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CASINO Media for owners and management of international casinos

Issue 05

UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL EDITION

Hippodrome

Ready for the future


WHERE THE GLOBAL GAMING INDUSTRY COMES TOGETHER Reunite with the global gaming industry at Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Set in Las Vegas, the heart of gaming, G2E is the premier event for commercial and tribal gaming professionals to reconnect, discover cutting-edge technology, and experience innovative content. Whether in-person or virtually, October 4-7, 2021 (Education: October 4-7 | Expo Hall: October 5-7) will be when G2E unites the community that is shaping the future of gaming.

2021

PRE-REGISTER TODAY AT: GLOBALGAMINGEXPO.COM EDUCATION OCTOBER 4-7 EXPO HALL OCTOBER 5-7 SANDS EXPO, LAS VEGAS

PRESENTED BY:


Editor’s Note

Published by Outsource Digital Media Ltd

Editorial: Editor Lyudmyla Kyrychenko lyudmyla.kyrychenko@outsourcedigitalmedia.com Associate Editor Eastern Europe: Aydin Guney aydin.guney@outsourcedigitalmedia.com

Welcome to Casino Life Ukraine! On a scorching summer’s day, I had the privilege to visit the amazing

Hippodrome Casino as a guest of Simon Thomas. I had the chance to tour

this historic venue, ate a

superb meal at the Helios

Restaurant, tried my luck on the roulette tables and then experienced the amazing

International Editor: Victor Royer victor.royer@outsourcedigitalmedia.com Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey bill@outsourcedigitalmedia.com

Magic Mike Show and

“bottomless” prosecco.

I thought the heat was outside, but when I got in I understood

the heat was from the Hippodrome atmosphere, with a very

welcoming team, an amazing Las Vegas-style sound, light and

skilful dancing males show. I left the Hippodrome that evening with a big smile on my face!

In spite of the challenges we are all dealing with, the Gaming

Industry Expo was able to go ahead in Kyiv during June. This was

Associate Editor North America: David McKee david@outsourcedigitalmedia.com

Production: Designer: Stewart Hyde stewart@totaldesignworks.com www.totaldesignworks.com

a great success for Casino Life Ukraine and we would like to thank those who attended our booth. I am looking forward to attending a number of exhibitions in Kyiv by the end of the year, as well as

visiting casinos such as Billionaire Casino, Shangri La and Casino First.

I wish all our readers an enjoyable summer and look forward to

meeting many of you later in the year in Kyiv. Enjoy your reading and see you soon!

I hope you enjoy this packed edition as much as the

Subscriptions: Helen Holmes accounts@outsourcedigitalmedia.com Web: Pasha Kuzminskiy pasha.kuz@gmail.com Publisher: Peter White Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714 peter@outsourcedigitalmedia.com Issue 05

contributors and if you feel

you have a story to tell us, feel

CASINO Media for owners and management of international casinos

Issue 05

UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL EDITION

free to get in contact with me by email:

lyudmyla.kyrychenko@

outsourcedigitalmedia.com

Lyudmyla

Editor, Lyudmyla Kyrychenko

The re-opening of the Hippodrome after lockdown The re-opening of the Hippodrome after lockdown ended 3


CASINO UKRAINE

Media for owners and management of international casinos

INTERNATIONAL EDITION

Contents 22

3

Editor’s Welcome

5 Guest Comment Michael Boettcher, Founder & President of Storm International 6 News 7 Taxes for Gambling Business – the State Takes Important Steps By Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council 10 Partners in Growth Shvets Oleksii, Co-owner of Premier Gambling Management chats with Lyudmyla Kyrychenko

10

7

15 Ghana’s Gaming Market Report by Oleg Usenko 22 Vacation Destination: Casino de Vigo Casino Life Ukraine Interview with José Afonso, Casino Manager, Casino de Vigo 27 Hottest place in London: Hippodrome Casino Interview with Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome Casino, London 35 How to Maximize Your Slot Performance without Breaking the Bank By: Andrew Cosgrove 39 Scientific Games Announcement 42 Gaming Industry Expo Review Editorial Policy: The views and opinions expressed in Casino Life Ukraine remain principally the views of contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and, whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or omissions, however caused.

27 4

Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s written consent. Printed in the UK by Severn Print.

www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Guest Comment: Michael Boettcher

Guest Comment: Michael Boettcher A s we move into the fourth month of doing business in Ukraine, we can announce the first results of the work. Shangri La is the first foreign-licensed casino in Ukraine and we are pleased to announce that our brand remains the market leader not only in registration primacy, but also in high-class service standards. As a foreign business, it was very difficult for us to enter the market, since many aspects of the legalization of the gambling business were not taken into account or not fully resolved, despite the tremendous work done by the government and mainly reasonable solutions. Thanks to our 30 years of experience in the gambling market, we were able to find the best casino premises, make high-quality renovations, recruit and train almost 400 people and successfully open the doors of Shangri La casino in May 2021. Despite the shortcomings in the area of taxation,

we are optimistic about the future. Gradually, the process is on the way. For example, in the first reading, amendments were adopted regarding the tax on winnings for foreigners. But all the same there are still enough points that need to be changed in tax legislation. We are glad that there is a gambling commission that listens to the expert opinion of business and strives to work for the good of the country, because the development of the gambling business will bring additional foreign investment and stable tax payments. We believe that the authorities will have enough political will to bring what they have promised to the end and to normalize the work of casinos in Ukraine. We see the potential of the market and the interest of players, as they want a safe and comfortable atmosphere in the casino where they can have fun, play, participate in promotions and receive pleasant bonuses in the form of a motorcycle or a car. Issue 05

Michael Boettcher, Founder & President of Storm International

We are ready for new projects and are already developing our network of slot machine halls “Slots City.” At the moment we have seven locations throughout Ukraine, and we are ready to invest even more but within a favorable not overregulated environment for business development. And other international companies are interested in coming to Ukraine but will wait to see if this is a stable or unstable environment in which to work. It is therefore essential to fight out shadow business and change taxation on winnings. 5


News: VBET

VBET has become the Title Partner of the Ukrainian Football Cup

V

BET, a global betting and gambling operator, has become the title partner of the Ukrainian Football Cup, as it is announced on the Ukrainian Association of Football website. During the three-season cooperation, the partners

will focus their efforts on the development of the Cup and Ukrainian football in general. “The Cup of Ukraine is a national tournament that allows small towns and villages to experience football of the highest level, and local residents – to see with their own eyes the top Ukrainian teams that play in the European arena and which include players of the Ukraine national team,” commented Anton Svitlychny, head of VBET Ukraine Partnership Development. “Our company is proud of the new partnership and approached it responsibly: Together with UAF we present a new logo and corporate style of the Cup of Ukraine, which will symbolize a new stage of development of this tournament. We are confident that this and upcoming seasons we will see a fierce intrigue at every stage of the Cup and as many memorable matches as possible.” “We are extremely pleased to welcome the new title partner of the Ukrainian Football Cup – VBET. This 6

partnership adds even more status and opportunities to the country’s most important and unpredictable cup tournament,” said the first vice president of UAF, Oleg Protasov. “The new modernized logos and graphic stylistics of the competition emphasize the dynamics of its

development. We are convinced that the partnership between UAF and VBET for the development of the Cup of Ukraine will make the tournament even brighter and more exciting. We wish all participants to play to the maximum in the fight for the coveted trophy! ” VBET had previously become the title partner of the Ukrainian Premier League and the Super Cup, as well as the partner of UPL club FC Oleksandriya. With 18 years of experience in the industry and being powered by the BetConstruct software provider, VBET arrives with a vast variety of casino games and poker tournaments for Ukrainian customers, as well as new products which will be coming soon. VBET’s entrance into the regulated Ukrainian market is an important step on the path to increasing its global presence. Also, the award-winning global brand is the proud sponsor of AC Monaco, Alliance Cybersport organisation, Portsmouth FC, and other sport teams and competitions. www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Anton Kuchukhidze

