2020 It would have been a year to celebrate for NOVOMATIC. The big official anniversary celebration was scheduled to take place on June 19th and 20th at the NOVOMATIC headquarters in Gumpoldskirchen, Austria, and planning for the event had been going on for months, tents were booked, catering ordered, the entertainment all arranged – everybody was eagerly anticipating the event, dedicated to ma-king it a memorable party. Definitely not the time to gather and celebrate, but rather to practice social distancing and reflect. It is not NOVOMATIC’s 40th anniversary that we will remember later on, but the year that we stuck together and weathered the Corona virus storm.
Four decades of success
Founded in 1980, NOVOMA-TIC looks back on 40 years of innovation, success and entrepreneurial skill that steered the ever- growing business through many a time of accomplishment and growth – and sometimes, choppy waters, too. New markets, segments and territories were entered, and along the way, many business partners became close friends. As the international gaming industry experienced unprecedented growth, so too did NOVOMATIC – always driven by the innovative strength and committed engagement of its workforce. Today the NOVOMATIC Group operates around 2,100 electronic casinos, casinos and sports betting facilities, and exports innovative gaming equipment, system solutions and services to more than 75 countries.
But, let’s start at the beginning. In September 1980, Johann F. Graf founded what was to become an international gaming business in the former premises of the wine merchant company ‘Morandell’ in Gumpoldskirchen. At 33 years of age, with a capital of 50,000 Austrian Schillings (some EUR 3,600) and with a team of twelve employees, the entrepreneur set up NOVOMATIC Automatenindustrie- und -handelsgesellschaft m.b.H. in the idyllic winegrowing village south of Vienna. It was to be the starting point of a success story that is unparalleled in the international gaming industry. Soon, the young company produced its first gaming machines under the ADMIRAL brand. It also became the general distributor for the gaming machines of UK manufacturer JPM, which at that time was the second-largest independent manufacturer of slot machines in the world. Later, the portfolio was further broadened with the distribution of Williams pinball machines as well as Wurlitzer jukeboxes. At that time the early expansion into other European markets was a brave step, but it turned out to be one of the corporate group’s fundamental formulas for success and laid the basis for massive expansion in the years to come. Johann F. Graf visited all the major gaming manufacturers in Europe and the US in order to look behind the scenes of an industry that was still new to him. As luck would have it, the gaming industry was due for a major technological change that be came a huge advantage for NOVOMATIC – the conversion from electro-mechanics to electronics. Graf recognised the opportunity and realised its tremendous potential. The most decisive politicoeconomical milestone in this early phase of the company’s history was the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ in 1989. NOVOMATIC was among few pioneering Austrian enterprises to recognise the historic opportunity of an expansion into the Eastern European markets. Soon the maxim, that was to become Graf’s fundamental principle for the Group right through to the present, was applied: “The truth is that, from the very beginning, our domestic market was not Austria but the world. Like many Austrian banks and insurance companies, we recognised the opportunities in Eastern Europe and seized them at an early stage. That was pivotal. Later on, it would have been significantly more difficult and expensive to acquire these market shares.”
The ’90s: The revolution of live gaming The second decade brought ambitious international expansion for NOVOMATIC, with casino equipment exports to many international markets – for example, to South Africa, where, only six years later, Admiral Lei-sure World Ltd. would be listed on the stock exchange. In addition, the NOVOMATIC Group established a market-leading position in the majority of what would become the EU member states. In 1990 ‘American Poker II’ launched, and has ever since been recorded in the history of the industry as ‘The Legend’. ADMIRAL Sportwetten was founded in 1991 and soon became the undisputed market leader in the Austrian sports betting market. The development and launch of the Coolfire™ gaming hardware platform in 1997 ultimately marked the company’s technological breakthrough as a global player. Interactive multi-games were brought to the market, allowing operators to multiply their game offer on every machine position and giving players more choice than they ever had before. Also, the first electronic multiplayer platform, which had been in development since 1995, appeared on the market: The Novo TouchBet® Live-Roulette and with it the automation of the Roulette game revolutionised the live gaming segment. Johann F. Graf was the first ever to combine the thrill of live gaming with the new technological possibilities. With this novel concept, NOVOMATIC subsidiary Austrian Gaming Industries GmbH launched an innovation in the market that enjoyed worldwide success. Suddenly, up to 250 players were able to join one Live-Roulette game via individual player terminals.
