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Let’s Talk Gambling: Can the Balkans take centre stage in 2024?

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Lets Talk Gambling Can The-Balkans Take Centre Stage In 2024

The Balkans is gradually becoming one of the most exciting regions in the world. With sports betting flourishing in every Balkans territory, we speak to Ivo Doroteia, CEO at Playbook Engineering and Miloslav Ivanov, Chief Sales Officer at Atlas-IAC to talk about what lies in store for 2024.

What is the one key factor as to why the Balkans has achieved such major growth over the past year?

Ivo Doroteia: The Balkans, especially the likes of Bulgaria, has switched its focus to online in the past 12 months after years of success as a land-based entity. The land-based side of things is still a real focal point for the region but online has seen exponential growth and that has been very attractive to a lot of sportsbooks. Bulgaria has a rich history when it comes to sport, with football leading the way. Being able to offer odds on the region’s most popular sports online has given the Balkans another dimension when it comes to attracting players. Obviously, the region has been backed financially but I expect growth to carry on as we enter 2024.

Miloslav Ivanov: The one key factor is all those markets has primarily been land-based. We have been able to see them grow within the online gambling sector but land-based has been the main priority for several years – until now. This is as a result of someone putting a spotlight on the online sector and now it can rise and show the world how gambling is progressing in this region. There has also been huge investment ploughed into the market over the past decade here. All the interest has been coming from big business so the investment remains very visible and people are starting to appreciate the work that has been done to grow the market.

With a big retail offering, how closely does the Balkans compare to the likes of Italy?

MI: The Balkans are not that close to Italy in this regard. There is still a lot to be developed into the retail world here, so it is a long way behind Italy in that respect. Lotteries are old school and the most popular type of gambling within the region. So to summarise, retail is becoming more and more visible but there is still a lot to be done before we can even consider comparing the region to a mature market such as Italy.

ID: The land-based side of the industry aligns closely with Italy. Of course, Italy is one of the most mature markets in Europe and has been able to adapt according to the market for a number of years. Bulgaria and Romania have tried to use Italy as a blueprint and it has been very successful in that regard. Retail will continue to be a force within the Balkans, working alongside the exciting online offering, with plenty of players still attracted to a more recognisable type of gambling which they have become accustomed to.

From a betting perspective which sports have taken off, in territories such as Bulgaria and Romania, that have surprised you?

ID: There is no doubt that football remains way ahead of the rest. Teams from within these two territories consistently compete in Europe’s biggest competitions so players remain interested in the way these teams fare. Domestically, football is well supported and that shows no signs of waning with the sport leading the way globally too. Although it is still early days for online, “ball sports” are becoming increasingly popular, besides football. Basketball would be the best of the rest, with plenty of interest from bettors as the sport extends its outreach outside of North America. After that, there is a tug of war as other sports continue to jostle to become prevalent in the region and after football, I would expect the popularity contest to continue to change.

MI: Football remains the most popular sport in the Balkans and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. In relation to online gambling, basketball is also very well-received. There is a lot of sponsorship in basketball which makes it attractive. Other sports such as MMA, gymnastics and volleyball are also familiar with bettors and I believe they are all vying to be an integral part of the offer to operators in the region.

How do you see the Balkans faring in 2024? Do you expect growth to slow down at all or can you see a period of exponential increases to continue for a while yet?

MI: I think that growth will continue because of the big fishes entering this market and becoming a massive part of the landscape within the Balkans. I believe 2024 will be a huge period of growth for the region in many different areas and I look forward to witnessing this expansion first-hand.

ID: I would be shocked if the region doesn’t continue to experience more growth for at least a couple of years, let alone 2024. It is a sports-rich region and plenty of big industry hitters are continuing to enter the market on a frequent basis. Expanding here, whether it be retail or online, will continue to be a key focus for many companies and in a year’s time, the market could become saturated, such is the ease of entering and the potential of the region.

Hi, I'm Ross, founder of Talk Gambling. I've operated within the gambling industry for several years, primarily within the affiliate sector. I originally focused on design and user experience but in recent years I've pursued a passion for SEO, digital marketing and creating great content. Please feel free to get in touch and say hello!

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