Taxes for Gambling Business – the State Takes Important Steps Casino Life talks to Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council

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or almost a year, the gambling business in Ukraine and the West was expecting progress on the taxation issues, and it finally happened. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supported draft law 2713-d in the first reading. The law is aimed at regulating taxation of the gambling sector in Ukraine, as well as making it predictable for Western investors. The lack of the final tax rates makes the reform incomplete but now there are reasons for positive expectations. Even before the voting itself, the Ukrainian Gambling Council supported the amended draft law 2713-d. In our statement, we underlined that the major benefits of the draft law are the following provisions: 1. Ten percent GGR rate for all types of gambling and the introduction of the concept of differentiation in the calculation of this tax; 2. taxation of only those winnings exceeding eight times the minimum wage; 3. the cancellation of the triple license fees for the relevant gambling segments, including a crucial point: All triple license fees already paid will be converted into future annual license fees; and 4. the Committee on Finance, Taxation and Customs Policy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine requested the National Bank of Ukraine to review the maximum amount of cash settlements with individuals for land-based casinos.

Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council Issue 05

Today, within UGC we started a dialogue between our operators on whether the law should be improved or remain unamended. UGC operators are still forming 7


Feature: Anton Kuchukhidze

Parliament of Ukraine

their position since they take this draft law very seriously. Revision of any draft law can be a never-ending process, but I would like to appreciate the work of the authorities and the ruling faction. Finally, there are no manipulations regarding this draft law in the Parliament at the professional level. The members of Parliament demonstrated their will to increase

both legal revenues to the budget and investment inflow, as it became clear what exactly the Western gambling giants have been waiting for. Such an environment in the Parliament will definitely contribute to the finalization of this reform in the autumn and the gambling sector will finally receive clear rules of the game. The approval of the draft law in the first reading is a signal for Western companies to start active preparations for entering the Ukrainian market. We can confidently say that the reform wasn’t only launched but is also developing. I communicate a lot with many foreign companies, and they often ask me a very simple question: Will local operators interfere with the entry of foreign companies into the Ukrainian market? The question is completely logical, considering how much money investors spend to start a gambling business in Ukraine. 8

I can’t speak for everyone and on behalf of the entire market – I can only speak for the UGC operators. All our members are positive about this issue and stand for free and fair competition. Here are some examples: • one of the UGC operators believes that there should be at least four to five large casinos in Kyiv, and • another UGC member wants Ukraine to become the major gambling hub in Central and Eastern Europe.

It is obvious that the abovementioned inspirations are pointless without increasing foreign investments in our country. Thus, don’t believe fake news: Ukraine as a state, and its local business, supports the increase of the gambling market through the attraction of Western investments since it’s a win-win for everyone. The opening and launch of the gambling business took place largely at the expense of local investors, but now it is time for the next wave of the gambling boom. The state looks forward to that realizing that only foreign investors can ensure it.

www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


The Best isn’t Just It’s

Back

Better… Захоплюючі ігри, високі ставки, великі виграші — це те, за що вaаші клієнти люблять і пам’ятають IGT. На честь відродження ігрової індустрії в Україні IGT пропонує нові продукти — кращі за все, що було досі: • Нові ігрові автомати з імерсивною HD-графікою PeakSlant32™ • Гнучкі пакети USwitch™ Multi-Game • Мережеві прогресивні джекпоти Blazin’ Flames™

З нетерпінням чекаємо на вас Відскануйте QR-код або зверніться за додатковою інформацією: Lasha.Gogiberidze@IGT.com +38 (050) 446-65-82 ©2021 IGT The trademarks and/or service marks used herein are either trademarks or registered trademarks of IGT, its affiliates or its licensors. Artwork, descriptions, game play, photographs, videos, and other product details depicted are subject to change.

The Best is Back


Feature: Premier Gambling Management

Co-Owner, Shvets Oleksii 10

www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Premier Gambling Management

Partners in Growth Shvets Oleksii, Co-Owner, Premier Gambling Management, chats with Lyudmyla Kyrychenko

C

ould we start with a brief description of Premier Gambling Management? Premier Gambling Management is a gambling marketing consulting partner for local and international partners wishing to unlock and foster the potential of gambling in the Ukrainian market. Our mission is to create an innovative gambling culture that contributes to the philosophy of the ethical entertainment industry, in accordance with all legislative principles and innovative solutions. Our company provides knowledge, consulting, training, manpower issues and operational management to partners and investors engaged in recruiting opportunities in the Ukrainian market. PGM is a company of more that 150 professionals that has been operating locally and internationally for more than 15 years. How have the new casinos in Ukraine coped gaining trained staff to work in their casinos? Yesterday, the training and manpower issues were carried out by local forces of the casinos on their premises. Such a framework, with fully operating enterprise, is rather inconvenient and has been justified only at the launch stage, when the equipment, rooming and coaching staff are not involved in the game process. After the launch, the costs of staff training increase significantly. Today, the training and manpower takes place only once the institution is looking for current staff. Young people who decide to start their professional career in gambling have to look forward to an opportunity rather than make a decision on their own. The presence of permanently functioning training centers on the labor market would allow young people to receive vocational training without reference to the seasonality and randomness of opening new institutions. Issue 05

What plans and aspirations do you have for PGM? After being generally prohibited for more than a decade, a potential billion-dollar gaming market is restarting in Ukraine. The new gaming law, which entered into force in August 2020, now permits casinos (physical and virtual), slot machine halls, betting (except regarding virtual sports and virtual events), and online poker games. Knowing the market and having been working in the industry for over 15 years, PGM provides a 360-degree counselling ecosystem starting at the very beginning of the pipeline and supports partners further on providing marketing and strategic research, forecasting trends and fluctuations of the market, helping establish collaborative and effective governmental relations, and further operational management etc. PGM is not a service company but a general ecosystem tool to enter the Ukrainian market and mainly focuses on building a great investment market, transparent and smooth for investors and partners. We provide services for marketing and strategy, governmental relations, legislative counseling, establishment of business, operations and managment, manpower issues and training, operations management innovation, a gambling academy and gambling tourism. Currently PGM is in the process of ongoing collaboration with the state gambling regulatory body in Ukraine, KRAIL, supporting and launching the gaming industry employers’ association and trade union. Joint activities are underway to create professions (classifier of professions) in the gaming industry and further define the requirements for them. The establishment of an international gambling academy to train new specialists, confirm and improve the qualifications of personnel is taking place now. Another potential area is gambling tourism which is 11


Feature: Premier Gambling Management counsellor. Legislation changes like the weather. Operators are required to obtain a license from the Gaming and Lottery Commission. License fees for physical casinos vary by location, with fees lower for casinos located outside the capital, Kyiv. License fees for slot machine halls, betting and online activities are fixed regardless of location. In addition, investors may obtain a free, 10-year investment license, which includes permission to conduct physical games in casinos, if they construct a five-star hotel with no fewer than 200 rooms (in Kyiv) or 150 rooms (outside Kyiv). There are additional challenges brought by the pandemic of 2020, with borders closing, low margins, and the lack of experience for the previous 12 years that resulted in a deficit of interest for international visitors. A lot of marketing has to be done to promote the industry. Are casinos seeing any changes with player preferences? Are slot machines remaining more popular than table games and how are multiplayer roulettes performing? Now the Ukrainian market is at the stage of formation, for example, the American model assumes a larger number of slot machines and the Asian model has a larger number of gaming tables. And how the Ukrainian market will be formed, this question can be more or less accurately answered no earlier than in a year in our opinion. Co-Owner, Igor Zelenskyy

undertaken by PGM’s Premier Travel department. We work with the National Sports Poker Federation, the UA.Million poker series and land-based casinos. Give us three reasons why a manufacturer supplier looking to supply into Ukraine should work with your organisation? We don’t not work as distributors, and are not looking forward to being one, nevertheless we are working on developing new products ourselves and would love to share our distribution ecosystem with partners and friends. Also we are happy to provide SaaS. Have you found since casinos have reopened any changes in visiting habits? Do they now come in later in the day or earlier than before? The situation is unstable and requires a national 12

