Balkans Opens Up For Online Gambling Market

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 After expanding in continental and southern Europe, the global gambling

industry is now going east and focusing on the Balkan states and Eastern

Europe for its further expansion. Especially the Balkan states are

increasingly drawing a lot of interest, despite - or perhaps because - of the

current global economic crisis. And the key figures of the Balkan gambling

market account for this interest: A market size of Euro 4.5 billion (gross

revenue), above-average popularity of gambling, particularly of sports

betting, 130 million people, and the impending EU-membership of many

states, just to mention a few. 


Total gambling market of Euro 4.5 billion and more to come


The Balkan gambling markets (Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia,

Montenegro, Romania, and Bulgaria) already have a remarkable market size, and

most experts confirm that the Balkan markets have a great growth potential in the

coming years:


- Total gambling market of Euro 4.5 billion - In 2007 the total gross revenue

(after payout of prizes) of the Balkan gambling market was ca. Euro 4.5 billion

according to MECN's latest study about the region; the figure for

turnover/wagers came to ca. Euro 25 billion. 


These figures include only gambling operations with local licenses. If the

business of foreign online gambling operators were included, the overall

market size would exceed Euro 5 billion.


- Great growth potential - More than 60% of the experts surveyed by MECN

believe that the growth potential of the Balkan gambling market is great or

even very great. Hardly any market insiders (only 3% all surveyed experts)

believe the market has only a small growth potential.


- Increasing liberalisation - On the whole, the experts believe that the Balkan

nations will liberalise their gambling markets.


Total Balkan online gambling market worth ca. Euro 520 million


The Balkan markets enjoy a growing Internet and broadband penetration. In total,

there are about 43 million Internet users (average penetration rate of ca. 36%)

and about 7 million broadband connections. Nevertheless, these figures are below

the European average and still leave room for significant growth.


According to MECN's estimates, the Balkan states as a whole have an online

gambling market worth about Euro 520 million (gross revenue), and most of the

revenue is made by foreign operators without local licenses. But the market size

differs significantly from country to country, and Turkey and Greece have the

largest markets. 


The key factor influencing the size of the online gambling market is the market

structure (foremost of the betting sector): Whereas in competitive markets, such

as Croatia, Serbia, and Romania, the foreign online gambling operators can

capture only about 1%-3% of the total market, the situation is very different in

monopolistic markets such as those in Greece and Turkey. In such markets some

foreign online operators alone can realise Euro 20-30 million in gross revenues 



Online gambling and betting sectors drive the Balkan gambling market


The market worldwide is driven to a large extent by betting and interactive

gambling. The market insiders surveyed by MECN see these two sectors as

having the biggest growth potential for the Balkan market as well. Traditional

games, such as lotteries and casino, are expected to have a rather limited growth



Some forerunners among the gambling operators are paving the way 


Some forerunners among the global key players in the retail and online gambling

market are already getting established in the Balkan states. Regarding online

gambling, Sportingbet is currently realising about 5% of its business in Bulgaria

alone whereas Bwin and Bet-at-home have just recently increased their focus and

investments in the Balkan region.


Leading Internet operators offer localised offerings in nearly all Balkan



More and more Internet operators are adding Balkan languages and currencies to

their localised offerings. As the exhibit below shows, nearly all of the operators

analysed offer localised versions in Turkey and Greece whereas Serbia and

Montenegro still seem to be uncharted territory in this respect.


According to the MECN report, about 20%-30% of the operators surveyed are

currently planning to increase their investment in the Balkans - primarily in

Croatia, Romania, and Greece. The majority of the operators surveyed are

currently in the process of developing their Balkan market strategy and evaluating

whether/how to increase their investment and focus in the near future. A

worthwhile exercise, we think.


The MECN study can be obtained at: http://www.balkan-gambling.mecn.net

MECN is a network of experts and consultants advising, among others, clients in

the gambling industry. For more information, please visit us at http://www.mecn.net


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