Companies looking to enter LatAm need to look well beyond the hype about size and potential of this vast region. Successful penetration of this market will require patience, attention to detail and a tailored approach to doing business. That’s the view of Javier Manceñido, vice president of sales at OPTIMA, who shared with us his thoughts on why LatAm represents such a challenge for its new market incumbents, and which Western learnings can be applied to this rapidly emerging sports betting region.

Talking about LatAm’s growth prospects, Manceñido confirmed that the gambling industry is very mature in LatAm, but qualified that by adding: “It should be clarified that this maturity occurs in the land-based casino environment, and not what is referred to as online gaming; however, it’s a good start for the development of regulations that allow the evolution of sports betting. The betting market is very attractive because the people in general are passionate and constantly keep an eye on sport news, scores, commentaries and fresh information regarding teams.”

Operators seeking to gain a foothold in LatAm face some diverse challenges, chief among which is the sheer scale of the region with a combined population of circa 650 million people across 33 countries. “We must keep in mind that economies, culture and relationships are different in every country, so it is not advisable to offer the same experience to customers in all these countries,” Manceñido advised.

He added: “The products and user journey must be defined depending on the operator’s strategy and market analysis, where suppliers will clearly understand every requirement to suggest and provide them with solutions that fit their needs that, in many cases, will be unique to the market. Differentiation and flexibility is paramount to succeed in highly competitive markets in the long term.

In terms of transferring western market values to LatAm markets, Manceñido warned that learning from previous experiences is imperative. “In our case, we always remain close to our partners and customers to understand their local requirements and produce a solution in the case we don’t have it in our standard setup,” he said. “Our platform and modules have got a huge amount of features we have developed through years of servicing the top UK and European operators.

“We also moved to Africa and evolved the platform further to now be recognised and awarded as one of the best (if not the best) gaming platform and sports betting modules in the market. No doubt, going live in new markets such as LatAm with a proven, stable and top performance platform, is an advantage for us and principally for our new LatAm partners and customers.

With regards to unique LatAm dynamics, Manceñido is clear as to where industry stakeholder focus should be. “Regulation is coming,” he said. “Colombia is the first Latin American country with open regulation for online gambling. Now, nine sports betting operators have an official licence and at least three more are in the process to start this year. Peru is working on it, Uruguay have had regulation since 2005, Paraguay is defining the licence model, while Chile and Panamá have a model which allows sports betting.

“Brazil, one of the big worldwide markets, is in the process of legislating gambling, so no doubt the region will grow dramatically in the next few years. We are focusing on user experience, through a product that is set up specifically for the market, full flexibility for operators to deliver the product they think is the best for their market, and with outstanding proven system availability and performance.”

Manceñido concluded with some thoughts as to how industry stakeholders need to define and create social responsibility and safe gambling standards in the developing LatAm markets. “The industry is responsible for promoting an ethical gambling activity; every stakeholder must do their part,” he cautioned. “In newly regulated markets such as LatAm, teaching the bettor about it is fundamental. As a technology provider, we offer different tools to fulfil all requirements of setting up a fair gambling strategy which comply with all regulations: Configurable transacting limits including self-imposed limits for socially responsible gaming, underage monitoring, security tools to guarantee data privacy, a secure gambling environment, all built up as the fruit of our experience working in regulated markets for several years across the world.”