Tell us about some of your projects and what they have involved? Our company is currently carrying out several projects. One is the first investment project in Ukraine, is the building of a five-star hotel complex with a total of 330 rooms. The opening is scheduled for January 2022. We are currently implementing a project in Asia, where we will implement the American-Singaporean model “all under one roof” integrated resort model. Where do you see the future of the land-based casino industry in Ukraine if the taxes and hotel charges remain at the current level? PGM sees great potential and proclaims time for investors opportunities in diverse markets such as new integrated resort models. PGM supports licensing and commissioning incoming tourism. Physical casinos and slot machine halls generally www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Premier Gambling Management must be located within four- or five-star hotels. The government determines the star rating for Ukrainian hotels, and may also designate special gaming zones in the future. To obtain a license, there are certain other requirements for gaming operators. Operators of online activities will be able to accept bets from players located within and outside Ukraine, although the online systems for such games (e.g., servers and other equipment) must be located within Ukraine. Bets and pay-outs must be made only in the national currency, Ukrainian Hryvnia / UAH. Casinos and slot machine halls are required to maintain certain numbers of tables and slot machines, respectively, and all online casinos, poker games and bets must be conducted through a Ukrainian domain (i.e., URLs ending with “.ua”). As for owner recognition and registration, there are some restrictions on who may be the shareholder or ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of a gaming operator. The operators’ shareholders must not be residents of certain sanctioned countries, specifically Russia, Iran and North Korea. Working with competent counsel when preparing the application should help to avoid unnecessary rejections and delays. Common issues with opening gaming operations in a new jurisdiction include technology and payment challenges. An operator must ensure that its technology platform is able to verify the location of online players to ensure no ineligible persons, or persons from ineligible countries, are allowed to participate. Both brick-and-mortar and online gaming establishments can find it difficult to provide a range of payment and e-wallet loading options given system integration requirements, local and foreign legal requirements, varying payment-card network rules, data privacy and security issues, and local systems requirements. It is important to take these issues into account when developing the technology and payments platforms to ensure the most effective, compliant and full-featured rollout. What do you think is the most necessary resource, product or service that is missing now to move forward the gambling market in Ukraine and what challenges do you see in obtaining it? The fast-moving market always lacks professionals and today for Ukraine it’s both a challenge and a Issue 05

Marketing Director, Kalinina Elena

curse. There are internal and external obstacles that slow down the gambling market opportunities today. Lack of professional operational teams to start integrated resorts or a lack of knowledge in marketing,

law consulting standards and new judicial law can result in sub-optimal rates for an establishment and may hide the benefits of the new opportunities the Ukrainian market obtains. When deciding to enter the market, foreign investors may choose whether to build their own establishment, operate entirely online, or partner with existing hotels and resorts. In some cases, operators may benefit from lower license fees if establishments are located outside of Kyiv, including in ski resorts in the Carpathian Mountains or along the Black Sea Coast. Developments in this sector are happening quickly, and Ukraine is expected to soon become an important market in the gaming industry that will be of interest for foreign market players. Apart from that, there is a high deficit in manpower issues, training and post-educational projects providing knowledge development and support to foster the industry within the country’s landscape. 13


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana

Ghana’s Gaming Market SWOP/PEST/Competition and legislation analysis 2021

F

irst of all, I would like to comment on the current situation in the world (COVID-19 crisis) and how it will affect the economy of the African continent as a whole. Despite the crisis related to Covid, the economies of China, the United States and Europe quickly recovered, the S&P 500 index hits growth records every day and Chinese exports to Europe have grown. But in this regard competition is growing in the developed markets. Businesses have long been looking at alternative emerging markets such as India, Latin America and Africa. Chinese business has long since started this expansion, especially in the African market. The gaming market was also not deprived of the attention of investors. Not all investors are ready to invest in the countries such as Somalia with ongoing military conflicts, Zimbabwe after the rule of Mugabe or Libya after the civil war. Therefore, countries with a stable political environment come to the fore. Today we will focus on the gaming market in Ghana. One of the most active investing programs in China was associated with

Oleg Usenko

expansion into Africa, which will be reflected in this investigation. Accordingly, Africa is one of the most promising markets in the world, since consumption has not developed at the level of Europe or the USA with a constantly growing population and the youngest continent of the world (the average age of the population is less than 25 years). This potential won’t disappear anywhere, unlike developed countries, where it will decline in the short and medium perspective. In this regard, competition in developed markets will be tightened, and investors will look for new markets and investment. For your attention I will present the analysis of the gaming market in Africa and one of the countries of the continent – Ghana. Separately, upon Issue 05

15


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana request, a business plan will be provided, including an investment plan, an operational plan and ROI calculation. This report is intended for the analysis of the Ghana gambling market with the aim of assessing investment risks, analysis of competitors and analysis of the legislative base.

Operators: Sports betting is the number-one gaming operation in Ghana, with over 10 sports betting companies online and retail.

Legal Landscape: Ghana Gaming Commission (GGC)

Official language: English Local languages: Ga and Twi (not official)

Population: 31 million. The most populated cities Accra and Kumasi (more info here https://buzzghana. com/populated-cities-ghana/) Internet Penetration: 39 percent as of 2019

Average age: 21 12th economy in Africa according GDP per Capita 13th most populated country in Africa

SWOT (Strength-WeaknessesOpportunities-Threats) & PEST (PoliticalEconomic-Social-Technological) analysis

Political SWOT Ghana has a multi-party system. However, there are two dominant political parties (the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party), with extreme difficulty for anybody to achieve electoral success under the banner of any other party. Since 1993 presidents have been representatives from these two Minimum bet for gaming Ghana is 1cedi = $0.17 parties only. Nana Addo Dankwa AkufoView Ghana’s Forecast: GDP PPP Per Capita from 1980 to 2024 in the chart Addo is currently the president of Ghana. He ran for president as the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). He was chosen as the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party for a third time for Payment methods: Mastercard leading form of payment. Visa is growing. The mobile payment solutions were launched by the mobile operators. More than 80 percent of Ghanaians have mobile wallets such as MTN, Vodafone or Airtel.

View Ghana’s Forecast: Population from 1980 to 2024 in the chart:

16

the 2020 general elections and this time he defeated John Dramani Mahama in the first round (winning with 54 percent of the votes), which marked the first time in a Ghanaian presidential election that an opposition candidate won a majority outright in the first round. These risks are very low in Ghana because in a thriving democracy people don’t shake the country during an election. The biggest risk for the gaming industry would be the changing of the incumbent president. In this case, the Commissioner of the GGC can be changed after an election also. But as usual all political parties are represented in all government institutions. www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana Besides the industrialization associated with minerals and oil, industrial development in Ghana remains basic, often associated with plastics (such as for chairs, plastic bags, razors and pens). 53.6 percent of Ghana’s workforce were employed in agriculture (cocoa mainly). Ghana is Africa’s secondbiggest gold producer (after South Africa) and second-largest cocoa producer (after Ivory Coast). It is also rich in diamonds,

I consider the political risks in this region to be low, especially considering the tolerance of the authorities

manganese ore, bauxite and oil.

