As 2020 draws to a close, Slotegrator Sales Manager Jashwant Patel talked with FocusGN to take stock of a very tumultuous year. Patel discussed how he and the company coped with the crisis, how obstacles can become opportunities, and the challenges and rewards of expanding into the Indian market.
As an industry-leading online casino and sportsbook software provider and aggregator, Slotegrator is always on the front line of the iGaming industry, no matter where that line may be. Our Sales Manager, Jashwant Patel, has first-hand knowledge about how the industry was affected by the ongoing crisis of 2020, but that’s not all he has to share; in an interview with FocusGN, Patel discussed how Slotegrator took the crisis as an opportunity to bring another innovative iGaming solution to the market, the ins and outs of the promising Indian market, the future of the online and land-based casino industry in India, and where else in the world Slotegrator is looking to expand next.
Focusgn: As 2020 comes to its end, what’s your balance of such an atypical year?
Jashwant: Good question! Yes, 2020 has been a very unusual year for many, be it people, businesses, sectors, nature, wildlife, etc. Globally, there were — and still are — some challenging times, but they brought opportunities too, I believe, to think outside the box and find solutions for the situation at hand — for example, working from home, virtual meetings and exhibitions, learning new skills, etc. As for me personally, how I kept my balance was by keeping going and with the strong belief that things are going to work out. I am grateful to be part of the Slotegrator team, and excited about the opportunities I have been presented to grow further and develop new skills and knowledge. I am thankful and blessed to be where I am.
F: Where did Slotegrator perform the best, and where do you think you have room to improve?
J: Slotegrator's mission is to facilitate the business growth of our clients and partners. As a renowned brand in the iGaming industry, every day we are working towards this mission by bringing together different sectors of the industry, driving its ecosystem forward. As a successful and rapidly growing company, there were many performances to celebrate, from gaming platform upgrades and new partnerships to the development of new products and the expansion of our portfolio. As a company, we are always trying to raise the bar, looking for new challenges to tackle and opportunities to reach new heights. With our industry-leader status, not only do our clients and partners expect the latest solutions from us, but it's our responsibility to blaze new trails — and one of our new solutions, Casino Kit, is a prime example of that.
F: You recently hosted a webinar focused on the Indian market titled ‘How to start an online casino on the Eastern Frontier of iGaming.’ Can you summarise your thoughts on India and its potential for the gaming industry?
J: That is a very good question. India has a very rich history, and if we look into that history, we see that gambling has been a part of Indian society for a very long time, even being mentioned in ancient religious texts. However, it's also looked upon as taboo, or as a social ill, by many across India. Regardless, the country is considered a very lucrative market for any business, and with a population of over 1.5 billion, it could be a golden well for the iGaming industry. According to research, more than 750 million people — which is over 70% of the population — have access to gaming devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers. Access to the internet or mobile data is also not an issue, with almost 700 million — and growing — internet users. More than 50% of the target audience fall within the age bracket of 20-45, making it a very young market to tap into. The economy is also one of the fastest growing in the world, meaning the majority of the country’s people have disposable income for entertainment.
Having said that, cracking into the market is not as easy as it looks. India is a massive country with many cultures and diverse audiences. Different groups of people demand different products from an operator. Many European companies within the iGaming industry have expanded into India in recent years. Some went in full-on, with a dedicated domain for the local audience, and others have done the bare minimum. The key, in my opinion, would still be to plan out the right business strategy to acquire and retain players, as Indian customers are hard to please — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
F: Land-based casinos in the country have not only faced restrictions, but the market in Goa has also been in the spotlight for some years as the government wants them out of the river. Do you think land-based casinos will disappear in the short term and give way to online casinos?
J: That's true! Land-based casinos have had some tough times, not just in India, but globally, due to the сrisis. With all the travel restrictions, social distancing, and other health and safety measures, the land-based casino industry has taken a big hit. Additionally, land-based casinos (both offshore and onshore) in India, whether they’re in Goa, Sikkim, or Daman, have been in the spotlight due the fact that gambling is looked upon as social evil within the Indian community. At the same time, Goa, Sikkim, and Daman are all tourist destinations, and their land-based casinos generate vital revenue streams. Casinos in Goa, both offshore and onshore, are a politically sensitive topic. Both ruling parties and opposition parties have been making promises to make the rules strict. Last year, one political party said something along the lines of “casinos have destroyed Panaji City with the presence of their social and ethical evils” and announced their intention to push the offshore casinos out to sea, establish strict regulations, and appoint a gaming commision for the onshore casinos, a plan which has so far remained on paper.
The question in India is not whether land-based or online casinos will perform better, but how healthy the gambling and casino industry can be as a whole. As I mentioned earlier, gambling is considered a social evil in Indian culture, but has also been a part of the society from as early as the oldest scriptures. With over 50% of India’s 1.5 billion people living in rural areas, where the education system is still considered underdeveloped, there's not much awareness of the subject of gambling. Between that and the country’s unclear laws and regulations, it's a very muddled topic! But that isn’t stopping the industry from growing.
The Indian online gambling market is projected to be worth upwards of $3 billion in the next few years, and with the current crisis affecting many industries, the government should look at it as an opportunity to stabilize the economy and use it as a source of tax revenues.
In short, once the regulations are in place, there should be an increase of awareness and education — for both players and operators — that gambling is a great source of entertainment. If operators promote responsible gambling and put player safety measures in place, then it can be a success. Will land-based casinos disappear because of online casinos? In my opinion, no. While online casinos are convenient, they cannot beat the real life experience of a grand, land-based casino. So I’d say they will still exist.
F: Many other countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America look like they’re waiting to explode. Which markets do you see with the potential for Slotegrator to seize the opportunity and make its mark?
J: The world is our oyster. As I said earlier, Slotegrator is all about driving the iGaming ecosystem forward by acting as a bridge that connects the different sectors of the industry. Hence, we have no limitations on where we want to expand. I agree, Asia, Africa, and Latin America are considered markets with a lot of potential, and as a renowned brand within the iGaming industry, our mission is to facilitate business growth for our partners and clients, so we’ve definitely got our eye on these up-and-coming markets. They all require different approaches when it comes to doing business, and we have already made some headway in several of them; the opportunities are there, you just have to seek them out.
However, the regulatory situation in India, as well as certain other Asian countries, is complicated. And many countries in Latin America are still in the early stages of development -- Colombia is making inroads, with Argentina and Brazil to follow. In my perspective, Africa will be the next new market to keep an eye on. The reason for this is regulators’ awareness that advancements in technology would make online gambling accessible regardless of a ban — customers will find a way no matter what — so instead of fighting the situation, they are embracing it and working on regulatory solutions to protect the iGaming ecosystem. With best practices in place, the future seems bright for online gaming.
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