Bulgaria: A Market With Great Potential, With Mark Chakravarti, Head Of Investment At Sportingwin

As the iGaming market continues to flourish and achieve success in an increasing number of regulated markets, we of course aim to highlight the key jurisdictions showing the most promise.

Bulgaria, as a market, has experienced mixed fortunes recently on a national scale but the future is looking promising.

In our conversation with Mark Chakravarti, Head of Investment at Sportingwin, he talks about the operator’s plans for the Bulgarian market and why only a few operators have what it takes to succeed.

What does the future hold for the growth of the Bulgarian iGaming market and what role does the region play in your growth plans?

“The European online gambling market is mature and consolidated, so any major growth is going to come from new countries legalising online gambling, such as the Ukraine, or countries re-regulating, such as Bulgaria – the market we see with the greatest potential.

The market is currently worth €300m per year but with just five licensees active. We believe the market can increase 20% year on year for the next five years to hit €500m. Of course, the competition is very limited which presents a tremendous opportunity.

As such, we have identified Bulgaria as a key market for Sportingwin and we plan to enter with a cutting-edge platform and player proposition that will leave our rivals wanting. This, we believe, will allow us to secure 9% of the market within three years.

To help drive our ambitious plans for the market, we are currently undertaking a €1m funding round. The long-term plan for the jurisdiction is to attract further investment so that we can grow through M&A activity to become one of the top two operators in Bulgaria.”

The region has been marred with allegations of corruption within the Gambling Commission. How will this affect the market moving forwards?

“The former Gambling Commission had a reputation for rejecting licence applications without any clear grounds for doing so. This led to accusations that it was favouring established local operators who currently hold the five licences that make up the market.

The good news is that earlier this year the National Revenue Agency (NRA) took over regulatory responsibility and is doing a much better job at welcoming new operators. That being said, due diligence requirements remain incredibly strict making a successful application tough.

Of course, the operators that are able to meet these standards – and that includes Sportingwin – will bring more competition to the market leading to a much-improved betting experience for players and consumers which will also drive growth.”

What are the key customer trends that a Bulgaria-facing sportsbook will need to offer in order to localise its services to this region?

“Bulgarian players expect the same quality experience as players in more established markets such as the UK, so it is important for operators to power their sportsbooks with the latest technologies so they can offer the range of sports, markets and odds that players are seeking.

Players also expect to be able to access features such as in-play betting and cash-out, and we believe there is also huge potential for a betting exchange – this is something we plan to introduce to the market for the very first time.

The most important factor, however, is CRM and the importance of this is greater than in most other regulated markets around the world. This is why it is so important for operators to use state of the art platforms in order to deploy the best CRM strategies.

But that alone is not enough and to succeed in Bulgaria a truly local approach is required. And this is why we have established a local customer support centre in the country to ensure that our players receive the best assistance and care in the market.”

What is the best advice you can give to operators or gaming suppliers hoping to enter this promising market now or in the future?

“The most important thing is to identify and work with local experts that will help operators and suppliers meet the stringent due diligence requirements. For example, we have appointed a Bulgarian CEO so that the NRA can easily and quickly make suitability assessments.

Of course, finding the right people is easier said than done and, in our case at least, meant thoroughly researching candidates until we found the right people and were able to build out the right team to lead us into the market and on to great success.

This is why we believe ultimately the market will be made up of a small number of operators and that in turn is why it provides such a huge opportunity for Sportingwin. So watch this space as we truly believe we have what it takes to take the market by storm.”

Editor’s Note: Despite the recent ups and downs this region has experienced, it seems there’s still a great opportunity for growth in this market; but not for everyone.

Incredibly strict due diligence requirements, the need for a localised approach and the latest in technology adoption are a big part of the reason why the suitability of operating in Bulgaria will not be relevant for everyone. However, companies like SportingWin who can meet these requirements will thrive in this market and have a massive opportunity for future growth.

Bio: Mark Chakravarti, Head of Investment and Board Director at SportingWin, joined the business following a progressive, ten-year career in Investment Management. Bringing entrepreneurship, commercial acumen and creativity to the Board, he has previously assisted in the scaling-up of Canary Wharf Group entrepreneurs, as well as working with Bupa and the Royal Academy of Arts.

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