18 October, 2022

Prioritising regulated markets

Head of USA Brandon Walker speaks to Gambling Insider about the US and LatAm markets, Amelco’s presence in South Africa and adding new verticals to the business.

We last spoke to you back in February; has anything new developed since then?

Yes, from our perspective we’ve had a big focus on the US in the last couple of years, so that will continue to be our focus. We launched with Saracen in Arkansas a couple of months ago, we’re continuing to roll out in more states with Fubo TV and Hard Rock, and we’re planning on launching our first iGaming solution in New Jersey in the next few weeks, which is exciting. We’ve also launched with Lulabet in South Africa, which is our first South African operator, and is a very exciting space now because a lot is opening up in the South African space quite quickly. You must remember that up, until this year, slots weren’t approved and live dealer was only very recently approved. Only going back to last year, it was just sports betting that was regulated and approved by the gaming board in South Africa. But now it’s an exciting space, everyone is really pushing hard to get the top tier iGaming solutions integrated. Of course, they are all going through their own processes with getting their games approved, but it’s been an exciting year for us so far – and there’s still a bit left to go.

Are you heavily focused on the US right now and is that where you want to be?

We offer a global product and we’ve worked with UK and European sites in the past. So the product is very much available for the UK; even right now, we’re in talks with a new potential UK operator. As much as our focus has been on the US in the last few years, we’re still looking at other markets, too – including the European/UK market, as well as the rest of Africa. We have one site live in Nigeria called Premier Lotto, which we’ve been working with for the last seven/eight years – and, as I said earlier, we’ve just gone live with Lulabet. But of course, we’re exploring the Latin American space, too. Things seem to be moving fairly quickly down there off the back of the US. So, let’s see. I’m confident in our products and platform. We can pretty much go to any market at the moment because of the work we’ve done.

Would you say you have gained a foothold in the LatAm market yet?

Well, we’re keeping an eye on the space, there’s a lot of talk around Brazil and obviously Peru is quite a big populous. I think we’re just keeping our ear to the ground at the moment; it will be interesting to see what happens with regulations. But for the meantime, we’re just watching fairly closely. 

How quick was the rollout for the South African market?

South Africa is interesting because it is fairly heavily regulated, which is different for the rest of Africa. In terms of getting the product certified, it took time – as it does for everybody. For us it was a good 12 months to get the product in a position where we could put it through GLI certification, get it approved by the gaming board and have all the relevant integrations. Whether that be payments, certain iGaming or virtual games, things like that. It took us a bit of time; there’s obviously very distinctive and specific reports that need to be done for that particular market. In a way, I’d say it is an interesting space because it is quite tough for software suppliers to get into the country, but once you’re in it’s beneficial. If you’re in Eastern Europe or the rest of Africa, you have hundreds of software suppliers all vying for the same business, which is why we like the South African space. As much as it was painful to get the product certified and through, now that it is we’re happy there is a fairly strong barrier to entry. As soon as they started approving more in terms of iGaming and making it more of a lucrative opportunity for suppliers and operators, we definitely looked at it in a bit more depth.

Is it your first iGaming solution in South Africa?

We’ve rolled out iGaming solutions before, Lulabet has a full iGaming live-dealer, everything is on there. What I was referring to earlier with our first iGaming: that will be in the US. We have a free-to-play iGaming solution there at the moment through one of our clients called SuperDraft. But in terms of real money, there are only four states at the moment which actually offer it. So, that’s quite exciting for us, to have our first iGaming solution live in the states. We’re live in 12 states already with sportsbook and it’s nice to add that different vertical into the mix.

Is that a deliberate push towards diversification in the business, or was that more experimental?

We know it will work; we have provided iGaming solutions globally for years. It’s just now that one of our operators in the US has got an iGaming licence through Caesars in New Jersey, and we’re pushing to get that live as well. As everyone knows, the acquisition cost for sports betting in the US right now is crazy; to be a mid-size tier two/three book you’re absolutely burning money, so to be able to add the iGaming vertical to it certainly helps with the damage control these operators are dealing with.

Would you consider acquisitions to get into the LatAm market or concentrate on offering your own iGaming solutions?

Well, we’ve got our own iGaming solution, sportsbook solution, fully integrated solutions. In terms of LatAm, it’s quite a similar market to Africa. Heavy accumulators, standard European look and feel, decimal odds, nothing too crazy; we’ve already translated our sportsbook into a number of different languages, including Portuguese and Spanish. So, the product is ready, we’re just eying out who we thinkwill be a good operator to work with. Whether that is somebody existing armed with a solid player database, or an exciting start-up who have got good funding behind them and have a decent vision about how they want to go about doing things.

In terms of competition, is it a case of getting into a market first, or carefully analysing where you need to be?

Each has its pros and cons, but from our perspective – especially in LatAm or a space like Brazil – it is such a big market and they’re very well versed in the gaming space already. There is a lot of grey market gambling happening. But honestly, it depends on the opportunity; if the opportunity presents itself and we can get it in fairly early, fantastic, we can have our platform certified and jump through all the hoops quite quickly.

Meaning for us, that wouldn’t be a heavy lift; but if we need to wait and survey the lay of the land, then we will do. It all depends internally on priorities and what else we have on the go. It’s one of those moving targets,
we just keep our ear to the ground and see what happens.

Is there any interest from your side about the Asian market?

Not really. It all depends on markets that are regulated; we’ve worked with the Hong Kong Jockey Club before, which is the only regulated bookmaker within mainland China/Hong Kong. As I said, we very much work with regulated markets and regulated bookmakers. If things were to open up in Asia and certain countries, then absolutely we’d look at it. But I wouldn’t say it’s at the forefront of our minds.

Is there any advantage in getting into an unregulated market shortly before stringent regulations come into effect?

From our perspective, no. We have invested so much in the likes of the US, licences and operators, so for us it wouldn’t be worth the risk to dip our toe into unregulated markets for the sake of potentially something happening in the future. That could jeopardise our existing business, which wouldn’t be ideal, obviously. I know other suppliers do that, but each to their own.