Forbes: F1 Star Rubens Barrichello Pursues Online Gambling Opportunity

Angelica Mari Forbes Senior Contributor
Brazil-based technology and society journalist
Forbes, Softswiss, Rubens Barrichello

A former F1 driver, Rubens Barrichello has developed an online presence and is now moving into the tech scene

After a long-standing career in Formula One, Rubens Barrichello is now setting his sights on the technology sector. Over the next year, the Brazilian racing driver will use his reputation to enhance the Latin American presence of Softswiss, a company providing tech infrastructure for the online gambling sector.

Online gambling is a growing market in Brazil. A study by investment firm XP estimates that the segment grossed around BRL 120 billion ($21 billion) in 2023, an increase of 71% compared to 2020. Cognizant of the opportunity, Softswiss, which focuses on iGaming – a term that encompasses online gambling and other interactive gaming activities – enlisted Barrichello to support its expansion in Latin markets, starting with Brazil.

A non-executive director at the technology company since April, Barrichello competed in Formula One from 1993 to 2011. His career includes a tenure with Ferrari as Michael Schumacher’s teammate from 2000 to 2005, as well as 11 Grand Prix victories and 68 podium finishes. Post-Formula One, he transitioned into StockCar racing, as well as media and business ventures, including his YouTube channel Acelerados, one of the largest Brazilian communities focused on motorsports and racing.

The racing driver turned entrepreneur sees parallels between the technology used in Formula 1 racing and the online gambling industry. “I was skilled at interpreting the data from the car’s sensors and computers during my time in F1, and I see similarities with the data-driven nature of the iGaming industry,” he told Forbes in an exclusive interview.

“I believe there is a lot of potential for iGaming in Brazil, but [in terms of development] the local market is nowhere near places like Europe, for example”, Barrichello noted. While specifics on the financial arrangements between the racing driver and Softswiss have not been disclosed, Barrichello has not taken a stake in the tech company.

Conversely, the tech company is placing its bets in working with the racing driver due to a number of factors: “Not only Rubens wants to delve deeper into the technology side of things, but he also has great business skills and contacts globally, and an ability to connect with people from different cultures – and this is a unique combination of skills that our company needs”, said Ivan Montik, founder at Softswiss.

Initially an IT outsourcing company serving sectors such as banking since its inception in 2008, Softswiss shifted its focus to online casino games in 2012. The Malta-headquartered firm now provides the plumbing for companies operating in the gambling space, including betting engines and gaming and marketing tools that can be integrated with operators’ platforms.

To address issues such as manipulation of results, tax evasion, and problematic gambling, the Brazilian government has introduced new regulations for the online gambling industry, which will take effect on January 1, 2025. Softswiss is now investing around EUR 2.5 million in infrastructure to be ready for the regulated market in Brazil.

“There will be a transition period starting from July 1, 2024, during which we will work to adapt our platform and infrastructure to comply with the new requirements,” Montik noted.

The tech firm claims to have more than 800 companies using its software, including online casinos such as Stake and Roobet. The client portfolio also includes firms focused on the Brazilian market, such as Betnacional, Pagbet, Bet7k, and Apostaganha. According to Montik, the goal within the next 12 months is to onboard at least 10 operators in Latin America who will use the firm’s platform as the main engine for their online gambling business.

Barrichello initially had reservations about the company. “I thought they were just about gambling at first,” he said, adding that he was later drawn to Softswiss due to its focus on responsible gaming.

According to Montik, his firm’s responsible gaming approach includes player retention tools that improve the experience while identifying problematic gambling and cooling-off periods for placing bets. “We’re a little distanced from the players, but we are more in control from the technical point of view, when it comes to how responsibly operators are offering their services”, the founder noted.

The responsible gambling features “give companies space to do normal business” rather than dealing with problematic players, Softswiss’s founder argued. “Once they lose a bit more money, they will call customer services, write letters and so on”, Montik said. “Nobody in the [online gambling] market wants to have addicted players.”

Collaborating closely with online gambling operators is important for Softswiss: the firm charges a platform fee to clients and, in addition, has a revenue share model arrangement with clients, with percentages ranging from 2% to 7% of the operator’s GGR (gross gaming revenue).

When it comes to Latin America, another area of future business collaboration relates to Barrichello’s Acelerados project. He sees potential to integrate technology and branding around the channel, which currently boasts nearly 2 million followers.

Looking ahead, Barrichello will continue to use his personal brand and connections in Brazil and Latin America to promote the tech firm’s products and services. “Just like I was supported by [Brazilian food company] Arisco early in my racing career, I’d like to have my name and image associated with Softswiss in the long run,” he concluded.

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