Julia Panina, EvenBet Gaming: “What is crucial for any operator going to an emerging market is researching what games have potential in each particular country”

In a recent interview with Focus Gaming News, Julia Panina, head of product marketing at EvenBet Gaming, shared insights into the dynamic landscape of the igaming industry.

Exclusive interview.- EvenBet Gaming has recently released an E-book entitled ‘Core iGaming Trends and Challenges in 2023’ that provides unique insight into existing igaming trends and challenges.

Julia Panina, head of product marketing at EvenBet Gaming, was one of the marketers who conducted the interviews to develop the report. In the following exclusive interview, we spoke to her about the development of the report, the unexpected findings and challenges during data analysis.

In addition, Julia talked about her background in the gaming industry and shared her views on the regional differences in AI adoption, the impact of regulation, and EvenBet’s insights on the African market.

What were your initial steps in the gaming industry, and what aspects of this sector excite you compared to other industries you’ve worked in before?

Compared to some very ‘ancient’ experts of the industry with 20 or more years in gaming, my experience is quite modest – I came to EvenBet Gaming in 2020. 

It was a difficult year in many industries but online poker was on the rise – everybody wanted to save their land-based business by moving it to the net. This caused a massive shift in people’s minds when they discovered that poker can be quite entertaining on the Internet as well. 

Before gaming, I worked in a company producing personal finance apps and earlier in the telecommunication industry. However, it was always about marketing with continuing transfer from traditional marketing to digital marketing. 

The companies where I worked had leading positions in their niche and, therefore adopted innovations in marketing quite quickly. 

Concerning the exciting aspects of igaming, the industry has a very distinct inclination towards entertainment. Numerous events taking place worldwide give evidence to this fact. People are doing serious business in the entertainment environment. For a marketer, this is very appealing. It’s a source of creativity. Marketing has much wider capabilities in the igaming industry. 

You recently collaborated on EvenBet Gaming’s “Core iGaming Trends and Challenges in 2023” report. What was the experience like in putting that document together, and what difficulties did you encounter along the way? 

First of all, I was one of the marketers who conducted the interviews as well. In some cases, it wasn’t easy. In Europe people were busy rushing through the exhibition space fulfilling their numerous tasks, in Asia many people didn’t speak English well enough to answer the questions. So I had to come up with the solutions right on the spot – it was a challenge. 

Then the next question arose – how to analyse the data received. 

Because it was our first endeavour to conduct interviews with industry representatives, we decided to ask open-ended questions so as not to miss important issues. Therefore there was quite a diverse data – the same answers were expressed in different wording. The task was to classify all the answers. That step took a long time. After that analysing the results was much easier – some answers lay right on the surface, and some of them were totally unexpected.

What information stood out the most for you?

I was surprised to realise three things: many companies are presently going through the process of fast growth and therefore experiencing hard timesthe recruiting issue has escalated so much that turned into a new trend – HR marketing. Igaming recruiters have a hard time looking for talents in different parts of the world. 

“Many companies are presently going through the process of fast growth and therefore experiencing hard times.”

Julia Panina, head of product marketing at EvenBet Gaming.

The third unexpected thing was to see 19 per cent of the respondents predicting Metaverse & VR to appear to be a rising trend in 2024.

Also, it was curious to see that when asked about general trends people mentioned one thing, but when asked about their companies’ focuses – completely different things, as if trends happen in the industry in some vacuum. 

It’s noticeable that in some aspects, such as artificial intelligence, there is a marked difference between the European and Asian markets. Based on your experience, what do you attribute this difference to?

My assumption would be one of the two. There is an issue with an Internet connection in some Asian countries, as a result, companies are trying to solve this issue by providing less consuming content, which means AI is not the first innovation to be adopted. 

The other reason may lie in the mass media influence. There is too much talking about AI adoption influence and AI regulation perspectives. It may be so that Europeans see discussions on this topic not only in the igaming industry but in other spheres as well.

One of the most pressing issues for respondents was regulation. Do you anticipate a clearer picture this year with new regulated markets?

For me, a clearer picture would mean having the same rules at the end of the year compared to what we had at the beginning of the year. It will not happen in 2024. Every operator will continue maintaining a team of specialists closely watching all the changes in the regulation rules from the responsible gaming framework, to serious shifts in tax percentage and fine amounts. 

Regarding emerging markets, EvenBet recently published a very interesting report on the African market. How do you envision the industry evolving in terms of market dynamics, consumer behaviour, and the integration of cutting-edge technologies?

As we mentioned in the published article, some companies already tried to step into unknown territory and failed to apply familiar stereotypes about doing igaming business. The younger generation, outdated technology, lacking consumption of digital content, and specific peculiarities of each country make any entrance to the African market a tough challenge. 

I wouldn’t predict very high dynamics on the continent as a whole. Not many companies are ready to invest in a long-term project. Latin American companies with Brazil at the top of the list look more attractive. However, the Africa Gaming Expo in Lagos, Nigeria in March and a few igaming summits in some African countries (South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya) will provide opportunities to those who want to explore African markets. 

I think there will be more discussions about the continent’s potential than real investments this year. But the beginning is half the battle.

According to the report, young people play a key role in the development of online gambling. Faced with numerous stimuli and competition (streaming, online games, social networks), how do you believe companies should approach this issue to gain an audience? 

It truly depends on a particular market. The substantial distinction in popularity of different social networks in Asia and Europe, displayed in the EvenBet Trends and Challenges Report, proves this. Young people in the Philippines are different from young people in Sweden. Trying to create an average description reminds an endeavour to measure an average temperature in the hospital. 

Let me try to segment the young audience. If we speak of the digitally developed markets, I would point out a few main aspects. The first one is the trend of following online influencers. Another issue is young people’s attraction to frequent changes in UI and the addition of new features. The third would be shorter attention spans among the youth. 

Operators should give them information in a few keywords, meaning cleverer ASO (App Store Optimization), short texts on websites, and easy onboarding in the app – a series of short tips instead of long instructions on how to play somewhere on a website. An additional thing to consider is the spirit of competition prevailing among the young. For example, for skill-based games like online poker, one of the crucial retention tools is leaderboards. 

If we speak of emerging markets with a low digital threshold, it is about finding a suitable way of educating the youth (for instance, how to play online poker). Another important thing is building trust by providing stable site connection, fast (within 2-3 hours) complaint responses, and quick money cash-outs. 

But what is crucial for any operator going to an emerging market is researching what games have potential in each particular country and their localisation. And this is our approach, as EvenBet develops games specific to particular markets (Turkish poker, Rummy, Big2, etc.). 

Also, in the case of entering African markets, operators should be prepared to work with low bets but in massive volumes because there is no such thing as an average player.

EvenBet Gaming is a B2B poker & card games provider with 19 years of experience in the field. Over 130 projects launched worldwide allow the company to analyse distinct cultural differences and adapt its broadest niche product range to specific demands.

In a recent interview with Focus Gaming News, Julia Panina, head of product marketing at EvenBet Gaming, shared insights into the dynamic landscape of the igaming industry. Exclusive interview.- EvenBet Gaming has…