CEO Alex Leese talks about the evolution of the market during the pandemic and how flexibility will help operators to support their customers
How has the online gambling market evolved during 2020, a year marked by the pandemic?
The most notable change, out of necessity as much as anything, has been the acceleration of online, with more and more retail operators taking the plunge where they might have proceeded with more caution in the past. That isn’t to say that retail is dead, however – far from it. More than ever an omni-channel solution is required, and operators need to provide entertainment and gaming opportunities to their players wherever they are, as opposed to expecting they will want – or even be able – to come to them as previously. I think it has also made operators think more about their offering and how they tailor it to their customer. The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are long gone, particularly with increased competition.
What lessons do you think the pandemic left for the gaming industry?
I think the thing that the pandemic shone a light on most was the need to have flexibility within your business and a product range to cope should part of it be switched off. That’s obviously what happened almost overnight with the cessation of live sports. Having a flexible front end at Pronet Gaming, we were able to change up very quickly, bridging the gap with excellent virtuals and eSports alternatives. Interestingly enough, these products have maintained their popularity and revenues have been consistently impressive. At the time operators appreciated the ability to keep their customers entertained. Those subsequently getting into online gaming, or exploring new online opportunities in other parts of the world, are making sure that flexibility is in place before they commit to a supplier.
What are the main demands of online gaming companies today?
It really depends on where they are. In Europe increased regulation in some markets is becoming a hinderance; in Africa and LatAm it is a positive change that is allowing business to flourish. Clearly taxation can be a burden on the operator side depending on local regimes. But I would say that the thing that unites them all is getting a product to market that works efficiently and cost-effectively and excites the customer, wherever they may be. At Pronet Gaming, we’ve taken a lot of time and effort making sure we have a comprehensive product range, whether that’s a full spectrum of sports betting opportunities, or an unrivalled virtuals, eSports and casino game portfolio. That is only the start, however, as operators still need to stand out from the competition, tempt people in and get them to stay. That’s why early on in the piece we decided that having flexible UXs and UIs would be crucial to the operator partners we worked with – and so it has proved.
What is your vision of the Latin American online gaming market?
I think we will see a lot of positive changes in the next 12 to 18 months with the pandemic kick-starting a lot of new regulation. Clearly governments will want to be mindful of social responsibility, but the economic benefits of having a well-regulated and taxable online industry in their country will be tempting. The big one we’re all waiting for is Brazil, of course, and we should know a lot more, particularly about the licensing model, this summer. Will that be the domino that knocks over a few more – quite possibly; time will tell. There are obviously huge opportunities out there, but thoughtful regulatory and taxation models are required to make it work.
What expectations and projects does the company have for 2021?
Our presence in Latin America is growing all the time. It may even become our biggest market in the next few years, depending on how regulation unfolds. We already have a presence in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Argentina, and we’re very excited about a new partnership in El Salvador, which we should be able to tell you about very soon. There is just so much opportunity in LatAm, and that’s not just about helping existing retail betting brands take their proposition online. There are also projects with lotteries, media organisations, and sporting bodies that are very exciting. People think that a lot of the big European operators will get the first seat at the table, but we’re finding that we’re having just as many discussions with Asian and African operators, who want a tailored solution for new markets from a trusted supplier like Pronet Gaming that has delivered for them elsewhere.