Bloomberg Línea — Brazilian soccer team Íbis Sport Club are the butt of endless jokes for their historic string of defeats in the 1980s. The team, based in Pernambuco state, has garnered a legion of fans in recent years, but who may cheer more to see the team lose than win, embracing the stereotype, and which is even reflected in the team’s mascot, which has been renamed Derrotinha (Defeat).
The attention the team has attracted is such that last year it gained an unexpected influx of money after its story reached the ears of Betsson, one of the largest bookmakers in Europe, and which has a presence in Latin America since 2008, and now has more plans for the region, in addition to being a sponsor of the “worst soccer team in the world”, as Íbis is known.
“This was a very well-placed marketing strategy,” Andrea Rossi, commercial director for southern Europe and Latin America Betsson, said in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.
“We are looking for brand positioning in Brazil, including the acquisition of Suaposta and other market channels, really pushing our brand into the country,” he added.
Based in Stockholm and listed on the country’s stock exchange, the company acquired 75% of Brazilian gaming company Suaposta in December 2019, taking aim at the then recently passed legislation that allowed for online betting in Brazil, as long as it was managed by an overseas company.
The idea was to get closer to the local market and also prepare for an eventual more expansive legalization of the sector, and which has been taking shape in Brazil’s Congress in these early months of 2022.
How Online Gambling Works in Brazil
Although the law allowing gambling in Brazil is not yet in force, online betting can take place through platforms based abroad thanks to a law passed in 2018 during the government of former president Michel Temer, and which was added to in 2021.
Gambling such as with slot machines and roulette, as well as poker, horse racing and sports such as soccer and basketball, are permitted as long as the site is registered and licensed in another country that allows gambling.
And for Betsson, it is only a matter of time before gambling is effectively legalized in the country, although there appears to be no hurry for the debate to take place.
“At the end of the day, the stakeholders in the process don’t want to push this without due care,” André Gelfi, managing partner of Betsson in Brazil, said in the same interview, adding that he hopes the legislation is passed soon.
“The sooner the better, as long as it’s a good regulation.”
The bill to release betting in Brazil, introduced by the Workers’ Party (PL) and approved in March of this year by the Lower House with 246 votes in favor and 202 against, will not be given priority in the Senate, according to the president of the house, Rodrigo Pacheco.
The bill aims to legalize gambling in the country, including in casinos, bingos, as well as other sports betting.
In 2020 alone, the market earned around 12.5 billion reais ($525.3 million), according to a survey by H2 Gambling Capital, a gaming and betting consultancy, but which was not taxed due to the lack of regulation
Betsson in Latin America
With gaming licenses in 19 jurisdictions and 1,900 employees, Betsson posted net revenues of SEK 6.67 billion ($731.7 million) in 2021, up 4.4% year-on-year, growth that was buoyed by expansion into new markets and strategic acquisitions, including partnering with Buenos Aires-based Casino de Victoria to enter Argentina.
The Swedish company made the brand’s operations in Argentina official in January of this year, after receiving authorization from the Buenos Aires City Lottery, the region’s supervisory body.
In April, the company touched down in Colombia, after the acquisition and integration of the ColBet platform.
“In Latin America, there is a great passion for sports and gaming. We targeted the sports that people prefer in different countries, found good partners and entered with our expertise in the digital world,” says Rossi.
The online casino is the platform’s main source of revenue, with revenue totaling SEK 4.84 billion ($512 million) in 2021. Sports betting revenue reached SEK 1.75 billion ($185 million), while other revenue from products such as poker and bingo totaled SEK 85.4 million ($8.9 million).
Although Betsson’s operations in the Central and Eastern Europe and Africa region contributed the largest share of revenues during the year (about 30% of the global total), the expectation is that partnerships with established and regularized companies in Latin America will open the doors to a million-dollar market that is still little explored, especially in comparison to the European one.
In Brazil, for example, Betsson is the only licensed operator of betting on horse racing, in partnership with the Jockey Club of Rio Grande do Sul.
“Our vision is in the regulated market, not offshore. We believe that the big piece of the cake will come with the regulation of the markets. We have been working on this in the group, and in the near future Brazil could be much bigger,” says Gelfi.