SBC News Mark Chakravarti, SportingWin: Thriving in the ‘incredibly strict’ Bulgarian market

Mark Chakravarti, SportingWin: Thriving in the ‘incredibly strict’ Bulgarian market

Under the country’s new regulatory framework, SportingWin made its launch in Bulgaria in 2022, and has since lauded the region as having an ‘increasingly competitive’ market where it aims to move up the ranks.

The operator’s Investment Director, Mark Chakravarti, discussed with SBC News its growth in the country in line with a recent collaboration with online sports betting company, Pinnacle – which has been in the Bulgarian market for more than two decades.

SportingWin has now been active in Bulgaria for just over a year. How have you found the market to date? Has it surpassed expectations?

Bulgaria is a thriving market with plenty of growth still to unlock – we estimate it will hit 20% AGR over the next five years resulting in a market worth upwards of €500m per year. That said, the market is becoming increasingly competitive with ten operators now licensed and offering their brands to players in the state. 

Our mission is to claim a significant market share of this and become the country’s second-biggest operator behind the clear leader, bet365. We are well on our way to completing this – in the fourth quarter of last year, we generated €500,000 in net revenue. This has been achieved through our superior product offering and the highly localised player experience we provide. 

We are now taking this to the next level through our recently announced exclusive partnership with Pinnacle which will see us use its cutting-edge iFrame Solution to further differentiate and pull ahead from our rivals with a superior product and player experience. 

Can you tell us more about this partnership and how it will improve your offering to players?

Pinnacle’s top-quality sportsbook experience and betting exchange product have proved to be especially popular with high-value, VIP bettors. 

Under the regulations in place in Bulgaria, Pinnacle is one of only a few operators/providers that can offer betting exchange products in the market so the only way for us to bring this betting product and experience to our players was to strike a platform partnership deal. 

That we have been able to reach an exclusive agreement with Pinnacle is crucial to our ambition to become the second biggest operator in the market, allowing us to differentiate and engage the 5% of top-quality players that often make up the majority of operator revenues with a proven betting exchange and sportsbook. 

Of course, the deal also enhances the experience we can offer to more casual bettors, with Pinnacle’s sportsbook platform being one of the best in the business. 

The licensing process in Bulgaria seemed to be quite lengthy. What factors in particular made things move more slowly than you would have liked?

Rightly so, the regulatory requirements in Bulgaria are incredibly strict to ensure that only the highest calibre of operators can enter the market and offer sports betting products to players. One of the requirements of the National Revenue Agency is for operators to have a regulatory platform, which we developed in-house and had to ensure provided the insight it required while being fully compliant with its rules. 

Ultimately, our developers spent a lot of time finessing this platform and this, combined with having to secure investment, saw our licence application run on for longer than expected. The regulator really is forensic in its investigation of a business and its platforms/technologies, and wants to be absolutely certain that its standards are being met before awarding a licence. This is a good thing, but it takes time and is ultimately why we went live in the Bulgarian market a little later than initially planned. 

Will your regulatory platform prove key to further market expansion? If so, how?

Every cloud has a silver lining, and one big positive to come out of our delayed launch in Bulgaria was our proprietary regulatory platform. It really is impressive and now that it has been certified for use in Bulgaria, we will use it as the foundation from which to build our presence in other regulated European markets. 

We have also just secured the European trademark for our SportingWin brand, so this combined with our regulatory platform puts us in the driving seat to identify high-growth markets across Europe and quickly apply for and secure licences in those where we see the greatest potential. Now that we are up and running in Bulgaria, and are growing our share of the market nicely, new market expansion will be a key focus for the business over the next 12 months. 

We understand Romania is up next. How is the process going? How will your platform help improve the licensing process?

Romania will be our next market and while we have yet to submit our licence application to the regulator, we believe it will be a much easier and faster process than that in Bulgaria. 

Not only do we have our regulatory platform up and running, but a lot of the legal paperwork required for a licence in Bulgaria can be carried over to Romania, and so too can the technical and software certifications. Our licence application will be submitted shortly, and we are confident that we will be live in Romania in the first half of the year. 

We are looking for investment to help push ahead in the market and are keen to hear from experienced backers looking to join our success story. 

What are your mid-to-long-term plans for the business? We understand you recently secured a European-wide trademark for the SportingWin brand – what opportunities does this present

The short to mid-term is all about securing our licence in Romania and making our debut in the market. Onboarding additional investment is also a priority and we believe there is a significant opportunity for those looking to leverage our brand and European trademark certification to enter additional markets across the region and really ramp up growth. 

The founders of SportingWin have already launched and sold betting businesses, so it’s probably no surprise that the long-term goal is to exit the business and for one of the leading online gambling operators to take what we have built and achieved and use it to grow their presence in regulated European markets with a player-favourite brand that delivers substantial revenues from each of the jurisdictions where it is active. But for now, there is still plenty of work for the team to do.

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