Keeping Pace on the iGaming Track: Insights from Kazakhstan

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6 min
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Jun 6, 2024

Yuriy Kralyuk, Head of Kazakhstan Region @RISK

In the rapidly evolving world of iGaming, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for success. At RISK, we pride ourselves on our ability to adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on emerging opportunities. To gain a deeper understanding of the current state of the industry and our plans for the future, we sat down with Yuriy Kralyuk, theHead of Kazakhstan Region @RISK. In this candid conversation, Yuriy shared his insights on the trends shaping the iGaming market and how RISK is positioning itself for growth in 2024 and beyond.

Expanding Geo-Presence

The global history of the gambling industry has always emphasized the importance of increasing geo-presence. This trend remains crucial for 2024. As familiar markets start to become saturated, companies like RISK are looking to diversify their operations and tap into new regions. "We and others have been focused on not locking ourselves into familiar markets," Yuriy explained. "This is dictated by the fact that the markets are starting to burn out. The bulk of active players have reached their activity. We have reached 99.9%. We continue growing with income, but it is important to diversify, the trend is to expand, not to stay in the anchor markets."

According to the Global Gaming Report by H2 Gambling Capital, markets in Europe and North America are nearing saturation, pushing companies to explore opportunities in emerging markets like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These regions not only offer untapped player bases but also the potential for regulatory frameworks that can be more favorable compared to established markets.

The Importance of Sporting Events

2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for sports-oriented markets, with a particular emphasis on soccer. Major events like the UEFA Euro 2024 are expected to drive significant engagement. Kralyuk elaborates, "The specificity of Kazakhstan lies solely in sports, as the country only permits and licenses sports betting. It's complex and dependent on events, coaches, players." The fluctuating performance of teams and players directly impacts the betting market, making it a challenging yet potentially rewarding landscape. "Recent story: 51 games without a loss and then once and changed the trajectory," he remarked, highlighting the unpredictable nature of sports betting.

However, if we talk about the industry. It’s not about all regions. For example, in India, cricket is the most popular sport for betting. Understanding these regional differences is crucial for iGaming companies looking to expand their presence in new markets.

Challenges and Opportunities

In response to changing market dynamics, competitors are adjusting their strategies. Many are becoming less aggressive in their advertising efforts, focusing instead on conserving resources for peak periods. This shift has led to a noticeable slowdown in player activity. This is particularly felt by smaller players in the market.

This behavior aligns with findings from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which reports that many operators are adopting a more cautious approach in response to economic uncertainties and regulatory pressures. The reduced marketing spend is part of a broader strategy to navigate these challenges without overextending resources.

Despite the potential for growth, the iGaming industry faces several challenges. One of the most significant is the increasing regulation and restrictions imposed by governments. From advertising bans in non-sports media in Kazakhstan to restrictions on where logos can be placed on sports attire in England, the regulatory landscape is becoming more stringent. 

Despite these challenges, RISK supports measures against gambling addiction and advocates for responsible betting. "We are in favor of conscious players, not impulsive bets," Kralyuk asserts, aligning the company's values with regulatory goals to promote healthy gambling habits.

The gambling industry is also witnessing a shift in age restrictions. Countries like Kazakhstan are raising the minimum age from 21 to 25. Now this restriction has not been implemented yet and is being discussed by the government. Kazakhstan seems to be the only country that wants to increase the age by so much. 

Amidst the evolving regulatory landscape in the region, new opportunities are emerging. Several countries, for instance, are expected to allow licensed betting in the coming years.

Uzbekistan's decision to open its betting market is part of a broader trend in Central Asia, where countries are increasingly recognizing the economic benefits of regulated gambling. According to the Eurasian Gaming Report, the region's potential for growth is substantial, with an expanding middle class and increasing internet penetration driving demand for online betting services.

The Rise of Mobile and AI

The trend towards mobile-first engagement continues to dominate the gambling industry. "Attracting traffic is now also mobile first.", - highlights Yuriy. The transition from offline to online has evolved into a preference for mobile platforms, reflecting the broader digitalization trend.

Mobile technology's influence on the gambling industry cannot be overstated. A report by Juniper Research predicts that mobile betting will account for over half of all online gambling revenues by 2025. The convenience and accessibility of mobile platforms are key factors driving this growth.

RISK has embraced this trend, optimizing its services for mobile users and investing in mobile-friendly technologies. "It is much easier to communicate with customers through apps, using features like push notifications and other tools to analyze their behavior/application usage experience within current legislation. However, there are limitations that significantly complicate the user funnel and our capabilities," Kralyuk admits, acknowledging the challenges while also recognizing the necessity of adapting to consumer preferences.

Yuriy also touched on the role of artificial intelligence in optimizing customer relationship management (CRM) processes. By using AI-powered chatbots and analytics, RISK has been able to reduce costs for its call center and speed up upselling processes. "We do not pull our guys, but we prescribe scripts and a base for analytics and they are very good at it," he said. "Of course, there is a micro percentage of dissatisfaction in terms of AI-powered communication, but mostly everything works perfectly. We continue to put our core value adaptability in the corner, staying flexible to switch the call to the operator if needed".

AI's potential in the gambling industry extends beyond customer interactions. Predictive analytics, powered by AI, can provide valuable insights into player behavior, helping companies tailor their offerings and marketing strategies. Additionally, AI-driven fraud detection systems enhance security, protecting both operators and players from fraudulent activities.

Preparing for the Future

As the iGaming industry continues to evolve, RISK is proactively developing contingency plans to adapt to various scenarios. "We are watching the market with interest and waiting for the reaction of the major players to the advertising ban," Yuriy said. "On our side, we have also developed a plan A, B and a few other options for all cases."

We are already in the active phase of developing several third-party projects that will help us partially recover the lost advertising assets. By staying agile and innovative, RISK aims to stay ahead of the competition and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Conclusion

The iGaming industry is undergoing significant changes, driven by regulatory pressures, technological advancements, and shifting consumer preferences. As RISK navigates this complex landscape, the insights shared by Yuriy Kralyuk, the Head of the Kazakhstan Division, provide a valuable perspective on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

By focusing on expanding its geo-presence, embracing mobile and AI technologies, and adapting to regulatory changes, RISK is well-positioned to thrive in the evolving iGaming market. The company's commitment to responsible gambling, customer-centric approach, and agile strategy development sets it apart from competitors and lays the foundation for long-term success.

As we look towards the future, it is clear that the iGaming industry will continue to face both challenges and opportunities. However, with the right strategies, technologies, and mindset, RISK can navigate these uncertainties and emerge as leaders in this dynamic and exciting industry.

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