The potential offered by Brazil’s vast soccer-mad population has long interested international sports betting operators and, with the government in serious discussions about finally creating a regulatory framework, Malta-based Bet Entertainment Technologies has made its move with the launch of Vivagol.com.
The business, which is an established player in Portugal with Bet.pt, launched its Brazil-focused site at the end of September, and Gabino Oliveira (CEO and Co-founder) and Alberto Alfieri (COO) told SBCA how they plan to tackle what could become one of the world’s largest markets.
SBCA: Why did you decide to launch a new site solely for the Brazilian market?
GO: I would say that Vivagol wasn’t launched solely for the Brazilian market, but rather that Brazil was our main inspiration for this project. Bet Entertainment Technologies has strong Portuguese roots, and after three years of leadership in the betting market of Portugal, it was a natural step to try to leverage the cultural affinities and enter the market.
But we didn’t want to just expand our existing business into Brazil. We wanted to create a sports betting site tailored for Brazil, not only translating the website, but melding together the experience of a European mature market leader with Brazilian talent, to offer a true native betting experience which manifests on the website with specific Brazilian features, and consistently across all other channels we use like, Facebook, Instagram and direct communication.
SBCA: How have things gone for Vivagol so far? And have you noticed any major differences between Brazilian and European players?
AA: We planned a phased launch, with go-live on 30 September, allowing us to work with real players while fixing and finalizing certain things, such as the integration of NetRefer, local payment methods like Pay4Fun and the implementation of a Brazilian phone number for Customer Support. We want to be perfect for our customers.
From the current players we have, we can say that players are more open to provide feedback regarding the site, which has been very positive until now. We have also found that they take more time to trust a newcomer.
SBCA: How have you promoted Vivagol in Brazil? And how different is promoting a sportsbook in Brazil from in Europe?
GO: We are active on our social media channels and we did advertise Vivagol on the match of Brazil vs Nigeria in Singapore. We felt it was a good step to start with the national senior football team.
At the moment we are not planning to do traditional team sponsorships as we feel that we want to penetrate the market further before considering this option. We are ‘betting’ more on engaging content in digital channels and focusing on customer experience. We will soon start with affiliates and other channels too.
SBCA: Brazil is known as a soccer-mad country; are players there largely interested in domestic games or are other leagues around the world attracting bets? And which other sports have proved most popular with Vivagol customers?
GO: So far, we can see that domestic games and local sport events have surely a strong traction, but it doesn’t stop at Brazilian sports only. I would say that it depends more on the specific time and the availability of events. Luckily, we have a vast offer of events and markets to choose from. Our Sport team is doing a great job in ensuring the best offer to our players.
SBCA: How have you approached the issue of safer gambling with Vivagol? Are there any differences from how you would deal with it in a regulated European market?
AA: Responsible Gambling is a core topic for us. We believe that apart from having a legal obligation to take care of this aspect, we also have a moral obligation towards players who struggle to maintain gambling as an entertainment activity.
Ours is a constant work between our compliance, customer support and marketing teams, with analysis and sensitivity both in proactive and reactive approach. We are careful when we plan our communications, as we are when we analyze the accounts of our players. We also use technology to help us predict the customers that are likely to be at risk of gambling problems.
We maintain and improve the highest standards when it comes to responsible gambling, for vivagol.com and bet.pt as well, we go beyond what’s required by regulations.
SBCA: What are your plans for Vivagol? Are Spanish-speaking markets in Latin America next?
AA: The main objective is to establish Vivagol among the top brands in Brazil really soon. But we are already planning expansion into other Latin American markets. Markets such as Colombia and Mexico are definitely in our pipeline.
We don’t tend to rush things because when we move, we do it with the best approach, with strategic partners that can help filling the gaps we cannot. But rest assured that Vivagol will soon be The brand for Latinx players.
SBCA: The Brazilian government recently published a draft framework for the regulation of sports betting; what did you think of it and is there anything else you would like to see included?
GO: First of all, we were glad to finally see a step forward towards a very long-awaited regulation of the Brazilian market. We participated in both public consultations to offer our point of view as a European operator, providing insights on the markets and their current situations.
We appreciate that the government is taking an approach that wouldn’t create too many obstacles to foreign entities and operators. Also, very remarkable is the fact that they want to consider the behavior of operators with no licenses in regulated markets. In Europe, in Portugal we still see big operators being active in locally regulated markets, but without the required license or authorization to operate. I believe that this was an important signal from the Brazilian government.
We do believe that the draft could have been more specific in terms of taxation and implications between gaming tax and corporate taxes. But I am sure that this will all be clarified soon enough.
SBCA: What do you think of the long-term market opportunity for the sports betting industry in Brazil? And what difference could regulation make?
AA: It goes without saying that Brazil represents a big opportunity. Many operators have been active for quite some time in the market while we are approaching it only now, in view of the upcoming regulation. We do prefer to work in regulated frameworks, because we believe it is better for the business and for the customers.
The regulation in Brazil will help in creating a culture of responsible gambling, which has been non-existent until now, thanks to a ‘cowboy’ approach from the Curacao-licensed operators. It will also help in mitigating sport integrity issues and will bring tax money into Brazil’s coffers. We can only be glad to be contributors to all of the above.
SBCA: Finally, what advice would you give to any established European operators looking to launch in Brazil?
GO: Simple, I would say to save money and time because after we enter, there won’t be much left! Jokes aside, I would advise them to take time to study the market and learn what are the key factors influencing the customer choices.