SBC Summit Latam: “Now Latin America is looking at each other”

SBC Summit LatAm Leaders Panel

The opening panel of this year’s SBC Summit LatinoAmerica turned into a conversation for the entire room, not just the panelists on stage.

LYORA partner Cristina Romero de Alba moderated a panel entitled Latam Leaders -Breaking Latin America’s glass ceiling, which featured the following panelists:

  • Lourdes Britto: General Director Apuesta Total
  • Mara Ares: CEO Ares Gaming Labs and Richmedia
  • Lenin Castillo: Online COO of Logrand Online

Almost immediately, Romero de Alba celebrated that rather than be in a room of Europeans or Americans talking about the region, Latin Americans were talking to other Latin Americans about how the industry should grow.

Growing executive talent within Latin America

“Now Latin America is looking at each other,” she said.

In order to keep this momentum going though, the industry needs to keep finding and building up talent, which was a recurring theme mentioned by the panelists. All three discussed the need to identify and grow talent, executive talent in particular.

“The industry grows faster than those of us who are in it grow,” Britto noted. She also emphasized the importance of making sure new talent feels seen and respected.

Both Britto and Ares also cited a positive outcome of the pandemic being the transition to virtual work. Citing Peru and Argentina as examples of centralized companies where priorities were previously confined to Lima and Buenos Aires. With the expansion of remote work, gaming companies have successfully expanded talent pools beyond those major hubs.

These changes in the workforce help with diversity and inclusion efforts, however, Castillo pointed out that the focus of these efforts should go beyond just gender. He said trying to get generational diversity within his organization has been a major point of concern.

Breaking through the stigma that comes with gambling

Internal growth dominated the first half of the panel, but the latter half was an exploration of how Latam gaming can break out of its insular bubbles and gain greater acceptance from society.

Britto emphasized the importance of creating an understanding of the industry in the countries where a company operates. That includes regulators, government, and, of course, financial institutions. Romero de Alba said she spent a tremendous amount of time arguing with banks about approving transactions.

At this point, the audience became very involved, with people from Colombia and Mexico expressing their frustration about the lack of understanding of the industry. For the Mexican audience member, regulators were particularly frustrating, as the country has gone through 15 different regulators who come in with little to no understanding of how gambling works.

The audience really seemed to respond when Romero de Alba discussed just how much the negative perception of gambling is holding them back. Both the audience and the panel said there needs to be more of an effort to break out of the bubble of just gaming folks to hear more about how laypeople perceive the industry and respond accordingly.

Romero de Alba said a major way to address this problem is to create more industry organizations where operators, B2B groups, and all facets of the industry can band together for a united cause. She compared the small number of organizations like this across the whole of Latam to Spain, where the relatively small market has numerous organizations.

The panel does not think it is that the Latin American gaming industry has done anything wrong so far, but, going forward it is important to mindfully scale in a way that both creates opportunities for new talent within the industry and creates acceptance for those outside of gambling that it is not a seedy operation, but a viable economic opportunity.