SBC Summit Latinoamerica

Martin Lycka: Brazil is the crown jewel for Latin American industry

Martin Lycka, Entain’s SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling, is set to be part of the high-level speaker line-up for this month’s SBC Summit Latinoamérica conference and trade show in Miami. Ahead of the event, he talked to SBC Noticias about Entain’s operations in Latin America and the importance to international operators of local partnerships when entering newly-regulated territories.

Entain, the $17 billion sports betting, gaming and interactive entertainment Group, is live with its bwin brand in Colombia. 

Lycka is optimistic that Colombia is just the first of many Latin American markets for Entain, although the group is committed to only taking business from fully regulated jurisdictions by the end of 2023. That means he’s keeping a close eye on the current moves to regulate the online gambling markets in Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia.

The company’s wider growth plans for Latin America remain under wraps until the regulatory picture is clearer, but Lycka said: “These are the four Latin American markets that are in the process of regulating and potentially becoming fully aligned with Entain’s strategy. And, without a shadow of a doubt, Brazil is the crown jewel. As soon as Brazil has regulated, or has opened its licencing process, Entain will be there with a licence application.”

He remains upbeat about the chances of the Brazilian government delivering a new regulatory framework for gambling on schedule and that “the regulated market might launch at some point towards mid-2022 or the second half of 2022”. However, he conceded that the industry has to be mindful that the Presidential election could disrupt the path towards legal online betting and casino gaming. 

The kind of expertise that will be needed to eventually launch in Brazil will form part of the discussion during the SBC Leaders panel that Lycka will participate in at SBC Summit Latinoamérica. ‘The Importance of Local Partnerships’ will examine the advantages and drawbacks for international brands of working with local operators and experts when entering new markets. 

“It’s always very, very important to have a source of local knowledge in any market that we enter,” he said. “I’m not saying that we would have to enter all our new markets together with a partner or, if I may put it differently, we may not be statutorily obliged to enter markets in Latin America with a partner. But we would most certainly consider whether, from both a legal and a commercial perspective, we would potentially be better off entering new markets on our own or with a local partner. It’s something we will approach on a jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis as territories regulate.” 

Local knowledge comes in many forms though, and agreements with operators are far from the only type of partnership that Entain will explore once conditions are right for the company to expand its presence in Latin America.

“We work with a broad variety of local partners, ranging from potential sponsorship opportunities to legal experts,” explained Lycka. “We always seek to instruct a top drawer law firm and top drawer regulatory affairs advisors to guide us through any regulatory process and, of course, subsequently through all applicable compliance processes during the lifecycle of any licences.”

One other area that he would like to see collaboration on is the creation and management of effective responsible gambling provision in the markets that are in the process of establishing regulatory frameworks. 

“I remain of the view that safer or responsible gambling is critically important to the success of any regulated market. And actually, I would suggest that the Latin American markets that are in the throes of regulating have a huge opportunity to learn all the lessons, both good and bad, from other jurisdictions, including most recently, of course, the U.S. markets and also the upcoming Canadian regulations led by Ontario. 

“I would strongly suggest that safer gambling needs to permeate any regulation. Both the industry and the regulators do need to place a lot of emphasis on it with a view to protecting our customers. And that’s most definitely something that can and should be approached in a collaborative fashion.”

He added that while there is no one size fits all solution for safer gambling provision and that new regulators would have to find a workable localized approach, he believes the information they need to get it right is now available.

“There’s a whole set of best practices and principles countries such as Brazil can take advantage of and draw inspiration from,” said Lycka. “BNDES, the Brazilian Development Bank, has been looking into instructing a third-party advisor on the future licencing or tender process. I’m sure that whoever is selected will be giving the Brazilian authorities a lot of advice not only on the regulatory framework, but also on safer gambling being supported to the extent required and welcomed by the industry.”

Find out more about SBC Summit Latinoamérica, which takes place at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami on October 27-28, 2021, at the event’s official website

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