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ATRONIC and SPIELO are now joined under one banner: SPIELO International. The new entity’s Chief Executive Officer Walter Bugno explained to Casino International what changes are coming
Acquisitions and mergers are common in business, usually with an eye trained firmly on the bottom line – but occasionally, a merger happens because two companies feel they can operate better, more effectively (and of course more efficiently) if they combine their strengths. SPIELO and ATRONIC have made this journey over the last two years, culminating in the unveiling of the new identity at this year’s Global Gaming Exhibition. Walter Bugno explains the why and how of the merger, and what it means for customers in future…
Casino International: Why have you merged these two companies?
Walter Bugno: It’s about trying to leverage scale by bringing together two organisations that were competing in the same marketplace, the broader gaming industry, with a focus on the machine and systems side of things, but in different segments: one company worked in the distributed gaming sector, the other in the commercial casino sector, each running effectively their own product range, technology platforms, content programs… The opportunity to bring them both together allows us to introduce best practices, to focus, and to effectively do more with the same.
CI: It’s taken two years to do this… Why does the process take so long?
WB: It takes a number of key approaches to integrate any organisation. You need a clear vision of what you’re trying to do and why you’re doing it, with the intention of making it a positive step. It requires focus, and that’s usually much easier for someone coming in from the outside like I did, because they are unbiased when it comes to choosing one of two brands, and one system or the other. When you have that clarity, you can start accelerating, which is what we have done in the last six or seven months. We’re already starting to see the benefits in the marketplace, and we’re making great strides.
CI: What did each brand bring to the new company, SPIELO International?
WB: We’re trying to bring to the fore each brand’s strength. Within these two businesses there were some very good processes; SPIELO is a world leader in distributed gaming, for example. It has proven over and over its ability to compete against significantly larger organisations, and succeed in that competition. It’s similar to ATRONIC, which as a business had been around for a number of years and carved out a strong and reliable position as a company that was adaptable and customisable in its solutions for customers. Bringing these together allows us to achieve a scale that the two businesses, as separate entities, were not able to do.
CI: What does the merging of ATRONIC and SPIELOmean for the customer?
WB: We’re saying to our customers that there really is no change; you’ll be speaking to the same person you were dealing with before, based in the same location, and you’ll be calling the same telephone number. Customers will experience indirect, yet significant, benefits as we progress through this period of change and build our capability – which is ongoing. They should see a faster, more responsive, more up-to-date, innovative company that can bring the best of what it does across a much broader organisation. We should be able, as I said before, to do more with the same; that’s what the customer will experience, and what they will feel.
CI: Has there been any ‘streamlining’? Has the company released any staff, with the company bringing two separate entities together?
WB: There are two purposes you can drive an integration process with: it might be about cost reduction. However, it might instead be about efficiency, improvement and leverage. The focus for us has been on the latter. The organisation has already experienced a number of major changes and continues to experience these shifts as we flow through the integration. The first change has been to remove duplication within the organisation. I don’t look at departments as such. I look at tasks, or projects. We had two different groups of people doing exactly the same thing in different parts of the world but perhaps for a different platform – but they were still doing the same thing. Our first goal was to eliminate duplication and bring everyone into a consistent and common framework. That released two things: cost, some of which we banked because it was from reduction of waste; and some we re-invested. And it’s also released resources. In most cases, we have redirected those resources so we can increase the number and quality of the things we are doing.
There’s no point hiding behind this – our organisation in the past few years, perhaps because of the limitations of each individual companies’ scale, might have been a little behind the pace when it came to technology development. In the last 18 months we have invested significantly to come back to a position of competitive relevance, and we’re now seeing that in our outcome. Our business and revenues are increasing, and we’re seeing results already.
CI: How does the new entity fit into the Lottomatica Group?
WB: The most important thing is that integration has clearly defined the new company’s responsibilities and its position within the Lottomatica Group. If you go back down the trail of how SPIELO and ATRONIC became part of the group, it started with the acquisition of SPIELO, then separately, the acquisition of ATRONIC, by GTECH, which was then acquired by Lottomatica. It was unclear where the business sat because Lottomatica was primarily a lottery business operator, and GTECH was primarily a lottery service provider – so where did this business fit? By bringing the two businesses of ATRONIC and SPIELO together and creating that new scale, we have created a business that has a sense of real purpose within the group – it represents the group’s Gaming Division, from which we operate and serve some of the existing customers. We also serve and market to customers outside of the traditional lottery business, like casino operators. And we bring immediate solutions to the table; for example, in Italy just over a year ago, through SPIELO’s capabilities, and through the first steps of integration with the combined SPIELO-ATRONIC library, we were the first into the new Italian VLT market in association with Lottomatica. We’ve created an identity and a purpose, which is why I describe SPIELO International as Lottomatica’s Gaming Division, and we have an identity in our own right now.
CI: Is this a complete sweep-out? Are the ATRONIC and SPIELO names gone forever under the banner SPIELO International?
WB: We don’t intend to remove the product brands; both SPIELO and ATRONIC brands will be retained in the marketplace. The creation of SPIELO International as our corporate identity was about giving a common, consistent name and identity to ourselves in the market. We’re like a Coca Cola, which has Coke, Fanta and Sprite – you have product brands, and those brands for us are SPIELO and ATRONIC.
CI: Is there going to be a merging of the two companies’ technologies? Presumably they each have differing strengths to bring to the merged company.
WB: Absolutely. We are moving to a common technology platform, for both software and hardware. We’ve already moved toward combining our cabinets — we have a new range that is basically 80 per cent common and 20 per cent customisation, depending on the country to which we’re marketing. The goal is to eliminate duplication, as I said before, yet to maintain specialisation and focus for each market or segment in that last 20 per cent.
CI: Is there a company credo, an ideal or defining ethos that sums up the new company’s approach?
WB: What we’ve said to our customers so far is that the biggest change they will see from this process – which, by the way, is a journey, a transformation, it doesn’t happen overnight – is that we are shifting from being a product-driven business to a content-driven business. By that, I mean that our success will be driven by the success of our games. Our major focus is to increase the emphasis on developing great content, with an innovative streak. The reason I say that is because we are up against some very large, successful organisations in the market, and sometimes to win you have to take a different approach – and that’s where innovation comes in.