The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Miami will be the venue for the SBC Summit Latinoamérica, Latin America's online gaming and sports betting event, to be held from October 31 to November 2. Yogonet interviewed Cristian Robalino, SBC's Vice President of Marketing for the Americas, in order to discuss the importance of this summit and the current situation of the gaming sector in the region.
You took office at a crucial moment for the gaming industry, with the Covid pandemic causing closures and quarantines. What were the biggest challenges you faced and what transformations did you see during these years?
The pandemic certainly presented significant hurdles for us and the industry in general. We had to cancel several key events and really reflect on how we were going to produce quality content in an innovative way, in a world that couldn't leave their homes.
SBC Digital Summit really allowed us to reach a global audience and help make connections with regions we had not been able to access before. The summit was created to provide a unique and much-needed opportunity, avoiding postponed physical events and travel restrictions, to provide a platform for the industry to connect and share knowledge. I feel we were finally able to turn what was a worrying situation into a thriving opportunity that benefited both operators and suppliers.
Coming out of the pandemic in 2021, we were the first organizers to host an in-person event. The enthusiasm shown by people eager to return to a sense of normalcy was something I will not forget. This enthusiasm contributed significantly to the resounding success of the SBC Summit Barcelona and the inaugural SBC Summit Latin America.
The event was presented as an opportunity for people to reconnect with the world, rekindle professional networks, and delve into the region's burgeoning markets. SBC Summit Latin America began as an event for 250 attendees in 2021, the summit has since grown into an impressive event that will soon host a monumental capacity of 3,000 attendees.
What do you see as having changed in the industry, and specifically in the delivery of summits and events, from pre-pandemic times to the present?
The biggest change in the industry in recent years is its exponential growth. The addition of burgeoning markets such as the United States, Canada, and soon-to-be-regulated Brazil revitalized the industry and presented a wealth of opportunities for brands globally.
In addition, the pandemic caused a refocus on the core purpose of industry events themselves. Events have gone from being mere showcases to becoming hubs of actionable information and meaningful connections. Attendees now seek events that offer not only knowledge but also practical strategies for navigating the evolving landscape.
What are your expectations for the conference to be held in Miami on October 31?
The growth of the Latin American region has exceeded even the most optimistic projections. This expansion has allowed us to focus our agenda around the region's key markets, with panels that delve into the specific nuances of markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and more. Through these sessions, attendees will gain invaluable information and strategies to smoothly navigate these intricate markets.
Additionally, the last few years have really shown a shift towards digital platforms for players and, in doing so, have brought a number of fundamental industry issues to the forefront of the discussion. The industry was almost overwhelmed with data-driven information, innovations in iGaming and game mechanics, as well as a strict evaluation of player protection.
With so many new areas of discussion, it was only natural that this was reflected in our conference agenda with panels dedicated exclusively to artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, problem gambling mitigation, and more. As we continue to uphold our commitment to providing delegates with sought-after insights and ideas, we anticipate a conference agenda that meets the diverse needs of all attendees.
Along with 3,000 delegates, we anticipate 1,250 operators, 500 affiliates, 150 speakers, and 70 exhibitors, all converging to create an unparalleled delegate experience. This exceptional experience is highlighted by SBC's renowned networking events that offer unforgettable experiences both during the summit and in the evenings, allowing delegates the opportunity to unwind in a fun and luxurious environment.
Why do you consider Miami to be the best choice for the summit?
Miami was always the favorite when discussing where to locate SBC Summit Latin America. It is strategically positioned as an ideal convergence point for Europe, North America, and South America, it is easily accessible and, we can't deny that it is a beautiful city.
As veterans within the industry, we have all attended our fair share of industry events, and the idea of traveling to warm and beautiful locations always adds that extra layer of excitement to the trip. With the summit positioned towards the end of the year, many see it as a last chance to get away, having the event hosted at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino further allows our delegates to enjoy a luxurious, all-inclusive experience.
What topics and speakers do you think will stand out the most at the conference?
I believe regulation will be a key topic of conversation during this year's conference agenda. With so many markets emerging, regulatory concerns present themselves as a fundamental challenge for many. The complexities of adapting to evolving advertising regulations, navigating intricate partnership negotiations, and obtaining gaming licenses can be overwhelmingly complex. Our conference agenda is strategically designed to simplify these complexities, with the goal of imparting clarity and empowering and instilling confidence in those seeking to make a meaningful impact in the region.
This year's conference agenda also features our most illustrious lineup of industry professionals to date, with key regional players from operators, regulators, sports teams, associations, and affiliates offering invaluable information to delegates. Some of the most prolific speakers attending include; Gonzalo Perez (CEO, Aquesta Total), JD Duarte (CEO, Betcris), Fellipe Fraga (Chief Business Officer, EstrelaBet), Ida Lopez (President, Instituto de Loterias de Mendoza), Andre Gelfi (President, Instituto Brasileiro de Jogo Responsável), Cecilia Valdes (Executive President, Asociación Chilena de Casinos de Juego), Xabier Maribona (CEO, Grupo Retabet) and many more.
Latin America is going through a special period, with a need for regulation in the region as evidenced by the Brazilian case. What opportunities and characteristics do you find in the region as opposed to the rest of the world?
I don't think I have ever seen a market generate such an air of excitement around it. As one of the largest sports betting markets in the world, this sports-centric region undoubtedly fosters a sense of competition among companies. However, I feel there is an even greater sense of collaboration and camaraderie that is rarely seen in the industry. It seems that everyone is happy that this region is finally establishing itself as a global powerhouse.
However, what I believe is even more important is that it is an opportunity for brands to learn from the mistakes of other regions and pave the way for strategic evolution and greater profitability. The Latin American region stands as one of the world's largest economies with a population of approximately 660 million people. It is essentially a blank slate for companies to develop and operate in a unique way that will cater to an entirely new demographic of players.
The SBC division dedicated exclusively to the Latin American arena presents immense advantages for both us as organizers and our delegates. Our diverse and talented workforce spans Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil, giving us valuable insight from people immersed in these key markets. Having a team with such a comprehensive and first-hand understanding of the region has been instrumental in shaping our conference agenda, focusing on the focal points that we know resonate most deeply with our esteemed delegates.