Economic SWOT The economy of Ghana has a diverse and rich resource base, including the manufacturing and exportation of digital technology goods, automotive and ship construction and exportation, and the exportation of diverse and rich resources such as hydrocarbons and industrial minerals. These have given Ghana one of the highest GDP per capita in West Africa. Owing the GDP in 2011 Ghana became the fastest-growing economy in the world. The Ghanaian domestic economy in 2012 revolved around services, which accounted for 50 percent of GDP and employed 28 percent of the work force.

Legislation gaming requirements The Gaming Commission is a body corporate established by the Gaming Act 2006, Act 721 with the main purpose of regulating, controlling, monitoring and supervising the operation of games of chance in the country. You can find Gaming Act 2006, Act 721 here. https:// gamingcommissiongh.com/oldsite1/images/pdf/ Gaming%20Act,%202006.pdf The requirements for a gaming license are described in detail on the Gaming Commission’s website, and they are quite transparent and available to the investor. From my experience with the Ghana Gaming Commission, I want to note that all members of the commission are ready to advise and support market operators including Peter Mireku, chief executive officer of the Gaming Commission of Ghana. He regularly holds meetings, seminars with investors and is ready for dialogue with

towards all races and nationalities as well as religions. Ghana is one of the most stable, secure and peaceloving countries in West Africa and Africa as well. I traveled to Kumasi and around Accra completely alone without any problems or antagonism from local citizens.

Issue 05

17


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana the market operators, and providing ongoing protection and support of the gaming business in Ghana. Go to http://gamingcommission.gov.gh or you can request all rules and regulations from me including general tax and legal regulations. You can find my contact details at the end of this article or privatemessage me at me here http://linkedin.com/in/olegusenko-mba Social SWOT Ghana is a patriarchal country. As an example, only men were the presidents of Ghana. At the same time, women have fairly high social and civil rights. Since Ghana is one of the most stable countries in Africa (politically, economically and in terms of physical security), many foreigners live there, especially a lot of foreigners from English-speaking countries such as South Africa, England, USA, Nigeria. Ghana also has a large community of Lebanese and Chinese. There are many migrants from neighboring countries of Africa. Ghanaians are very religious and loyal to religions. There are no interethnic and interreligious conflicts in the country. Ghana has strong cultural and heritage in the gaming industry. People do not show aggression to the gaming industry, but rather are very reckless and emotional toward any kind of entertainment. The biggest passion in Ghana is football. Boxing and mixed martial arts are also very popular in the country. Most of the population leads a healthy lifestyle (they do not drink alcohol and

negatively relate to smoking). Regarding the local management culture, in companies it is usually authoritarian. But at the same time, young employees are already need and seeking recognition, and want to be involved in decision-making. While these are weak shoots, this must be taken into account, since even the minimum involvement in decision making motivates the employee no worse than the financial component. An effective team work can be built from the millennials from 20 to 30 years of age, which will show their importance for the company and will make them be easier to train and teach to work at high speeds and, for the good of the company. Therefore, tight control should be always present. Technological SWOT Telecommunications Ghana’s telecommunications statistics indicated 18

that as of 2013 there are 26,336,000 cell-phone lines in operation. Competition among mobile-phone companies in Ghana is an important part of the telecommunications industry’s growth. Ghana was one of the first countries in Africa to achieve connection to the World Wide Web. There are 165 licensed internet service providers in Ghana and they were running 29 of the fiber optic, and authorized networks VSAT operators were 176, of which 57 functioned, and 99 internet operators were authorized to the public, and private data and packet-switched network operators were 25. Mobile internet is available in all major cities of Ghana. Unlimited internet is not available in packages of local operators. The average cost of cable Internet is $40 per month. Payments The financial services in Ghana have seen a lot of reforms in the past years. It has therefore become possible for Ghanaian non-resident individuals or residents and foreign companies or indigenous Ghana companies to open indigenous offshore bank accounts. Mobile money is the most popular among the population, which is provided by mobile operators such as MTN, Vodafone and Airtel. Almost the entire working population of Ghana mobile wallets. Mobile users on the increase Despite Ghana’s gambling market being principally land-based, the growth of mobile use and the

evolution of mobile devices are making the area one of the most attractive for online business. Promising signs pertaining to the growing potential of mobile gambling in the country indicates to landbased retailers that their next step has to be to move from the shop to online. The evolution from retail to online is challenging; it requires more than the simple creation of an online platform. Indeed a mobile application is no longer a nice-to-have; it is now a must-have. As usual, one of the threats of all African countries is unstable electricity, which should be solved by a generator or solar energy.

Competition analysis

Ghana is one of the many African countries that is being engulfed with the epidemic of online sports betting. This includes online poker, casino games as well as sports betting. www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana

In regards to gaming companies with a large footprint across Africa: Casino / Gambling: Golden Dragon – Osu; Golden Dragon – Tema; La Palm / KaiRo; Golden Tulibe (Millionaires) – Accra and Kumasi; Piccadilly / KaiRo; Vulkano/Ritzio; Victoria; Euroluck – Tema; Crown Casino – Accra; Vienna City – Accra and Kumasi. Lottery: National Lottery Authority Ghana NLA; PremierLotto; Winner Pool / PinBridge - GTech (ceased) Sports Betting: B247; AfricaBets; BetPawa; Betway; Issue 05

BetYetu; ChampionBet; EaziBet; EuroBet; Ladbrokes KaiRo; MillionairesBet; MyBet; PowerBets; PremierBet / EDITEC; SimbaBet; SlingBet; SoccaBet; SportsWin / LudWin; SportyBet; SunBet; SupaBets / Phumelela; WinnaBets.

The Casino Market

As mentioned previously, casino market has a number of operators, all competing for what would appear to be limited market capacity. There is no entrance control or registration required at any property. Simply pass a basic security check and enter the casino. 19


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana Almost all of the casinos have some form of percentage payback on loss. This is generally a sensible 10 percent, payable the next day. The main casinos have an online system for their slots play and in most cases this is a “force play” scenario. In other words, players are forced to use a cashless card for play. Operating hours vary from property to property but I could not find any casino, which operates 24 hours on tables or slots. Peak business levels appear to be between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for the tables market. The mix of players includes Chinese, Korean, Asian (Indian and Pakistani players), Lebanese and a mixture of expats, most of whom appeared to be South African.

Main Route Operators

Vienna City and Vulkano Games Currently, the main competitors at this level of the market are the Vienna City Group and Vulkano Games. Vienna City entertainment shops generally consist of a nightclub, restaurant and bars, and occasionally a hotel, with a separate gaming area attached. The gaming areas have a much better décor than the Vulkano properties and the product is newer. However, their footprint within the country is limited with only four gaming locations without an online platform. Vulkano Games operates in the communities and their low-level segment of the customers.

Millionaires The current market leader is, by far, the Millionaire’s Group with two properties in Accra, the Golden Tulip Hotel and the Golden Dragon Casino. In addition, they have casinos in Tema and Kumasi. They provide a relatively high standard in terms of décor, equipment standards and product mix. It is no surprise; they have the biggest properties in terms of head count. However, both tables and slots are priced in Ghanaian Cedi and the limits are very low. There was also a large portion of non-players whenever I visited. Golden Tulip did have a VIP area but this has been converted to a poker club. I was informed that their expenses are fairly high, mainly due to having a relatively large contingent of expat managers. 20

Kairo The Kairo group operates two properties within Accra, The Palm Beach and The Piccadilly. The standards and level of play within both properties have significantly declined since my last visit. It would appear that the information provided by John Robbins, founding partner of this group, is correct. They have downsized and current standards are pretty low. They removed tables from the Piccadilly operation. Their tables were priced in Cedi and their slots in American dollars. According to their regional director, the only thing that is keeping them going is a core contingent (15 – 20 slots players), who prefer American-dollar slots as opposed to Cedi. In addition, they have an interesting rebate program for their top slots players – they return one percent of turnover (handle) three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This equates to + -25 percent rebate on theoretical, which is generous but they have had to resort to this to retain their core group. Caesars The only dollar-priced tables I found in the city. Never busy but they do have the highest limits in town on roulette. Their highest priced roulette is $5 - $200. All card games were operating at $5 - $100. They also have a full-size baccarat table (14 seats), which never had any action on the times I visited this

property. Their slots action is pretty nonexistent. They have a three-table poker club on a mezzanine area. I only saw action in the poker club once and that was when they had a tournament (250 Cedi + US$50), multiple rebuys. – They had 10 players for the tournament.

