As the winter season draws to a close in Latin America, we sat down with Ruben Loeches, CMO at R Franco Digital to talk through the continent’s latest developments and its COVID comeback. With such a fast-growing collection of markets, there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to be had …
Aside from Brazil, in your view, what are LatAm’s most exciting markets nearing regulation?
LatAm is such a dynamic developing region there are almost too many exciting markets to choose from! Panama, Puerto Rico, and Argentina are countries we’ve been keeping a close eye on when it comes to future regulation – with the continent’s rapid tech adoption offering a boon of potential for iGaming.
Do you believe this year’s events are likely to speed up expected online regulation?
The unprecedented situation in which the market has found itself has highlighted that expediting online regulation is now a necessity, and I believe regulators are coming around to that frame of mind.
Across the world there has been a noticeable shift of players moving online, because ultimately, gambling is entertainment and players still want to play. This forward-thinking approach can be seen in Colombia, where live casino, bingo and scratchcards were all regulated in record time during lockdown – and we really commend such a pro-active move from ColJuegos.
From your experience – what should companies looking to enter the continent avoid doing?
The key to entering any market is to do your research and never underestimate the importance of joining forces with a local partner. Complacency and the entering the LatAm market with a “one size fits all” notion is a sure-fire route to failure. What may have proved successful in some markets is by no means a barometer of how to engage with new ones.
Localisation is key to building a presence in LatAm, and in a market so diverse, it’s important to understand that each and every region is a separate entity and should be treated as such.
From your marketing expertise, what are the keys to Latin American success when it comes to entering new markets?
Adapting to the latest developments in technology is always a crucial determinant of success. In a market such as Colombia’s, where bettors have become accustomed to the land-based sector, it is critical to provide an omni-channel offering.
Any company entering a new market should understand that having a well-researched and bespoke approach is the key element to success. LatAm is a melting pot of diverse countries inside of which many have their own idiosyncrasies. Take a look at Paraguay’s list of recognised languages if you’d like to have a hint!
Accordingly, there are a raft of cultural, governmental and regulatory aspects to take into consideration which can vastly differ, not just from country to country, but even from state to state.
Do Latin American players have different preferences to their counterparts elsewhere? If so, how?
Many LatAm players have an affinity for slots and are used to RTPs being lower given the inherent higher margins in retail. We’ve also noticed the popularity of in-play sports betting as technology becomes more advanced. Of course, they also have their own sports, such as beach football in Brazil, but the layers are now branching out from their preferred games and trying new verticals since the postponement of many live events due to lockdown.
How has the shift changed between land-based and online players, given the region’s strong land-based heritage?
The pandemic has certainly sped up online adoption with players finding new ways to bet. Though with the heritage and affinity many land-based and retail fans have, they will likely return once the situation becomes safe to do so.
While some players are now enjoying the new online experience, innovation is not exclusive to the online sector, and there are plenty of land-based suppliers eagerly awaiting the vertical’s return ready to incorporate what they have learned during the lockdown period. Ultimately, I believe the pandemic will see an increase in players who enjoy betting both in-person and online – and in the long term, I think that will be of benefit to the sector as a whole.
What online games are proving to be the biggest pull for land-based players to try online?
The reality of the pandemic has shown that companies must seek out creative opportunities to entertain their land-based fans and many have introduced new betting products. Live dealer games have been hugely successful as they deliver that interaction many land-based fans still miss. While COVID-19 affected many changes, I believe the sector will grow in all areas including retail and in physical outlets.
And last but not least, what’s your advice to retail operators there currently looking to weather the pandemic? How can R Franco help LatAm operators?
My advice is very simple. They must take the necessary steps to provide their customers with an online offering. For operators looking to do so in the LatAm markets, on-boarding a partner with regional expertise and experience is a must.
It’s an unavoidable reality that digital betting is not a substitute for getting in on the action in-person. Most retail operators have a deep and extensive knowledge of their own sector. The online environment, however, is a different animal altogether, and they would be well advised to find a partner who can help take them on that journey.