´The traditional land based gaming industry will return as strong as it was pre-pandemic´
(Germany, SoloAzar Exclusive).- On the occasion of a year since the world changed its habits and routines in order to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, SoloAzar interviewed David Orrick, Director of Industry Relations at Merkur Gaming, who gave his vision related to the world of gambling and commented on how the company adapted to the situation. "Of the many assets that go to making up the Gauselmann Group the Covid-19 pandemic challenged hardest the Group’s worldwide 14,000 employees that represent our greatest asset,” he said.
What can you evaluate about the current situation of the sector, one year after the beginning of the pandemic?
The last year has been shattering, in both human and economic terms. The global land based gaming industry has been, and largely remains in boxing terminology, ‘down but not out’. The arrival of viable and effective mass vaccination, however, is a sure sign that things will begin a slow return to normality; the key word there being ‘slow’. There can be no doubt that the ‘traditional’ land based gaming industry, in all its forms, will return as strong as (and perhaps even stronger) than it was, pre-pandemic. There is a proven global appetite for ‘live’ gaming entertainment and, as conditions ease, the entire gaming industry will be ready to bring the good times back.
What challenges have you had to face as a company?
Of the many assets (technical, commercial, financial and human) that go to making up the Gauselmann Group the Covid-19 pandemic challenged hardest the Group’s worldwide 14,000 employees that represent our greatest asset. By a combination of short time working, working from home and communicating electronically, the various state initiatives such as some workers being furloughed and the significant deployment of the Group’s own considerable resources our employees have remained protected in their jobs over the past year.
In what issue have you managed to have results beyond your expectations within the current situation? Have you had an unexpected opportunity?
All periods of instability or crisis, in whatever business sector, have historically always also created opportunities. In the case of the gaming industry we have all seen enormous growth in both online gaming and sports betting. The Gauselmann Group of course has existing interests in these areas but the pandemic has also created an opportunity for us to now look inward; specifically in the area of research and development. Over the past year we have created many new additions to our game portfolio: titles that will be ready to go as conditions permit. There is a new cabinet product in the latter stages of development and we can guarantee that, at the right time, we will be ready to hit the ground running, bringing back the top quality products for which the Merkur Gaming brand is rightly famous.
How could you describe the profile of the average player nowadays? What are the average tastes and demands?
In what we can now call the modern era of gaming entertainment (from the early 90s to the present day) the term ‘average’ has become less and less appropriate. As the technology of games design and cabinet innovations have continued to evolve so rapidly, so the demands of players have become more complex. The overriding wish of players is for more and more entertainment and leading manufacturers, like Merkur Gaming, work constantly to raise the bar in terms of game content. Not so very long ago casino gaming floors were largely populated by three reel, electro mechanical machines that had very limited options in their stakes and prizes possibility. Today’s gaming floors would be unrecognizable to the dedicated players of those times but the possibilities of today are virtually limitless. In-game bonuses, free games, spin-until-you win features, in-game jackpots, linked progressive jackpots, themed games and more all deny the use of the word ‘average’.
Which are the most important markets for the company at present?
Merkur Gaming maintains a global international focus. There is no doubt that the current pandemic will create many new opportunities and possibilities for suppliers and the objective is to be in the right place at the right time and with the right product portfolio to meet demand. We give great importance to our commitment to our home markets, both casino and arcade, in Germany and we will continue to be the market leader here. The development of gaming in Europe, and particularly eastern Europe holds many exciting opportunities. The re-opening of legal gaming in the Ukraine, for example, is an attractive possibility that is now becoming a commercial reality. As an established market leader across all of Latin America, Merkur Gaming will continue to expand as the pandemic restrictions gradually ease, providing top class sales, aftersales, service and support to our customers via our dedicated subsidiary companies in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
Do you think that legislation towards games of chance has to do with the current situation? Which are the countries that have best adapted their laws during 2020 and the current year?
Regulated gaming and legislation always go hand in hand, but sometimes not always step by step. The re-opening of the Ukrainian market, made possible by a new law and its strong support from the highest levels in government, represents an economic Win/Win situation in terms of the jobs and wealth creation for the country. The ‘golden dream’ in many regions is for the greater harmonization of the laws and regulations that govern gaming activities. That is an ongoing ambition in many regions, one that is being supported by the excellent work of many national and international gaming associations around the globe.
Gaming is an important part of the wider entertainment industry. The operational shutdowns brought about by Covid-19 have served to remind both operators and players of the good times that existed just a year ago and which will rise again. It all goes to state: ‘You don’t miss what you have until it has gone.’ Gaming WILL return, hopefully soon, to its glory days and Merkur Gaming will be at the heart and at the forefront of that process of recovery.