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Walter Bugno has overseen the merger of Atronic and Spielo to create Spielo International, and is now combining it with GTECH G2 to bring an exciting multi-channel content provider to the industry. Casino International caught up with Walter at the ICE show in London…
A year is a long time in gaming, as the industry is simply never still, and with ‘convergence’ a keyword for many at recent exhibitions things seem to be moving faster than ever. The companies that know their relative weakness and work with partners who have complementary strengths will thrive in the new multi-platform gaming environment; those that fail to understand the changing nature of gaming risk being left behind.
Overseeing Spielo International’s drive into new waters is Walter Bugno, who shared his thoughts with Casino International at ICE 2012.
Casino International: Since the last time we spoke – just prior to the official unveiling of the company’s new identity at G2E Vegas – has there been any further streamlining or operational changes for Spielo International?
Walter Bugno: When we brought together the two businesses, stepping back in time, we brought them together to do two things. One was to leverage the capabilities and skills that the Spielo and Atronic teams had, bringing them together for a common purpose; the second thing was to transform that common purpose into acceleration of innovation and growth. They were our two primary objectives. The resultant 12 months after that saw some fabulous success stories – doubling our profitability, securing new markets and customers, the ramp-up and launch of new games, the improvement in performance of existing core games, - 2011 was a very good year for us. The reason we can’t stay static is because the market is never static, and our competitors are never static. Economic conditions make it so that different priorities go to the top of the list at different times of the life cycle of a business. Right now those priorities are online gaming and VLTs.
That’s what is hot in the market right now. VLTs are a source of revenue for governments and online is bringing the next generation of players into the gaming world. Furthermore the opportunity of combining offerings between land-based and online as well as the regulatory changes that are happening. As Lottomatica Group we looked at how to best take advantage, play and grasp opportunity in these current conditions. That was when the decision was made to bring Spielo International and GTECH G2 together into a unified business across all gaming segments and channels. At ICE 2012, we are representing our combined portfolios, demonstrating how online and land-based gaming can mutually generate traffic and attract new players. For example, we´re showing our first common game Book Of The Sphinx TM, which is the first game that encompasses our vision to have players be able to play anytime, anywhere and on anything.
CI: Has the job lived up to your expectations? What were they, before you joined the gaming industry?
WB: Well, I’m not new to the industry – though I might be new to the supplier side of the industry! From 2006 to 2009, I was the CEO, Casinos, for Tabcorp Holdings Limited, Australia’s premier gambling and entertainment group. Expectations? I feel we have met expectations as we continue to grow the business. Twelve months into the journey, we started floating the idea of convergence, and the best way for us to play in that space is to bring our businesses together between land-based and online. This part of the business, the gaming division, will be a significant growth driver for Lottomatica on an ongoing basis. My personal expectations? We set a fiver-year task internally and we think we will deliver it next year, which is two years ahead of plan.
CI: Where do you see Spielo International in the medium- and long-term? What is the path to take you there?
WB: We – as an integrated company – want to be seen as a consistent, reliable innovative supplier of solutions and content to the market. It’s not about grandeur or size, or being number one. We recognise there are players bigger than us, or that have entrenched positions in various markets or geographies. We can peel the onion back as much as anyone else can and say that in some microcosm of a much larger industry, we’re number one! But that doesn’t mean anything. What we want to do is run the 100 metres faster every time we’re on the track. So this year better than last, next year better than this. How we are rewarded is by being able to set new targets and new records year after year, so it’s up to us to structure the business accordingly.
CI: What are the company’s plans to increase its online presence as a game content provider? What’s the online strategy?
WB: Our online strategy has changed significantly as we are integrating with GTECH G2. On the G2 side, we are one of the B2B platforms on which people base their online operations. As we are combining the businesses we can approach B2C operators with a package of content and a game management system with the ability to integrate across platforms and distribution channels, so it’s a very positive enhancement to our position in the marketplace. The unification of the two groups will enable us to deliver more content and better technology combined with a faster time-to-market across all channels. But beyond that, I’ve been consistent since the day I started in saying that slot manufacturers, if they continue to call themselves slot manufacturers, will be losers in the marketplace. If we change our mentality to being content providers, and have the flexibility and agility to go across platforms, across suppliers, across channels, suddenly the market opens up in a different way. We can all develop great content, we just don’t always have the means to get access to everything; as a sole provider, you can never get access to everything, so you have to learn to play in the sandbox with the other kids. We’ve been a strong proponent of that and we’re starting to see that happen more and more, where people are willing to sit down and talk about doing things together; I am 100 per cent in favour of that.
CI: Presumably the attitude of being a content provider is going to change the direction of your R&D focus? Is becoming a multi-channel provider a direction you’re going to head in?
WB: Absolutely. For us – in the most simplistic terms – what we have defined as our internal mission statement, is: ‘more people playing our games than ever before, anywhere, any time, on any thing’. What this communicates is that it’s a focus on the end user, the players –and what do they play? They play games! So we want more people playing our games across channels and applications, it talks about a seamless experience for the player to be able to move from playing a game in a casino while they’re out with friends, socialising, then they go home and can continue playing the same game, perhaps even on the same jackpot. Or, as we launch episodic gaming, being able to continue playing the actual game you were playing in the casino, where you reached a certain level – and picking it up from that point at home. The interesting challenge is, it will open our market up to a whole array of new competition. Suddenly, it’s not about being closed by technology, it’s about being opened by creativity.
CI: Convergence is a key term for many companies in the industry now…
WB: The market today says, if you’re not willing to talk to someone else, chances are someone else is, and you’ll be overtaken. There are too many applications, potential channels and opportunities for you to be able to develop core capability in every one of them, Unless you’re open to key alliances and learning all the way, you’re not going to win anything. If you’re a rigid supplier or manufacturer, you might remain successful… you might not.
I always say there’s a company that used to make the best steam trains in the world. That was their mission statement; and to the day they closed their doors, they were indeed the number one steam train manufacturer in the world, but they only made one a year.