Thinking Glocal: Digitain on the regional factors beyond the regulation

Digitain has set about providing the ‘world’s sportsbook’ to operators in Europe, America, Africa and Asia, regardless of the size or relative maturity of the regional markets.

It is perhaps best known for its work in ‘developing’ markets, where the challenges are quite different to years gone by. Feliciana Cannillo, Deputy CEO at Digitain, explains why times of porting – or even stripping back – a product for developing regions is long gone.

She then talks us through the regional versions of its sportsbook, opportunities in the CIS, the cost of business in Europe causing operators to diversify geographically, and why it is better prepared should the sporting calendar fall foul of COVID-19 again.

SBC: Within developing markets, operators are trying to become more localised; what does this mean for the final output? And what can you do as the supplier?

FC: Firstly, I’d say the challenge of localisation is not new – the time when an operator or a supplier believed they could port the same product or service from one market, or region, to another has long gone, in my opinion.

It’s a cliché, but as an international platform and software provider Digitain has to think global and act local. Localisation is not solely about the betting and gaming products you make available, it is also about the regulations, the tone of voice, the look and feel, the payment options, bonuses and jackpots expected, and even down to the type of customer care an operator can deliver.

From a Digitain perspective, our proprietary platform and large team of developers – based here in Yerevan – allow us to be flexible with the support we provide to our partner operators in their aim to differentiate themselves in their market. We have a variety of regional-specific products – and we’re happy to develop more if required by our partners.

We have a variety of platform licences and certification allowing us to offer a number of options to our partners. We offer a number of regional versions of our sportsbook, especially suited to emerging markets where mobile technology or bandwidth can be problematic. 

For example, we offer a WAP friendly version and SMS Text sportsbook, and recently we launched a Tax Engine application developed to help partners in regulated markets with complex gaming tax requirements to be compliant and allow them to confidently focus on business development needs.

Owning our own technology and having development capabilities for both products and services means that, as a supplier, we strive to offer glocal solutions based on the demands of the markets we support.

SBC: One such region for new opportunities is the CIS; will we see a new powerhouse betting brand from one of these countries, or are conditions too restrictive?

FC: The CIS is a big opportunity for both operators and suppliers although there’s no need to pigeonhole the precise definition of the CIS – the CIS for betting and gaming is wider than the old geographical definition of the CIS, in our opinion

Looking into a crystal ball – I think we will see existing betting powerhouses expand into that market but we will also see operators from nearby regions look to expand their footprint into the CIS regions – as we have seen with Olympic.

As a supplier, we need to make sure that we meet whatever conditions are in place in order that we can enable our partners in the region – capability to be fast and flexible are both required to be a platform provider these days.

SBC: Why do we see proven technologies failing in emerging markets? What factors do you feel are underestimated?

FC: It is tempting for lots of reasons to try and use the same technology and processes across all markets – makes change control simpler and cheaper for example.

This could be down to arrogance or lack of understanding of culture and customer expectations. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach across one continent will probably fail, never mind a global approach. We saw JVs struggle in the 2000’s when UK operators joined with Southern European operators for these reasons.

Another, more recent, example has been the European operators and suppliers moving into the US market – despite their size they tended to take a “cookie cutter” approach, but events have shown that the need to localise was underestimated.

There is a need for localisation, in terms of look and feel, registration, payments, tone of voice, standards of customer service, use of discretion, content, value and even preferred odds format – these are among the factors that need to be considered, as well as “harder” issues such as regulations.

Platform suppliers, such as Digitain, need to be flexible and be able to be flexible to meet their customer requirements.

SBC: What was the key lesson that your company learned from the shutdown of live sports earlier this year? Should it be suspended again, what can you do to make sure your operators don’t get caught out again?

FC: Our tech stack and use of machine learning allowed us to be flexible when the first lockdown occurred, and the main live sports were suspended. 

Relatively quickly we managed to integrate additional live feeds for virtual sports and esports. We even launched our own live streamed table football product and integrated it across our partner network.

If the situation re-occurs, we will continue to add to our product portfolio – ensuring, as we did in June this year, that the live betting offering remains competitive.

SBC: As betting operators are pressured to grow beyond their home shores, how will the marketplace make-up be redrawn? Should we anticipate a changing of the guard through innovation, or is more consolidation at the top more likely?

FC: The US has been a target for a while for European operators – and we’re likely to see more movement there, given the extraordinary valuations we’re seeing. The move by Caesars to buy William Hill could be an indicator of things to come.

The cost of business in Europe and the impact of regulations concerning marketing and responsible gambling will cause operators to continue to diversify geographically – with Africa and LatAm being obvious targets.

Consolidation in a shrinking economy is also likely with operators looking to reduce costs. Innovation will become even more important – as a way of reducing spend as well as a method of achieving growth.

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