You have 28+ years of experience in casino operations and marketing. When you take a look back on your career in the sector, what would you say was your most valuable learning? Why did you decide to start teaching and sharing your experience with others?
There are many moments when I learned valuable things and many people that I learned from. If I would have to pick just one, I would say that my first visit to Las Vegas, in order to participate for the first time in a casino marketing conference, really changed my career. Not only that I met interesting people and I learned so much during and beside the conference, but I also had the chance to understand the true dimension of the casino industry and the value of marketing for casinos’ success. Therefore, on one hand, I decided to share my experience and knowledge because it’s my turn to offer as, at that time, it was my turn to benefit from the knowledge shared so generously by the experts. On the other hand, all my life, I strongly believed that we should never stop learning. I’m a trainer for a long time and I think that now, more than ever, we have to contribute to the teaching and learning process from both angles. In spite of the difficulties and suffering, we are going through a very interesting period and casino marketers should rise to the challenge.
What are the main challenges today for a land-based gaming operator, considering the COVID-19 situation worldwide? How is Romania in that regard?
I see a number of challenges, some originated outside the casino business and some from inside casinos. We are now facing constraints that one year ago we were not imagined as possible. Basically, we have constraints related to space, time and, most important, people. In Romania, for example, casino activity was suspended for over 7 months in the last year. In the periods when we could operate, we had to allow inside only a limited number of players, to change operating hours from 24/7 to only 15 hours per day -from 6:00 to 21:00- and to ensure social distance. In addition, we have seen that only some of the clients returned to the casinos, and also that some staff members are considering moving to jobs in other fields of activity, less impacted by the pandemic. On the other hand, a strong challenge is the mindset of people: clients, staff and managers as well. Some are still hoping and waiting for things to come back to the situation it used to be before the pandemic. This is stopping them to understand and adapt to the actual reality.
In recent years, there has been a renewal in terms of marketing strategies and ways to approach clients. What are the keys to attract new players and how do you use digital marketing in Game World Romania casino to achieve that goal?
I was inspired for my course by one of Pablo Picasso’s advice: ‘Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.’ I think casino marketers with solid understanding of basic principles will find what’s working now by looking at things from the players’ point of view. Are the new players using social media? Then, be visible and strategic on social media. Are they heavy users of their mobile phones? Then, think marketing as mobile first. In fewer words, I believe we should shift our marketing from ‘shouting’ advertising focused on persuading players to do what we think is good for them to offering more value first, deserving players’ trust and over deliver on our promises. Therefore, I think that for a strong casino brand, showing empathy and creating opportunities work better now than if we continue pushing offers and promotions designed in the casino management offices.
What were your expectations before your participation as coach on yesterday’s ‘Land-Based Casino Marketing’ course, part of the Gaming Operations Academy’s educational program?
I was very excited, as it is was my first participation as a trainer for the Gaming Operations Academy and the first course I delivered online to an international audience. I’m happy I was able to extract from my head and include in this 6-hour training the most valuable ideas and information I accumulated in over 10.000 days and nights I have spent in casinos and thousands of conversations I have had with players, managers and staff. Even more, I hope I have inspired the participants and make them see that this is the time of change and we, as casino marketers, should lead this change. The Academy has a full range of courses and workshops with very experienced trainers that cover the most important topics of the gaming business.
How do you foresee the future of convergence between land-based and iGaming sectors? Will brick-and-mortar’s operators be able to attract youngest generations of players with gaming and non-gaming proposals?
My view is that both land-based and online casinos will continue to grow, with oscillations and different paces over different periods. The pandemic negatively impacted land-based operators, but offered an unexpected opportunity to online sectors. In the same time, it was a trigger for land-based brands to go online, maybe faster that they initially planned to. The fundamentals will continue to be valid: land-based is mostly a social entertainment experience and online is mostly a convenient individual gaming experience. I see now young people coming to casinos as I see older people using mobile phones, social media and online gaming. My vision is that both sectors will continue to improve and innovate considering that, in the casino business, change has always been ‘the name of the game.’