by Mateusz Mazur

“Our secret is that we have strong regulatory insight”

In the interview with Willem van Oort, founder of Gran Via Online and an expert in the iGaming industry, we delve into the intricacies of the iGaming markets in Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands.

As an expert in the iGaming industry with a particular focus on Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands, can you share your insights on the unique challenges and opportunities these markets present?

Of these three markets, Spain is currently the most mature. That means that, to some extent, the cards are dealt, and that market disruption from inside the industry is unlikely. I still expect further market consolidation. Some of the smaller operators might decide to throw in the towel and could be looking to be bought by their bigger, more successful competitors. Even so, there is quite a bit of stability and operators are making money.

Germany is currently at the other end of the spectrum. There is quite a bit of volatility in the market still, mainly because the regulations and tax situation currently make it very hard for licensed operators to compete with the black market. To be honest, I don’t think that licensed operators are making a whole lot of money in this market right now.

But since we are talking about Germany here, the potential of this market remains stunningly huge. If a combination of regulatory reform and stricter enforcement manages to bring a significant percentage of offshore players back onshore, we might end up in quite a volatile situation regarding market shares and winners and losers among licensed operators.

Market regulation in the Netherlands has been more successful than in Germany, I think, and that market is now rapidly maturing. Because of its strict regulations, it may not the easiest market to operate in, but the Netherlands is a wealthy country, and the demand for online gambling is there. Most importantly, the basic regulatory framework offers a fair and level playing field to all licensed operators.

What all three markets have in common, though, is that responsible gaming and player protection are the main concerns right now. I think that the industry should be very proactive in tackling these issues. Better that we take the lead than having a justifiably angry legislature making life hard for everyone.

Given your involvement in organizing conferences in Madrid, Amsterdam, and Berlin, how do you see these events influencing the evolution and direction of the iGaming industry?

For years now, we have organized annual or semi-annual industry conferences. This year, we are having a Gaming in Spain Conference in May, a Gaming in Holland Conference in June, and a Gaming in Germany Conference in November.

Since our focus is on specific markets, these events naturally aren’t the biggest. What we have instead is that, for one day, all key decision makers in each market are together in one room. We bring industry stakeholders together with relevant regulatory authorities, as well as each other.

I can’t point to one single event and say: “That’s when the evolution of the Dutch market took a different turn.” But it does make a difference, I think, when people with competing interests can meet in person, even if briefly. It can certainly create a sense that there might be some common ground somewhere and that the other guy is not necessarily the enemy.

Looking more specifically at how we organize our events now that all our target markets are fully regulated, we are exploring ways to give more room to B2B providers to showcase their products and services. If you keep it off the main stage and manage to connect only those people who are looking for something specific, it is OK if that gets a bit salesy. We see this as a natural expansion of the service that we offer our audience.

Now that these three markets are fully regulated, there is a significant demand for responsible gaming solutions, compliance services, and ways to deal with marketing restrictions. Considering that such products and services are heavily dependent on local regulations, there is, I would say, a natural connection to the kind of content that we tend to offer on our main stage.

As the founder of Gran Via, which operates in regulated European markets, what is your approach to helping companies navigate the complex regulatory landscapes in these regions?

Nowadays, the success of any iGaming business (B2C or B2B) depends on the correct implementation of existing regulations. For better or worse, your business model will not be viable if it does not take into account the regulatory environment.

Our secret is that we have strong regulatory insight, as well as technical and operational expertise that we can provide on an ongoing basis. We also have strong product knowledge, as well as data models that help predict the financial profitability of a chosen business approach.In a nutshell, we help our clients make the right business decisions in the context of specific regulatory environments.

How do you foresee emerging technologies like AI and blockchain impacting the iGaming industry in the next few years?

AI is already widely implemented in iGaming, most notably in the field of responsible gaming where algorithms are being successfully used to detect and predict (future) problematic gambling behavior. To give one example: the algorithms developed by Mindway AI, a company with which I have been involved for several years now, check nine million player accounts every month for signs of risky or problematic behavior.

Blockchain is a very interesting technology that has been around for quite some time already, but I have not seen a lot of impactful deployment of this technology within iGaming. But we will see what happens in the future.

With your experience in market introductions and operational management, particularly in Spain with Rank Interactive, what strategies do you find most effective for entering new markets in the iGaming sector?

This is something that you should consider very much on a case-by-case basis. First, you look at the regulatory environment and consider what kind of product you can offer. For the rest, it depends on potential players, budget, and competition.

In the end, the main question that you should answer is “Can we make it work from a financial perspective?” In that sense, it is not very different from introducing a new product in an existing market. You take all the knowledge and expertise that you have, try to put it in a spreadsheet somehow, and see if the numbers make sense.

For individuals looking to enter or excel in the iGaming industry, what advice would you offer based on your years of experience?

The iGaming industry is still a very young industry, which means that there are a lot of opportunities in many possible fields.
The key is to take a critical look at your skillset and see if there are any matches with what is currently needed in the industry.

Once you are in, just go with the flow. New opportunities and challenges will inevitably present themselves as long as you remain curious and are willing to broaden your horizons. For now, at least, that is the nature of the industry we work in.
As with everything in life, finding that one starting opportunity is the hardest!

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