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Betsson CEO Lindwall celebrates “record year for the group” and outlines 2024 plans

| By Kyle Goldsmith | Reading Time: 8 minutes
A record 2023 saw Betsson post higher revenues and EBITDA than ever before. With further global expansion on the cards, Betsson chief executive Pontus Lindwall believes it’s the company’s localised approach that will help them achieve further growth.

Revenues shot up by 22% to a record €948.2m (£811.3m/$1bn) for Betsson’s 2023 financial year. EBITDA also skyrocketed 52% to €262.7m from €172.4m in 2022. The year-end results were aided by a surge in Q4, one that saw group revenue hike by 14%.

Quite the set of results then for Betsson. According to Lindwall, the positive outlook for the company looks set to continue, both short- and long-term. The CEO is delighted with the group’s performance, comparing the operator to a well-oiled machine.

“Of course, we’re very happy with the outcome of 2023,” Lindwall told iGB. “It’s a record year by far for the group. It’s nice to finish off so strongly with the record quarter as well.

“I think we have a strategy that has played us well as we are pretty diverse in terms of geography and we have our organisation in great shape. I think that transpires to good output in terms of results.”

Expansion across the globe

Betsson Lindwall
betsson is setting its sights on further global expansion in the future

For Lindwall, expansion is set to be one of the key factors that will help Betsson with its global plans in 2024. Like most operators seem to be, Betsson is eyeing LatAm as a particularly attractive market for the near future.

Lindwall and co are well-placed to profit from LatAm opening up, too. Having already gone through the challenging regulatory process in Argentina, where a licence is required for each province, Betsson is also present in Colombia. Lindwall pointed to Peru as another country where Betsson is looking to make a mark once regulated.

After sports betting and igaming were finally legalised in Brazil in December, its 220 million-strong population is expected to have a legal gambling market in the latter stages of this year.

Lindwall is both thrilled and relieved that the Brazilian market is finally opening for regulated business. This is especially the case after igaming was re-included in Bill 3,626/2023 following its prior removal by the senate.

“The regulatory process has been back and forth, one step ahead, two steps backwards,” Lindwall commented. “When we heard igaming is not included, of course that’s very negative for the regulation.

“We are happy that it’s back again. Let’s hope we don’t get too many negative surprises on the regulatory process going forward. There’s a massive list with huge interest in that market from all our competitors.”

France another target

France is another market that Lindwall and Betsson are setting their sights on. The company launched online casino in neighbouring Belgium with Betfirst earlier this month. Its €27.5m acquisition of Holland Gaming Technology and Holland Power Gaming has also boosted Betsson’s presence in the Netherlands nearby.

There is growing expectation that France will have online casino legalised in the near future. If that market does indeed become available, Betsson’s partnership with French casino operator Groupe Partouche will provide a swift first-mover advantage.

Betsson also secured a licence to offer online sports betting in France in September 2023 and Lindwall is “really excited” over his belief that there are steps being taken behind the scenes towards a regulated online casino market in the country.

“I hope that it will [be legalised],” Lindwall declared. “I was at ICE a couple of weeks ago and that was the big question – “have you heard anything about France?” It’s in the air, but nobody knows anything.

“Obviously, something is going on and it’s a question of time of course. France has a large number of land-based casinos. There’s a big history of casino gaming, so I think it’s very natural that casino would get regulated in France.”

Challenges of expansion

Expansion can throw up problems, though, particularly in regards to licensing. This often drawn-out process is one that Betsson now has plenty of experience in given Argentina.

However, Lindwall believes it’s this previous experience that will allow Betsson to successfully navigate the tricky waters of regulation in new markets. “I remember from the first licence in Argentina, it was a large amount of paperwork and work to get that licence. It’s massive work.

“It’s the same for everyone in the market. We managed to handle it because we have so many licences that we have done it so many times. We know how to do it.”

Once regulated in a new market, Betsson then has the task of trying to scrap and fight for market share. In such a competitive environment as Brazil, which is rumoured to have over 150 legal operators applying, as well as vast black market interest, that can prove a tricky assignment.

Lindwall is confident however that Betsson will thrive in new markets. He cites the company’s policy of offering a localised offering. This is rather than a one-size-fits-all strategy, with that localisation proving to be a real edge.

