´I´m really proud of how the team has risen to the challenges of the last year´- Vera Motto, Habanero
(Malta, SoloAzar Exclusive).- As the world turns one year since the pandemic began, SoloAzar spoke exclusively with Vera Motto, Business Development Executive at Habanero, who made an assessment for the last year for the Company and the gaming sector in general.
What assessment can you make one year after the start of the pandemic, as to the iGaming sector?
Our industry was hit very hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, with land-based and retail outlets feeling the most severe effects of all. We in the online market experienced significant growth, partly because of the punters who transitioned from other sectors.
As for Habanero, we’ve always been an international company, so there wasn’t a huge amount of adapting to do following the advent of remote working. That said, I’m really proud of how the team has risen to the challenges of the last year, and look forward to working with them in-person when it’s safe to do so again.
What challenges did you face as a company?
Like every company out there, we’ve faced significant commercial and logistical challenges. I’m delighted to say, however, that on both the new business and product fronts, we overcame them emphatically.
Habanero entered five new markets in Q1, including Paraguay and Argentina, and our offering has also grown exponentially in that time. As well as planting our flag in new territories, we’ve expanded our footprint in those where we were already present, such as Italy.
It’s been a difficult year for everybody, but I’m thrilled with how the team has responded to the challenges that arose.
On what subject could you have results above yours expectations within the current situation? Did you get any unexpected chances?
Across the globe, we’ve seen the pandemic accelerate the conversion from land-based to online, particularly in emerging markets. Regions throughout the world are still reeling from the Coronavirus outbreak; none more so than Latin America.
The retail-to-digital shift on that continent, therefore, has been the most dramatic of all, so online outlets with the right offering could find themselves in an unexpectedly strong position to capitalise.
How would you describe the average player profile today? What are their tastes and demands?
Today’s players look for a high level of entertainment, which is why we focus on creating premium quality games and features. Many of those are new to LatAm because the region is only just starting to look at things like tournaments and jackpots, which we have deep expertise in.
The tastes and demands of today’s gamblers, therefore, should not be viewed in terms of themes – rather, new features and technology are the defining characteristics of contemporary player preferences.
Rapid loading times and seamless mobile optimisation, for instance, both featured prominently on the 2020 agenda, and we’ve responded to that necessity with customised products and technology.
What are the latest trends in technology, games and habits, which you think came to stay in 2021?
We’re seeing a global trend towards gamification, which has a lot to do with the heightened regulatory scrutiny our industry has received as a result of the pandemic. Suppliers and operators have had to move away from attracting punters with the prospect of financial gain – upping the entertainment value of their content instead.
We’re well-placed to meet that demand, with a raft of in-game features designed to drive up engagement and retention for partners. We’re also working on a variety of new solutions, so watch this space!
What are the most important markets for the company at the moment?
We’re expanding our operations across the globe – and that includes markets where we already have an established presence, such as Italy. We’re now one of the country’s fastest-growing suppliers, having gone live with an impressively large proportion of national operators.
Last year, we released an Italian-themed slot title called Scopa, inspired by a popular local card game of the same name. Even though the game has proved to be a global hit, the Italian connection means that it has performed particularly well with players in that country.
Try the game out, and you’ll see why: users are whisked away on an unforgettable train journey through some of Italy’s most famous landmarks, stopping respectively at Genoa, Milan, Naples, Tuscany and Venice.
Do you think gambling legislation is right for the present moment? Which countries have best adapted their laws during 2020 and where will things go from 2021?
Looking at international markets, we see a diverse variety of regulatory approaches. In Europe, taxation increases and stricter rules were on the menu for 2020, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Latin America, by contrast, made progress toward further market openings – with several important Argentinian provinces taking steps to regulate. Markets where the industry was already active, such as Colombia, introduced new verticals like live casino.
The national regulator, Coljuegos, worked with local operators and associations to understand players’ needs and preferences, creating a safer market for gamblers and helping to fill government coffers with taxation revenue. Their counterparts elsewhere would do well to take note.