Mark Chakravarti, Investment Director at SportingWin, talks about the operator’s experience of securing a licence in Bulgaria and how it will now use its in-house regulatory platform to enter additional European markets
I would argue that a proprietary regulatory platform is the most important thing for operators looking to drive European market expansion. Without a modern, agile platform that provides the insight that regulators require, licence applications will be drawn out for months and even years.
At SportingWin, we came to learn this the hard way.
When we started the business back in 2019, we identified Bulgaria as being a market of huge potential and one that we were keen to make our debut. Based on our assessment, AGR would hit 20% a year for the next five years, leading to a market value of €500m per year.
We then set about compiling the legal paperwork required by the National Revenue Agency for the licence application – this was a significant task in its own right, but we would soon learn that this was just the very start of the process.
The Bulgarian regulator is one of the most stringent in the world, which of course is a good thing. It ensures that the operators that do secure approval to enter the market are of the highest calibre especially when it comes to responsible gambling.
Under its requirements, operators must be able to deliver certain insights and information to the regulator in real time and this in turn requires a powerful, agile regulatory platform. Ultimately, we took the decision to develop this technology in-house.
While this was the right course of action, it significantly slowed down our licence application process while the regulator and our in-house development team worked together to ensure that it was fully compliant with its requirements.
We eventually reached the point where the National Revenue Agency was happy with the paperwork we submitted and our proprietary reg-tech platform, giving us the green light to enter the market in January 2021. Since then, we have gained incredible traction with players.
As with most operators, we are now looking to take SportingWin into additional markets and our in-house developed regulatory platform will be the foundation for building out our presence across the region. It really is impressive and now that it has been certified in Bulgaria, it can be used elsewhere.
We have identified Romania as our next market and while we have yet to submit our application to the regulator, our proprietary regulatory platform will ensure it is a much easier – and faster – process than that in Bulgaria.
This is for several reasons. Given just how stringent the National Revenue Agency is with its standards and enforcing them, other jurisdictions are happy to approve our platform without subjecting it to the same level of scrutiny again.
The same applies to a lot of the paperwork that we completed as part of our application in Bulgaria – for example, the Romanian regulator is happy to carry this over as well as the technical and software certifications that we were granted.
Of course, local regulators will still carry out their own investigations and will want to test certain aspects of our platforms, tech and software, but much of the hard work has already been done and this will allow us to enter additional markets at pace – we anticipate being live in Romania in H1.
In addition to an in-house regulatory platform, approved paperwork and the experience of having been through a licence application, the final piece of the puzzle operators need is a European trademark for their brand/brands.
We have recently secured this for SportingWin and it really does put us in the driving seat to identify and enter regulated European markets with an incredibly strong brand, superior product offering and a powerful regulatory platform running in the background.
Because of this, SportingWin is an attractive proposition for investors looking to join our success story. Due to the technical foundations we have in place, the investment we secure is pumped into marketing our brand in each country, which in turn allows us to generate significant share quickly.
Despite having been live in Bulgaria for only a year, we have a large and loyal player base and in Q4, generated €500,000 in NGR. This is set to grow significantly off the back of our recently-announced partnership with Pinnacle, allowing us to add a betting exchange to our offering for the first time.
As with most small to medium-sized operators, the team behind SportingWin has a long-term plan for the business and that is to grow it into an exciting acquisition opportunity for one of the power players looking to build their presence in regulated markets across Europe.
Without our proprietary regulator platform, European trademark and growing collection of licences, SportingWin would simply not be on the radar of these organisations, let alone be considered a serious M&A opportunity.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to do before we reach that chapter of our story but given that the founders of SportingWin have built and sold betting businesses before, it is one that I am confident we will write in next to no time at all.
Meanwhile, we will continue to use our regulatory platform to launch our player-favourite brand and superior betting experience into markets across Europe, generating substantial revenues from each of the jurisdictions we target.