Over the last few years, Latin America has been on the radar of many operators and suppliers as the next big market to conquer. Regulation is slowly coming into place across the region with Colombia leading the way with a European-styled licensing system adopted in 2016.
Brazil is slowly inching closer to regulated online sports betting but what other nations in Latin America have potential for the industry and what should be considered before entering a new market in the region?
We spoke to Maria Luisa Malfasi, Business Development Manager at ESA Gaming, for more on their experience as a supplier in Latin America.
SBC: Are there regions in Latin America that are being overlooked and if so, which ones are ESA keeping an eye on?
MLM: We are evaluating opportunities for all regulated markets and as more and more Latin American countries consider online gaming regulation, we will assess the different legislations and conditions.
ESA Gaming offers poker as well as casino games so we have different products to consider before entering a new market. We have already launched our poker product with operators in Colombia and are quickly establishing ourselves as a market leader in the country. For poker to reach its fullest potential, international liquidity is needed, and we are hopeful that the Latin American countries will allow for this in the future as more allow online gaming.
As well as Brazil, the developments in Argentina are currently on our radar, as several provinces are looking to follow Buenos Aires and other regions in regulating online gaming. Panama, Paraguay Peru, Chile and Puerto Rico are other nations that are currently in the process of implementing new legislation or considering it and could offer great potential if regulation is done right.
SBC: With regulation also happening in the US now, do you think Latin America will live up to the expectations many once had as one of the last untapped markets?
MLM: Latin America is becoming one of the most strategically important emerging markets for the online gambling industry. As European markets begin to mature and establish more onerous regulatory environments, the industry is looking for new opportunities and the region has plenty of that with a big and sport mad population.
Latin America and the US are two strong emerging markets and I believe that the developments in North America will act as an engine to further drive regulation and evolution in Latin America. Another important element that is often forgotten about is that it could motivate the banks to start taking the industry seriously, which is currently not the case.
The financial institutions play an important part in the ecosystem of gambling and need to facilitate payments and deposits. It might take a while to fully develop the region to live up to its fullest potential, but regulation takes time, and we are moving in the right direction.
SBC: What have you learned about the Latin American markets so far from your experiences getting a foothold in Colombia and making inroads elsewhere?
MLM: It is essential to face the markets completely from a local point of view, with local structures, local teams and regional offices etc. This is to swiftly be able to keep up with the requirements and demands of each market, to handle product distribution and to adjust to the different regulatory requirements. We have established a joint venture, Atomo Gaming, with our local partner Italtronic in Latin America. Their expertise has been invaluable as we have made inroads into Latin America.
SBC: Will European suppliers trying to establish in Latin America need to alter their content to better suit the local player and what seems to be the products that they have embraced most so far?
MLM: Definitely. It is not just about translating the games into the local language, the products must be adjusted to the particularities of each region. Having a close relationship with our operator partners and fully understanding their needs is key to success as well as knowing the local players and what makes them tick. Our poker product, for example, has been altered and is different to the one we are marketing in Europe.
For our EasySwipe portfolio, which helps operators to easily cross-sell between casino and sports betting, we are working hand in hand with our partners to provide a gaming experience that is as bespoke as possible.
However, it is important to remember that Latin America is a huge area with many different local idiosyncrasies. We will analyze the performance of our products as we launch in new markets and will adapt them if needed to respond to the particular demands.
SBC: Can we expect restrictions similar to the wave that we have seen in Europe such as advertising, bonuses and jackpots etc?
MLM: There is no reason to be pessimistic yet. It is probably a bit premature to expect these kinds of restrictions when most countries are still in the early stages of regulating. What we do know is that lawmakers and regulators often look at examples and best practises elsewhere in more mature markets.
As more regions open up, it’s important that the industry work together to act responsibly to avoid mistakes that have been made in other jurisdictions around the globe and that have in parts driven restrictions to be implemented.