Set to sponsor the poker tournament at this year’s SBC Summit Barcelona - Digital, EvenBet Gaming CEO Dmitry Starostenkov takes Yogonet through the vertical’s surge during lockdown – as well as poker’s potential for the fast-growing LatAm region.
Poker experienced a strong surge in activity following the shutdown of live sports earlier this year. What sort of levels of activity did EvenBet Gaming experience during this period and how did you alter your business to cope with the increased demand?
All companies faced an uncertain period following the outbreak of Covid-19, but for us there was a double challenge, since we had to cope with the increased demand for our services, along with transitioning all our business processes to a remote operation within literally one day. Most of the changes to the way our support and development teams worked were due to their self-isolation. There were shifts in the workday hours, and a lot of videocalls and text communication were required with the teams. The number of projects in development had increased twice during April, and while that’s encouraging from a business perspective, it caused a few headaches for our HR team as new talent had to be secured. Hiring individuals in these new circumstances can be very challenging, as you’re having to introduce them to the company culture and educate them on the product without any sort of personal interaction. We were working from our homes for almost three months, all the time with the increased load, and the way the employees dealt with this challenge makes me extremely proud. Almost all the new projects we have started at the beginning of the pandemic are already running or are in testing. Our product development didn’t stop for a day, which demonstrates the efficiency of our operations.
Do you expect interest in online poker to continue in the future, even though live sports have made a return across the globe?
It’s always been expected that some of the sports fans who got involved with poker during the halt of live events will return to their favoured form of betting. However, what was happening during these months was not just about retaining the interest of an audience, it was also an important time for users to rediscover online poker. Many won’t have realised how the poker vertical and the technology behind it have changed significantly in the last few years. The game itself has evolved, and that is likely to keep at least a part of the new poker players and those who came to play from the offline poker formats.
How can operators look to retain the interest of those customers who made the switch to online poker during the pandemic now that other forms of gambling have made a return to the fold?
Quality of the product is key. If players have enjoyed the experience presented to them in recent months, there’s no reason why they would give something up so quickly. The current climate has given players the chance to experience something new and I’m sure other verticals too will have experienced a surge in activity. Importantly, online poker has adapted to become far more accommodating for the demands of the modern player, which should go some way to retain their interest in the long term. They want a slick user experience across all channels, most notably on mobile given they’re constantly on their devices. Players also require different game types and entertaining experiences that complement the core product of poker. That’s why we’ve added a mini-games function to our platform, which allows players to access a wide range of fun and quickfire games while they’re part of a poker tournament.
How important is the Latin American region for EvenBet?
Latin America is our main target region for future business development. It’s an intriguing territory with many nations actively looking to adopt frameworks that will pave the way for regulated online gambling. The landscape is constantly changing, and I expect more operators and suppliers to make the move into the region in the near future. We anticipate online poker to form a key part of the future market, which is why we launched a new poker network across South and Latin America earlier this year, breathing fresh life into the vertical for loyal and largely untapped audiences across the region’s emerging markets. We’re very confident about the network’s potential and envisage further growth in the coming years as more players switch to the online environment.
The SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is just around the corner. EvenBet Gaming is once again holding an online poker tournament for delegates, how popular was the first competition held back in April and what can we expect this time around?
The first tournament we held at the SBC Digital Summit in April was a huge success with a number of players taking part. In fact, the organisers approached us to run a further game during the digital conference, which we had the pleasure of hosting the following day. For those looking to attend the SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, we’ll be hosting another tournament on the 9th September on the EvenBet poker platform, offering a classic format of multi-table, no-Limit Hold’em, freeroll for delegates to enjoy, with the added incentive of a prize for the winner.