Latin America is a prominent emerging market in the international sports betting sector, with countries such as Colombia having already embraced regulation, whilst others such as Argentina, Mexico and Brazil are beginning to open their sectors..
Speaking to SBC Digital – Latinoamerica, the SBC Leaders Panel outlined the significance of the emerging market and highlighted key factors for success in a discussion moderated by Rosalind Wade, Co-Founder of Asia Gaming Brief, and sponsored by Pronet Gaming and SBC Leaders.
Kickstarting the conversation, JD Duarte, CEO of Betcris, pointed to the significant opportunities presented by the Latin American market, in particular the passion many in the region have for various sports, stating: “The world is only so big, and Europe, that’s already been fought over by everyone. Asia is, I think, an enigma for anyone who’s not from there.
“Latin America poses a very interesting opportunity, because of the passion I believe that people have for sports. And actually, how big a role, the sports played in knowing the culture of everyone in Latin America. And it’s not only football or soccer – as the Americans call it, because any sport, Latinos embrace.”
In addition, Duarte pointed to the fact that over 600 million people live in the LatAm region, the vast majority of whom speak either Spanish or Portuguese – offsetting the challenge of having to develop platforms in ‘multiple languages like in Europe or Asia or Africa,’ making it a ‘pretty attractive region form that point of view.’
However, international bookmakers wishing to break into the LatAm market can expect to face challenges regarding ‘technology, like payment methods that are in development.’
Clarifying, Wade stated: “From a player’s perspective, from a bettor’s perspective, they are very passionate about the sport, but they don’t necessarily then translate that into betting on it or knowing how to bet on it.”
This sentiment was echoed by André Gelfi, Managing Partner Brazil at Betsson, who argued: “You do have a lot of passion for the sport, but at the end of the day, the market as it is now as we know is what I used to call it hardcore player markets app, it’s just for the experts, and we have our challenges in the market so a local approach, educational one is critical.”
Duarte reiterated Gelfi’s point regarding the issues of educating and retaining customers, stating: “When you have a chance to educate the market and the first experience of the customer is with you, and it’s a positive one, you definitely have a better chance of keeping those customers for a long time.”
Building on this argument, the CEO further emphasised that as LatAm betting brands continue to expand their operations and build sponsorship and marketing partnerships with sports leagues and teams, the issue of retention should always remain at the forefront.
Adding on the aforementioned issue of payments, Richard Schwartz, President of Rush Street Gaming, further explained that the topic plays a key role in Latin America, as there is ‘a diverse set of payment methods and many of them are being used for the first time now in a regulated environment for online gambling, in a way that wasn’t there before, so that’s a big area for focus’.
Schwartz also emphasised the importance of differentiation as a means of retaining customers in the LatAm market, noting: “In increasingly competitive markets where we have a lot of brands and a lot of products, a lot of companies competing to attract the player, of course once you’ve attracted them you need to retain them.
“I think a lot of times, having your own technology platform like we [Rush Street Gaming] have really helps because you can constantly innovate, improve things, get feedback from the players that are implemented in the technology itself to prove it.”
Agreeing with Schwartz, but also expanding on his argument, Gelfi highlighted the desire of many Latin American gamblers to have a close, interactive relationship with betting operators.
“It’s about generating a great experience with a unique product so we are basically following this philosophy, down the line,” he began. “And just to adapt to the product perspective, as Latins we like especially at the beginning to have a very personal interaction.
“So, the way you interact with your audience needs to be very close. If it’s not really formed you need to be creative, because at the end of the day, I think that the audience, especially with a new value proposition, is expecting from you. It makes a difference for you to be very close to your audience and to generate a great experience from day one.”
Another potential challenge to the developing LatAm online betting industry was highlighted by Duerte – the presence of unlicensed operators, and the impact these can have on positive competition.
“We do have unlicensed operators in a lot of the markets where we operate, and they come in and they don’t have to pay taxes,” he explained.
“They don’t have to do many of the things that we do, they don’t provide jobs and they don’t really abide by the law, and they’re able to be more aggressive, and that’s that isn’t right, and it’s not everywhere where the regulator has the ability to block websites, and even that we know it’s not really a final solution right.
“It’s like in any game, you know, you have to learn how to play. In our case, you know, the mission for BetCris, is the one we want everyone to want to play ball with us.”
Concluding the main discussion on this point, and again highlighting the importance of educating bettors, Wade remarked: “Competition is really good for everybody. As long as everybody’s playing by the same rules, it makes you up your game, it makes everybody up their game.
“It’s in everybody’s interest to improve the market and as you say to educate the players, make sure that the regulation is supportive of the industry as well as protecting citizens etc.
Ultimately by sharing information by teaching people how to do things well you know you’re improving the general market.”
SBC Digital Latinoamérica, on 2-3 March, is the premier online conference and exhibition for the betting and gaming industry in Latin America. Delegates can register for free here to join the event live or watch the conference sessions on demand.