As travel remains restrictive around the world, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to travel virtually and experience different slot landscapes across the globe.

In this edition of Around the World in 80 Slots, we find ourselves travelling to the Commonwealth Independent States, joined by Ivan Kravchuk, CEO at Evoplay, who delved into the current landscape of the slot sector.

With Ukraine now enjoying the start of a regulated market, Kravchuk revealed his view on the CIS market as a whole, noting that the it is not as established as, for example, the majority of Eurpean markets. 

Ivan Kravchuk, CEO at Evoplay

He explained: “Some territories have only just started developing a framework and plan of action to move towards legalisation, while others, such as Georgia, have already been in operation for a number of years, which will provide a strong framework for others to follow.

“Of course, implementation of all things requires time, but the good news is that we live in a far more progressive time than when Europe started its development back in the early 2010s. Therefore, the changes that took the best part of a decade to make in the past can now be implemented in far less time, and more efficiently for this new emerging region. 

“As a result, I expect to see the CIS territories covering the most distance in the least amount time, making it an exciting collection of markets to keep tabs on.

Moving forward, Kravchuk expressed his belief that Ukraine’s regulation is likely to kickstart the process for other CIS markets, explaining that the market “is considered one of the most promising in the CIS region” given its demographics – allowing other countries to witness the derivative benefits and opportunities offered by the legalisation of the casino industry.

He added: “This especially the case for state revenue, where such a windfall should be of benefit to the country as a whole.

“Along with this, assuming regulation goes to plan, we will also see the implementation of a fully transparent and trustworthy system of operations that all branches of the casino industry can make use of to ensure full player protection. 

“That covers the whole spectrum, and we expect to see good things to come – whether that be increased tourism, job creation and of course, tax revenues for the state budget. Assuming the next six months goes to plan – I’m certainly sure this will kick start the process for other CIS markets to follow.”

Addressing the gaming preferences of a typical CIS-based player, Kravchuk revealed that they are much more in line with European ones than people think, especially in Central and Eastern Europe due to the close proximity of the players and subsequent similarities in tastes.

“As is the case everywhere,” he continued. “The greatest influence on the shaping of player interest is delivered by the offline casino. However, since the land-based casino industry was established decades ago when retro slots were the most popular, the CIS players tend to be interested in more familiar, time-tested products. 

“That’s not to say it will change, however, particularly given how plugged in CIS players are to the internet community. With this comes streamers and the like, many of whom are based in Western Europe – and they’ll have plenty of influence on how player preferences, and indeed, demand for games, plays out.”

Pressed on how those preferences have evolved in recent years and whether it’s in line with what we’re seeing across Europe, Kravchuk explained how, unlike European players who on the whole are open to testing new innovative games, CIS players are generally slower to pick up on new products until they have researched them more thoroughly.

He added: “Another important aspect is the size of the bet. In CIS countries, we have very different demographics to Western Europe in that we have far smaller ‘middle class’, which means less disposable income – which therefore has a strong bearing on the amount spent per round.

“This difference in culture and economics brings us to one of the most significant differences between the markets – the perception of gambling. European players come to the casino games for entertainment purposes as they enjoy the games on offer. It would be great to see this culture reach other markets within the industry as it creates a fruitful environment for operators and players to partake in, rather than a perception that games can provide an avenue for “get rich quick” and the like.”

Concluding on which games from the Evoplay catalogue he thought were best suited to the region, he said: “Given all that has been mentioned above, we expect CIS players to find our leading titles Elven Princesses, Epic Gladiators, and Animal Quest the most appealing.

“The reason for this is obvious: these titles have gained the trust and cultivated positive experiences for players across the globe. That said, I am particularly confident that our flagship collection of innovative retro games featuring Fruit Nova, Fruit Super Nova, and Ice Mania will gather unprecedented positive feedback from players of all demographics in the region. 

“As we’ve touched on previously, land-based retro slots, and indeed, the classic Vegas style is already the most well known to CIS players, and I expect them to represent a significant portion of the initial surge in interest.”