In the last few years, we have seen many gambling companies expand their international footprint. And there are many reasons for this.
Entering new markets can be a way of tapping into unexplored revenue streams, providing operators access to a player base that might not have been familiar with your offering.
GG.BET recently announced that it would be expanding its global presence even further by entering the Ukraine and UK markets.
For Sergii Mishchenko, CEO at GGBET UK, and Dmytro Voshkarin, CEO at GGBET UA, these two new market entries are a reflection of the company’s ambition to become the industry’s leading esports betting operator.
Mishchenko began: “We’re a very ambitious team at GG.BET. We want to be the best esports betting brand in the world and expanding our global reach is key to achieving this goal. Over the last few years, GG.BET has built up considerable expertise in the international betting market and established one of the best niche services around.
“We’re about to launch in the UK, which has earned a reputation for being one of the most highly standardised, complex and competitive markets out there. As a betting brand that aspires to become a world leader, it’s essential from a credibility point of view that we have a presence in this market.”
Home market advantage
GG.BET has its roots firmly set in Ukraine, Voshkarin (pictured right) told SBC Media. It is this experience in the Ukrainian market that Voshkarin plans to use to shape GG.BET’s international expansion strategy.
By solidifying its presence within its home market, GG.BET is confident that it can deliver a stand-out experience to bettors across the country. Voshkarin said: “Ukraine is where the GG.BET brand has its roots, and where a large part of our team calls home.
“We want to use the experience we’ve accumulated to be able to offer our countrymen the best esports betting service possible. We’re therefore very excited about the prospect of getting to grips with both of these markets.”
The Ukrainian market has a very rich esports heritage, he explained, with a number of esports players also calling the market home.
GG.BET’s interest primarily lies in the development of the esports industry within Ukraine, and particularly the provision of betting markets for the sector – something that Voshkarin suggested is underserved by many gambling companies.
He continued: “There’s a rich tradition of betting in Ukraine. Ukrainians love sports and enjoy betting on them, too. As an esports betting brand, GG.BET is primarily interested in how developed esports are in the country. As it happens, Ukraine has excellent form here. After all, this is where the likes of Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, Valery “B1t” Vakhovsky, and Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev were born and made a name for themselves.
“And it was the Ukrainian team Natus Vincere that won the first ever Dota 2 The International way back in 2011, laying the foundations for today’s enormous fan base. Alongside Natus Vincere, there are two other up-and-coming Ukrainian esports teams in the mix: B8, founded by the aforementioned Dota 2 world champion, Dendi, and recent newcomer Monte, who showcased their talents brilliantly at the Counter-Strike BLAST Paris Major 2023.”
Esports analysis is another area that Voshkarin believes Ukraine is “strong”, with casters often “outdoing their international counterparts by setting new viewing records with the content they produce”.
The CEO of GGBET UA highlighted that during the Ukrainian-language commentary of the Monte vs Natus Vincere match at BLAST Paris Major 2023, which was streamed by Maincast, viewing figures hit the 59,000 mark.
Meanwhile, esports content streamed on Twitch hit a total of 4 million viewers in the first eight months of this year, demonstrating the significant growth of the sector.
Voshkarin, quite poignantly, highlighted that acquiring a licence for Ukraine was also a way in which the esports operator could support the country’s economy throughout the ongoing war.
“We are thoroughly convinced of the huge potential of the Ukrainian market. Even amidst the backdrop of war, leading high tech industries like gaming development and IT continue to grow here,” Voshkarin said.
“Entering the Ukrainian market is also a way for us to support the country’s economy through a difficult time. I’m talking about the tax we pay (GGBET UA has paid the Ukrainian Treasury ₴120.6m for a bookmaker licence and ₴26.13m for an online casino licence), as well as investments in projects with Ukrainian partners and social initiatives to support Ukraine in its struggle for territorial integrity.”
The operator will use this new licence as a stepping stone to create more Ukrainian-language content, building upon the existing videos displayed on its GG.Кіберспорт channel.
Voshkarin added that this will be complemented by a number of joint projects with leading Ukrainian esports players, casters and analysts; this, he believes, will help build engagement with players across the market.
He said: “In just the past two years, we have collaborated with esports content creators Tonya Predko and Yana “BlackBunny” Dychenko and have worked on projects in both English and Ukrainian.”
Since the start of the war, GG.BET has also taken part in several not-for-profit initiatives to support the Ukrainian army throughout the conflict as well as raising funds for medical equipment on the frontline.
Voshkarin added: “Last summer, we organised a huge show-match between NAVI and Team Vitality that was broadcast worldwide, through which we raised funds to replace an IT classroom in a school that had been destroyed by the Russian army in northern Ukraine.
“Over the last year and a half, we have also collaborated with streamer Mikhail “Olsior” Zverev to host intellectual games on his Twitch channel where the winners can donate their winnings to a charity of their choice.
