Shir Kogan, Business Developer at Delasport
To innately connect the current Indian market with sufficient regulation and then a working industry format will take substantial investment, both monetarily and ambitiously. Attracting strong business backing from established companies will be essential to bring forth a working addition to the industry.
The attraction that India presents as a market is the continued growth of its internet infrastructure, most notable is the rise in mobile use with tens of millions added yearly. This usage will expand at pace as only close to 50% of the populace inconsistently accessing the web. Combined with the influx of young users projected to reach platforms globally, this makes a sustainable vast market forecast intuitive to all perspective interest.
Regulation has shown to highlight its great benefits of structure to already busy unregulated betting scenes, just as it will do for India. The market will see an ample change not only in taxation benefit to its nation, but briskly add to the cumulative expansion of the entire sports and casino sectors that currently exist in one form or another.
What this means for industry leaders will translate into how well their current technology can be applied to a heightened demand, in the initial output India will offer. Covering target markets for the region is a challenge to perfect with the sheer amount of high to low-popularity leagues, hosted events and general sport fanaticism seen in current trend speculations. The tech sector has seen a substantial rise in regulated sites that offer gaming for India, so an initial structure to procure will have a blanket template to apply in terms of player to platform interactional preference.
Connecting an eager player base to European and American-built products will see a gradual shift to mobile heavy and mobile-exclusive platforms being released.
With any newly regulated region we expect to see market share initially split between key providers heavily, and during its ongoing stabilisation to have fluctuation towards its lower percentile market holders continuously.
Carving a piece of the giant potential market will come easier to established brands engaging a targeted geographical approach, engaging the interest of advanced solutions and platforms refined for audience need. While the approach to the market has been a long-time discussion for the industry, new advancements that came about only recently should be abundant in giving even smaller providers a leg up on the competition.
Brands will and should look to apply the currently booming new verticals that peaked during the last few years with virtual sports, fantasy betting, casino technology and many others that have established a bigger foothold in player interest due to the current global adjustment.
Realising India’s market as a fully regulated working addition to our industry will be a swift process possible only through the adaptability of the initial approach from industry frontrunners. While market profitability is close to unheard of for the gaming industry, a large demographical boom and huge market variance will see evolution of service and product industry-wide within the first years.
With every new challenge the market will bring steady progress and a plethora of solutions will arise. This has held true for our entire history as an industry and, without a doubt, the Indian market will progress us further and faster into advancement than ever before. We have high expectations on every front for the regulated gaming scene that India will someday enter, and the opportunity will be abundant for all who seek to develop our technology and industry prestige to new heights through this grand challenge.
Shir Kogan is Business Developer at Delasport, with more than ten years of experience in sales and business development.
Ranjana Adhikari, Partner Media Entertainment & Gaming Industry, Mumbai, Induslaw
A recent study carried out by the Internet and Mobile Association of India throws light on some interesting developing facts in India. In the next couple of years, the estimated number of active internet users is pegged to around 900 million, with an astounding 96% consuming internet for entertainment. However, when you are trying to assess the potential of the Indian market, you need to appreciate not just the volumes, but also the demography and diversity it can offer. For instance, the male to female ratio of active internet users in urban India is nearly evenly poised at approximately 57:43 (and 58:42 in rural areas). What’s even more alluring is that the growth in the Indian rural market is clocking at 13% and there is plenty of room left for digital adoption in the years to come. While some of these may be commonplace in certain developed nations, when you view this against the larger realities of Indian society, including its illiteracy levels and a history of misogynistic practices, these numbers are refreshing and promising for any digital-age business.
India has intensely worked on improving digital infrastructure, including providing regulated and multiple digital payment options. A combination of cheap costs for data, improving infrastructure and a remarkably sizable internet-savvy population makes India a “must consider” destination for any gaming operator today. There is mammoth scope to offer a wide variety in gaming content given that, based on demographics like age, gender, state, community etc, there are still significant volumes in numbers, each having a different allure towards content. For instance, there is a growing demand for vernacular gaming content in the non-metro regions in India, in particular. Winzo, a leading social gaming platform, is a classic example of a successful Indian story capitalising on non-English vernacular content amongst its users.
