Talking to representatives of the international gambling world about the post-Covid era and what can be done in the new normalcy

André Wilsenach
Senior Vice President Government Relations, BMM International

André Wilsenach

➤ How do you see the land-based gambling in the post covid era?
I think a certain portion of people is likely to behave in same way they behaved during the pandemic by staying away. However, the largest segment of the gambling population will return as soon as they feel adequately protected and safe in the casinos. The extent to which the situation normalises will depend on the ability of the operators to establish a safe gaming and entertainment environment. I also think that we are likely to see changes in technology to facilitate cashless gaming.

➤ What should do the operators in order to secure their business?
The ideal solution is to enable customers to gamble of the land-based properties to gamble online. If one looks at the experiences of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where gambling operators have been allowed to offer their games through both the off and online channels, i) new customers who have never gambled before were added as it suited the younger players; ii) existing customers who have gambled only offline also registered to gamble online; iii) the average spending of existing customers who have registered to play online have increased; iv) new customers who registered online for the first time visited the casino, which they’ve never done before; v) illegal online gambling activities have reduced.

➤ Can marketing be a solution to improve the traditional gambling activity?
Again, ideally, the online channel should be part of the marketing solution. You may have seen the article about the role that online gaming is playing in providing ’the path back’ for offline casinos – https://www.cdcgamingreports.com/the-path-back-igaming-gaining-favor-among-players-lawmakers/ – where one of the experts is quoted saying “…..online gaming is the biggest growth opportunity for casinos. Operators should establish an online presence even in states without mobile sports wagering or iGaming, he advised, because offering play-money games helps casino extend their relationship with customers.” This confirms the point that by providing an online channel for customers to a casino could serve as vehicle for marketing the casino’s online and offline products.

Arjan Korstjens
Founder of ExPlayner

Arjan Korstjens

➤ Land-based gaming post Covid & Do to secure their business:
Our product is of all times and under all circumstances, so there will always be a demand. Operators (and governments) should realize that and also see that our product offers people a temporary escape from their (new) daily life. People are already so limited in what they can do. Travel will for a long time to come not be the same anymore, out of home entertainment will be limited, both in what is offered and in size. So allowing people to spend ‘time away in their mind’ is a good things, as long it is done responsible. Escaping reality for a couple of moments can work in a positive way for everybody. Besides our responsibility to stop the spread of the virus by cleaning our equipment, creating social distance and other safety measures around physical health we should also (be forced to) provide an improved mental health environment. So taking care for each other should not stop with a hand sanitizer or mouth mask, our responsible gaming efforts should be tripled as well. We want to offer a place for escape, but make sure nobody gets lost.

➤ Can marketing improve gaming activity (remember you are asking a marketer?)
First thing (most) marketers have to do is repair their enormous flaw that became visible during the first lockdown: get your guests contact details. Most casinos I saw could not communicate with their regular customers from the moment hey had to close the doors. Let’s try to avoid that in the future. Secondly every promotional strategy has to be rewritten. In order to start our growth again we have to start working with segmented Marketing. Now our budgets will be limited we can only afford promotions that know a positive return on investment. This is not very difficult, but requires a different kind of thinking that is not common in our industry. Analyze your customer database and create segmented promotions targeted at smaller target groups. Change from shooting with hail (give away a car) to shooting with bullets.

Zoran Puhač
Secretary General of the European Organization for Gaming Law

Zoran Puhač

➤ How do you see the land-based gambling in the post covid era?
No matter of continuously increasing number of mobile and internet users, i am sure land-based premises will survive in next decade. In this very moment, nobody knows exactly when the post covid era will come. Long term planing should find and take continuous measures to make safe environment during and after covid era with two aims – to protect players and to protect employees. Of course, organizers must fulfill conditions requested by authorities, but the feeling of safe environment in premises is the key for land-based organizers, especially for casinos.

➤ What should do the operators in order to secure their business?
Beside a creation of really safe environment, operators could think about redefinition of their premises strategy and to give up of some unperspective premises (making analysis from various angles). It would decrease expenses nowadays and prepare company for improvement in post covid era. Also, nowadays is a time to dedicate most of creativity to innovations for post covid era – all kind of innovations – new offers, new games, new services …

➤ Can marketing be a solution to improve the traditional gambling activity?
Marketing by itself can not be a solution, only a very helpful tool. There is a general rule, smart companies do not decrease marketing activities in a time of crisis, less smart usually do, even stop such activities, and by the rule – they are wrong. Also, for a middle and long term, you must have a reliable offer or / and product for successful marketing. So, marketing activities should continue during covid era and post covid era, but it should be done wisely – because of specific business and situation – marketing activities should take care about legal limitation and additionally, about public opinion and attitude (very important in the time of crisis and post crisis).

Hrvoje Vincetić
Managing Director, Casino Adriatic

Hrvoje Vincetić

➤ How do you see the land-based gambling in the post covid era?
The land based business in post covid era should be based on poker business because I see it the only way to survive. A number of poker players are still players of traditional land based games as AR, BJ and UTH but one have to find a way to get them to the casino. Poker tournaments and cash game events are the perfect/the only way to get them on the floor.

➤ What should do the operators in order to secure their business?
Everybody should focus on the international market. No way to survive on local market, particularly in a small country as Croatia. Making deals with tourist hotels in surroundings to get their guests inside casino. Promotions, free this and that for the clients, top service, new approach (excellent casino hosts working on percentage basis to attract new clients) would be a sole solution. Who waits and hopes the clients will come by themselves – he looses.

➤ Can marketing be a solution to improve the traditional gambling activity?
Marketing in traditional sense – hardly. The marketing department should focus on quality events, not just mass. That’s a problem because traditional marketing depts do not understand they have to change approach. Simple open events (miss election, China New Year, concerts in casino etc) simply do not attract quality clients but an average Joe who spends 10 € promo chip and that’s it. They should target higher quality tourists, business events in the city, financial conferences, travel agencies, high class hotels and their clients. The time when good clients rushed for the casino are over, we’ll never see it again. Anyone have to fight for every good client and offer an excellent service once you got him inside casino.

Jan Řehola
Associate lawyer with PS Legal

➤ How do you see the land-based gambling in the post covid era?
Land-based gambling has already been coexisting for some time together with its online younger brother. From the beginning, this relationship has been complicated, and land-based casinos were looking at their younger brother (online gambling) with fear. Both channels have seen each other as competitors. I think that, from what we see now, online gambling is clearly not here to replace traditional land-based format of games of chance. There would always be players willing to feel thrill of playing live roulette or card game in physical casino premises and who would enjoy real live interaction with other players and croupiers. Covid era gives the biggest evidence for this statement to my understanding. During the closure of land-based gambling venues, incomes of online casino operators increased, but not as significantly as one would expect. After reopening of physical casinos, the revenue of land-based operators nearly reached the pre-Covid era and in some cases, it is now even bigger, regardless of the economic uncertainty that we are now experiencing. Land-based gambling would stay here definitely, even in the post-Covid era.

➤ What should do the operators in order to secure their business?
They should capitalize from interpersonal relationships and personal ties they could establish with their customers. This is something that is much more complicated in the online world. They should offer something that online players cannot experience in the isolated and cold world of online gambling.

➤ Can marketing be a solution to improve the traditional gambling activity?
Definitely. Today, marketing is the key tool for a successful operation. Marketing and a personal bonus loyalty system is a big advantage that land-based industry has against its online colleagues and they should make more use of it.

Talking to representatives of the international gambling world about the post-Covid era and what can be done in the new normalcy