“We have a strong organisation and we’re very local in all the countries where we act,” Lindwall continued. “I think it’s very important we don’t try to create one global experience and believe that will work on every single market.

“We’d rather look at every single market, how it behaves, what the competition looks like, what do the customers expect in this market and then we try to fulfil that. If we manage to do that, I think we’re in a great position to keep on growing and be successful in the market.”

Casino success in Q4

That localised policy is particularly evident in casino, which was a core driver in Betsson’s record Q4 2023.

Casino revenue shot up by 25.1% year-on-year to €182.8m, representing 72% of group revenue. In Q4 2022 it accounted for 66% of group revenue. Casino revenue from mobile devices was €157.8m, 86% of total casino revenue.

Lindwall again pointed to Betsson’s adaptability across markets as the reason for its casino results, stating the company has placed more importance on combining local offerings to better target each country’s demographic.

“We managed to showcase the games that people prefer in local markets and that may have helped a bit,” Lindwall stated. “Every market is different.

“We’ve got machine learning, which presents games which are the most popular, and there are certain automatic procedures in that as well. But I think there’s a portion of manual work that goes into that as well.”

Black market competition

Alongside the regulatory issues, the growing presence of the black market in some regions is a looming threat against legal operators, unable to compete in the face of overregulation in the form of marketing, product and tax restrictions.

Lindwall believes overregulation completely misses the point of what regulation is expected to achieve, highlighting Germany as one nation that fits those criteria. A November study found close to half of all online gambling in Germany takes place with unlicensed operators, with players driven to the black market by excessive stake limits and ease of access to unregulated gambling.

“Looking at Germany, it’s a large country with a comparably strong economy and yet there’s hardly any business to be done there by regulated companies any more,” Lindwall says.

“You have to ask yourself, in the regulator’s view, 90% of the population doesn’t fit into this view and uses other offerings – so, is that successful regulation? If it was regulations on speeding traffic, would it be acceptable if 90% of the drivers didn’t follow the rules? There needs to be a better balance.”

Lindwall believes Germany is an example as one of many European countries that have overregulated, decimating the competitiveness of legal operators and hurting channelisation across the continent.

Reasons to be cheerful

Despite the challenges, Betsson has plenty of causes for optimism, both looking in the past at its outstanding 2023 figures, as well as the future with a busy 2024 sporting calendar on the cards.

IBIA
euro 2024 is set to be a huge opportunity for operators across the globe

The 2024 European Championships, starting in June, is an event that is particularly piquing Lindwall’s interest, labelling it as the primary event of the year and one that will boost activity in more than just sports betting.

“We expect a spike across all verticals because the whole activity goes up,” Lindwall said. “We have more customers coming in and, even though it’s sports betting mainly, it spills over to other products.

“I think as well, you can say that our industry ends up in the spotlight during those tournaments. We get some great exposure in the press, which is nice.”

Betsson’s strong 2023 financial year will also allow it to further pursue its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) strategy that has been evident in Belgium and the Netherlands in recent months.

Lindwall will not change a winning formula, explaining: “I think we will continue to look at similar to what we’ve done so far, smaller acquisitions that fit the strategic purpose, companies we can take in that give us market entry such as Betfirst in Belgium.

“We have also done some strategic acquisitions of products like payment companies in LatAm. We have a strong balance sheet, we have a strong financial position and the ability to do M&A.”

Bright 2024 for Betsson

In summary, 2023 was a superb year from a Betsson perspective. Its strong balance sheet should tee up the company for what happens next, which will put the company ahead of much of its competition in new markets.

Lindwall concedes that following up such a successful year could be difficult, but with the company on a strong upwards trajectory and the “tailwind” of a packed sporting calendar coming up, the chief executive remains confident of more Betsson prosperity across the globe.

“It [LatAm] is going in the right direction,” Lindwall declared. “We have a strong footprint; we have done strong sponsorships over time and there is a huge interest in soccer. So that is one I’m also very excited about for the year.

“We have just started up our business with Betsson.fr, our French offering for sports betting, and we are really excited about the market. It’s a large one and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it develops.

“I think we’ll continue as we do today. We will work towards our vision which is the best experience for the end user and we are not there yet in all markets. We still have things to work on and we can always add things to make the experience even better.”

More of the same seems to be the strategy for Lindwall and, with Betsson coming off a record year and showing few signs of slowing down, it’s a tactic that is hard to argue with.

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