They are the managers of the most visible association in the slots industry from Romania, ROMSLOT, are top representatives of business with a long tradition on the market, supervise tens of employees and have an experience of more than ten years in this sector. Gabriela Manu – President ROMSLOT, Valentina Dobre – Vicepresident ROMSLOT, Gherghina Ionescu – Secretary ROMSLOT are those three ladies leading with a heavy hand one of the most representative voices in the slots industry and have encountered success in a world perceived as men’s. For the month of March, the only option for the cover of Casino Life & Business Magazine was a female trio, worthy to be lauded: the ROMSLOT management team.
You were appointed to be the manager of ROMSLOT last April. Tell us a few words about the recent development of this company.
Gabriela Manu, President ROMSLOT: It has been a difficult year, punctuated with many legislative threats that have triggered an imbalance of the market and lack of predictability. We want to have a development-oriented business environment and what we need is to have a stable, fair and applicable legal framework. Hence, our efforts during this last year have been steered towards the legal topics that have been holding on standby the entire industry and to the communication with the lawmakers. Nevertheless, we have not neglected either the approaches meant to change the image that the market has or the mission that ROMSLOT has to provide a transparent and fair perspective on gambling.
Give us more details about the efforts made by the association in terms of legal measures.
Gabriela Manu, President ROMSLOT: ROMSLOT Association is in a good dialogue relation with the authorities, from the regulating and monitoring entities, other central auhorities to the Parliament members. One of our strengths is the ability to identify in due time the legislative risks and to fight in order to avoid these. Not long ago, a real success occurred when the gambling industry was exempt from the stipulations in the draft regarding the limitation of cash transactions, which would have otherwise blocked the activity in the gambling rooms because of the peculiarity of the gambling market. ROMSLOT has been, undoubtedly, the most important voice in the industry for the communication on this issue. Discussions were carried with both the deputies from the Budgeting Department and the Finances. A great contribution was made by the National Gambling Office, which was on our side, along representatives of other associations. Similarly, we have also been against two more initiatives that are on the rejection list. It is about the imposition of 5% taxing on the operators winnings and to eliminate the slots from the spaces outside the Lottery or casinos.
While the entire industry was concentrating all its efforts to amend the fundamental gambling law, the Parliament was receiving legislative bills that would have very much unsettled the market, if passed. There are currently 9 drafts that are directly or indirectly aiming at the gambling industry. We are monitoring them closely and acting to the benefit of the gambling market and our members.
Can a female trio managing a strong voice in the industry change the public perception about this sector?
Gherghina Ionescu, Secretary ROMSLOT: The reputation issues for the gambling industry is the main factor generating both the media and the legal pressure. It is well-known that our line of business has a negative image, also fueled by the underground market, an image that is not a match to the reality. The slots industry is an entertainment industry and ROMSLOT has been working hard for a long time to provide a clear and correct image of this market. This is the reason why we have assumed the mission to bring transparency and start initiatives of communicating and educating the lawmakers, the public and the opinion leaders. The first attempts to dialogue with the legislative sector were difficult, we were like a non-grata industry which no parliament member wanted to have anything with, a consequence of the negative image constantly sustained by the media. Our desire was to explain them the specifics of the slots industry and the inapplicability of certain legislative stipulations. It was only when we made a video clip about it, with clear examples and situations for the above, ran it in front of the Budgeting Finance Department within the Chamber of Deputies, then the lawmakers started to understand the issues that this industry was dealing with. We have not stopped there and gone farther, to the point to initiate communication campaigns for the media and the public. We have made public the results of the first market survey on the gambling industry and the profile of the player in Romania, made by GfK Romania, upon the request of ROMSLOT. It was the first press conference organized here by the industry representatives. Also, we have supported the PwC study that examines the impact that gambling has affected the economy. This research has practically dissolved the non-verifiable numbers about industry and brought an important volume of real information that may have the legislative decisions been relying on.
We have also been the first that initiated information campaigns directed to the mass-media. It is impossible not to mention here and congratulate at the same time the ROMSLOT communication team. Together, we have won for the category ‚Communication for handling crisis, risks and opportunities’ the Silver Award for Excellence at the Gala Romanian PR Award – the most prestigious competition for the communication industry in Romania. The distinction stands for an acknowledgment of the efforts that some of the most PR specialists of good repute at international level are making.
The fundamental principle underlying our association is transparency – this is how we were the first ones to have an open approach of the communication, regarded as bold in an industry cautious about making statements.
We will continue to actively involve ourselves into a good dialogues with the opinion leaders and the lawmakers to decode the particularities of the industry and to build a better image for the slots market. A higher transparency and an openness to communication represent the key to a perception in accordance with the reality of the gambling industry.
How does the Foundation of public interest influence the development of the ‚Responsible Gambling’?
Valentina Dobre, Vicepresident ROMSLOT: We support any initiative that comes to help the distressed players. We believe that the market needs unity in the responsible gambling area. Even though the goals of this Foundation overlap with the objectives of our progam, we can only be happy that our efforts are now supported at an institutional level. I can give you the example of Italy where they have a governmental program and one of the private companies. Their representatives that we met at the Bucharest last year international seminar on ‚GOOD PRACTICES IN APPROACHING THE PATHOLOGICAL GAMBLING’ assured us that they were working very well together.
„Responsible Gambling” has always been a priority for ROMSLOT and we will have the same opinion about it. The program is the evidence for a responsible industry, concerned about the gambling-related problems. Let’s not forget that, even since 2012, the ROMSLOT members have been financially supported the responsible gaming initiatives, without any legislative imposition.
We have invested in and permanently developed the ‚Responsible Gambling’ project, along with our partners, Romanian Bookmakers. In 2014, we consolidated the national coverage of the program by securing the area of Moldova and Transylvania. Two new practice offices in Cluj and Iasi joined the project. In other words, whoever crossed the entertainment line can schedule an appointment in Bucharest, and also in the other two cities. Moreover, we are proud about the best team of specialists in dealing with the gambling addiction issues, to which Dr. Cristian Andrei associated last year.
Is it difficult for a woman to manage one of the top gaming association and a successful business, which is 100% Romanian?
Gabriela Manu, President ROMSLOT: I have been working in this business for over 20 years and what I can say is that I had my share of prejudice at the beginning. In time, I have proved that it does not matter whether you are a man or a woman, but what matters is your dedication to your job. Now, the partners in this industry are calling me to ask for advice or to be notified about the recent legislation.
How is it to manage a company at an age when some people are starting their career?
Valentina Dobre, Vicepresident ROMSLOT: It is truly a challenge! After 10 years during which I succeeded to understand this business, the equivocation in the legal sector, I decided to attend the Law School, in order to have a first-hand knowledge. This is an industry that has stimulated me and made me be one step ahead and have a constant professional development.
When managing the largest slots operator in Romania, is being a woman an ace up the sleeve?
Gherghina Ionescu, Secretary ROMSLOT: Similar to any of the fields, the true advantage is being a good professional, but I believe that a female presence in the gambling industry can stand for a strong point for the general image of this market.