´Our employees worldwide have really demonstrated tremendous commitment and great team spirit during these past months´
(Austria, SoloAzar Exclusive).- Jakob Rothwangl, VP Global Sales, NOVOMATIC AG and Max Bauer, NOVOMATIC Regional CFO, Latin America, spoke exclusively with SoloAzar about the world turning one year of Covid-19 Pandemic and how the industry adapted to it.
What can you evaluate about the current situation of the sector, one year after the beginning of the pandemic?
Jakob Rothwangl: The markets have generally slowed down. To the same extent that operators have experienced reduced footfall in their venues due to the closures and thus reduced revenues and spending power, suppliers are reluctant to present product news that the market currently can neither appreciate nor absorb. What we have seen in the land-based sector, are sincere and very successful efforts to create a safe gaming environment both for the guests and the employees through the implementation of safeguarding measures and protocols. And then, of course, there is the shift towards online gaming offers.
But still, the current situation is probably best described as a prolonged waiting game – waiting for politics to implement health policy prerequisites that provide for the return to a normal social and economic life by timely procurement of vaccines and vaccination coverage of the population.
Max Bauer: In Latam the pandemic has opened the client range for the online market and the product range on the land-based market. This means that many land-based clients, lottery operators, etc. have now included online and sports betting websites in their gaming offer. At the same time, the pandemic posed new challenges to the land-based operators to comply with bio safety protocols and maximize the revenues in limited-capacity venues. So, online tracking systems, ATM machines connected to the systems, biometric products with temperature scanners among others are now in great demand for this purpose.
What challenges have you had to face as a company?
Jakob Rothwangl: Basically NOVOMATIC had to face exactly the same challenges as everybody else. Internally, with home office arrangements for our staff, short time work and cost saving efforts; in our venues, with closures, reduced offers due to distancing requirements and safeguarding protocols; and as a supplier with the general market situation created by the repeated lockdowns. But through our NOVOMATIC Interactive division Greentube, we are in the excellent position of being able to offer our land-based customers all the top-performing blue chip titles and much more also as an online portfolio – given the regulatory framework in their specific market.
Max Bauer: In Latam, online regulatory rules are not as developed as other areas of the world such as Europe. In addition the technology we develop advances at a much faster rate than local legislations. Therefore the challenge becomes to identify from our vast product range which products can be used for the changing needs of our clients and which can be adapted to function within the legal parameters set by each country’s gaming board.
In what issue have you managed to have results beyond your expectations within the current situation? Have you had an unexpected opportunity?
Jakob Rothwangl: In spite of the challenging situation, our employees worldwide have really demonstrated tremendous commitment and great team spirit during these past months, which goes to prove that our workforce are indeed our most valuable asset. We now have the opportunity to use this time to reassess, restructure and optimize our NOVOMATIC sales organization, evaluating the current state and jointly implementing the necessary changes for the best possible results in the future.
Max Bauer: What really stood out in our country units in the region, was the cohesion within our Latam teams, as we pulled together protocols and tasks that will help us walk out of the pandemic scenario together with our customers. This is still an ongoing process that we expect to last well into 2022 when hopefully most of the Latam countries will be 70%-80% vaccinated.
We also used the opportunity to introduce Greentube to a number of our local clients and refer them to our excellent online colleagues.
How could you describe the profile of the average player nowadays? Which are the average tastes and demands? Which are the latest trends regarding technology, games and habits that arrived to stay?
Max Bauer: In Latam on the land-based market at the beginning the trend was to see fewer customers at the casinos but with much higher bets than pre-pandemic averages. As a result, we notice a great success on Jackpot products such as the THUNDER CASH™ Link which excelled both in terms of performance and popularity across Latam and which eventually won the SAGSE Award. This trend is still evolving as restrictions tighten and loosen from time to time. At times we have seen lines of guests outside the casinos waiting for a spot to open. We also have noticed that land-based locations in higher income markets with more access to technology tend to have lower results than locations in less high income markets with less access to technology.
Jakob Rothwangl: Internationally already pre-pandemic, we observed a general trend that saw a growing popularity of Linked Progressives across all markets. Covid-19 had a major impact in many respects on how gaming venues present their offer. One of them was the distancing requirements which reinforced the multi-game demand especially in the European markets: Availability of a significant choice of player favourites on every machine became even more important as operators had to deactivate a significant percentage of their slots and players still expected their preferred titles available. Player profiles haven’t changed much these past months – people are seeking consistency, at least in their private lives and in their pastimes.
Which are the most important markets for the company at present?
Jakob Rothwangl: Any market that we are present in is an important market. Because it always means that we have a commitment to our local customers and partners and our own local team. We have very strong markets in Europe and also in Latin America which is traditionally where our focus is. Our industry has always seen new markets open and others close – and one of those that are currently re-emerging, is for example the Ukraine, where we see excellent opportunities and potential based on the previous success of our products in the region.