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Casino and sports betting group GAMING1 is by far one of Belgium’s best-known suppliers, with over 42 gaming halls and casinos across Belgium, Switzerland and France – as well as 20 online operations globally.
Offering some excellent insight into how land-based vs. online has played out this year, we caught up with GAMING1’s Co-founder and COO, Sylvain Boniver to hear the latest on Europe’s market developments.
First off, for those who don’t know you – can you tell our readers about GAMING1 and what you do?
GAMING1 is a casino and sports betting group, which leads the land-based and online market in its native territory of Belgium and beyond. Leveraging almost three decades of industry experience, our unique business model remains as invaluable as ever.
Combining the network and brand power of a top land-based operator with advanced proprietary technology, we create cutting-edge digital channels for casinos and sportsbooks looking to step up their online operations. In total, we have more than 42 gaming halls and casino resorts in Belgium, Switzerland, and France, as well as managing a portfolio of online operations in regulated markets across the globe.
GAMING1 has a strong track record in Portugal, how has the market performed there this year?
GAMING1 was the first online operator to go live in Portugal with Estoril. The venture has been fruitful, and we’ve enjoyed cultivating such a productive commercial relationship with our valued partners at the company.
Although we’re proud to lead the way in Portugal when it comes to market share, we have no plans to rest on our laurels, and our sights are firmly set on continued growth in the territory. In the first quarter of 2020, we recorded an overall increase in GGR of 19% despite the hiatus on sporting fixtures. With the country’s most popular competitions now back up and running, the future looks promising.
How do you see the current state of the country’s iGaming market? Do you think it differs from other European markets? If so, how?
Portugal is a market which is becoming increasingly competitive. At its inception, commercial activity was restricted to local companies, but it long since attracted widespread international attention.
From a legal perspective, the tax review conducted earlier this year was welcomed by operators. The previous system stifled competition, driving the market underground to the benefit of illegal actors.
The current regime, however, remains burdensome. The black market still comprises more than half of the Portuguese gambling industry’s total commercial activity. The situation isn’t helped by needlessly restrictive regulations, but I’m optimistic that the situation will be resolved in due course.
How much of a land-based tradition do we have there? Is it harder to convert land-based players than in other markets?
It’s fair to say that Portugal’s land-based market is unique. It differs radically from that found in neighbouring Spain, for example. Casinos are the only place where you’ll find land-based bettors enjoying their favourite games – the slot machines seen in Spanish bars, arcades and even street corners do not exist in Portugal.
The country is currently home to just 10 casinos, three of which belong to our partner, Estoril Sol. That makes it a lot more challenging to create an omnichannel experience for players throughout Portugal, so we’ve chosen to focus on the regions where we are physically present.
When it comes to player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile to those who only bet online. The cultures that exist around both verticals can also be very different, so the idea that it’s easy and effortless to bring land-based players online is fatally flawed.
Regarding player behaviour, land-based customers have a different profile than pure online customers and also different ‘cultures’; so, the idea that the conversion from land based to online is natural and easy, is not that simple.
How has COVID-19 affected the online partnerships through and betting and gaming services you offer to land-based operators?
The closure of land-based establishments has underlined the imperative for operators in that vertical to expand their online activities. Our partners have been successful at redirecting land-based customers to their digital operation, thus limiting the financial impact of the outbreak.
The pandemic has also accelerated many of the partnerships that are in our pipeline, but have not yet been finalised. We’re in discussion with a number of operators looking to step up their online offering which, in today’s market, is a matter of survival given the temporarily reduced presence of land-based.
Why are these better for operators in the current climate than a traditional supplier agreement?
The difference is that we win or lose together. Traditional suppliers often continue to charge for services regardless of the commercial success enjoyed by their operator clients. GAMING1, on the other hand, shares the same interests and objectives as its partners.
With more than 27-years of industry experience under our belt, operators know that GAMING1 is a partner that can always be relied upon. Focusing on a small number of projects means that we can invest more time and resources into a given partnership than traditional suppliers would. Unlike conventional providers, GAMING1 proactively helps operators bring land-based players online.
What does the short-term future hold for Europe’s casino industry, and how can you help your partners during this turbulent time?
Changes in player habits, coupled with Covid-induced restrictions, are likely to create challenges for operators without an online outlet. Those who have a synergised land-based and digital offering, on the other hand, will be much better equipped to weather the storm that is sweeping the global economy. For those in the former category, GAMING1 stands ready to help deliver an omnichannel experience to their players.
Which new European markets are on your radar? Are there any we should be keeping a close eye on?
We have our sites firmly set on French expansion, and are creating a land-based network in the country with our exciting new brand, ‘Circus’. We currently operate 6 casinos there, including a Club in Paris, and have undertaken a joint venture with valued partners JOA, who run 33 French-based casinos.
Of course, we are also eagerly awaiting online casino regulation and expect that the covid crisis will accelerate that process.
The Netherlands market also offers interesting prospects. Its authorities have just adopted a law to regulate the gambling industry, and we are preparing to enter the country with a top tier partner, so stay tuned for more info soon enough!