The Year of the Ox. A Summary of 2021

About the expert

Dainis Niedra is a professional betting and gambling manager. He has previously been the Director of an entertainment complex, organized various poker series and he was even the head of the Latvian poker federation. Currently, Dainis is Enlabs Head Operational Director.

New Year holidays get an additional sense of expectation when it seems every year is going to be more exciting than the previous one. The working days of the period between the traditional Christmas (Dec 25th) and New Year (Jan 1st) start with a couple of dozens of auto replies from colleagues and partners that inform that they will get back after January 4th. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom calls are either cancelled or postponed. It’s high time to take a deep breath, summarize the events of the year that’s about to pass, and jot down some personal targets for the year that is coming up. Why personal? Well, because the targets for the company have been planned long, long, ago. Budgets are formed. The ideas are mentally accepted.

The year of 2021 was the Chinese year of the Ox. This is my year as I was born in the year of the Ox as was my son. And I should say that 2021 has become a year you can’t easily confuse with any other.

The year 2020 was super turbulent like a long intercontinental flight. The plane is shaking, flight attendants running around, WCs closed. Still you know that everything’s gonna be alright, you just have to worry less and believe in pilot’s skills. And you are the pilot 😊.

This year was less turbulent. We have learnt to live in a new reality. We work remotely more, new restrictions can’t surprise us anymore, ever changing plans are a common thing now. We finally migrated our last project to the new playing platform at the beginning of 2021. Our whole classic gaming business started to work using one technology from that day. Around a quarter of the business remained on PayNPlay (registration free gaming) that was taken from Finnplay. We closed the deal of purchasing Finnplay during the first quarter of the year. We received successful and fast-growing B2B business besides gaining the full control over whole gaming business technologies.

March saw the key event of 2021 for the company. After the acquisition we have become a part of Entain, which is the second largest operator in the world that owns and controls a lot of cool brands like bwin, Coral, Ladbrokes, PartyPoker, Eurobet. However, we have kept autonomy and we are one of the most successful hubs of Entain both in growth and in efficiency.

We launched a fourth brand in Estonia. It became profitable within three months and turnover reached the same amount on the very same third month that took our first brand four years (!) to get to.

In the summer we paid out two jackpots. One in Finland and another one in Estonia (6.5 and 7.2 million euro respectively). It was for the first time in our history since the possibility of such an event is around one to quadrillion.

As for KPI I’d like to express my respect to the team that really worked hard to show the following numbers:

  • FTD (new players): +77% year-on-year;

  • Active users: +39% year-on-year;

  • ARPU (average revenue per user): +13% year-on-year;

  • NGR (net gaming revenue): +103% year-on-year;

  • Organic growth: +62% year-on-year;

  • Market share has growth on all the markets where we operate;

  • Number of offices and employees has doubled.

Even though we reached the financial targets and fulfilled the budget, not everything was exactly in the way we planned at the end of 2020. The first thing that we had trouble with was launching on new markets. Unfortunately, some external factors affected us. You can always solve internal problems easier than the case of external ones where you can only really monitor them.

An unstable situation in Belarus with a notorious Ryanair flight made us rethink our plans on entering the market. Belarus still remains a promising market and I want to believe that this political situation will come to a logical end as soon as possible.

Ukraine was a place that gave us great hope in the beginning of the year. But there’s nothing but hope so far. There are so many questions without any answers. Almost no one started to work using local licences. Anyway considering the proposed taxes I can’t imagine there would be much profit even in theory.

Meanwhile a bubble is inflating in the advertising market. In the first half of 2021 investments to the media from the businesses increased 212% (print media, TV, local digital, outdoors, radio). I’d like to believe that the beginning of the next year will bring in amendments to the Tax Law that we’ve been waiting for for so long. I can’t say that the Ukrainian market is regulated so far.

We underestimated how much technical work we had in front of us to re-launch Sweden. We spent more time developing some additional things, compliance, and responsible gambling. Because of all these factors the relaunch was postponed to next year.

As the end of the year was closing, bad news came from Finland. Now this is the hottest topic in the affiliate, arbitrage, and SEO World. Just within a month a bill was introduced to the parliament, discussed and voted on. It will mean that the country will strengthen the measures against the operators who advertise in Finland. It comes into effect in January 2022. Black lists, payment blocks, fines, and so on. It will be applied to those who will not accept the new law. Finland is the second largest market for us today, that’s why we take this so seriously.

If we could know everything beforehand, life wouldn’t be that interesting. We’re making our steps towards the New Year having a perfect plan in mind but being ready to make some changes if the situation with a particular market changes. And as a tradition there are always acquisition projects. It won’t be a boring year for sure.

Happy New Year! Be healthy, be patient, and let's hope for fewer goalless draws in the English Premier League 😁.

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