Why and how to start a gambling business in 2021

Whether you’re interested in running your own online poker room, bingo site, or even full-fledged casino or sportsbook, 2021 is the year to do it. This article will walk you through what you need to know to get started with an online gambling business. 

Every day, another part of our lives moves online. 

Shopping, entertainment, and socializing all fit in the palm of your hand, accessible from home, the office, the bus, or anywhere else. 

It’s no wonder that the gambling industry has followed suit. Revenues from online gambling businesses keep getting higher, year after year, with plenty of options available for entrepreneurs who want to get into the game. 

The industry is big and getting bigger, revenues are rising around the world, and dominoes are falling across regions where gambling was prohibited until recently as a wave of re-regulation sweeps the globe.

There are a number of different online gambling businesses you could start in 2021. While the details vary, most of the big steps are the same: license, software, marketing. 

Below, we’ll cover how to open your own online poker room, bingo site, casino, or sportsbook project. 

How to start an online poker room

Starting in the early 2000’s and boosted by the broadcast of the World Series of Poker, poker began surging in popularity around the globe. The number of online poker rooms quickly boomed, and now players in Europe, India, and plenty of other regions regularly log on to play a few hands. 
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In light of how many dedicated fans the game has around the world, it’s no surprise there are plenty of potential operators who want to open an online poker room. 

In addition to its widespread popularity, poker has the advantage of being legal in many markets that prohibit games of chance — if you can’t open an online casino and fill it with slots, you can often still open an online poker room. This is because some regulators view poker as a game of skill, not chance. 

Poker will have a slightly different licensing application and fee structure — Malta, for example, requires only €40,000 in reserve capital for type 3 license holders, compared to €100,000 for type 1 license holders (slots).

With the proliferation of poker sites across the internet, new businesses should focus on what makes them unique. Designing the site to be mobile-friendly or even mobile-first (PokerGoGo?) could give your site the edge it needs to differentiate itself from all of its competitors.

Most new poker room operators opt for a white label option, also commonly called a skin in the online poker world. We’ll talk about white label, turnkey, and skin products later on. 

How to start an online bingo project

Bingo might seem overly niche for many new online gambling platform operators, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its dedicated fans. A well-run bingo site can definitely serve as a viable business provided it’s run properly, marketed effectively, and caters to the right target audience. As a matter of fact, players in markets across Central and South America are huge fans of bingo. 
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In a way, bingo is a private alternative to lotteries, which are almost exclusively state-run monopolies. 

While it often doesn’t generate the same staggering revenues as the rest of the iGaming sector — the European Gaming and Betting Association reported that bingo accounted for 4% of its members’ revenues in 2019 — bingo still has undying popularity. Traditionally, the game has been popular with older demographics, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t younger players who enjoy it.

As with poker rooms, a very common path for operators to take is purchasing a white label product commonly known as a skin and joining a bingo network. 

How to start an online casino

Online casinos have a few components. From a technical perspective, they need a platform, game content, and payment systems. 

The website’s platform has two main parts: the backend and the frontend.

A powerful, reliable, and smooth-running backend is an absolute must for an online gambling platform. Players have little patience for casinos with a tendency to glitch in the middle of a session (or even worse, in the middle of a spin — an event that can cause headaches in your customer service department).
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The backend should let you control all the vital processes in the daily operations of an online casino, including payment processing, player account management, game integration, and everything else you might need to handle while running your platform. 


 

Your website’s frontend should be easy to navigate and easy on the eye. Don’t force players to run your homepage through a translator; make sure your site is localized in their language. Important buttons (like “Sign up”) should be big and noticeable and stand out from the background with a contrasting color. 

An online casino frontend should have widgets across its front page that can help players more easily find their game of choice; top slots, most popular, high volatility, jackpot, etc. are all viable categories of slots that players could want to search through. Of course, there should also be a search bar — visibly distinct from the background of the site, usually with a magnifying glass icon inside it — where players can quickly summon titles they already know they love.

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Twisting yourself up in knots to come up with the best bonuses on the market won’t translate into long-term success if you don’t have a deep catalogue of exciting game content. 

Start by identifying the most popular game types in your target market. Once you’ve found your footing, you can expand into others and build your player base.

There’s a wide range of games that appeal to players. Conducting proper market research is an essential step in the planning stages of your online casino project — at this point, you’ll closely examine which games are most popular for players in your targeted region of operation.

In addition to slots, consider digital versions of other casino games like blackjack, baccarat, and roulette, as well as regional favorites like Dragon Tiger for Asian players and Teen Patti for gamblers in India. Furthermore, in 2021, casinos that don’t integrate live dealer casino games are missing out on the biggest phenomenon the industry has seen in years. 

Aside from providing the experience of the casino floor from the comfort of players’ homes, completely with the social aspect of chatting with the dealer and the other players, live casino games saw massive spikes in player participation while land-based casinos were closed throughout the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Supporting deposits and withdrawals in fiat currencies through bank transfers and credits cards alone don’t do the job anymore. E-wallets like Skrill and other online payment systems like PayPal are increasingly commonplace as internet users become accustomed to the lightning-fast processing times involved when a transaction bypasses traditional financial institutions. 

