For too long, platform providers have taken a very narrow view of the global online gaming market.
A strong focus on the major European markets – where regulation tends to be permissive – has left a handful of industry giants lacking in innovation and without the agility to perform outside of their core jurisdictions.
In recent weeks, I’ve travelled to Panama, Romania, Philippines, Peru, Nigeria and other emerging markets, and have been struck by the appetite for a more flexible type of platform which can succeed beyond the traditional gaming heartlands of Europe.
What I keep hearing from operators is that the traditional powerhouses of platform supply simply aren’t meeting their needs.
The main complaint is that these platforms lack the flexibility to offer a truly tailored solution, such as giving them a choice on the type of content they offer.
Imagine you are an operator in a smaller market with its own complex and continuously evolving player culture to contend with.
For instance, in Nigeria, changing regulation means verticals including lottery, sports betting and virtual sports are now challenging the traditional retail poolbetting which used to dominate.
If you were locked into a turnkey provider, you just wouldn’t be able to adapt quickly enough to compete in these emerging markets.
Would you be satisfied with an off-theshelf, one-size-fits-all platform which was built primarily for the biggest operators in the UK and elsewhere in Europe?
Of course you wouldn’t, and many of these operators are instead turning to the new generation of providers who can keep pace with the opportunity.
Many of the markets which are opening up to online gaming for the first time with new legislation already have a strong land-based heritage. This means that it is important to focus on the link between land-based and online operators.
It makes sense from an operator perspective to tap into this in-venue infrastructure, but to be frank, many of the most established platform providers lack the expertise to do this. What has worked for them in UK betting shops or US casinos, will not necessarily work in South Asian gaming salons or African betting shops.
From Mediatech’s experience of rolling out our Candy land-based project in Asia, Europe and now South America, we’ve found that without a localised solution, operators cannot tap into the full benefits of the omni-channel revolution.
As a result, those relying on outdated technology are missing out on the true value – and dramatically improved player experience – of having land-based terminals driven by online technology.
Generally speaking, it has been a combination of regulation and market readiness which has limited progress in many jurisdictions worldwide.
But as this begins to change, the providers and operators to succeed will be those which can quickly adapt to the regulatory landscape.
Take the Spanish market as an example, which only last year extended the online product offer to slots.
As a result, online revenues in Spain increased by 26% in 2015, and it will be innovative omni-channel products which keep those revenues growing this year and beyond. The key is to take what we’ve learned online into the land-based venues – as soon as the regulation allows.
A big mistake many of the largest platform suppliers make is to believe customers in smaller markets will be happy to accept a watered-down version of their main product.
If regulation doesn’t permit a certain feature, it is easier to black it out than search for a way to make it compliant.
In many emerging markets, lawmakers continue to restrict change, especially when it comes to offering omni-channel functionality.
Regulations for server-based gaming remain in their infancy, so providers need boots on the ground and an open dialogue with regulators if they are to have any chance of gaining the level of understanding required to innovate.
Without naming names, many of the biggest providers don’t consider this investment worthwhile for a smaller market. My recent travels have convinced me that putting in the hard work now will have a big pay-off in the future.
Mediatech’s recent merger with land-based gaming provider R Franco has opened up a number of new markets for us to explore, but to capitalise on these, there must be an absolute focus on customer service, flexibility and localisation.
As the regulated gaming market becomes a truly global proposition, only those who understand the complexities of local markets will be in a position to drive innovation.