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Q&A: Sportingwin and the Bulgaria opportunity

George Miller

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SportingWin opens €1m funding round
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Mark Chakravarti, Head of Investment at Sportingwin, talks about why the operator sees such potential in the market and how it has found the licensing process to date

Bulgaria has had a major shake-up when it comes to how gambling operators are licensed and regulated in the country with the National Revenue Agency recently taking on the responsibility.

Amid allegations of corruption among its predecessor, the State Gambling Commission, the new regulator is moving forwards with plans to issue additional licences over the coming months.

The first in line to receive such a licence is Sportingwin, which has ambitious plans for Bulgaria once it has been given the green light to launch.

To learn more about Bulgaria and the operator’s plans for the market, we sat down with Mark Chakravarti, Head of Investment at Sportingwin.

Why do you see so much potential in Bulgaria?

You just have to look at the numbers to see the potential. We estimate the Bulgaria market to be worth around £300m right now but as new operators enter the fray it could grow at a rate of 20% per year to hit £500m over the course of the next five years.

Coupled with this is the low level of competition. Only five betting licences have been issued to date and mostly to local retail bookmakers with a limited online offering. These sites simply don’t offer the depth of markets, odds and products available in other European jurisdictions.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for experienced online sportsbooks to make their mark, so long as they enter Bulgaria with a localised product that delivers a superior player experience. Those that do are very much in the driving seat to capitalise on the tremendous potential on the table.

What do Bulgarian players look for in an online sportsbook?

There is a long tradition of retail and online sports betting in Bulgaria, so players are seeking a comprehensive, quality, cutting-edge product and experience similar to that offered and found in mature markets such as the UK.

In particular, they are seeking a high volume of events, a range of bet types as well as modern features such cash out. We also believe that exchange betting, while not currently available, will be hugely popular once we secure our licence and launch the Sportingwin exchange in the market.

How will you meet those needs and localise your offering?

There are two key ways we are doing this – product and our approach to CRM. When it comes to product, we are developing a proprietary platform that is fully customisable for each market we enter, including Bulgaria. This includes localised payment options, currencies, sports, etc.

In terms of CRM, we are investing in a local customer support centre so that we can comfortably meet the staff-intensive local language CRM and marketing operations and activities we believe will enable us to communicate to and engage with Bulgarian players.

How have you found the licencing process to date?

The Bulgarian regulator has incredibly high standards and expectations when it comes to due diligence. As such, the licensing process has been a little slower than in other jurisdictions, but we are okay with this as we want to make sure we not only meet but exceed their standards.

This means taking additional steps such as appointing a dedicated Bulgarian CEO. He has a proven background in gaming and the regulator can quickly carry out the necessary checks that it needs to in order to ascertain his credibility and suitability for the role.

Owning our own technology has also allowed us to synchronise our platform with the NRA already, which in turn means we are among those on the regulator’s list of approved technologies ready for when our licence is granted.

In addition, we are a Maltese company so have requested that the Maltese consulate in Bulgaria monitor the licensing process from start to finish as our application is the first to be considered since the Nation Revenue Agency took over regulatory responsibility earlier in the year.

By having the right people on a local level, and by taking considered steps towards ensuring we meet the standards set by regulator, we expect to receive our licence in the first quarter of next year.

What has been the toughest challenge to overcome?

The toughest challenge is in respect to the due diligence and in particular the requirement of having an €800,000 investment from a local, proven source of funds. To do this, we have had to find a local banking partner which was easier said than done.

That being said, the team pulled together and we were able to find a local banking partner happy to facilitate the investment allowing us to progress through the licensing process.

What are your long-term plans for the Bulgarian market?

We want to claim 9% of the local market within the first three years. We then plan to build on this rapidly by securing further venture capital that will enable us to consolidate the market through mergers and acquisitions with local operators.

Once we have achieved the scale we are seeking, we can then effectively pursue market leader bet365. It is a tough task, but one that we are more than capable of completing thanks to the incredible team we have built out in recent years.

We also believe our cutting-edge proprietary technology and platform gives us a huge edge over the incumbent operators and brands and will allow us to compete with and defeat any other overseas operators that enter the market.