Sports Betting Market

Africa’s sports betting industry has grown astronomically in the last few years. This exceptional growth can be attributed to the large population of the nation and increased access to internet devices. This explains why bigger sports betting brands are making their entrance into the country. Top five betting companies in Ghana 1. Mybet.com Mybet.com is the best and Ghana’s leading betting www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Oleg Usenko - Report Ghana company. The company has many betting branches throughout Ghana and they are considered to be the most trusted betting bookmaker in Ghana. Mybet.com offers both physical betting solutions as well as online betting in Ghana. 2. Betway Ghana Betway Ghana is one of the youngest betting companies in Ghana but due to their skills in marketing they have gained a lot of betting clients. Betway is one of the leading betting companies in the world. Betway Ghana offers only online betting solutions to Ghanaians. 3. Supabets Ghana Supabets Ghana is one of the oldest betting companies in Ghana. They offer both online betting solutions as well as betting in 44 shops. 4. Soccabet Ghana Soccabet is a bookmaker that is based in Accra, OSU and that offers online betting, mobile betting and offline betting. The company owes more than 60 physical betting shops across the entire country. 5. Premier Bet They offer a wide range of football betting games to add to the thrill of following the nation’s favourite sport. You can bet online using your computer or visit one of their 90 game centres throughout Ghana. International Betting Online platforms – Established on the market: 22Bet, Betway, 1xBet, LSBet, MyBet, William Hill, Betfair, BetVictor, 10Bet, PremierBet, Betsson, B-Bets Local Betting Companies – more targeted but with lower odds and less online betting experience with betting bonuses: BetYetu, SoccaBet, SafariBet, EaziBet, SupaBets, SunBet, SimbaBet, WinnaBet.

Resolution about Ghana gaming market

Ghana market is very promising for the companies which don’t think that they will hire thousands Africans for 100 dollars salary and they will earn a profit for an investor. It is hard work to select a correct and honest person there but possible to find, train and manage them. Issue 05

The Internet, online games, online payments, online companies go into the Ghanaian market which resonates with the young local population. The generation of millennials has reached working age and does not follow the ancient traditions and foundations. They want recognition, they are more adaptive to change and risk. The millennials are ready to buy online. Ghana is a very safe and peaceful country. For example, I drove a car at night alone and I had no problems, since the police control the roads at night. Ghana has growing economy which is ieager for investors. Allowing for a good location, political and terrorism stability, a growing economy and mineral resources (oil, gold, bauxite, cacao), I can advise you to invest in Ghana’s gambling market.. If your company has the competitive online and offline products, an understandable entrance and development strategy, a professional and motivated team including local employees, prescribed procedures and tight control from the first step into the market, that the company will be able to make operating profit within one year from the start of operation. I allow a small margin of time, because in my forecasts I take into account that it will be a new company unknown in the Ghana market. As an example, I would bring about the opening of the Kumasi market, which is 250 kilometers to the north of Accra. I opened a casino in Kumasi City Mall with a completely different brand name than in Accra – Nevada. The shop began to make profit from the eighth month of operation, while within eight months the losses incurred during the previous seven months were covered, and over the next three months the investments in this shop were returned. Seeing the quality of the competitor’s shops and online platforms and their level I can assume that customers are not spoiled by high service. A higher level of service in the land-based shops and adaptive apps can bring the biggest customers. But internet gambling has the biggest opportunities at African market. If you have any questions or need more information about the African gambling market don’t hesitate to contact me. Oleg Usenko Whatsapp: +233201746546 SkypeID: live:.cid.cb25d70d3f0f78c9 Email: usenkooleg1974@gmail.com 21


Feature: Casino de Vigo

Jose Afonso, General Manager, Casino de Vigo 22

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Feature: Casino de Vigo

Vacation Destination: Casino de Vigo Casino Life Ukraine interview with José Afonso, Casino Manager, Casino de Vigo

C

an we commence this interview with a brief history of Casino de Vigo and its location in Spain? Before getting into details about Casino de Vigo, which is a subsidiary gaming facility, I must first refer to its main casino which is also considered one of the oldest operating casinos in Spain, Casino de La Toja. This casino is located on the island of La Toja (“La Toxa” in the Galego dialect), adjacent to the town of O Grove in the Pontevedra province of the autonomous community of Galicia. Casino de La Toja has persisted through time since its opening in 1978 (the first casino to open with the legalization of gaming in Spain), and for many years a preferred vacation destination for the elite of Spanish society, as well as international aristocracy, for its thermal spas, recreational beaches and gastronomical riches. Whilst globalization broadened boundaries, the Galicia resort destination diminished; tourism fell to unsustainable levels, being practically limited to sporadic summer visitation. A proliferation of slot arcades and B series slot machines operating in bars diluted the market share of customers and stricter fiscal control alienated the whales. Guided by the need of economic development branching out to higher demographically populated areas of city, centers became a strategic necessity; therefore, the Casino de La Toja co-owner partnership, composed by the multinational Luckia Gaming Group, the well-known slot machine manufacturer, and also multinational casino management company CIRSA Corporation, set out to obtain legal authorization to open a branch gambling office in the nearby city of Vigo, also located in the province of Pontevedra, as this is a requirement for approving a subsidiary casino. After years of administrative bureaucracy, the Issue 05

subsidiary gaming facility was finally authorized in 2017 and was established in the “A Laxe” shopping mall situated at Vigo’s marina. The casino became ready to operate at the beginning of 2020. Casino de Vigo opened its doors on the 27th of February of 2020. Unfortunately, the casino had to close shortly thereafter on the 13th of March due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Europe. How long have you been working at Casino de Vigo and can you explain your role, along with your primary responsibilities and objectives? I initiated this project in January of 2020 as manager for both Casino de La Toja and Casino de Vigo, and set up office at the latter due to it being a new casino, set to open with a younger and slightly inexperienced staff, which would require more attention in its initial phase. In a nutshell, all executive, operational and technical decisions are my rresponsibility. However, I’m fully supported by and with an excellent corporate team at the Luckia Gaming Group. Upon taking on this new endeavor, my first objective was opening Casino de Vigo and operating the gaming premise according to international standards and company policies. Most importantly, my role implies getting to know the people that were recruited for the casino; for some it is their first experience in a casino environment and, for others that have been shifted from the main casino, they bring experience and accumulated knowledge specific to the industry. It has been rewarding to see these two sides come together to work as a team and share a common purpose, helping each other thrive in order to give our clients a better casino experience. Secondly, we must assure that rules and regulations, be it internal procedures or governmental

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Feature: Casino de Vigo

requirements, are upheld and that the casino operates seamlessly. The next step will be revamping Casino de La Toja to its original glory by overhauling a technological evolution of the gaming floor and premises, keeping in mind the scale of the operation in terms of profitability. We will be working closely with tourism operators and local resorts in the area seeking collaborations in order to offer an exclusive and unique experience to our common guests. It has been a rough ride so far due to the turmoil the pandemic cast on all economic activities and, unfortunately, it’s still not over!

