is one of the two B2C services provided by the Group to customers outside of Poland (stsbet. com and stsbet.co.uk).

The changes resulted in the creation of a new and better version of stsbet. com, which has also been transferred to a new platform.

The players will benefit from an expanded payment portfolio individually tailored to each targeted market, and new gamification tools combined with a larger selection of casino games will also be coming soon. The sports betting service has also been redeveloped in terms of UX/UI. Further elements of the new website will be gradually added according to a carefully adopted strategy for 2021, now offering faster and more intuitive navigation for gamers.

Mateusz Juroszek, CEO of STS, stated: “When deciding to create a new version of the website, our goal was to provide customers with even better solutions than before. These solutions will improve the user experience and allow us to increase our competitive advantage. The new version of stsbet.com is a product that consistently enables us to build our position on the international market. We have already achieved great success in the UK, but our ambition goes much further.”

Other competitive elements of the new stsbet. com website, such as real-time gamification, will be successively added in accordance with the strategy adopted for this year to increase player involvement further.

As part of the further development of stsbet.com, the company will add more features and solutions from its software and innovation providers. One such example is BetBooster – a widget that makes betting easier and more enjoyable and provides users with unique knowledge about specific sporting events. BetBooster is based on artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, which utilises algorithms that can self-improve automatically through experience gained during operation.

STS is a Polish company which, outside of its home market, has its largest customer base in the UK, where it continues to develop and systematically record dynamic growth. When debuting overseas two years ago, the management strategically decided to launch a separate website for the UK market (stsbet.co.uk) while the global website (stsbet. com) was still in the development stage. The creation of a new website is, therefore, another step towards the implementation of an international strategy of expansion into foreign markets.

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Eastern Europe

BGaming enters the Belarusian market: the brand’s portfolio goes live with GrandCasino

George Miller

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BGaming enters the Belarusian market: the brand’s portfolio goes live with GrandCasino
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

BGaming’s is delighted to announce its market entry into Belarus after striking an exclusive deal with online casino operator GrandCasino. Now a suite of 14 brand titles, including hits such as Elvis Frog in Vegas, Book of Cats and Atzec Magic Deluxe, is available for Belarusian players. Remaining studio titles are to be certificated in the nearest future. 

Being a slot supplier of Belarusian origin, BGaming gives particular importance to the new integration. Alexander Shavel, head of BizDev noted: “GrandCasino is one of the leading operators in Belarus and it is making a significant contribution to the development of high-quality online gambling in Belarus. In turn the BGaming team is incredibly excited about entering this market. We have promising plans for the integration. For example, a set of tournaments will be launched shortly. There’s no doubt that our games will impress new players.

Grandcasino.by is an online casino brand holding a license in the regulator market of Belarus. The company offers an exclusive collection of entertainment products for Belarusian players that helps the operator to gain the trust of customers and partners. BGaming will expand the video slots set of the Belarusian casino with high-engaging products. 

Andrey Dvoretskov, director of GrandCasino, comments on the deal: “Our company strives to take Belarusian gambling to the next level, offering new products that meet the highest international standards. Cooperation with BGaming is another confident step towards this goal. The brand’s team monitors all current trends and creates high-engaging slots. Finally, Belarusian gamblers will be able to spin slots created by a domestic developer in a legal Belarusian online casino!”  

BGaming is a fast-growing iGaming content provider converting gambling into gaming. Thanks to an expert team and a player-driven approach the studio creates innovative and engaging products featured on reputable platforms and 300+ online casinos worldwide. BGaming was the world’s first to support cryptocurrencies and offer Provably Fair games. Today the brand’s lineup includes 60+ products with HD graphics and a clear user interface for every device. 

 

More about BGaming:

BGaming is a creative and fast-growing iGaming content provider. Our fundamental value is that the player and player choice always come first. Therefore we constantly analyze and study player preferences to make unique and attractive products. Thanks to an expert team with limitless energy and 20+ year’s experience in the industry, we produce games perfectly balancing between ideal visuals and maths, along with rich gameplay and surprising features. Our games entertain and totally fulfill the demands of players and operators. BGaming was the first to offer “Provably Fair ” feature in online slots, and became the pioneer in supporting cryptocurrencies. 

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Eastern Europe

EveryMatrix’s NGO expands activity into two new educational Romanian centres

George Miller

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EveryMatrix’s NGO expands activity into two new educational Romanian centres
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

EveryMatrix is pleased to announce the launch of two new educational hubs for Romanian children as a part of its long-term CSR project Kids Academy.

The two new centres add to the existing three in Bucharest, Romania, and are operated in partnership with the local Child Protective Services. The programs provide access to high-quality education for children at social risk. The kids are tutored by EveryMatrix’s full-time teachers in disciplines such as Computer Science, Maths, and English.

Since launching in 2015, Kids Academy has provided access to quality education for over 200 pupils between the ages of 8 and 15.

Kids Academy’s mission is to help pupils continue their studies into higher education despite social inequality and prevent children at risk to drop out of school. At the very least, the program ensures basic computer literacy, which typically is not provided in their homes or schools. The program is operated under the strong belief that investment in education can break social barriers and improve kids’ lives in the long-term by equipping them with hard and soft skills requested on the job market.

Ebbe Groes, Group CEO of EveryMatrix, comments: “We have been dedicated to supporting educational causes since 2015. Kids Academy is a project I value very much and seeing the impact it had over the years makes our team here very happy. The activity in the two new centres will make it possible to aid even more children. Our teachers provide much-needed support and help the pupils have better paths in life.”

Kids Academy had continued to provide ongoing support to the beneficiaries, in the form of online classes, live workshops held at EveryMatrix’s headquarters, and tutoring, since March 2020 when the schools and educational centres in Romania transitioned to an online or hybrid system. Kids Academy’s activity is fully compliant with governmental public health policies for COVID-19 to keep both pupils and teachers safe.

Learn more about Kids Academy and our mission to enable, inspire, and educate.

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