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Vicky Nolan

Latin America: A Sleeping Giant?

27 September 2000

Thanks to a precarious legal situation in the United States, the operators of many e-gambling websites are very actively pursuing non-American players. Originally, most sites catered to the American and Canadian players, with some reporting that 90 percent or more of their customer base came from the U.S. and Canada. Operators are now hoping to attract players from all around the world, using multiple-language options and adding a slew of games popular in select regions of the world. Americans and Canadians make up such a strong majority of e-gamblers simply because there are so many of them online compared to the rest of the world.

NUA Internet Survey recently released its best "guess-timate" of Internet usage around the world. Their figures breakdown Internet usage:

World Total: 304.36 million
Africa: 2.58 million
Asia/Pacific: 68.9 million
Europe: 83.35 million
Middle East: 1.90 million
Canada & USA: 136.86 million
South America: 10.74 million

With Internet penetration low in many parts of the world, it takes a brave or far-seeing operator to approach new markets. And just which of these new markets are potential winners? It's well known that a pot of gold awaits those who can reach the Asian market, but there's another fat one out there that has been, for the most part, overlooked: Latin America.

At this point, only a few marketers have taken a serious crack at Latin America. Among them Windnsea Gaming's Craig Williamson, who manages games for several companies attracting the Latino market. Over time, Williamson has developed an understanding about the market and how to attract players there.

He acknowledges that the majority of Spanish speaking players are in the U.S., but pointed out that plenty more live in other Latin American nations like Mexico and Argentina. Instead of just translating your current site into Spanish, he said, it helps to learn what players really like. For example, Williamson has found bingo to be the most popular game among Latino players, although he also pointed out that you have to charge lower costs for the cards to really attract them.

Additionally, he said, "Most Latin Americans don't like the shortened bingo version popular elsewhere. They prefer the longer 75 number games." The actual "Latino Bingo", says Williamson is "Chalupa," which features symbols instead of numbers.

Among the Latin American countries, Brazil has one of the highest Internet penetrations, which makes it a highly desirable target. Unfortunately for many operators, to attract Brazilian players take a different approach than that used for other parts of Latin America. According to Williamson, many companies start off wrong by translating their current Spanish games into Portuguese, then promoting it to Brazilians. Instead, he recommends developing ties with a company already operating there. Using that company's connections in Brazil will help enormously. Williamson, for example, is working on a co-branded, co-marketed Portuguese/Spanish site in conjunction with a land-based bingo hall operator.

Keep these tips in mind as you develop a marketing plan targeted to the Latin American audience. It's too easy to see the area as one audience. By learning a little more about the market, you too will be able to find the best approach for the market as a whole, as well as individual Latin American nations.

By the Numbers: Research by The River City Group, LLC, publisher of Interactive Gaming News, indicates that at least 175 Spanish-language websites offer real-money wagering, while at least 140 sites offer real-money games in Portuguese.

Latin America: A Sleeping Giant? is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan