This week’s SBC Summit Tbilisi In Georgia explored the dynamics for the evolving European gaming market. 

There were discussions centred around the correct and most effective strategy for an operator to succeed in the Eastern European market, analysing the nuances that differentiate it from other European climates. 

Savo Bakmaz, CEO and CFO of MaxBet, revealed that the Balkan operator’s journey has been one of exponential growth – having gone from “literally being a company founded in a garage to a multi-million buyout by Flutter Entertainment”.

He stated that MaxBet’s evolution underlines the success of tech growth in the Balkan region – with the sector having navigated significant socio-economic challenges intertwined with tech advancements for the benefit of national economies.

“We are part of a 30-year-old economy, but it was only until recently that we have garnered interest from Western investors”, said Bakmaz. 

The growth of MaxBet was truly validated when the firm was acquired by Flutter, in what is “one of the biggest transactions in the past decade” as Bakmaz lauded the impact it had on the Serbian economy.  

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, Simon Westbury, CEO of Sport Generate, explained: “The challenge isn’t just about transferring a business model from one region to another. It’s about understanding and respecting the economic and cultural fabrics of those new markets you choose to enter.”

Westbury reflected on his career forged in the development of gambling within new economies. Working for Digitain since 2019, Westbury has witnessed the expansion of an “Armenian tech giant employing 4,000 staff globally”.

“I don’t want to make this sound colonial, but gaming companies have created a new socio-economic class in Armenia. Government incentives for IT and tech have developed wealth and there is now promotion of home ownership… that is a positive story.

“There are parts of Yerevan that remind me of when I was living in Dubai in 2006. The amount of construction that is going on and the empowerment of gaming companies have many dividends.”

Bakmaz echoed the sentiment of Westbury on positive economic contributions but elaborated on the inherent clashes that arise when Western business practices meet prevalent traditional values in Eastern European, stating: “In the street, the word of gambling can put people on edge, and can be not so popular.”

Noted as MaxBet’s toughest challenge, Bakmaz reflected: “We had to change the perception of betting, and why people come to our shops.

“Our shops are not like Euro betting shops… They are very high class with a different offering, to change the perception of gambling. Customers are coming to our shops not just to gamble. They come to watch a game on HDTV, to socialise and relax, have a coffee or drink a beer with their friends.”