“Plus, we recently partnered with Ukrainian analyst Fedor “KvaN” Zakharov, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more engaging and original esports content in the near future. We’re also planning online events for fans, but I won’t reveal any surprises just yet.”
From Ukraine to the UK
GG.BET made its entry into the UK market back in July via a partnership with Rednines Gaming, with the latter securing the rights to use the GG.BET trademark.
The UK is a very competitive market, but Mishchenko believes that this is a jurisdiction that is primed for the expansion of esports betting.
He said: “The competition is definitely tough in the UK, which is down to two factors. First of all, the Brits love to bet, so the market has to cope with high demand. According to IBIS World, the total value of the UK gambling and betting market as of 2022 stands at £14.7bn. Secondly, bettors in the UK are particularly demanding when it comes to quality of service.
“Having said that, esports betting in the UK is still not as widespread as betting on ‘traditional’ sports. Our goal is to fill that gap and offer Brits a fantastic esports betting experience.”
GG.BET plans to “fill the gap” for esports betting by tapping into the range of esports content available on its platform – which currently includes more than 30 different esports disciplines, and more than 400 different markets on major tournaments.
Esports isn’t the only sport that GG.BET offers, however. Instead, the operator also provides a range of more “traditional sports” to keep bettors “engaged and entertained”. For Mishchenko, having a variety of content is key to establishing a competitive edge in the UK.
As you might well expect, players in different markets tend to prefer different verticals. The UK has been no exception to this trend.
Since entering the UK, GG.BET has found that there has been some clear distinctions between bettors in the UK and those in mainland Europe – particularly when it comes to esports preferences.
The CEO of GGBET UK said: “Certainly every country is different, and the British have their own particular preferences that set them apart from even their European neighbours. For instance, one of the most popular games in Europe is Counter-Strike – in fact, 51.8% of its global audience is in Europe.
“In the UK, however, Counter-Strike is only the fourth most popular game, with Fortnite taking the top spot. British users are also huge fans of CoD matches. The top ten highest earning disciplines in the UK includes four games from this series. Interestingly, the UK is home to a sizeable community of fans of Halo, which has been around for more than 20 years now.
“The British tend to stay loyal to their favourite sports over the long term, which is why it’s so exciting to be able to introduce them to new games that can offer them an equally thrilling experience.”
Looking to the future
The esports industry is one that has undergone tremendous growth in recent years, particularly since the global pandemic in 2020.
For GG.BET, this growth is likely to continue. However, bookmakers must be aware of individual player preferences and changing market dynamics should they wish to capitalise fully on this growth.
Looking to what the future holds for the sector as a whole, Voshkarin said: “Bookmakers should look into the needs of their various audiences carefully, taking into account their geographical location, age, and previous betting experience. A targeted, individual approach is absolutely key to the future of esports betting.
“At GG.BET, we’ve already started introducing machine learning algorithms that can generate a personalised events feed based on each user’s individual preferences.
“We’re also working with our partner Data.Bet to develop new types of market to cater specifically to the demands and interests of our audience. At the BLAST Paris Major 2023, we gave bettors the option of betting on individual player performance and saw this type of market surge to become the 7th most popular market in just a week. We’ve now made the same kinds of markets available for Valorant, and I’m sure they’ll prove just as popular.”
This was a view very much shared by Mishchenko. The CEO of GGBET UK went a step further, however, by adding that marketing will play an integral role in the development of esports.
He highlighted that bookmakers should look towards targeted marketing campaigns and engagement strategies to bring esports to new audiences – something that GG.BET is continuing to focus on.
Mishchenko added: “We’re also developing our system of bonuses. In 2022, we carried out an interesting marketing experiment, offering users various kinds of bonuses at various stages of tournaments.
“We learned that bettors are more likely to activate bet insurance during group stages, when there are lots of variables involved and it’s very difficult to predict a winner. On the other hand, by the end of a tournament fans have generally settled on a favourite and are more likely to activate deposit bonuses.
“In my opinion, it’s this kind of targeted assessment of user preferences that ultimately allows us to create a totally user-friendly betting platform where the customer can focus exclusively on their own enjoyment without having to worry about minor details. This is precisely the kind of service that future customers will be looking for.”
This tailored service is just one component of GG.BET’s plans for 2024. Rounding off the interview, both Mishchenko and Voshkarin shared that the next 12 months will likely be filled with new developments, new events and even more market entries.
The duo concluded: “We will continue to expand GG.BET’s geographical presence, although it’s still too soon to be making any specific announcements. The development team is conjuring up further updates to the platform that are designed to make it more gamified and emphatically esports-oriented.
“On the community events front, you can certainly expect a number of exciting online and offline events that will bring together fans and players from all around the world.”