Furthermore, some banks and other financial institutions hold a prejudice against the gambling industry and don’t support transactions involving online gambling platforms, so plenty of players require alternative methods of payment. In some markets, for example in certain countries in Africa, players won’t even have access to a standard bank account and instead will need to make payments through their mobile carrier. And of course, there’s no denying the rise of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. There are even casinos built entirely on blockchain technology that solely accept payments in cryptocurrencies. While that might be going a little too far, it’s still to your advantage to support cryptocurrency transactions. 

How to start an online sportsbook

Starting an online sportsbook is much like starting an online casino gambing platform, but the main difference is in the type of betting opportunities you will present to the players. Instead of slots and other casino games, your sportsbook will need a variety of sports for punters to wager their money on. 

Start with market research. What are the local favorites? What international sports do players enjoy betting on?

Punters almost everywhere love betting on football. European leagues such as the Premier League and the Champions league are popular with bettors around the globe. But aside from obvious favorites, markets can vary widely in their particular tastes. Indian bettors like to wager on cricket, as do South Africans — who also love betting on rugby. Scandinavian punters (unsurprisingly) like to wager on winter sports like hockey, downhill skiing, and the biathlon. 

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It’s critical to factor player behavior into your business model. Punters have different wagering habits in different markets. In mature markets in more developed countries like the UK, players are more likely to lay down comparatively higher wagers but with less frequency than players in less developed markets. In Kenya, for example, players will bet less than the local equivalent of a euro on each event, but place multiple bets per week — or maybe every day, or even multiple times a day. 

Online sportsbook software should have a live data feed to make sure your punters always have up-to-the-minute information. 

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Licensing

The first step for all of these options is the same: license acquisition. There are a number of jurisdictions around the world that offer licenses for gambling businesses, each with own system, requirements, regulations, and fees.

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A gambling license has a number of different advantages. First, it allows the holder to operate legitimately in the relevant market. The stability of legal operation means the business owner can rest easy knowing their site won’t be shut down or blocked overnight and their assets won’t be frozen. Licensed operators can also enjoy more fruitful partnerships with game developers and software providers, most of whom will only cooperate with licensed operators. 

One of the most common and cost-effective strategies is to begin with a Curacao license. For a comparatively low licensing fee, operators can offer any of the above forms of online gambling (or any other type of gambling, for that matter — esports, anyone?). Once they’re ready to expand, there are several jurisdictions which will grant access to the profitable EU market. 

We offer consultancy services and complete package solutions for gambling license acquisition that include:

  • Gambling jurisdiction and business advisory
  • Gambling business corporate structure incorporation
  • Opening bank accounts
  • Gambling license application

White labels and skins

It’s common for online poker room and bingo site operators to run what’s commonly called a “skin” site. This is where the individual operator joins a broader network of bingo or poker sites. In this situation, the site has the exact same software and setup as all of the other sites on the network, with only minor differences in color scheme and other small details.

One of the chief appeals of joining a network is the access to the high volumes of traffic that online gambling sites need to survive. However, this is a two-edged sword; joining the network also means your immediate competition is a chain of sites nearly identical to yours. 

Skin site operators also have very little control over what games are available on their site — this is a decision that will be up to the network. Technical issues can also take a long time to iron out, as fixing glitches is part of the network’s responsibility, and there’s not much the operator can do if the network drags its feet.

Two popular options for new online gambling businesses are turnkey and white label solutions. With a turnkey solution, the software provider develops a fully functional online gambling platform, designed and customized to the operator’s specifications and needs. With a white label option, the operator takes charge of daily operations of a site under the platform provider’s umbrella. 

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Opting for a turnkey or white label solution means the operator will skip the lengthy, costly, and complicated process of developing their own platform software. Taking the independent route — as opposed to joining a network of skins — gives them more control over their platform’s operations and financial destiny, as well as giving them a leg up when it comes to differentiating themselves from their competitors.

In contrast, joining a skin network means the operator has little control over the specifications of the project, cannot quickly handle customer complaints and other problems, and faces an even more difficult uphill battle when it comes to standing out from the competition. 

Player acquisition and retention

Online gambling sites need to quickly bring in large amounts of traffic to get their business up and running. Of course, the next step after bringing them in is keeping them. There are a number of different marketing techniques that online casinos can use to acquire and retain their players. 

Gambling affiliates such as bloggers, casino portal sites, forums, and streamers are a huge part of the industry — and for good reason. They develop substantial followings of players who consume their content. Streamers can develop audiences of thousands of players who watch them play and review games, all the while hoping to see a massive jackpot. Affiliates redirect their players to online casinos for a share of the revenue generated by that player.

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Online gambling businesses should also use effective public relations, paid search, SEO, email marketing and remarketing, and SMS messaging. These marketing techniques can help platforms make themselves easier for players to find. 

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A steady influx of players won’t do much for you if you can’t keep them coming back. Welcome bonuses can encourage players to sign up, but you can also use other bonus offers to re-engage players or give them a boost when they’re on a losing streak. Similarly, VIP and loyalty programs offer rewards that increase over time, giving players an incentive to have a long-running relationship with your platform.

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Marketing strategies work twice as well if they have a good product behind them. Players truly value good customer service, fast payouts, and quality game content. A failure in any of these three areas is a deal-breakers for most players. Nothing sends a player to forums faster than a slow payout — or neglecting to pay out at all. 

A well-run online gambling site such as a poker room, bingo site, casino or sportsbook can turn over a substantial amount of revenues. To learn more about how our solutions can help you get your online gambling business started, get in touch with our sales managers for a free consultation.

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