The European market is brimming with potential for igaming companies looking to solidify their global footprint. And for Habanero, there is a “window of opportunity” to deliver a “perfect fusion” of traditional and digital content to new and existing players across Europe. 

Speaking with CasinoBeats, Toni Karapetrov – Habanero’s Head of Corporate Communications – shared his views on the different igaming trends across Europe and the ways the games studio plans to make its mark on the patchwork of cultures within the region.

CasinoBeats: Habanero has certainly made a name for itself in Europe over the last few years – which markets have been the foundation of your significant growth?

TK: With retail dominating, we view the Italian market as one with massive untapped potential. Market research showed a strong interest in land-based casinos which had not yet translated into igaming success, only accounting for just under 20 per cent of a large market that was worth over €1bn.

As a primarily online supplier, we saw a window of opportunity for our games to really resonate with this kind of player and bring a land-based experience into the digital world. Not only that, but our perfect fusion between traditional slot themes and highly immersive and engaging content has ensured we’re a real hit with local players. 

Currently being the second largest market in Europe, the Italian market in total is worth over €2bn in GGR. Italy’s unique regulation allows for organic growth, which has been key to Habanero’s success over the last few years and a starting point for us to expand into further European markets. 

CasinoBeats: When it comes to Europe’s diverse tapestry of player tastes, styles and preferences, what unifying features do you think brings them together?

TK: First and foremost, our proprietary mathematics and immersive designs have a broad appeal in terms of player experience. Focusing on innovation through enhancements rather than unnecessary additions, paired alongside captivating graphics, provides unparalleled entertainment. I definitely believe that any studio looking to merge together Europe’s patchwork of cultures would do well to imitate this approach as it’s worked wonders for us. 

I’m sure many readers already know, at Habanero, we believe a great game should be appreciated anywhere. A prime example of this is our slot, Scopa, filled with iconic Italian landmarks. Taking players on a train journey across several of Italy’s best known cities, European players particularly responded well to its authenticity and celebration of Italian culture which differs from a lot of themed slots on the market. The game uses our signature smart technologies to replicate a famous Italian card game into an innovative slot formula, which has ensured that we’ve been able to provide a truly unifying set of factors for European slots enthusiasts.

CasinoBeats: Looking at major European markets for growth, where holds the most potential right now?

TK: The Balkans is an area of young, lively markets that are going from strength to strength. Bulgaria has grown exponentially and is considered a blueprint for other countries in the area to follow in terms of GGR, so it will certainly be on Habanero’s radar for further expansion.

Having gone live in Croatia in 2019, we’re now up and running with several leading Croatian operators, such as PSK and SuperSport, and it is a market that has responded really well to igaming. Meanwhile, as a country of avid sports fans, traditional sportsbook still dominates in Serbia, presenting an exciting market with the potential to be penetrated, particularly with football games such as Knockout Football Rush.

CasinoBeats: When it comes to Italy, the market certainly has a unique legacy for land-based and retail, how much have Habanero games attracted this audience post-pandemic?

TK: Habanero is currently live with 25 operators in the Italian market, varying from the largest operators including the likes of Lottomatica and Sisal, as well as smaller, niche ones, which have been a real catalyst for growth, which goes to show the appetite there is for different brands and experiences.

Bearing in mind ongoing operator M&As, there are challenges in the market and a lot of competition over market share – which arguably is not always conducive to instant industry growth. We saw excellent retention post-pandemic, and given the strength of land-based casinos, there are large demographics that have not been penetrated yet. It is truly a unique experiment that Habanero has been able to play a part in, and in some ways – we’re only just getting started. 

To put this into perspective, despite the dominance of retail, the market has kept growing and it looks set to continue doing so, with igaming now counting for close to 20 per cent of the market, which, given it only stood at 10% previously, the sky’s the limit!

CasinoBeats: Last but not least, when it comes to new markets in Europe – where can we see Habanero next?

TK: Habanero has recently signed with a major tier-one operator group that we will be releasing the details of soon, which will see us enter a slew of new markets and expand in our existing ones. Marking a milestone for the company, it is  testament to all the hard work we have put in over the years and cements our position as a dominant force in the European market. While I can’t share any more details yet, stay tuned as it is a very exciting announcement!

In the coming year, the Netherlands and Germany show a lot of promise and will be a priority on our commercial roadmap. While regulation is still (in many ways) developing in both markets, they contain some key demographics which have not yet been penetrated and we’re looking forward to introducing them to the wonderful world of Habanero.