Q&A, interview


betbazar, igaming, esports, east, europe
BETBAZAR’s COO, Max Sevostianov, is preparing to travel to Georgia this month to discuss the ongoing development of eSports at the SBC Summit in Tbilisi. What are the key messages he wants to get across while there, and how does he view the importance of eSports in the region currently?

One of the main topics we want to discuss at the summit is the ongoing development of eSports in the region and how BETBAZAR can help operators and suppliers tap into this lucrative and fast-growing market. 

eSports is one of the most popular and engaging forms of entertainment for millions of fans worldwide, showing continued growth in regulated markets worldwide. 

The Black Sea, Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions are no exception. In fact, these regions have some of the most passionate and dedicated eSports fans and players in the world. Georgia has a thriving eSports scene, with several professional teams competing in international tournaments such as Dota 2, CS:GOe and League of Legends. Ukraine is home to some of the most successful and influential eSports organizations, such as the multiple championship-winning Navi (Natus Vincere). At the same time, Uzbekistan also has a flourishing scene, with their team recently picking up 22 gold medals at the 2023 Asian Games. 

These examples highlight the huge potential for iGaming and sports betting operators to offer innovative and exciting eSports products and services in these regions. However, some challenges will need to be overcome, such as regulatory uncertainty, lack of infrastructure, cultural differences and consumer preferences. That is why I believe that BETBAZAR can be a valuable partner for anyone who wants to enter or expand their presence in the eSports market in these regions.

With Tbilisi having recently unveiled plans to construct what will be the largest arena in central Europe, what do you expect the knock-on impact to be for online bettors in Georgia to be? Do you think the presence of large, international events will help to drive further interest in online betting in the country, and does this also create further opportunities to introduce bettors to eSports?

I think that the construction of the new arena in Tbilisi will have a positive impact on the online betting market in Georgia. It will allow the city to host various sports and entertainment events, attracting more visitors and helping shine a spotlight on everything the city has to offer.

It will also create more interest and demand for online betting in Georgia. The country has a liberal and regulated online gambling market, with the number of active bettors growing yearly. 

In turn, this should generate more interest from sports bettors in eSports. eSports have huge and loyal fanbases that engage using live streams, social media, and other modern platforms, and this is something that operators in the region would love to tap into. The opportunities this could present could be hugely beneficial for the Georgian economy. 

As a general overview, what are the main sports that are currently popular in the Georgian market and what eSports equivalents are available?

Football, basketball, rugby union, wrestling, judo, and weightlifting are the most popular sports in Georgia. Some of these sports have eSports equivalents, such as EA FC and FIFA for football, NBA 2K for basketball, and the UFC games series for MMA. However, other sports like rugby union, wrestling and weightlifting do not have widely played eSports versions.

As such, there may be an opportunity for operators to introduce new eSports games that cater to the Georgian market's preferences and culture. 

I think it’s fair to say that one of the main barriers to iGaming growth in Georgia in the past has been the country’s technological infrastructure. How would you say this situation has improved in recent years to the point Tbilisi is now viewed as a bit of a technological hotspot?

Georgia has made significant progress in improving its internet infrastructure in the past two decades. The country is actually ahead of the rest of the EU in terms of fibre penetration, and up to 70% of Georgians are now using the internet daily. 

The country's geographical location and modern infrastructure make it an attractive place for routing and storing data, and efforts are underway to enhance its potential as a regional internet hub. Tbilisi, as the capital and largest city of Georgia, is naturally benefiting from these developments and attracting more iGaming operators and providers to base their operations there.

Although Romania is probably the Eastern European market that has received the most interest from operators in recent years, many industry experts believe there’s a similar opportunity to be found in Georgia. What is it about the country that you think makes it a potentially lucrative market for betting companies, and what are the local cultural differences they should be aware of?

One of the factors that makes Georgia a potentially lucrative market for betting companies is its relatively liberal and stable regulatory environment. Georgia legalized iGaming in 2005 and has since maintained a low-tax regime for operators. The country does not restrict foreign ownership or licensing requirements for online gambling companies, allowing them to offer a wide range of products and services to Georgian customers. 

It also has a growing middle class with increasing disposable income and internet access, creating more demand for online entertainment and gaming options. However, there are also some local cultural differences that operators should be aware of when entering the Georgian market. For example, Georgians are known to be very hospitable and sociable people who value personal relationships and trust over impersonal transactions. Therefore, operators may need to invest more in customer service and loyalty programs to build rapport and retention with their clients. 

Georgians are also very patriotic and proud of their national identity and heritage, which may influence their preferences regarding online gaming. Operators may need to tailor their content and marketing strategies to appeal to the local sensibilities and tastes of Georgian customers if they want to succeed in the region. 

Regardless of how the betting industry in Georgia develops over the coming years, it’s true that many companies have already chosen Tbilisi as the base for their Eastern European and West Asian operations. What is it about the city that you think makes it an attractive location to base an iGaming hub, and do you believe we’ll see many new providers begin to emerge there in the coming months?

As mentioned earlier, Tbilisi is an attractive location to base an iGaming hub because of its advanced internet infrastructure, favorable regulatory climate and strategic geographical position. It also offers other advantages such as a low cost of living, a skilled and educated workforce, a vibrant and diverse culture and a rich history and heritage.

These factors make Tbilisi an appealing destination for both iGaming professionals and customers who are looking for quality services and experiences. I believe we will see many new providers begin to emerge there in the coming months as more operators recognize the potential of the market and the benefits of operating from Tbilisi. I also think that Tbilisi will become a hub for innovation and collaboration in the iGaming sector as more local and international players join forces to create products and solutions that cater to the needs and preferences of regional and global audiences.

Of course, BETBAZAR is always looking for innovative new start-ups to invest in or top-quality products to add to its online B2B iGaming marketplace. Are you currently working with any Georgian content providers, or are there any B2B businesses that have caught your eye there?

I'm thrilled to let you know we’ve stumbled upon a really cool startup in Georgia. We can’t wait to tell everyone about it, but you’ll be hearing more as soon as we add it to our collection of awesome offerings.

We're always searching for fresh, innovative startups or standout products to spice up our online B2B iGaming marketplace. So, while this new Georgian startup is our star find, we’re not stopping there, and our eyes are always peeled for the next big thing.

So, to answer the question - while we’re super excited about this one startup, we’re always open, looking, and ready to jump on other fantastic opportunities in Georgia or anywhere else. Stay tuned for all the exciting details!