CCO Bobby Longhurst discusses the profile of the average player and more in an exclusive interview with Soloazar
What can you evaluate about the current situation of the sector, one year after the beginning of the pandemic?
The cessation of live sport and the closure of retail venues in many countries had a very sudden impact on the industry. We’re likely to be seeing the repercussions from that for many years to come. What it also showed, however, was how resilient and adaptable we are compared to some platform providers that perhaps utilize legacy technology. We’re able to offer customers new products and services to compensate for the temporary loss of others and growing verticals like virtuals and esports are maintaining their market share despite the return of sports. Interestingly, the pandemic is also accelerating the adoption of online betting and gaming, particularly in Latin America and many of the US states. It’s arguable that we wouldn’t have had such rapid regulatory change without it.
What challenges have you had to face as a company? (could be home office, the boom of online, temporary closure of traditional markets, etc)
Our biggest and most immediate challenge was ensuring our operator clients had products with which to keep their customers engaged. Fortunately, having powerful back-office tools allowed us to change the UX and the UI across our partners sites almost overnight, seamlessly switching focus from live sports to casino, esports and virtuals, with resounding success. We were also able to cope with the increased scale of bets that came with this, growing by over 70% in the past 12months across our network. As a company, we moved to remote working very quickly in order to maintain our first-rate customer service and I’m very proud of the way the whole business adapted. The sales team, including myself, had to cope without meeting existing and prospective clients in person and at industry shows but we’ve managed remarkably well – as a string of new deals that we’ll be talking about in the coming weeks will bear witness.
In what issue have you managed to have results beyond your expectations within the current situation? Have you had an unexpected opportunity?
I think we’ve been able to demonstrate through impressive results that our platform is one of the most flexible and robust on the market. The past year hasn’t been without its challenges but I’m very pleased to say that we’ve risen to those challenges. We have won ourselves opportunities in markets and with client types that have surprised some people, as demonstrated by our recent WLA member operator launch. Our differentiator has always been about listening to the requirements of customers rather than imposing a product on them, actively avoiding the “cookie cutter” approach and opting for a bespoke solution instead. This has been hugely beneficial in Africa, where we are making great strides, and we’ll soon be able to talk about game-changing deals in North America with a tribal client and with a WLA member operator in central America that will really put us on the map.
How could you describe the profile of the average player nowadays? Which are the average tastes and demands?
There probably isn’t an average player and having a large enough and flexible enough product offering is required to be able to cope with the sheer variety of customer types. We live in a society nowadays with so much choice where we make the decisions about what we want to engage with rather than accepting what’s on offer. That is why localization and player profiling is so important and such a big part of our offering. They might both be big football fans, for instance, but what a customer wants in Lima might be very different to his opposite number in Lagos. It is about understanding the needs around their devices, bet types, and even the layout of sites that is going to convince them that a brand understands what makes them tick. Looking for averages and similarities, therefore, is possibly the wrong way to approach it.
Which are the latest trends regarding technology, games and habits, that arrived to stay?
When it comes to games, there is certainly much more interest in esports and virtual games, as already discussed. That’s here to stay and brands certainly need those products in their armory. Technology is a little bit harder to pin down, however. Clearly, we’re all moving towards 5G, some sooner than others, which will have consequences for the hand-held devices and the load times of products. But, again, it’s about working out what is popular and what is required on the ground for our clients at Pronet Gaming, whether that is in their retail businesses or the user experience on mobile and desktop devices.
Which are the most important markets for the company at present?
Pronet Gaming specializes in emerging markets and our rapidly expanding footprints in both Latin America and Africa are ample proof that we are a force to be reckoned with on both continents. We are also keeping a very close eye on other key areas, like India, where there is obviously huge potential, but we remain well positioned with a very powerful and flexible product that our teams are ready to deploy in record time.
Do you think that legislation towards games of chance has to do with the current situation? Which are the countries that have best adapted their laws during 2020 and the current year?
The pandemic has certainly given regulators pause for thought on how best to protect players and we have to be mindful about responsible gambling at all times. We’ll soon see how many of these rule changes are temporary and how many remain in place. Regimes that have sufficiently high standards but are realistic about workable taxation systems are the ones that we all want, and it will be fascinating to see which models regulating countries like Brazil adapt. Many hold up Colombia as an excellent example of getting the balance right and there is a lot markets can learn from their approach.