In our two-part series on Spain, Mario Benito, CCO at R. Franco Digital, explains how industry veteran R. Franco Digital is managing to keep pace with increasing restrictions at home while expanding its horizons internationally.
Talk us through R Franco’s 2021 – what were the highlights and do you feel you closed the year with some great success?
The year 2021 was another successful one for the team at R. Franco Digital. We had some massive slot releases including Buttom’s World, Jurassic Slot, and one of our first sequels, Wild West 2. Wanabet, a Spain-focused operator brand also secured an invaluable partnership with FeelSpin to integrate its technology with us, which has greatly helped us boost what we can offer when it comes to live casino. We also partnered with a great list of leading operators, a particular highlight being with our friends the Sisal Group, who now offer our extensive catalog of innovative releases across its regulated markets.
The icing on the cake, and indeed something that we’re absolutely delighted about has been the acquisition of our Gaming Supply License from the Malta Gaming Authority. This has in turn led to us being able to offer our leading online gaming portfolio to a broader international audience than ever before, and the uptake so far has been excellent. Given our heritage as Spain’s most established gaming company, our brand name has served us well in entering new territories, and we plan to continue with that momentum for the rest of 2022.
Looking over to Spain, how has the market weathered the COVID situation, and do you see the potential for this year to return to business as usual when it comes to online?
The online gaming market offers entertainment, and that’s been a key demand through the last two years. The sector has no doubt seen a boost in player engagement, and we’re seeing increasing numbers of demographics giving the iGaming world a try. This to us, and especially in Spain, represents increasing confidence in the online world, and indeed for land-based players adapting to a new preferred channel for gaming.
However, that’s not to say retail and land-based won’t rebound. The great victim of the pandemic in our industry has been land-based casinos, due to the limitations of capacity, if opening at all in some cases. However, the numbers we have seen from Q4 2021 indicate that this trend has improved since 2020’s challenges, and we’re confident of a return to normality.
Given Spain’s heavy marketing restrictions, has that affected the market’s ongoing evolution, and has it proven a challenge for marketers to get their message out?
Understandably, restrictions on advertising and marketing have presented a challenge for all domestic operators and it appears that only those with a large enough customer base in place have been able to remain profitable. From the point of view of the acquisition of new players, the restrictions have deemed it impossible to monetize promotional campaigns for both sportsbook and casino that are tier two and tier three operators, and that will no doubt have an effect.
Likewise, the restrictions in the advertising of sporting events have forced larger operators to compete with smaller operators by running promotions with affiliates. This was previously a marketing tool used by mid-sized operators but is now a key part of advertising for all companies.
There is no doubt that the biggest challenge has been adapting to advertising restrictions, in a fast and legal way. The ability to do this and change so quickly has been one thing that has always surprised me about this sector.
Given the recent news from the Spanish regulator on the introduction of loss limits – how much do you see that affecting players who back heavy favorites and also betting exchange customers?
I believe that this only affects the behaviors of players that it was initially intended for. We believe customers who enjoy our products are players who like to gamble for entertainment purposes only, so this type of limitation should not affect us or them in any way. At the same time, whenever this type of news comes out, it does affect public opinion of gambling through the fact that it is being restricted, which may imply that it needs further prohibiting or sanctions. As we see it, restricting businesses should not be the objective of any Government, however, we of course welcome any initiatives to protect players, and of course tackle problem gambling.
Spain has always been famous for its sports betting culture – how much of a cross-sell have we seen towards casinos for sports betting fans and which verticals are performing best?
Spain is a special market in Europe since there is already plenty of cross-selling between sports betting and online casinos. With that being said, one vertical’s loss will always see another’s gain and during the pandemic, while live sporting events were canceled, the sporting verticals’ decline certainly increased the online casino player base. Post pandemic effective cross-selling has become more critical than ever to ensure the acquisition of new customers, whilst retaining existing players. This can be seen in how cross-promotional campaigns were a key factor in the strong recovery of the sports betting market once live sporting events commenced. This is important because although the sports betting vertical always reigns supreme in popularity, the slot vertical is fast establishing itself as a strong competitor. Overall, as a consequence, both naturally benefit from the success of the other through cross-selling.
R Franco launched IRIS 4.0 just over a year ago and has continued to retain the Spanish crown as the market’s most advanced native platform. How much does the Spanish technological environment differ from the rest of Europe?
IRIS 4.0 has reached a significant degree of maturity and offers our customers the best guarantee of continued success, especially when it comes to Spain. Four years ago, international clients that opted for IRIS are still with us today after verifying the solidity of our newest IRIS 4.0 platform – and its testament to what it’s been able to do. We offer a fantastic arsenal of engagement boosting bonuses, campaign and promotional tools, as well as investing in many years of R&D to make sure we released the best platform possible. The trust of our customers is, as always, the greatest measure of achievement and we look forward to providing them with further developments in the future. The Spanish technological environment doesn’t differ too greatly to the rest of Europe, and this is reflected more so by the many international and domestic clients that make use of IRIS 4.0.
Last but not least, looking to 2022 and R Franco’s MGA license acquired in 2021 – what are your plans for European markets this year and what can we look forward to in the coming months?
We are close to unleashing our full potential with aggregators and customers who value us in regulated markets, which our MGA license is no doubt set to be a fantastic platform for. Soon we will also be able to demonstrate our true potential and bring our unique take on online slots to a much broader audience through new slot releases, further partnerships, and all-around growth of our business. This year has already seen the release of hit games like Witches North and Sabin of Chazos and we are thoroughly excited for what the rest of 2022 will bring – we’ve got some really creative titles in the mix, of course, do get in touch with us at [email protected]!
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