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Roundtable: Bobby Longhurst speaks to Intergaming about Mature vs. Emerging Markets

CCO, Bobby Longhurst, shares his insight and views on mature vs. emerging markets

In which emerging markets are you active?

We are currently active in multiple countries across Africa, LatAm and Asia, all of which can be said to be emerging markets, with many more due to be launched before the end of the year. Each brings unique challenges and requires an in-depth understanding of the individual nuances, which has played to Pronet Gaming’s strengths thanks to our local expertise and on-the-ground presence.

Which geographies do you see have particular potential for growth?

Africa and Latin America top the bill, particularly given the recent forecasts projecting huge advancements in technology and growing GDP. As we’ve seen in other emerging markets, these factors provide strong foundations for the online betting and gaming industry to boom and show great promise for the sector’s future.

As an example, Africa is the only continent in the world where the youth population is increasing.  By 2050 the number of 0 to 24-year olds is estimated to grow by 50%, further adding to the already 200 million people under the age of 35 in the region. Mobile phone penetration is hugely influential there too, with devices becoming easier to acquire even in the most remote areas. The pace of adoption will have a huge impact on the development of online gaming in the continent’s key markets.

How important is it to tailor your products and services to a particular market and how have you gone about achieving this?

What we’ve learned from our experience in more mature markets, particularly as they’ve become ever more saturated, is that it’s clear that differentiation is key to getting ahead of the competition. Whether it’s on points of pricing, product or the individual user experience, brands are having to find new ways to distinguish themselves and cut through the noise – and emerging markets are no different.

To differentiate, you have to think local. In fragmented regions such as Africa where the levels of infrastructure, technology and regulation present a patchwork of challenges, and player preferences differ widely, understanding the complexities of each individual market is a necessity. Having a network on the ground helps too. We work with our partners in a strategic manner, listening closely to feedback with quarterly business reviews to constantly evolve as demands shift and develop.

A result of this commitment to continual advancement is the evolution of our bespoke UI/UX.  Built with flexibility and localisation at its core, it has been successfully rolled out over the past few months to clients who operate in multiple jurisdictions, allowing them to build easy and simple player experiences that are tailored towards their specific needs and requirements. The impact? A solution that is enabling operators to gain an edge against the local competition, increase revenues, and boost their market share. This has been bolstered by product upgrades such as Opera Mini capability to enhance mobile usability across less mature African markets, as well as a simplified registration process to boost FTD’s and increase conversion rates.

What technological, compliance and regulatory challenges exist for suppliers in certain emerging markets?

There is a multitude of hoops that operators and providers must jump through in order to be able to offer their services in certain regions. All for good reason, of course, but it doesn’t make for an easy ride. There are again lessons to be learned from more established sectors, starting with the gambling associations put in place to enforce regulation and help protect players. Establishing these organisations will be a challenge, but a necessary one to gain insight into what is potentially to come in emerging markets. This is a more prominent point in LatAm where the regulatory landscape is more fragmented. In Africa, the regulations across the sub-Saharan region are of a similar baseline, making it easier for operators to launch into multiple countries at once, subject to licenses.

Technology will also play a significant part in the rise of emerging markets on the global stage, with mobile betting being in the limelight for a few years now. Data shows that there is huge growth in mobile adoption in most emerging markets, but that doesn’t take away from the need to fulfil the betting behaviour of today. The more prominent operators in LatAm are still reliant on a sophisticated agent network and on the ground operations to take bets, for example. The current challenges are very real on the ground, and it’s only with a flexible approach to technology and regulation that markets in the region will breakthrough.

Has the pandemic had any impact upon your ambitions to grow your global footprint?

As most will attest to, the pandemic has created a challenging environment for most if not all operators and providers alike. We have had to learn and adapt very quickly in these unprecedented times, but that has offered some silver linings. Our dynamism has put us in a strong position to react faster than competitors to the needs of our operators. At the same time, we’re remaining vigilant, especially in the short to medium term as the potential for Covid-19 to strengthen its grip on global communities and businesses remains unpredictable.

As with all crises though, there are lessons to be learnt and a period of reconciliation and growth will swiftly follow. We have already started to experience this in the last few months as operators have had to evolve to survive, not least with retail dominated operations shifting online to keep players playing. Whatever the outcome of the pandemic, I think emerging market operators will come out the other side stronger if they choose the right technology provider.

How do you see the overall industry picture evolving when it comes to emerging markets in the future?

I expect a repeat pattern to what we have seen previously, with huge strides taken by some countries who have the foresight to recognise how gaming revenues can boost the coffers. There will of course be others who are less fortunate, and they will struggle to keep pace with their neighbours if attitudes don’t change quickly. No matter the market status, there are so many interconnected and often invisible moving parts which impact development. Growth is intrinsically linked to economic stability, political influence, GDP growth and many, many more influences that will allow some emerging countries to become more prominent in the gaming community than others. Only time will tell, and if history has taught us anything, it is that nothing lasts forever. There most certainly will be a change for the better and evolution won’t be linear in its nature.

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