But the elephant in the room we must discuss is that there is a growing volatility in government policy against online gaming; and despite the constant efforts of the industry, in the last 18 months, they have been hit by multiple legal “bullets”. The gaming laws in India are not central but state-wide. Inevitably, this has led to states taking different approaches for real money online gaming, ranging from strict bans to offering licences to online operators. The religious and motivated parts of the public have looked upon this as a moral vice and have filed plenty of public interest litigations, calling upon the state and centre to take action against the “offensive” gaming operators. This has unsettled the ambitious business plans for the industry and ridden it with uncertainty. Despite this, the industry has come together and has been resilient to fight for its legitimacy.
History will speak for itself that in any economy, by making something inaccessible, you inevitably increase the allure towards and demand for it. In India, the State of Telangana banned all forms of online gaming a few years ago. Recently, the state reported a massive illegal online gambling operation by a Chinese firm running into millions of Indian rupees (reportedly INR 1200 crore). Experts believe the Indian gaming industry is a sunrise industry with a couple of the companies like Dream 11 already a part of the unicorn club. If nurtured well through regulation, it has the opportunity of giving back to the economy by increasing investments, taxation revenues and creating employment. Gaming has the potential to spread its wings even beyond mainstream entertainment, with the use of gamification for causes like education, awareness building and social impact. An interesting example of this was a game called ‘Survive COVID’, developed by Chennai-based NGO Yein Udaan, where the game tried to make people in India understand the plight of migrants during lockdown.
While the industry has achieved much through self-regulation, it needs the final stamp and tag of regulation to protect itself and thrive.
Undoubtedly, it will be in the best interests of the Indian economy to sit up and take notice of the value this industry can add to the future of Digital India.
Based in Mumbai, Ranjana Adhikari is a Partner - Media Entertainment & Gaming with the Technology Media & Telecom Practice group of IndusLaw, a multi-speciality Indian law firm with offices across Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad. She has been inducted into the prestigious International Masters of Gaming Laws. Invited as a regular speaker to a number of international conferences, she is also an author of many publications covering the Indian landscape. She has been ranked as a leading lawyer in Asia Pacific for Gaming Gambling by Chambers& Partners.
Sem Moioli, Group CEO, WeAreCasino
The iGaming market has been evolving over the years and creating its space across maps while supporting the global economy. More and more people are deriving motivation to join iGaming and increase their overall income by several folds. iGaming, more commonly known as online gambling, is a market spread over multiple continents; however, India is not a part of the list. iGaming is not recognized as a legal sport or market, considering the country faces various challenges concerning finances. Ironically, India is still a global contributor to the gambling market. If one were to look at numbers, one would observe how some statistics show that 40% of the internet users who gamble are Indians. It is witnessing an upward spiral of monetary growth to the extent that experts say it might surpass the United Kingdom in the number of gamblers per capita.
The industry blending various verticals from poker and roulette to sports betting and casino gambling, despite the restraints and surveillance of the Government, is flourishing. This in itself reflects the scope of iGaming in India. If the sector was to be legalised and regulated by the Government with proper organisation, India will not only be able to secure a mark in the global league but also boost its economy with structural guidelines and norms being instated. With the growing passion for sports and the reach of the internet expanding over time, it is expected to add to the numbers of online gambling in the coming years; some are bold enough to speculate that the figures, which were $1.1bn in 2019, will shoot up to nearly $3bn shortly.
Legally abandoning the iGaming industry is not only proving to be a regressive approach but also reflecting as an enormous setback to the country financially. Ethically establishing the iGaming market, lawfully implementing the structure and propagating fair treatment to all online gamblers is becoming a significant step for India to monetise henceforward. Ensuring safe online gambling and organising the sector as per well-thought strategies will aid our country in laying the foundation of a profitable sector that is mutually beneficial to the players, as well as a much-needed push to the Indian economy.
With factors such as a huge population (the majority of them being the youth), free Wi-Fi hotspots, widespread access to the internet, the growing manufacturing of smartphones and the evolution of casinos that attract even the younger audience – the potential of the regulated Indian market is bound to skyrocket.
The emerging gambling startups, too, are looking forward to manifesting the highest potential of the country and setting a new scale for competitors in the field. Regulating the market will help the country bank upon the rapidly sprouting market and simultaneously support the country's youth in setting up their businesses, thus contributing to campaigns such as "Vocal for Local."