The new millennium: An Inter-national Big Player. In the new millennium, the NOVOMATIC Group grew to become the largest integrated gaming group in Europe as well as one of the top players worldwide. As a content provider for online operators in regulated markets, the group developed a third business segment and achieved a new record turnover of al-most EUR 2.5 billion in its 30th anniversary year. In 2010, as an operator and via rental models, NOVOMATIC operated over 140,000 gaming machines in more than 850 electronic gaming halls, casino operations and sports betting outlets worldwide in more than 30 countries.
In 2007, NOVOMATIC laid the foundation for the new headquarters building in Gumpoldskirchen. It was completed in 2009, providing room for more growth, an expanded workforce as well as for consolidated, logistically improved production processes. In the Vienna City centre, NOVOMATIC also opened the NOVOMATIC Forum, the original historic Jugendstil building was completely renovated and became home for an event lounge, an arts café plus the NOVOMATIC city offices.
2010 – 2020: Sustainable growth and consolidation. The past decade has been characterized by further international expansion driven by continued growth, organically as well as through strategic acquisitions. To generate a new level of financial flexibility, NOVOMATIC introduced a proven capital market instrument with the issuing of corporate bonds. The success of NOVOMATIC VLT products soon drew the attention of other international lottery operators like the Romanian State Lottery, which in 2013 opted for NOVOMATIC for the supply of 10,000 VLTs. The beginning of this decade also marked the entry into new and burgeoning gaming industry segments. Professor Graf ’s ever-present visionary foresight and instinct paved the way for NOVOMATIC to add online gaming as a third pillar to the corporate business. With the acquisition of Vienna-based company Greentube Internet Entertainment Solutions GmbH in 2010, NOVOMATIC laid the foundation for the Group’s successful online business.
It was during this period that NOVOMATIC also became active in the online lottery solutions segment. In 2013, NOVOMATIC was the first gaming provider to internationally introduce the prerequisites for a biometrically supported registration, entry and payment system for gaming operations: To this day, NOVOMATIC Biometric Systems™ (NBS). Especially considering the latest worldwide developments with the pandemic Corona threat, access systems by way of contactless biometric authentication are sure to become all the more important for future gaming operations. To cater to the growing international customer base with local sales and service units, the Group established and steadily expanded a network of regional subsidiaries and headquarters – for example in Romania, Colombia, the Netherlands, Spain and many other countries. Marking the entry in the huge US market, NOVOMATIC Americas was founded in 2012 in Florida and later on moved to Chicago, Illinois. The biggest and internationally most widely noted acquisition, though, was the purchase of a majority shareholding of some 52 percent in the Australian gaming supplier Ainsworth Games Technology that was eventually approved by authorities and completed in 2018.
Along with other restructuring measures, this process also saw the R&D, production and sales unit Austrian Gaming Industries become NOVOMATIC Gaming Industries, which was eventually merged into NOVOMATIC AG in October 2018. This strategy pursued three goals: The bundling of core competencies, a clear structuring of the Group entire NOVOMATIC family and who became the personification of the company slogan “Winning Technology”: Austrian national hero, triple Formula-1 world champion and NOVOMATIC brand ambassador Niki Lauda.
The second half of the decade was particularly characterized by the expansion of the Group’s operations business under the ADMIRAL brand.
In this special 40th anniversary year, the NOVOMATIC family faces the biggest crisis that the world has seen since the end of the Second World War. Virtually overnight, the effects of the coronavirus have paralyzed public life, the global economy, and our industry as well. NOVOMATIC has proven, time and again, that it can overcome obstacles and challenges by drawing on the strengths and the commitment of its employees to emerge from crises even stronger than before. Johann F. Graf ’s company has always put its employees first. In the threat of the Coronavirus, NOVOMATIC has now taken all possible measures to guide the company through these difficult times. The management is committed to protecting employees and their families, always with a clear focus on safeguarding their health while maintaining the value-added process and safeguarding jobs. Together as a team, the NOVOMATIC family will certainly master this unprecedented challenge as well. The company will build on the full commitment of its workforce. Because Unity is not just one of NOVOMATIC’s greatest product innovations – it is the NOVOMATIC mindset and always has been.