A host of jurisdictions across the Americas, Asia and Europe are firmly on the radar of Rhino Entertainment, suggested CEO Ross Parkhill ahead of appearing at SBC Summit Barcelona in a ‘new market opportunities’ discussion.
With a LatAm entrance having recently been undertaken, confidence is also stressed at a pair of stable ecosystems across Europe, with Canadian opportunities to be capitalised on should they present themselves.
Ahead of the event in the Spanish city, which will take place on September 19-21 at the Fira Barcelona Montjuïc, Parkhill also touched on a perceived more relaxed stance on sports betting than igaming, market suitability strategies and what the future holds for the company.
CasinoBeats: Could you begin by assessing Rhino Entertainment’s progress through the current year thus far? How does this compare to targets set at the beginning of 2023?
Ross Parkhill: We’re happy with 2023 so far, we’ve continued to grow as a business which isn’t always that easy these days. We received our Ontario license later than we’d originally hoped, so we’re playing catch up a little there. It’s quite a competitive landscape, but a good market with a regulator who is easier than most to deal with so I’m confident we can get back on track.
Actually, most of our main markets have experienced some sort of significant turbulence in 2023, so I’m really happy we’ve managed to navigate these challenges well and grow significantly year over year. Another big positive is the progress we’ve made in Japan.
We invested to bring in a dedicated team over the last 12 to 18 months, really focused on localizing the product, and we can see some very clear improvements in player numbers and also relationships with our Japanese marketing partners.
The Rhino Team is really focused on keeping up the current momentum across our established and new markets, and delivering some key projects that should ensure we have a very solid year.
CB: You are set to participate at SBC Summit Barcelona in a panel entitled new market opportunities. Could you elaborate on your own strategy when assessing if a potential new market is suitable and possesses sufficient opportunities for growth?
RP: We have two or three strategy sessions per year, where as part of the agenda new market opportunities are discussed or revisited. Our process is to build a business case for entering any new market, where we’ll look at the fundamentals like demographics, information on scale of gambling revenues, mobile penetration, regulatory landscape etc but then dive deeper depending if it’s pre-regulated or already regulated.
In pre-regulated markets a big focus will be the payment and acquisition channels available as this is likely to be the biggest challenge. We will also try to understand if there is a legitimate chance of the marketing regulating in the short to medium term as that can be a positive.
When looking at regulated markets we will look more closely at the complexity of the legislation, tax rates and any restrictions around channels available for acquisition.
In both cases we are happy to back both the products we have built and the team we have assembled, but we’re also realistic about the focus that’s needed to really launch a new market successfully and efficiently. Although we’ve launched in several new markets over the last 12 months, we’ve turned down just as many as we felt the business case didn’t justify the opportunity cost of growing our established or new markets.
CB: How reliant is online casino on sports betting in carving out a path towards regulation? Is it at all?
RP: Sports I believe is always a bit easier for governments and regulators to approach first, particularly as in the public eye sports betting can be seen in a more positive light than online casinos.
It seems that particularly in the US, there is a hopefulness that states with sports will eventually adopt icasino as I believe they like to call it. Unfortunately, in both Europe and LatAm we have examples of countries with a regulated framework for sports but nothing in place or planned for casino.
Overall I think sports betting being regulated is going to help casino get at least discussed, but in many cases we will need to show a lot of patience. I think the biggest shift is more likely to come when more governments and regulators realize the damage of not having channelisation and proper regulation in place to provide and protect for people who do want to play casino online.
CB: What jurisdictions and/or states/provinces are catching the eye of Rhinos Entertainment at the current time? And why?
RP: We’ve recently entered LatAm properly for the first time, however that is a long term project. We are looking at other parts of Asia as we’ve got a good footing there now and built inhouse teams, skills and products that I believe can help us grow more aggressively than if another operator was entering fresh.
We are also looking at further regulated opportunities, particular one or two in Europe, mainly as these are stable markets our team knows well and again we feel we can leverage our products and skills to enter and be competitive.
We will also ensure we put ourselves in position to enter any new Canadian province if the opportunity arises.
CB: What can we expect from the group through the remainder of the year and into 2024?
RP: A lot of our development resources in late 2022 and early 2023 was focused on preparation for the new regulated markets we entered. So since the start of Q2 we’ve been working on delivering some really exciting player facing features.
Rhino has always been a product focused company, and ensuring we continue to give the players great UX/UI is integral to our plans going forward. We recently launched our raffles feature, a new proprietary cashier and have several more features in the pipeline that I believe will help us stand out from a pretty packed crowd.
Our other big focus is to continue to develop our Rhino Culture and ensure we have the right foundations to keep growing and have fun while we’re doing it. We’re now over 160 people strong and making sure everyone is aligned and motivated doesn’t happen by coincidence.
CB: As mentioned earlier, you will be an active participant in Barcelona in September. What are you most looking forward to at the event?
RP: I think Barcelona is a great event, yes I love the city but the show itself is getting bigger each year, making it a can’t miss now for operators.
I think this show has always been great at attracting a good mix of senior delegates from throughout the various sides of the industry, so both the talks and networking are always interesting and fruitful.
SBC Summit Barcelona, taking place from September 19-21 at Fira de Barcelona Montjuïc, will bring together 15,000 delegates, offering them a platform to delve into the cutting-edge via a dedicated ‘Casino & iGaming Zone.’
‘Global Casino – New Market Opportunities‘ will form a key facet of this, with Parkhill to be joined by Matthew D’Emanuele (CEO, Mystino), Thomas Carvalhaes (Managing Director, Vai de Bob), and panel moderator Rob Fell (Advisor, RiskCherry), to discuss the most effective strategies for entering burgeoning markets.
They will also provide diverse perspectives on the role of newly-regulated sports betting markets and the significance of successful grey market examples, in establishing trust within new regulatory frameworks, thus driving the path toward casino regulation.