➤ Gentlemen, let’s start by talking a bit about the appointment, somewhat surprising, of Mr. Dan Iliovici as ONJN president after a very active period – with highly visible projects and initiatives in the industry – when he held the position of senior vice president of Rombet. What is Rombet losing, what are ONJN and the industry gaining, in general?
(Dan Iliovici) D. I.
– Surprise but … not really! My work of collaboration was well known and closely linked to that of the Office – as being a part of the Advisory Board by ONJN, involving the colleagues and members of Rombet, up to other members of the industry: representatives of the authority, entrepreneurs, investors and profile associations. Inside the association, we always had actions that were either supported by ONJN or were aimed at making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the National Gambling Office: regulation, mediation or communication. I cannot begin this official mission without noticing the progress already made by ONJN since its establishment up until now. It managed to build, monitor and enforce a regulatory package at the highest European standards and to strengthen dialogue between the main “actors” in the gambling industry. It is an activity that compels me and drives me at the same time.
To answer your question more directly I hope that the National Office for Gambling gains,- through my experience and my energy-, more vitality, and the possibility to transform itself – even more – in a support platform for the industry and to serve equally the entrepreneurs and the player, the common citizen. Because it represents, in a key phrase, the ultimate aim of this institution.
(Dan Ghiță) D. G.
– Mr. Dan Iliovici’s departure is a loss for Rombet, I must confess. But it is not a common “departure”… Being the president of ONJN is a big win for us all. We all know the dedication of Mr.Iliovici to the industry, we are aware of how he always managed to bring out the best of this field and I always appreciated at the industry level, the balance that he enforced by his actions and overall activity. Our association lost a first-vice president and a pillar, but the industry gets extra force and natural continuation, strengthening its institutional team.
It’s very important to know that an institution of big significance for the industry the National Office for Gambling – receives a positive contribution by having Mr. Iliovici at its helm: it often happens in state institutions, that the process of continuity to suffer. Another vision, another team, other characters. Personally – and I think speak for members that Rombet represents – I believe that Mr.Iliovici will use this opportunity to put his mark on the yet young history of this field, through his dynamic and his openness, by trenchant dialogue which he manifested during the public debates, and his strong character, suited to our industry.
(Anchidim Zăgrean) A.Z.
– Any new beginning requires construction work. Three years ago, when we started the work in this association which we have built from just an idea, that is why now I believe that, by taking office as President of ONJN, Mr. Iliovici begins a new stage, both for Rombet as well as for the Office. I can safely say that the mandate of Mr. Iliovici is, after all, a natural continuation of his efforts over time to support and help develop the industry. This is the new stage of the Office, with new leadership and a new conception. Regarding Rombet, I think our association is entering a new phase too: we fought so far with some obstacles and barriers which we ourselves have built, those in the industry. I exceeded this threshold; now we have to sit and have a common dialogue and strengthen the industry, to communicate more vigorously and transparently and show to state institutions, and to the public that we are a reliable partner with vision and attached to common values of European countries.
➤ How did you think to mark this new beginning? What concrete plans do you have?
– I think the industry is going through a period of consolidation.
Rombet is approached by more and more foreign operators, interested in the Romanian market.
It is a sign that things are moving in a very good direction. It’s very important to see how the industry grow and at what pace, to not find ourselves in a „bubble”, as it happened in other sectors, for example real estate … Gambling is nowadays in a global expansion, both due to technological innovation, but also because the world – players and observers alike – understands that this is entertainment. In Romania, we’re still working on the mentality and perception. It seems an endless effort, but we cannot deny that things have changed a lot from this point of view. And here I think it is the merit of ONJN, which always positioned itself as a partner of the gambling industry which supports this area, not only regulates, monitors and controls it. We in the Association, will focus heavily on conveying this type of message, which offers the safety threshold that international operators operators are waiting for: coherence, transparency, communication and discipline. Any of these factors once negatively affected, creates an imbalance that discourages investors.
– Of course, the National Gambling Office will make every effort to support a unified vision, aimed at strengthening both the businesses in themselves and the public perception of our industry.
Ever since I started working in the field and knowing the facts, I began – with gestures seemingly „small” at the time – to try to change something. To send another kind of message. To combat defamation and false or speculative information, which significantly harm the society in general, not just the gambling industry. Since the early days when I took office ( March 23), I wanted to know closely all the departments of the Office, to talk with colleagues, to find out their ideas and to feel the „pulse”. I was glad to take the first steps in establishing stronger links with the colleagues so that we can build new stages of performance, to maintains the industry united and ensure long-term predictability. If you ask any Romanian entrepreneur, they will tell you that they always have concerns about the future, because they are not provided with a predictable environment.
I will try, both during my mandate as president of ONJN, and in all my work in the field of gambling, to ensure a stable business environment, transparent and fairly regulated.
– Following the same idea, I would also say that Rombet’s work contributed to generating a more balanced context. Nowadays, there are standards, there are best practices, there are responsible gambling programs, there are open debates as honest and transparent as possible. If we go back in time 10 years, it’s impossible not to realize how much we have advanced, but also how much we have to do in order to align the market in Romania with what happens in the West. Our legislation is now one of the best in Europe – operators were able to „intervene” in its development, either directly or through associations or direct meetings with the legislature. If we look at how the business environment has agreed to build and enforce the law, we can safely say that we have begun the maturation process of the gambling market in Romania.
Rombet will start to make a more granular effort- we will have a closer and more direct connection with operators across the country through our seminars already known to them – a dialogue that we will further expand in all regions. We would be happy to coordinate with ONJN in this effort, in order to change the paradigm according to which „everything happens in Bucharest” …
– … sure you do. The construction process must go beyond „complaints” and enter the stage of intensive collaboration in which we must „absorb” – each institution to the extent possible and legal mandates – information and good practices, and then to send to operators, to all involved: operators, employees, partners, opinion leaders etc. in the form of an educational process. Nothing can be done without education, starting with the player up until the operator with the highest turnover.
Our industry has gone through many difficult times. We had and still have an image problem, which is not too good, primarily because of prejudice. Then it had, and still has to suffer because of inconsistent application of regulations. I wish the Office to participate, within the legal framework, in seminars organized by industry associations around the country, to disseminate information and know-how collected at industry events, to continue to maintain a policy of balance and openness which I personally am very fond of.
➤ Where do you see the gambling industry in Romania in four years from now?
– Technological progress is amazing: every international fair that I attend I observe innovations and important steps towards massive digitization of the industry. I think it is both a result of the desire for efficiency, but also of the extraordinary diversification.
Digital platforms offer infinite possibilities for customization, change is happening instantly, all in pursuit of a better gaming experience of the user.
In what the office is concerned, we will explore these new directions of development of the industry and we will do our best as for regulations to keep up with industry news.
– Competition is fierce: actually, land-based games also are currently an extension of the online community. They are based on game platforms customized on real-time, controlled and managed online. The terminal is also a computer, so the dominance of online community will be huge. Then we have to consider advertising and related activities: they „feed” and support the industry.
A seeming chaos in one of these areas could affect the gambling industry. With the rise of online gambling, I think it will be very interesting to see how this branch will interact with virtual reality technology. The steps taken lately are considerable but although programmers’ imagination knows no boundaries, development is delayed by hardware progress. I expect Romania to be a country of… contrasts also in the gambling field: we have world-renowned developers and I would not be surprised to see how a Romanian virtual reality start-up develops and soon becomes a dominant player in this niche. Of course, it is a „niche” for now, because in four years from now, things will experience a completely different dimension: we already see how virtual reality applications are beginning to make an appearance in almost all service industries and in sales or distribution of consumer goods.