Continuing our coverage of the sports betting market in Africa, G3 interviews Kiron Interactive’s Steven Spartinos about the evolution of Virtual Sports in the African gaming sector and the future opportunities for growth in this hi-tech segment
When the company was founded in 2001, what was the state of virtual race betting sector? How has it evolved since then and what role has Kiron Interactive played in the evolution and growth of the virtual sports industry?
Kiron started its journey into the world of virtual offerings with Turfmaster, giving players the opportunity to become virtual racehorse trainers, managing their stable of virtual horses and betting on them for real stakes as their portfolio of runners grew. Not only was it the most innovative game of its time, but it also offered social interaction within a vibrant racing community. The leading technology within Turfmaster saw Kiron then develop its first pools-based virtual race betting engine in 2003, creating the opportunity for people to bet on races created by the software.
The gambling industry prides itself on innovation and the world of virtuals is no different, with Kiron creating an RNG-based fixed odds betting engine, allowing it to licence its instant win virtual racing games to its online B2B customers. Following the early success of scheduled virtual racing events in betting shops in the United Kingdom, in 2007, the first version Kiron’s GLI certified retail game server was developed resulting in the launch of Kiron’s virtual racing games in retail betting shops for the first time in 2008.
Since then, Kiron has continued to push ahead in the field and has created some of the market’s leading virtual racing and sports titles, boasting the largest and most-varied portfolio in the industry, all of which are available on its platform. Having already transitioned from ‘filler content’ in between live horse racing and football matches in retail establishments, virtuals have become an important gambling vertical in their own right and Kiron continues to push the boundaries of what can be achieved, while enhancing its portfolio and growth in new markets.
Kiron offers a wide number of sports from football to horse racing, motor racing to ice hockey. Could you tell us about any new product launches in the near future?
By offering the largest and most varied portfolio in the industry, Kiron is able to reach more demographics than anybody else and has therefore become more appealing to operators in a diverse number of certified territories. As mentioned, these games range from football to motor racing, to ice hockey and greyhound racing, but the portfolio also boasts a large number of lottery and number games, including Keno, Spin & Win, Lucky Loot and other unique lotto style games.
Kiron’s scheduled virtual sports and number games offer gaming operators the most comprehensive portfolio to compliment an operator’s retail and digital offering, while Kiron’s experience and innovations in virtual gaming has helped shape the gaming industry and drive revenues and profitability for operators across industry verticals.
How do your products differentiate your client’s product offering and enhance their revenue streams?
It’s important to remember that not all markets and territories crave the same content. Just because football and horse racing games prove popular in one jurisdiction, it doesn’t mean they will be the leading offerings in another and it’s for that reason Kiron creates such varied content. Kiron’s winter sports are unique first-of-their-kind creations and this extra level of offering that helps operators stand out from the crowd. Plus, our full offering can be tailored to suit the needs of the operator in question, allowing them to hand pick and customise their offering to ensure maximum revenue growth and profitability.
Kiron Interactive entered into a strategic partnership with Highlight Games to integrate and deploy Highlight Games’ SOCCERBET patented virtual sports games into Africa in 2018. Could you tell us more about that partnership and any other partnerships in Africa?
Being based in South Africa gives us a bit of an advantage over fellow suppliers looking to break into the market but it has taken a lot of hard work to grow our market penetration on the continent in recent years. Africa’s population is booming and is expected to top 1.7 billion people by 2030 – so this certainly presents large potential for growth for those willing to put the time into researching the area, employing those with key experience and knowledge and putting together a business plan.
Those willing to do exactly that will be able to capitalise on a market which is already valued at more than US$35b per annum. It’s a population that is football crazy and it’s for that reason that virtual football has proved to be such a popular product on the continent. It is also the reason we decided to partner with Highlight Games and secure an exclusive licence to offer Soccerbet, on the Kiron platform, as a complimentary football offering to our African clients. The archived footage of real English and Italian football games has been well received and provided added entertainment to African punters. The product is offered in a Single Match and League format in retail, online and mobile environments.
Could you discuss plans, or any lessons learned when it comes to the markets in Africa where you operate?
When it comes to challenges, Africa has more than its fair share. Whether it’s politics, lack of established regulations, gaps within infrastructure or something as simple as dodgy internet connections, you will be faced with a number of issues that you will have to learn to beat.
By employing some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the market, as well as developing technologies that address local challenges, we have been able to successfully overcome these challenges and grow our footprint to over 30 African countries. But, with more regulations being introduced and the economy and population continuing to grow, investing and working to overcome these challenges will certainly make economic sense for both suppliers and operators.
Are we seeing any trends emerge around certain sports or player demographics in Africa? What are the most popular sports?
Having seen some of the world’s very best football players come from the continent, it’s no surprise to hear that football, especially the Premier League, is without doubt the most popular sport in Africa. It’s believed that more than 280 million people watch the division every year in sub-Saharan Africa. Number games as well as greyhound racing have also proved to be popular with players across Africa.
In-spite retail gaming maintaining its dominance in terms of revenue generation across the Continent, mobile betting is fast emerging as the platform of choice especially with younger players. With a massively skewed population towards a younger demographic this has helped create a boom within sports betting across most countries.