iGaming Business magazine Sports Betting Focus 2017 - Page 9

Sports Betting Focus 2017 THE VIRTUAL WAY TO FORGE NEW FRONTIERS While virtual sports are doing well in developed markets, they are doing even better in some emerging regions, says Kiron Interactive’s CEO Steven Spartinos. But operators must tailor their offerings carefully as one size does not fi t all. operators, rapid results and the huge range of betting options mean time constraints and dead periods of play are no longer a concern. One size does not fi t all When it comes to working across a patchwork of dot.com and individually regulated markets, operators are not only faced with technical, tax and compliance hurdles, but also the challenge of localising and differentiating their product and content to fi t the landscape in question. With more and more newly regulated markets growing at an incredible rate of knots, particularly in South America and Africa, it’s up to suppliers to ensure they offer a perfectly tailored package to ensure success in unfamiliar markets, while safeguarding margins and profi tability. And while a fi fth of retail revenues in developed markets is an impressive enough fi gure, market share in emerging and newly regulated jurisdictions can be even larger thanks to a range of differentials, whether it be age, technology or the popularity of certain sports. Africa is one such example, incorporating a number of emerging markets that have embraced virtual sports primarily due to their youthful and sports mad populations. The continent has an estimated 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 and a sports betting “The rise of virtual sports over the past 10-15 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Gone are the days where virtual offerings only had application as fi ller content” Using virtuals to crack emerging markets The rise of virtual sports over the past 10-15 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Gone are the days where virtual offerings only had application as fi ller content, used to fi ll gaps in between racing from Carlisle or at half time of a big Premier League game. Now operators use innovative and tailored content to thrive in an otherwise saturated market, offering virtual sports such as horse racing, dog racing, football, motor racing and basketball. In fact, new and improved virtual offerings now sit side by side with live sports and fi xed odds betting terminals up and down high streets, accounting for between 10% and 20% of over the counter revenues with that number expected to keep rising as innovation continues. market worth more than US$4 billion annually. It’s a market playing catch-up compared with most mature gambling markets, but it’s also a continent which poses a unique set of challenges, whether it be access to broadband internet connectivity or access to live sports content. As a football mad continent, the inability to watch players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a regular and cost-effi cient basis must be frustrating. But virtual football offers a convincing alternative as punters look to feed their love for the game. Cutting edge graphics and improved CGI technologies equal to that of the latest games console offerings give players the chance to immerse themselves in their chosen sport. For While virtual sports are on the rise around the world, it’s important to remember that one size does not fi t all. Populations in Africa and Latin America may be receptive to virtual football, but virtual speed skating, trotting or ice hockey are unlikely to go down quite as well. By tailoring and localising offerings to suit a specifi c market, operators can ensure they remain profi table even if they are relatively new to the market. Advances in technology also allow suppliers to offer localised products thanks to fl exible and confi gurable game setup and playout options. Operators can create their own offering to suit their operating requirements and players’ demands, and in so doing maximise revenues and profi tability. Fail-safe virtual offerings such as football, horse racing and dog racing are always going to prove popular, but it’s the addition of other localised content that will differentiate their product mix versus their competition and keep customers coming back for more. Technology will continue to come on in leaps and bounds over the next few years and with it virtual sports will evolve. Those operators that don’t take virtuals seriously are not only losing a signifi cant revenue opportunity but in an increasingly competitive sports betting market that moves quickly, they are also likely to be the ones left behind. Steven Spartinos is co-founder and co-CEO of virtual games provider Kiron Interactive. Established in 2001, the specialist supplier now services web, mobile, and land-based sportsbook and casino operators on fi ve continents. Prior to joining the betting and gaming industry, Steven worked in banking and fi nance. iGamingBusiness | Issue 105 | July/August 2017 | 69