What is your long-term plan for Sportingwin?

We are currently undertaking a fundraising campaign to help accelerate our global expansion efforts, selling off more than €1m in equity.

These investments are in line with our long-term strategy for the brand which is to achieve a valuation of €50m in three years and, once achieved, would deliver a x13 increase on the current investment opportunity.

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How has 2021 begun for NetGame Entertainment?

We’re incredibly pleased with how the year has begun as it’s seen us deliver on our key growth targets in Q1. Against the backdrop of an unforgettable 2020 for the industry, we worked tirelessly to set the perfect foundation and it’s allowed us to seamlessly focus on new jurisdictions, promotions, aggregator and platform partnerships.

Our creative games studio has been busy with several hugely popular releases that included the latest in our Book of Nile series and Fruit Cash Hold ‘N’ Link. Another milestone for the business since the turn of the year was the launch of crypto currency and it means we now work with all world currencies.

NetGame Entertainment’s creative studio continues to release a wave of successful slots, what makes these titles standout from the crowd?

Our creative team and studio is second-to-none and deserves all the plaudits for the positive reception of NetGame’s titles. The team has been curated over time and is perfectly positioned to drive the business forward through designing exceptional iGaming experiences.

Supporting the innovative thinking are outstanding graphics, fair and trusted math and a combination of interesting features that each help deliver the best experience to players. Particular attention is paid to our bonus games and multiplayer elements that both have positive impacts on player engagement and retention.

Engaging bonuses feature heavily within NetGame Entertainment’s slots, what impact do these have?

Bonuses add to the fun for players and make games more exciting as we constantly strive to make every user’s experience interesting and enjoyable. NetGame’s bonus games are synonymous with our brand and there are various levels to the in-game features. One component that players love that’s present in some of our titles is the option to buy different starting levels within the bonus game to give a greater chance of success.

We are proud of our Progressive Jackpot Series Game and these have really added to player engagement and therefore life-tme-value. Other NetGame features include Free Spins, Buy bonus feature, Gamble feature, Tumbling reels, Hold N’ Link, Pick’em Game, Fortune Wheel, Super Laser, Multiplayer Mode, Totalizer, Pay-any Symbol and Quick cash.

The Fishing Kingdom slot has a multiplayer element, is this something that NetGame Entertainment will introduce more?

Fishing Kingdom has been incredibly well received and the results have been beyond encouraging. The game has been beautifully designed, but the standout feature is the multiplayer element. Given the results thus far, we plan to develop these styles of games and there will be another three launched during the remainder of the year.

How do slot series, such as Book of Nile, perform when compared to standalone titles?

We’ve been thrilled with how warmly the public has taken to the Book of Nile series. Magic Choice launched in February as the third installment following Revenge and the Lost Chapter. The Egyptian series is packed full of fun features and builds a narrative across the three games that players have really engaged with. Book of Nile is one of our most volatile games and that really adds to the breathtaking experience on the reels. Our series games and standalone titles perform equally well with our partners and that’s thanks to the creative team’s commitment to fun, thrilling and rewarding experiences. The key for us is having a diverse library of games to suit all our partners’ demands.

What are your business expectations over the next 12 months?

The next 12 months promise plenty for NetGame Entertainment and we have high expectations on delivering on our action-packed roadmap. One core element of that strategy is that we’re close to obtaining our MGA license and you are the first publication we have shared this information with.

Later in the year we’ll also be revealing some more details on some major arrangements with big aggregators and operators. These significant deals will allow us to expand NetGame’s reach in the market and give more players the opportunity to fall in love with our proprietary titles.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at the mobile-first casino game developer OneTouch, to discuss how suppliers should adapt their products to the geographic regions which they are targeting.

Is content localisation a myth?

No – for those who get it right, it’s an invaluable acquisition and retention strategy. What do we mean when we talk about localised games? Put simply, it’s a title that’s tailored to a specific geographic audience.

And it takes a lot more than just changing the language to do that. From both a visual and technical perspective, adapting your content to individual target markets can do wonders for engagement.