How are things looking now with regards to recovery prospects from the pandemic and a resumption of normal business? It has been over a year since we were forced to close down due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak and, although we have occasionally reopened when allowed to do so, it has been a struggle to get past second gear, simply because we have never had the chance to fully operate in a normal environment, and we are still limited with restrictions imposed by local government. Some of the limitations include a reduction in our operating hours, a limitation to the capacity of patrons on our premises (50 percent at the 24

moment), and a reduced number of allowed patrons per table, as well as physical protection barriers between players, be it at tables or slots. At Casino de Vigo and Casino de La Toja, as well as all branches of the Luckia Game Group and CIRSA Corporation, the well-being of our patrons and staff was prioritized right from the very beginning of the pandemic, and safety measures such as masks,

temperature readings upon entry, sanitization of tables and slots, as well as all surfaces in general were never disregarded in order to guarantee the hygiene and the safety of all areas of the casino. I am very pleased that we have not had a single case of infection, neither with any of our patrons nor any of our staff. In terms of what the future has in store for us, I, personally, do not see economic or social normality being recovered in Galicia in the upcoming months and, so, we find ourselves doomed to have to wait yet another six months or more to finally be able to operate Casino de Vigo to its fullest capacity. Another aspect that must be taken into consideration is that the lockdown has changed habits; digitalization has been accelerated and the general population has become more online dependent – whether it is shopping for groceries, apparel or gambling. The online gambling market has grown exponentially in the past year and, therefore, the traditional brick-andwww.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Casino de Vigo

mortar casino must reinvent itself to compete with these new challenges. Nevertheless, I still believe that the experience provided by the physical casinos is unparalleled, and at Casino de Vigo each guest is a VIP and our mission is to offer the best casino and entertainment experience to all our patrons. Can you provide details of the table games and

slot machines operating at Casino de Vigo? Casino de Vigo is set to operate all the well-known traditional table games such as roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker, as well as tournaments. On the other hand, the slot floor is more limited due to legal requirements of the homologation of slot machines per autonomous region in Spain. In other words, this means that the availability of machines has to fulfill economic reasoning for a supplier to sell their machines to a specific region due to high administrative costs, and seeing that there are only two casino operators in the autonomous community of Galicia, the demand clearly exceeds the offer in terms of machine diversity. Despite this situation, we currently operate 78 slot machines from well-known manufactures such as Novamatic, EGT, Bally, IGT and Zitro. We have 16 electronic roulette satellite machines from Gold Club and Gambee, as well as, a blackjack and poker i-table. Additionally, we Issue 05

are installing a sports betting area provided by our partner Sportium. We are just starting – or should I say restarting – and as demand for more terminals, aligned with cooperative solutions from the manufacturers becomes available, more slot machines will be added. Poker tournaments provide the casino with plenty of patrons in normal times. Have you plans yet for

a resumption of tournaments at the casino this year? We are in the midst of preparing an exciting new calendar with weekly poker tournaments which we expect to be starting next month; however, we still have to comply to restrictions imposed by our local government in terms of players per table and distancing between tables. I am expecting to be able to fully offer a normal tournament environment by the end of the year; however, judging by the past months, we will have to wait in order to further analyze the situation and assess the viability of bigger tournaments. Promotions are an important factor in assisting with getting patrons back into the casino. What exciting plans are ahead for your customers? Casino de Vigo has been implementing various promotions since we reopened after the lockdown 25


Feature: Casino de Vigo

and despite the continuous on and off shifts in the restrictions imposed by the local government and the many closings and reopenings, the public’s response has been quite a positive one. Through our member’s club we have promoted a loyalty program where, among other things, our members accumulate points per play, get cash back for frequent visits and earn promotional credits for affiliating members. We have a broad range of other promotional activities in hand that are just waiting for more flexible conditions to be launched.

Are there plans for entertainment events later this year? Yes, there are! As soon as restrictions start to be lifted and social gatherings are permitted, we have a variety of events that are on our agenda such as small musical concerts, gastronomic showcases, art and cultural exhibitions, as well as, fashion and beauty pageants. We will also cater to some non-gambling traditional games, such as the popular Spanish card game “Mus” and bridge tournaments. We also have on our horizon a plan to partner with leisure operators in our surrounding area in order to be able to offer other non-gaming experiences to our clients and vice versa. 26

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Feature: Hippodrome Casino

Minhee Lee, Croupier with Simon Thomas, CEO

Hottest place in London: Hippodrome Casino

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Interview with Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome Casino, London

t’s safe to say Simon Thomas, CEO of the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, has rewritten the rule book on what a UK casino can be. The largest casino in the country, and its most popular, this multi-award winning venue combines three unique casino floors, the UK’s biggest poker deck, eight bars, the best steak house in London and Magic Mike Live, the Channing Tatum show that became one of the fastest-selling theatre tickets in the history of the West End. We talked to Simon and discovered how he survived the lockdown and came out of the pandemic with an even better casino. Issue 05

Tell us about the Hippodrome Casino? The Hippodrome is the UK’s largest casino and entertainment venue, and its most popular. Located in the West End – the capital’s entertainment district – it sits alongside London icons the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace as a ‘must-see’ destination for domestic and international visitors. With seven floors of gaming including three unique casino floors and London’s largest dedicated poker floor, a multi-award-winning steak house, the 326seat Magic Mike Theatre, eight bars and a brandnew, three-floor outdoor terrace, it represents a new, dynamic breed of casino for the UK. Owner and co-founder Simon Thomas took the

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Feature: Hippodrome Casino were fortunate to be able to open our new three-tier outdoor terraces when restrictions on hospitality venues only were partially lifted on April 12. This meant we could begin the marketing and public relations campaigns for the venue early prior to our May 17 full opening (albeit with some social distancing restrictions), bring staff off furlough for training and gauge demand from visitors returning to the West End after what, for many, had been more than a year away. We removed all gaming from the terraces, as the law dictated, and ran them purely for meals and drinks, with much success. If I say we sold more champagne in the month after April 12 than we normally sell in a full year of normal trading, this gives an indication of how popular the Hippodrome terraces have become and how eager people are to come back into central London and start living their lives again.

Stage Two

Lyudmyla Kyrychenko, Editor, Casino Life Ukraine and Simon Thomas, CEO, Hippodrome Casino

famous Hippodrome Theatre, one of London’s foremost entertainment icons, incorporated an adjacent building, Cranbourn Mansions, and with £50m generated from the sale of the family’s bingo empire created a new concept of casino gaming and entertainment – a first for the country. The Hippodrome opened on July 13, 2012. Prior to lockdown it employed 750 staff and attracted up to 40,000 visitors a week. It is also central London’s largest licensed premises. How has the reopening of Hippodrome Casino been? In one word: amazing. Our re-opening has actually come in three stages.

Stage One

Unlike the majority of UK casinos we seamlessly mix gaming, entertainment and food and drink, so we 28

May 17 saw the further lifting of lockdown restrictions, though the gaming tables still had to incorporate screens that limited the number of players, and we opened the entire venue including all casino floors, the poker floor, electronic gaming and slots and our theatre show Magic Mike Live. Because of the requirements of social distancing we adapted the spaces we had available and repositioned the majority of the gaming tables,

slots and electronics. Some areas dedicated to entertainment were temporarily put on hold to accommodate new gaming areas, and we’ve been very pleasantly surprised at customer reaction. It made us think harder about how we utilise space within the Hippodrome, which will have future benefits for the business. For the grand re-opening at a minute past midnight on May 17, I cut some symbolic chains off the front door. I was overwhelmed – and I have to say relieved too – to see a queue of 200 people waiting to get in. The press attention was huge, as they are as eager as the rest of us to see things return to normal. Capacity was still limited by around 50 percent but our gaming figures were extremely encouraging. Our steak house saw record spend as customers were determined to celebrate their freedom and bookings for Magic Mike Live went through the roof.

