Chris Nikolopoulos, Commercial Director at BETBY, discusses his learnings from ICE London 2020 and why the rise of regulated markets within Latin America could change the landscape of sports betting

As always, ICE London is one of the most interesting events of the year. While it marked the first time BETBY had a stand at the flagship gaming trade show, it was also an opportunity to understand what trends currently surround the sector and get some insight into how providers will approach the ever enticing and potentially lucrative Latin American markets.

Much was made post-ICE about the perceived lack of innovations in the sportsbook sector, especially compared to last year which saw various sportsbook providers launch new products, with much of the industry still buzzing following the repeal of PASPA only months earlier. This year it seemed quieter, as bigger sportsbook suppliers look to consolidate their positions in the growing US market, while preparing for the next big gold rush.

Emergence of LatAm markets

This lack of action by the big brands has firmly handed the impetus to up and coming providers to make a splash in global markets, with the recent regulatory advancements in Latin America offering real opportunity. Colombia has established a regulated online gambling market that continues to grow at an impressive rate, with a reported size increase of 83% in 2019, while Brazil, with a population of over 200 million people, is in the final stages of legalizing sports betting.

These markets can be widely characterized by having large, sports-mad populations and are likely to be a prime target for sportsbooks. However, there are of course challenges associated with entering new markets, primary amongst them is customer acquisition. The questions facing all prospective entrants into these markets is how to stand out in what will be a very busy marketplace, with operators and suppliers looking to make as much noise as possible to be successful.

While major suppliers have the capability to deliver a plug and play solution, this one-size-fits-all product may not be the best marriage for operators looking to differentiate and grow in these big markets. While the Brazilian passion for football is well-publicized, sportsbooks may desire a wider offering than a limited array of markets, or with a higher focus on specific sports, such as volleyball in Brazil. 

Localization is king

This is where more agile suppliers will be able to find their value and expertise highly sought after. In an emerging market where teething problems can occur or customers clearly require something outside the norm, a sportsbook provider who can smooth the road and be accommodating for suppliers will experience success. 

The days of an operator being beholden to a supplier’s road map of products and markets look increasingly to be a thing of the past, as technological advancements and platform capabilities mean providers can make quick, incremental changes to an operator’s platform, giving an optimized experience, where an operator dictates what they want and it is created for them. 

Creating a platform to the demands of an operator is also beneficial to all parties involved. Listening to the requirements of a partner isn’t a novel concept, but in markets where an established land-based casino is looking to transition online, or is headed by a team of nationals who understand the territory innately, it can be expected that they would have a better grasp than the supplier of what the jurisdiction prefers. 

Similarly, by offering a customizable solution, the pathway to localized content is clearly outlined. Rather than giving operators a standardized solution with a skin, an agile solution can be designed to appeal to a market with clearly differentiated tastes than a traditional sports betting heavyweight, such as the UK market. 

Emerging markets are unique in their ability to be receptive to both the established and the new, the innovative and the experienced, and no more so is this evident than in the growing markets in Latin America. What ICE London showed was that there is a clear group of up-and-coming exciting sportsbook platform suppliers who are willing to put their customers first in an effort to create the ideal sports betting experience for all parties. 

Who knows, maybe the colorful markets of Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico could be the birthing ground of a new era of localized sports betting.