For example, there are obviously still places lacking in internet coverage, particularly in growth regions such as Latin America. For suppliers trying to enter those territories, that makes it all the more important to ensure that your games don’t take up too much storage, and can be easily downloaded by those with an older smartphone model or a slower internet connection.

Do you localise your games? If so, how? And which regions are they tailored to?

Here at OneTouch, we think it’s all about striking the right balance between creating international hits with cross-cultural appeal, while also producing content for specific local audiences.

Our recent release, Ganbaruto Battle, draws inspiration from the great Japanese tradition of sumo-wrestling. It features a renowned Estonian wrestler called Baruto Kaito, so its appeal is likely to include, without being limited to, players from that country.

Equally, classic casino themes such as Ancient Egypt and Vegas-style fruit symbols often generate global popularity. Our timeless slot title, Forgotten Pharaoh, has achieved tremendous and widespread success by drawing on the former theme.

One might expect that our basketball-based slot MVP Hoops performs especially well in markets where that sport is popular, but it’s actually proved a hit in regions where basketball is not generally followed by the wider population.
Finally, we expect our upcoming title Live Crash to reach a transnational audience, because it is a crash-style title similar to those enjoyed in the crypto-gambling space – which is rapidly gaining followers from around the world.

We research every market diligently to understand what its players want in precise detail. Localisation has proved a successful strategy for OneTouch!

Are there any aspects of game development which are internationally uniform, and do not vary based on where you are in the world?

Some aspects of content development require more localisation than others. Failing to geographically adapt your game from a visual perspective might mean that customers might not want to play it. Failing to do so from a technical perspective, meanwhile, could mean that they are not able to play it.

However, there are other stages of the game development process which are not subject to regional variation. With the exception of a game’s volatility, mechanics do not tend to vary all that much on the basis of geography, unlike technical and visual effects.

Similarly, sometimes localisation isn’t just about adapting to cultural or infrastructural differences, it’s simply a case of knowing the ratio of land-based to online players within the market you are targeting. It’s all about creating an enjoyable entertainment experience for the end user by paying heed to their specific cultural context. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

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Cryptocurrency

‘What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?’

George Miller

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'What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?'
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Tom Leadbetter, Head of Marketing at multiplayer casino game developer FunFair Games, to discuss the increasingly important role played by social media within the modern-day gambling industry.

The casino industry’s use of social media is fundamentally outdated. Specifically, the world of iGaming has yet to understand the true value of community engagement.

The crypto space, by contrast, has long been ahead of the curve. That includes crypto-gambling, which places community at the heart of its acquisition strategy. Yes, many in the real-money gaming sector post about their activity, but that’s rarely followed up with a conversation.

That’s why FunFair Games uses social media to start a two-way dialogue with its community, stimulating discussions on platforms such as Discord, Reddit and Telegram, as well as more conventional social channels like Twitter, where we’ve got more than 35,000 followers.

I doubt there are many companies in the real-money space who use Reddit, but we’re proud to call ourselves pioneers in the gambling industry’s use of social media. And with a current membership count of nearly 17,000, as well as 72,000 page views in January alone, we’ve found the platform to be a fantastic engagement tool.

Keeping your community engaged takes more than just emailing a newsletter without response. We live stream our games at the prototype stage, and ask for community feedback on the names of the characters found in our titles.

In that regard, social media is a great way to garner instant feedback on your content. The crypto index is much younger, boasting a higher level of popularity among Gen Y and Z players than the mainstream casino sector.

Crypto is therefore a useful predictor of things to come. If the emerging generation of player wants more community-driven experiences, it’s likely that social media will prove key to the gambling industry’s future.

There’s a tendency for the real-money sector to fear community engagement. In some ways, that’s understandable: scroll through Twitter these days, and most of the stories you find about gambling tend to be negative.

That negativity, though, stems from a lack of trust. That’s a word you wouldn’t normally associate with the world of gambling, but social engagement allows you to cultivate it. Most of the feedback we get is positive, but our community often flags potential problems too. We don’t shy away from spirited discussions and debates with them – it’s not that everyone agrees, but that everyone cares.

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