In his latest column, Tom Waterhouse of Waterhouse VC discusses India’s online betting boom and the challenges of operating in an uncertain market.
India’s online wagering market is growing at a rate of over 20% annually (Sportskeeda) and has become an attractive market for global operators and B2B suppliers due to the country’s rapid development – GDP per capita has doubled since 2009 – and the presence of over 370 million bettors (MyBetting India).
The Indian cricket wagering industry alone is estimated to already be worth US$150bn (£122.32bn/€139.30bn), with around 85% of Indian bettors wagering on the sport (GiiResearch). In India, cricket’s major wagering events are the Indian Premier League and ICC Men’s T20.
One example of a dominant fantasy sports business is Dream11, which offers fantasy cricket, football, basketball and hockey, amongst numerous other sports.
With a staggering 160 million active users, the company’s valuation reached an impressive $8bn in November 2021, earning the title of India’s first fantasy sports unicorn in 2019. Dream11 was founded in 2008 and had just 2 million active users in 2016. The company’s exponential growth to 160 million users underscores the tremendous potential of the Indian market.
There are only three Indian states that have officially legalised wagering: Daman, Goa and Sikkim.
Since the Information Technology Act (2000) does not cover online wagering activities and India’s original wagering legislation, the Public Gaming Act (1867), predates online wagering by over 100 years, the legal status of wagering in India remains grey.
However, the government has recognised the potential tax revenue that the burgeoning middle class’ interest in wagering represents, and is considering a new gaming bill to replace the Public Gaming Act.
Popular casino games in India include traditional games like blackjack, poker, roulette and slots, as well as two local games: Teen Patti and Andar Bahar.
Some of the largest operators have developed businesses in India, including Bet365 and Betway (owned by Super Group). Global operators are keen to cater to popular local games, and in 2021, Flutter invested in Junglee Games, an Indian gaming business focused on rummy, a card game that has been played in India for over 400 years.
Junglee Games, which is 57.3% owned by Flutter, operates market-leading skill games across desktop and mobile in India, with its flagship product, Junglee Rummy, being one of the largest rummy brands in the world.
In 2022, Junglee grew its average monthly players by 78% to over 50 million players and Flutter sees potential in leveraging its global scale and operational expertise to expand the company’s product offering, including its recently launched DFS (daily fantasy sports) product. Flutter has an option to buy all of Junglee Games by 2025.
Junglee exemplifies Flutter’s broader strategy of building international leadership positions both organically and through acquisition. Flutter’s other recent acquisitions include:
- Adjarabet (2019) – leading operator in Georgia, with a strong presence in Armenia
- Sisal (2022) – largest operator in Italy
- Tombola (2022) – premier UK online bingo operator
Back to B2B business
We believe that an operator’s profitability is highly dependent on their customer acquisition cost (CAC), and a handful of scale operators earn the majority of profits in most markets because they have the lowest CAC and the best operational efficiencies.
Flutter is our only publicly listed B2C investment and has strongly outperformed its peer group over the past 12 months (+64% performance compared to -19.5% median performance of peers), as of 3 March 2023.
In spite of the growth potential in the Indian wagering industry, there are also several challenges that operators will need to navigate. One major challenge is the lack of regulatory clarity in the market, which creates uncertainty for operators and investors. The Indian government’s new gaming bill creates a risk that operators could face regulatory crackdowns or changes in the regulatory environment that could impact their business.
Despite this uncertainty, the Indian wagering industry represents a significant opportunity for operators and B2B suppliers able to navigate the market successfully. With a population of over 1.3 billion people and a rapidly growing middle class, there is significant demand for online wagering and gaming services.
As the Indian government moves towards regulating the industry, there will be even greater opportunities for operators and suppliers to establish themselves in the market and capture a share of the growing revenue opportunity.
In February, I contributed to iGB’s article, “Predictions: The Investment Climate in 2023” (link), where I discussed how the macroeconomic environment and access to funding has changed for the wagering industry. I also discussed the industry’s potentially overhyped products.
For wholesale investors interested in following wagering and gaming industry news and trends, please follow our updates on Twitter (@waterhousevc) or through our website at WaterhouseVC.com.
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Please note the above information in relation to Flutter, Bet365, Betway and Super Group is based on publicly available information in relation to the company and should not be considered nor construed as financial product advice. Waterhouse VC has a position in Flutter. The information provided in this document is general information only and does not constitute investment or other advice. Readers should consult and rely on professional investment advice specific to their individual circumstances.
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