People are eventually understanding the scope of the industry and stepping into it to increase their business profitability; however, the ban in the country is only acting as a restraint that disrupts the lucrative wave. States such as Sikkim have already legalised online sports gambling and opened doors to new opportunities, and the rest of the country awaits the nod of authorities to unleash its true potential in the iGaming market. It's about time we understand how regulation will help in setting up local gambling legislation and proper codes and charter, establishing an online gambling jurisdiction that will further lead to national economic expansion. Calibrating the risks and resolving the necessary concerns to set up a pre-approved structure will regulate the market and unbridle its chasmic potential.
Sem Moioli is the Group CEO of WeAreCasino. With his multimedia expertise, Sem’s career spans online and interactive media projects for high-profile companies, as well as a series of online gaming and television projects across the globe. Today, he leads WeAreCasino towards providing the most comprehensive and optimal solutions to iGaming operations worldwide.
Martin Clarke, Director of Product, FIM
It’s no secret that the Indian economy has been having a hard time in recent years, so you don’t need to be an industry guru to recognise the enormous potential and benefits of regulating the gambling market in India. With a nation so fanatical about cricket, betting on the sport takes place in just about every neighbourhood in the country. However, as it stands, it’s all performed in an unregulated manner and away from the pockets of state bodies.
The perception that gambling is bad is a norm in many parts of the world. However, it’s far more compounded in India due to outdated laws and an underground network of gambling rings. Popular segments such as online poker, rummy and lotteries are still not governed by any dedicated law. Trust is a common problem.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Smartphone usage is rapidly increasing, fantasy sports is growing in popularity and the emergence of esports is attracting younger crowds, in large numbers. Sound familiar? It will be to every strategy team reading this article as this is exactly the demographic and cohort of customer they are targeting.
If India finally decides to set out a regulatory framework for gambling, the states, people and companies who choose to play there will flourish, in an area being dubbed the next sunrise sector.
It won’t all be plain sailing, though. Here’s a snapshot of how things could pan out:
First and foremost, it will generate a new form of tax revenue for the state.
Schools, healthcare and travel, to name but a few, can expect heavy investment to develop their infrastructure. New jobs and careers will be forged, in areas such as marketing, design and technology, potentially spawning a second software and digital revolution for India.
Who knows, we may even see popular websites like CricBuzz, CricTracker or TOI replicate Spanish sports news outlet, Marca, which entered into the betting market back in 2012, shortly after Spain regulated online gambling.
Few would contest the conventional wisdom that knowing your customer is key to success in business. In India, sports bettors are unique to anywhere else on the globe. As a few high-profile and costly examples have proven in recent years, trying to shoehorn a generic one-size-fits-no-one product into every jurisdiction no longer works. India will be no different.
Their fascination with binary betting enables betting exchanges like FIM to take advantage of regulation, along with other suppliers like CricTech, who are marrying customer data and sports modelling to produce state-of-the-art cricket products. Those offering a truly localised and compliant proposition can reap the rewards.
A fair criticism levelled at unregulated markets is the distinct lack of player protection. For a large part, gambling is not conducted in a fair and responsible way. KYC and AML screenings go out the window, betting and loss limits are overlooked and the less said about customer monitoring the better! It’s a rat race to grab as much cash as possible.
With state bodies working together with operators and other regulatory bodies, to define policy and procedures and impose rules of engagement, regulation plugs many problems riddling the unregulated market in India today; and provides a safer environment and higher protection for customers to play in.
Well thought out and well-executed journeys that immerse customers more deeply in the activity, in a responsible way, are finally making their way up product backlogs, with gambling organizations recognising that building and maintaining emotional loyalty with customers is key to retention. Other entertainment industries with a foothold in India are doing this today so it will be expected as a norm from customers if gambling regulation comes in. Those who create friction points for customers and detract from the quality of their experience will face an uphill battle to get them back.
To wrap things up, here are a few hard-hitting stats on the importance of engaging with customers in a responsible way: Across the UK and Europe, many organisations are reporting that 33% of those who engage with customer engagement initiatives around safer gambling go on to use a responsible gambling tool, and that 40% of their overall revenues are coming from customers who have a deposit limit in place.
Regulating the gambling market in India works for the economy, the operators and most importantly the people. Food for thought for the state bodies and all those watching on in anticipation.
Martin Clarke has over 30 years’ experience in gambling based roles and played a pivotal part in the successful launch and evolution of the Betfair Sportsbook. Today he works for FIM, a B2B Sports Betting platform provider, where he oversees all product, technology, marketing and strategic activities related to the business.