Date: 15.05.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

“I’m quite optimistic about the future of the iGaming scene in the Balkans”

As growth in the Balkans market continues to increase, we caught up with Evoplay’s CBDO, Ihor Zarechnyi, to discuss the supplier’s approach to the region and what challenges could lie ahead over the next 12 months.

The Balkans include a number of different countries. Is it wrong to count it as one region, or is your approach similar across the individual markets?

At Evoplay, we embrace the variety of the Balkans, where each country’s unique cultures, habits, and legal systems play a significant role in shaping player preferences. By conducting comprehensive market analysis, considering partner feedback, and leveraging detailed analytics, we customise our offerings to suit the needs of each local player group, considering generational nuances.

Our internal analysis reveals that while many players in the region prefer classic games, there’s a growing demand for games with trendy mechanics, especially sports-themed ones. Evoplay’s game portfolio caters to both traditional online casino game enthusiasts and those seeking modern options, meeting this demand. Ultimately, our goal is to pioneer innovative experiences that captivate all types of audiences.

In what Balkan countries are Evoplay’s products most popular and why do you think this is?

Evoplay’s games have gained significant popularity across the diverse Balkan region, but particularly in Romania and Bulgaria. Among the most sought-after titles here are classic slots and games featuring the Bonus Buy option, such as Hot Triple Sevens and The Greatest Catch Bonus Buy. Dynamic instant games like Penalty Shoot-Out and its enhanced sequel, Penalty Shoot-out: Street and Scratch Match are also performing well.

These games are appealing due to their innovative gameplay, well-chosen themes, and ability to offer fresh experiences. Evoplay’s slots draw inspiration from classic themes, boasting captivating visuals and unique features that fully immerse players in the gameplay. Meanwhile, our instant games provide simplicity, dynamic gameplay, and social interaction, delivering an even more incredible adrenaline rush and excitement. Together, they cater harmoniously to both fans of traditional casino games and next-gen players.

Do you have a particular approach to creating localised content for the Balkans?

Connecting with local audiences requires a deep understanding of their preferences to craft games that they will truly enjoy. For instance, while Penalty Shoot-Out gained popularity in Romania last quarter, Bulgarian players leaned towards the Wild Overlords Bonus Buy slot. Recognising players’ ever-changing tastes across different countries and even within local player groups, it’s crucial to introduce new games to enhance their iGaming experiences continually.

While classical themes still dominate in the Balkans, particularly among Gen X and Y, we anticipate a shift in preferences with the influx of Gen Z avid gamers into iGaming. Recognising their interest in our instant games, we’re expanding these offerings in our portfolio. To further attract next-gen players, we’ve developed a new flagship pack featuring three racing games – a 3D skill-based game, a crash game, and a video slot. This helps maximise the appeal of casinos to a broader audience with diverse preferences.

In terms of regulation, are there particular challenges for suppliers or anything you would like to see in the region to further improve market conditions?

Regulatory policies in Balkan countries should strike a delicate balance, fostering a favourable business environment while ensuring responsible gambling practices. It is crucial to acknowledge that iGaming isn’t merely entertainment, it significantly contributes to the economy. For instance, Romania’s and Bulgaria’s online casino revenue are projected to experience annual growth rates of 5.84% and 5.29%, respectively, in the coming years. Together with other territories in the Balkans region, this growth potential represents a substantial contribution to the overall economic landscape.

Evolving regulatory frameworks aligned with industry trends and consumer preferences, with a priority on responsibility, can benefit not only the growth of the iGaming industry but also the economy of the region as a whole.

The region saw impressive GGR growth in 2023. Do you expect this to continue as 2024 progresses, or even be exceeded?

Looking ahead, I’m quite optimistic about the future of the iGaming scene in the Balkans. The economic growth projections by the World Bank for the Balkans region indicate a steady rise, reaching 3% in 2024 and 3.5% in 2025. Coupled with the projected growth of the online gambling industry, this sets the stage for continued GGR growth and a prosperous future for the region’s economy.

With internet penetration rates ranging from 75% to 96% in the region and a growing base of tech-savvy iGamers, the potential for expanding our presence through new partnerships is significant. This presents a strategic opportunity for Evoplay to not only maintain, but also strengthen its foothold in the rapidly growing Balkan iGaming market by ensuring our games reach a wider audience.

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