Gambling Insider: The India opportunity

Serge Mukhanov, CEO of Connective Games, discusses the Indian market and how online poker operators can capitalise on its huge potential

In recent months, the US has made headlines following the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), effectively paving the way for individual states to legalise sports betting.

This will have a knock-on effect for online casino and poker, too; in most states, sports betting, casino, poker and DFS are being packaged up into a single Bill.

But while the industry’s eyes have been fixed firmly on the United States of America, progress is being made in a market that offers just as much if not more potential; India.

Games of skill are currently considered legal across the country, with the hugely popular rummy having federal protection. Other games such as daily fantasy sports and poker have enjoyed rapid growth, and are also protected in some states.

In addition, the country’s Law Commission is currently studying sports betting and whether the activity should be regulated or not.

At the same time, the All India Gaming Association is pushing ahead with an opt-in self-regulatory scheme for skill games. In short, this means that while India is still grey, operators can enter the market and, by following the charter, ensure they do so in the right way.

The headline numbers

The India opportunity should not be underestimated.

The headline numbers speak for themselves; the country has a population of 1.3 billion, it is the world’s sixth largest economy and, according to KPMG/Google India, the country’s iGaming market could generate $1bn per year by 2021.

Generally, there is a huge appetite for gambling and games of skill among the wider population and this presents a huge opportunity for online poker operators that enter the market in the right way and with the right product.

This, of course, will mean tailoring their platforms and game offerings to the Indian market and to meet the cultural needs and preferences of players.

Customisation must go beyond just the games offered. To truly capitalise on the Indian opportunity, operators will have to tailor other elements of their sites. This includes language and currency, as well as ensuring a mobile platform that is cutting edge.

The country has a rapidly improving digital infrastructure and mobile connectivity; smartphone penetration is around 36% according to Statista and rising. To engage consumers, operators must offer a world-class mobile experience.

Mastering mobile

To do this, they must offer game formats that are fast and frenetic and optimised for on-the-go mobile play. In addition, players should be provided with the same experience (speed, functionality, reliability) on mobile as they would find on desktop.

This includes giving players a simple and convenient interface including controls that have been designed specifically for finger taps, nice readable fonts and the option to customise the layout and a host of on/off options to suit their individual needs/preferences.

Cultural differences

There are other challenges to overcome, some of which are unique to India. This includes the different – in some ways, ruthless – business practices and cultures as well as the obvious language barrier and different ways of going about things.

These hurdles can be easily cleared – especially if operators work with platform partners that know the market well. And it is worth the effort when you consider the scale and scope of the market, particularly when it comes to online poker.

What’s more, while the rest of the industry is distracted by the US opportunity, smart and savvy online poker operators can enter the Indian market quickly and efficiently, and enjoy a first-mover advantage that will be almost impossible for others to catch up to.

Published by Gambling Insider, Nov/Dec 2018, Page 88

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