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Feature: Hippodrome Casino

Stage Three

The government finally lifted social distancing restrictions on July 19, so hospitality venues are now allowed to operate as near normally as possible. Effectively we can increase the number of visitors, but we will remain sensitive to how people feel in terms of social distancing and wearing masks. It will take a few more months to return to pre-pandemic figures but we know people are eager to come back. How do you feel re-opening after such a long period? It’s time to forget the past and live for the future. It’s very much a new beginning after a lengthy period of disruption. Not just for us but the neighbourhood we operate in, the West End of London. It’s the economic powerhouse of the country – not just the city itself but the whole of the United Kingdom – so getting everything up and running is vital now. We work in a business ecosystem. If venues the size of the Hippodrome do well that has a positive knock-on effect for the rest of the local community. They have the confidence to open, employ more staff and trade longer hours, because they know the number of visitors will grow thanks to us. What’s new at the Hippodrome 2021? When the first of the lockdowns was imposed in March last year we were determined to make good

use of the time we were closed and finished three major projects: a new casino floor called The Gods right at the top of the building, where you can look down onto this former theatre’s magnificent main auditorium; a brand new poker deck that has more than doubled the number of tables; and we added an extra tier to our outdoor terraces too. The Hippodrome is a beautiful building, it must be an amazing place to work? The best word to describe being here is ‘privileged.’ Yes, it’s my business and livelihood, and I’ve lived and breathed this building for more than 15 years now, but I’m a custodian for the Hippodrome and I feel a strong duty of care. Its theatrical heritage is extraordinary. Many of the world’s most famous entertainers performed here when it was a theatre, and the Hippodrome hosted the famous Talk Of The Town dinner theatre which Issue 05

was most recently featured in the Oscar-winning Hollywood film Judy, with Renee Zellweger. I felt I had to bring back much of the theatrical heritage through meticulous renovation and restoration during the rebuild and the attention to detail is obvious from the moment people first come onto the main floor. The most often-used first word here is “Wow.”

Could you add a hotel on the building or buy an adjacent building and turn it into a hotel? We’re fantastic at operating a casino and there are plenty of magnificent hotels in the area, including The Londoner in Leicester Square, which I toured the other day and is a stunning addition to the area. So that’s not on my radar just now. How many employees do you have at the casino and are many from mainland Europe? Before the pandemic and lockdowns we employed 750, but unfortunately had to make 250 people redundant. Now we’re open again, staff numbers are up to around 600 and we’re actively looking to recruit at least another 60 people immediately. 29


Feature: Hippodrome Casino Casino in the main ground-floor auditorium; Lola’s, which sits below ground level and has a speakeasy, theatrical vibe; and The Gods which is sited at the very top of the building with spectacular views of the whole venue. There is also gaming available on the outdoor terraces, unique in London.

Table Gaming

Alan Todor-Ward, Assistant Gaming Manager

We have 34 live casino tables. We offer blackjack, roulette, three card poker, baccarat and dice. Our three card poker tables offer an amazing progressive bet. In Lola’s, we offer both single-zero and doublezero roulette. We also have two blackjack tables. The Grand Casino boasts six single-zero and two double-zero roulette tables, two three card poker tables and seven blackjack tables. In the Macau lounge, adjacent to the Grand Casino, we have five midi baccarat tables, offering non-commission, commission and squeeze games. On the terraces we have two roulette, one doublezero roulette, two blackjack and one three card poker table. In the Gods we have one baccarat, one blackjack, two roulettes and a dice table.

Electronics & Slots

We have 104 electronic table game machines that offer roulette, blackjack and baccarat games. The roulette results are streamed from a live dealer

Left to right: Fabio Rossi, Bar Tender, Simon Thomas, CEO, Oresti Hajri, Head Bar Tender and Lehel Szocs, Head Waiter

Happily our in-house croupier school where we train our own croupiers is up and running again too. We employ more than 50 different nationalities and are proud of our diversity, which reflects the customers who we welcome here. How many tables and slot machines does the casino have in total? We’ve got the widest selection of table gaming, electronics and slots of any casino in the country. There are three unique casino floors – the Grand 30

podium that has two state-of-the-art Cammegh miniwheels, and we offer an additional two live gaming table feeds to the ETGs, which gives the players an option to play one of the four roulette games on a terminal. The blackjack game is dealt from the podium in conjunction with the roulette and baccarat is offered from a live dealer table in the Macau lounge. On the slots we have four of the latest IGT Crystal Curve machines which are linked to a “Blazin’ Flames” progressive jackpot. In addition we have six Crystal Dual machines linked to the “Gong Xi Fa Cai” progressive jackpot games. We also offer two of the latest Novomatic Panthera Curve machines machine with standalone £10,000 progressive jackpot games. And there are four of the latest Panthera machines and four Dominators machines that are all linked to the Flexilink Mystery jackpot, paying in excess of www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Hippodrome Casino £12,000 per week. We are proud to say the Hippodrome offers one of the first roulette progressives on the Franco Tombola roulette machines with the “Lucky 8’s” roulette progressive – standing at a whopping £64,800. I found the tour most enjoyable but never imagined from the appearance from Leicester Square the scale and size of the building. This must be a major task just maintaining such a building, in fact what would have happened to it if you hadn’t bought it? It’s a great question. My father and I were looking for a casino property after the sale of our bingo business and first saw the Hippodrome building about 15 years ago. It was a shell and needed a huge amount of work. Since it opened in 1900 as a circus variety theatre it has gone through many transformations, embracing the popular entertainments of the age including the very first jazz performance in the UK, the inaugural UK performance of Swan Lake and the debuts of many well-known and world-renowned stars. In its later years it became one of the most famous nightclubs in the country. In the early 2000s it fell into disrepair and even the biggest theatrical impresarios of the age said it would take too much money to turn it back into a theatre again, which is when my father Jimmy and I saw its potential.

Simon Thomas, CEO with Loretta Gasparini, Head of Theatre & Events and Kaloune Abdelghani, Theatre & Events Senior Supervisor

I must admit if I’d known then what a huge job it would be turn it into the Hippodrome Casino I might well have walked away. Too many sleepless nights. But obviously it has been a labour of love and we’ve created something very special. So, to answer your question, no-one knows what it could have become. There were thoughts it would make a shopping centre with restaurants, but I think that would have been a tragedy. The Hippodrome is loved by millions as a beacon of entertainment in London’s West End. And as a casino, that tradition has been maintained and built upon. It’s simply another era for a magnificent building.

People can enjoy world-class food and drink, and can party, gamble and be entertained by a Las Vegas-based show. How do you describe what you have created here? Issue 05

Augustin Gatman, Croupier 31


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Feature: Hippodrome Casino I often get asked what the secret of our success is. It’s simple. We employ people who smile. You can build anything in the world, the biggest, the highest, the best designed…but it’s the spirit of the people who work here that bring the place to life. You will always remember excellent customer service and that’s what will encourage you to return. Time and again. The underlying theme here is ‘Life Can Be Extraordinary’ which sums everything up perfectly. Especially now, after the seemingly endless periods of lockdown, so many people have realised you’ve got to get out there and live life to the full. And at the Hippodrome that’s what we hope to deliver; something fun, unique, friendly and glamorous. A real West End of London experience that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. How popular is Magic Mike? Magic Mike Live is open and bringing in the crowds. The show was devised by Hollywood star Channing Tatum, and based on his hit film Magic Mike. Channing came to see me one Sunday morning to explain his vision and we signed an agreement to rebuild our theatre and transform it into a 326-seat, light and sound spectacular. The show revolves around some amazing male dancers, who appeal to a mainly female audience but I always say it’s for anyone who likes a theatrical experience the likes of which they will never have seen. It was one of the fastest-selling shows ever in the history of the West End and remains very popular with bookings well into next year. Have you ever been to Ukraine, as I think you would really like cities such as Kyiv and as you know we now have casinos and for those of our readers whom are looking to visit London have you a message for them? I have not yet had the opportunity to visit Ukraine, but I know some wonderful people from there who speak so positively about the country it makes me want to visit. I will be coming soon and hope to meet some casino operators there and see your spectacular country. And as for Ukrainian visitors visiting London, please come to the Hippodrome. We’ll ensure you are made very welcome indeed! 34

