André Filipe Neves: - "An all encompassing approach to LatAm won’t get an operator anywhere"
Gaming Eminence dives into the LatAm market speaking with André Filipe Neves COO of Salsa Technology. We discuss the adaptation of land based to online, market share, the connection of technology and regulation, economical, cultural and behavioural differences, and LatAm infrastructure.
GE) Across the industry we have seen the emergence of the Latin American market being discussed. If we go back a few years, how did you see the change of local operators in the different LatAm countries adapting from land-based to online once the pandemic hit? Do you believe this was the first time many even explored the digital world or were they forced to?
AFN) LatAm’s localised operators adapted from land-based gaming to online very well on the whole. Pioneering companies who already had an established omni-channel presence were best placed following the closure of bricks-and-mortar casinos across the region. Enforced closures dramatically boosted demand for mobile and online content overnight. Having an online vertical is vital for operators wanting to deliver on ambitious growth goals, so a move from land-based to online would have been in most long-term operator plans. Those that had no online ambitions were in trouble.
However, for many it was the first time that diversifying an offering for a digital world rose to the top of the agenda. Countries with a transparent legislation framework in place were able to welcome operators online in a safe environment as the process was clearly defined.
The pandemic was the catalyst for this move towards online as it acted as an accelerator. As live sporting events fell by the wayside there was a shift to focus more on casino content and virtual games to keep providing entertainment. This increase of players online brought with it greater responsibility for iGaming operators to better understand customer behaviours to help provide a socially responsible service.
GE) It’s safe to say that Latin America can not be looked at as one homogenous block, specifically as it relates to offering full online gambling regulation. Where do you currently feel the market share split is across local operators, international brands and the black market? How do you see this shifting over the next 3 years?
AFN) Regulation is the only way forward for LatAm as Colombia showed from the off. Now there is Argentina, Peru and Brazil all taking the necessary steps to provide a legal framework for operators to responsibly expand into new markets. Countries are moving at their own pace as they work through the judicial exercise.
The more regulation there is, the better, I am very much pro regulation. It brings clarity, transparency and perhaps most importantly accountability. It’s only right that operators pay the right taxes to give back to the markets they have a presence within. Stricter regulation increases the pressure on those operating in the black market to reconsider this approach for the protection of local players.
GE) Where do you see technology playing a role in assisting or even prompting regulators in the different Latin America countries to create a legal framework? Where is it currently being used for regulated countries as it pertains to licensing?
AFN) The importance of technology cannot be underestimated in enabling more of LatAm to successfully regulate its markets. Cutting edge tech provides the right support for regulators to review processes and adapt using localised knowledge. Europe has long been a trailblazer for regulation, but the exact same process won’t always relate to the Latin American space. Tech allows regulators to select the right parameters for them. Legal and technology are symbiotic and it is natural that we will see a pragmatic progression in maturity levels. The influence of tech only grows once the regulation is in place as it provides all the tools required for fraud protection, responsible gambling and communications. Transparency again is key here and those operators who can work closely with regulators to show how they control daily data sets will be better placed to succeed. Technology makes life easier to truly understand a customer and their playing characteristics.
Innovative tech enables operators to protect player privacy while securely taking millions of payment transactions. There are also systems that can run highly detailed background checks to ascertain the origins of where a business has grown from.
GE) Across the Latin American market there are many different economical, cultural and behavioural differences. How should these factors be taken into consideration when determining what products to create and how to market them?
AFN) The differences that are so common across LatAm are what makes the region such an exciting one. Operators that embrace these nuances will be able to make the most of the rich potential of the massive market.
An all encompassing approach to LatAm won’t get an operator anywhere. Digital transformation has changed the industry beyond recognition, but with that players have rightly become more demanding. Today they want hyper-personalised content and experiences that really resonate. The approach between culture, market and customer, should come as naturally as it is possible.
Understanding how a country works at a granular level means operators can ensure they have all the right marketing services in place. On a product level, anyone addressing the Brazilian market and its population of over 211 million people must have Pix Payment functionality. This is an instant payment platform built and managed by Brazil’s monetary authority, the Central Bank of Brazil.
This localised strategy extends to games, 24/7 support services and languages. Games like Jogo Dos Bichos Praia and Cuca’s Swamp Bingo are two examples of our own research into themes that translate brilliantly for Brazil. Having a physical presence in each market is something that Salsa has really emphasised and it has given us brand exposure that in turn builds trust with customers.
GE) What would you outline as the main tech infrastructure challenges an operator would have to consider as it relates to mobile gaming, payments and fraud prevention when looking at moving into the LatAm market?
AFN) Internet accessibility and latency are two key hurdles that must be navigated to meet the challenge of making the most from LatAm. Providing frictionless experiences is imperative to allow the right tech products and services to work to their optimal best. As the gaming experience becomes ever more advanced, online casinos and sportsbooks need robust and rapid internet connection.
Another factor is ensuring that there is a very clear mapping process of the legal requirements for each jurisdiction of interest. A case in point is that every market will have its own specifics for how cloud environments and communication ecosystems are best managed. Payments play a major role too and companies need to be aware of the most suitable products before integrating the best solutions onto platforms.
In recent years, all infrastructure has improved and gone through a lot of changes. Cloud environments give all industries better service and resilience. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that most of the common Cloud infrastructures are built around local tech partnerships to allow greater opportunities for companies exploring an expansion.
Investing in Cloud-based systems is a way to bring money into local economies too. In the example of Microsoft Azure they have local Brazilian data centres so it's a boost for local economic developments. This allows operators to host servers in Brazil to remove the risk of remote tech failures or organisational issues.
Understanding the best local practices, behaviours, security and regulation requirements raises companies ability to successfully move into LatAm.
About our contributor
André Filipe Neves Salsa Technology COO, with over 20 years’ professional experience, 15 of which specialised in the iGaming, Banking and Insurance sector. Proactive character and highly qualified in managing multidisciplinary teams and communicating with multiple interlocutors at different levels of responsibility and performance. Expertise spans Technology and Operations, Architecture, Program and Project Management and Analytics. Visit https://salsatechnology.com/