Latam focus: Coming of age – how virtuals is competing with reality

Kiron Interactive co-founder and co-CEO Steven Spartinos on how virtual sports can thrive in high-growth markets across Latin America – as long as operators take a local approach in how they are delivered

It wouldn’t be overreaching to consider the last almost two years to have been somewhat of a watershed moment for virtual sports in the gambling industry. While they have been around in one form or another for decades, since the turn of the millennium, they have taken the form we recognise today. In a quirk of fate, the global pandemic we have all endured has seen the vertical, once only considered a sideshow to its real-life betting counterpart, enjoy a remarkable rise to greater prominence. The growth of the vertical in Latin America is no exception.

Virtual sports is, just like the wider industry in Latam, still relatively emerging. But thanks to the efforts of those like Kiron, which have pioneered the sector, it is gaining increased momentum.

The enforced closure of retail saw a huge swing toward online solutions, but since ‘normality’ has returned, there has been a predictable shift back to land-based locations. Despite this, online has retained a significant number of its new operators and bettors.

What we’re seeing is that virtual sports is now part of the core content portfolio demanded by operators in the region. Operators have been introduced to the benefits virtuals bring to their offerings and they’re keen to see that popularity continue in their businesses.

So, how has this come about and what is it about the vertical that drives this new demand? It begins with understanding the market, to ensure your offering best speaks to your players. This takes research, development, time and resources, which are all vital tools in creating a portfolio of games that captures the interest of and retains a player.

What Kiron has learned over the years, and leveraged with great success, is a keen understanding of relationship management between the supplier and operators – this plays an essential role in achieving a successful content offering.

This is even more key because of virtuals still being relatively new to the Latam market – the understanding of the various games and the impact that they can have on the operator is still being understood. However, based on global experience and market trends, we expect Latam to follow suit with global giants such as the UK, Italy and Africa.

The growth of new technologies and infrastructure in the region opens it up to new dynamics such as the introduction of new products and operating on different platforms.

As markets in Latin America continue to grow, it’s clear it has tremendous potential. And while retail is still currently the preferred option for players there, online is slowly beginning to be considered by operators and gaining traction.

Complementing traditional sports betting

Fortunately, sports bettors are already familiar with the product as it is a vertical that replicates sports betting. This, and the inadvertent exposure boost that the various lockdowns provided, has seen virtual sports becoming a definite fan-favourite and a mainstream vertical.

Virtual products serve as the perfect cross-over solution that appeals to both the traditional sports punter, who can place fixed-odds bets in line with betting on real sports, as well as the more casual player who is drawn to simple, high-frequency number games.

Positioning the perfect cross-sell

Virtual sports possesses the benefits of solid game quality, a wide selection of bet markets and attractive odds. How content is positioned to players and the various promotions around the game can prove vital in assisting with cross-selling to sports bettors. Keeping in mind that casino player characteristics align closely with that of virtual players, it is important to note the similarities when attempting to cross-sell.

Learning lessons from previous successes

A particular success story for virtual sports has been seen in Africa. Much like Latin America, the market has shown promise and growth with an increase in online as well as retail activity, even more so once lockdown restrictions were lifted. Conditions in both these significant markets are quite similar, so we foresee Latam following in a comparable vein.

The development of infrastructure and the introduction of newer technologies promotes growth and development in the market as a whole, allowing players to become more familiar with the products and more open to new game verticals. Allied with the untapped opportunities in terms of future technology, this is only set to improve and present further opportunities.

This societal development drives a greater increase in economic activity, allowing for lifestyle changes which also impacts player behaviour. As unregulated countries see the success of well-governed jurisdictions and the revenue they bring in, it piques the interest of others to share the same benefits, contributing to the steady growth and continued potential of the industry.

Leveraging tech to address trends

The introduction of new game development technologies is having a significant impact on the growth of product portfolios among suppliers. The market for virtuals has now seen the introduction of more real-life elements such as realistic game animations using motion capture, live commentary and the use of popular sports leagues and sports stars. This sharpened focus makes the virtual experience more akin to its live counterpart.

The release of new, improved quality games and variants using industry-leading maths broadens the appeal and continues to attract new audiences among players and operators.

What shouldn’t be considered innovative, however, is the pursuit of customer-care excellence. This might seem like an obvious statement, but a cutting-edge content portfolio counts for very little if the service provision behind it isn’t front and centre of a supplier’s operation.

Putting as much emphasis on this is as important as the product being offered and will ultimately ensure the best results. When you’re serving multiple markets and operators, it is vital to offer the correct bespoke solution to all clients. By understanding your market and taking the time to gain insight into operator and player requirements, the true potential of virtual sports products can then be realised.

As a service provider in a highly technological industry, we constantly gather feedback from our clients which we use to innovate and implement changes to enhance our products and customer experience. When you’re providing entertainment, this is as important in Latin America as it is anywhere else.

Steven Spartinos is co-founder and co-CEO of virtual games provider Kiron Interactive. Established in 2001, the specialist supplier now services web, mobile and land-based sportsbook and casino operators on five continents. Prior to joining the betting and gaming industry, Spartinos worked in banking and finance.

Kiron Interactive | Latam | Product | Technology | Virtual sports