In the second of our two-part series on Spain, Alba Monroy, Regional Business Manager at Relax Gaming, talks through the award-winning provider’s plans for its Spanish debut – as well as the post-pandemic growth opportunities available to suppliers and operators.
Looking at Spain’s performance over 2021 and into the beginning of this year – how much has the market recovered post-pandemic and what are we seeing in terms of trends for verticals?
While 2021 proved to be a difficult year for almost every vertical within the gaming sector in Spain, there are signs for recovery, with online casino enjoying better fortunes than most. I believe this is down to the growing popularity of slots and live casino games, mostly driven by the shift of players moving from land-based to online.
What’s genuinely exciting about this part of the casino space is that there is still a lot of room for growth, especially given that there are some talented slot studios operating within the Spanish market, and I fully expect a number of new and established studios to begin operating in the region in the not-so-distant future.
With regards to live casino products, I feel that there’s still a notable gap in the market here and there aren’t too many suppliers that cater specifically to the Spanish market. This lack of offering means that there’s prime opportunity for someone to come in and take the initiative – as it’s certainly ripe for disruption.
When it comes to online do you see potential for this year to return to business as usual? Are there any strong growth areas our readers should be keeping an eye on?
There’s no doubt the environment for operators in Spain is a challenging one, things became even more difficult in 2020 when the Royal Decree on the Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities was introduced, significantly restricting all gambling advertising.
That being said, I still think that there’s significant space for the iGaming market to grow within Spain. New products and features within games are beginning to create notable trends within a certain demographic of players. The new demographics of players are also starting to appreciate and enjoy innovative content that provides them with that same videogaming they’re experience accustomed to.
Looking back, when iGaming was first regulated within the country more than a decade ago it was simple three-reel slots and table games that reigned supreme, mainly because that was all that was on offer. Nowadays that’s all different – casino players are inundated with exciting content that offers them added value such as table games with side bets and online slots with engaging bonus features and lucrative jackpots.
What’s the current climate for retail and how much do you see land-based players acquired by online to continue there? Is it a case of players returning to their preferred channel once most restrictions are lifted in the coming months?
The pandemic helped the gaming industry in Spain move from something that was primarily land-based towards more of an online landscape, very much resembling something we already see in established regulated markets across Europe.
There will always be players out there that prefer the experience of physically going into a casino and playing games surrounded by other people with real dealers, however, I think a lot of these players have now begun to realise the opportunities that the online casino brings.
The vast offering online casino can bring far outweighs its land-based counterpart, there are so many different games players can access in an instant through a computer or their mobile device. It’s evident that land-based casinos have no way of competing in this sense, you just can’t get the same vast range of products there as you can online.
In addition to this, with current restrictions we can’t predict when or if players will return to casinos en masse, and in many ways, there’s not really any reason for them to do so if they feel comfortable playing games at home or on-the-go when playing from their phone.
How do you see the enhanced marketing restrictions currently coming into force in Spain? Will it affect the jurisdiction’s development, and do you see it as a challenge for operators to differentiate themselves?
Marketing spend within Spain started to decline dramatically back when the pandemic first began, this can be pinpointed to when operators were banned from promoting their brands. Of course, the Royal Decree that followed then only made things even more difficult for operators and suppliers.
Frustratingly, things still aren’t getting any better for them. Advertising restrictions are getting tougher and tougher, pushing operators to focus on other areas such as their product selection and variety of games
That’s why at Relax Gaming we are trying to have the best slots content, as well as the best partners for Spain, so we can at least help them offer some differentiation.
Given Spain’s passion for sports betting, how much potential do you see for introducing sports fans to casino verticals? What’s key for attracting interest?
Cross selling is key regardless of the market, it’s certainly one of the best ways to drive growth. Even though instant sports games aren’t that popular in Spain, I do believe that this a good direction for operators to go. We’re currently entering the Spanish market with one of our partners that offers instant sports games. I believe they offer a great opportunity and with the right strategy can help introduce players to other verticals – it will be very interesting to see how they perform.
Last but not least, talk us through the Spanish online environment when it comes to online tech – do the likes of platform provision vary at all when compared to neighbouring markets such as Italy and the UK?
iGaming, just like the rest of the world, has experienced large-scale disruption due to the pandemic. These disruptions have brought in some significant changes in terms of both employment, delivery execution and restrictions to growth potential.
It’s encouraging to see that we’re starting to get back to some degree of normality now as restrictions soften, both of us as individuals and as professionals within the iGaming industry. We’re under no illusions that it might take a while, but we’re slowly returning to business as usual.
There are huge growth areas within iGaming in Spain, and now trends are starting to set in amongst players, however this is mostly rooted in existing factors that have been on the table for the last year or two, so we’re still waiting for greater innovation, as we’ve already mentioned, it is in many ways ripe for disruption!
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