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Feature: Andy Cosgrove

How to Maximize Your Slot Performance without Breaking the Bank In such challenging times for the land-based casino business, many operators will already be cutting costs in order to survive. Operators who don’t face the cold, hard facts and adapt could end up on the scrap heap of forgotten casino disappointments. By Andrew Cosgrove

Andrew Cosgrove Issue 05

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Feature: Andy Cosgrove

A

As anyone who has built a casino will tell you, it’s not a cheap endeavor and the cost can go into millions and even billions of dollars. With weather delays,

poor planning and the occasional unwanted surprise (such as having to demolish and rebuild your ‘just finished’ cash desk!), it’s far too easy to add a few million extra to your already over-stretched budget. For those who reach the finishing line and get their operation up and running there is a brief sigh of relief, a moment for celebration and an opportunity to thank stakeholders for their hard work and support. But guess what, you still have to run the operation, and this is where the fun begins. Slot machines cost around $21,000, casino management systems can cost millions. Even more money can be wasted on poorly devised marketing strategies and overspending on underperforming customers…and the list goes on. Part of being successful means recognizing the importance of and embracing change. Following are a few strategies that can make you change your new best friend without sacrificing the quality that your customers demand: 36

Slot machines

Not many companies can afford to purchase brand new slots when opening a casino, and it’s really not necessary to do this to be able to meet your

financial targets because, to put it simply, there’s much more to slots management than simply placing slot machines on stands and switching them on. Alternative deals to cash up front include participation, lease-to-purchase and fixed minimum daily fees. Some companies will give you great terms with zero deposit and up to two years financing. Many companies will include a game performance warranty, as it’s in their best interest to keep you buying their products, so they want their games to perform. Premium slots can’t always be purchased but the most successful ones are a must if you plan to impress, and I highly recommend this option. Used slots are a great way to economize and are often a viable alternative to buying new. Using revenue analysis is a must to remain competitive, as a simple max bet, location or percentage change can make a huge, cost-saving difference to your revenues, as do game-only conversions. www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Feature: Andy Cosgrove

Staff and training

Staff turnover can be an expensive headache for operators who don’t live up to their employees’ expectations. Hiring the right person for the job

is essential, especially in a customer-facing role, but what many companies choose to forget is that if employees are expected to work at a high performance level, then they need to feel that what they do has meaning and that it makes a genuine difference to people’s lives, including customers, colleagues and communities. Happy employees make customers happy, it’s really that simple. So why do so many companies fail miserably? A great leader understands the importance of listening to employees, giving them the tools for the job and providing ongoing training, support and career advancement opportunities. Great bosses go the extra mile to make employee retention one of their top priorities. Showing respect, demonstrating trust and just saying a simple ‘thank you’ will save you money and make your company the one that everyone wants to work for.

Issue 05

Planning, breaking down goals & KPIs

If you don’t have a plan, a goal and measurable outcomes, then you may as well open your window and start throwing your profits into the wind. Coming up

with an idea to build a casino can be accomplished by practically anyone but turning a concept into something real that will meet proposed targets for scope, time, cost and quality, requires a whole different set of skills. Successful projects are planned by stages and focusing on one priority at a time. This approach allows for greater focus while leaving less room for risks to escalate out of control and for time to be managed more efficiently. The same basic principles apply to performance data where KPIs are used as opportunities that can easily be identified by breaking down the data into manageable segments such as average bet, coin-in and player-visit frequency. When properly used, KPIs will tell you what you have too much of, too little of, what you should modify, what you should try that’s new to the market. If you’re not sure of where your pain points are, consider using the DMAIC roadmap used by Lean Six Sigma practitioners which can give up to a 99.73 percent certainty that your idea will work or not. One last thing, plan ahead! 37


Feature: Andy Cosgrove

Successful projects are planned by stages and focusing on one priority at a time. This approach allows for greater focus while leaving less room for risks to escalate out of control and for time to be managed more efficiently.”

Communication and feedback

As a former slots manager I once heard about a new, active slots promotion from a floor supervisor who had in turn heard about it from a slot attendant who, when asked about it, had to tell the customer that, ‘they didn’t know about it!’ This is a classic case of miscommunication from the marketing department that ironically should be communicating better than anyone! Part of a project initiation includes a communications management approach which basically describes the means and frequency of communication with both internal and external stakeholders. Amongst other criteria it describes procedures, tools and techniques and the timing of and the roles and responsibilities for communication. Without good communication, clear expectations and well defined levels of accountability, your promotions will never be successful, your machines’ downtime will go through the roof, your staff won’t understand what you’re selling, and your customers will quicky flock to your competitors due to your anemic entertainment experience. Feedback from customers

and your staff are forms of communication that are, in many cases, undervalued but without them, your company will never reach its full potential and you will end up throwing money at initiatives that nobody fully understands.

Best Practices and Automation

Standard operating procedures are the standard way to capture best practices and they serve as a user manual for employees and management alike to make sure everything is done according to the governing rules and regulations. Monitoring industry trends is another form of best practice as, like your operating procedures, the gambling industry is constantly changing and anybody who dares not take notice is doomed to fail. Keeping up with trends can involve huge investments but the cost of leaving things as they are and ignoring change is much higher. Doing the same thing, the same way for the 38

past 30 years because that’s the way you’ve always done them isn’t always the best way. Change is how we evolve as individuals, as communities and as companies, and you should embrace it and make it part of your M.O. Automation is a best practice of increasing popularity that can be used as a great way to cut costs, save time and eliminate the use of many manual paper-based checklists, compliance requirements and cumbersome asset-management procedures. NFC cloud-based uncopiable tag technology offers multiple-asset management and compliance solutions at a very affordable price. This kind of automation will free up your time to focus on your top priorities and save you money. Analytical, organizational and project-management software tools have been available for a while and are also affordable tools worth considering.

Conclusion

Cutting costs can be a daunting task especially when expectations are always high and constantly changing. The good news is that cutting cost

doesn’t have to mean compromising on quality and by using planning, communications, analysis, best practices and automation, you will have more time to concentrate on adding value where it counts, to your customers and your employees. Saying thank you is for free and will almost always improve performance and save you money.

MY MINI BLOG Andrew Cosgrove is a seasoned slot operations veteran and certified project manager with over 24 years of hands-on experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Andrew has worked on both the operator and supplier side of casino slots and is available to help you succeed and exceed customer expectations via contracted consultancy services. Andrew can be reached at andy.cosgrove@henimgwaycasinoconsulting.com or visit https://hemingwaycasinoconsulting.com www.casinolifemagazine.com.ua


Announcement: Scientific Games

Stelios Tsapatos, Sales Director at Scientific Games Europe

Scientific Games Announces its Introduction into Ukraine

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cientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS) (“Scientific Games” or the “Company”) has launched its industryleading products into the Ukraine market, with an extensive and world-renowned product set including electronic gaming machines (EGMs), tables and progressive jackpot products. Scientific Games has deployed products to some of the country’s most high-profile casinos including Slots City, Storm Ukraine and Billionaire Casino, with more on the horizon. Its entry to the market brings something genuinely new to Ukraine’s casino floors, delivering products that are proven to drive player loyalty, engagement and deliver revenue-growth opportunities for operators. Their unique EGM offerings include a range of award-winning and industry-leading hardware, including the Twinstar™ Matrix Upright cabinet, Twinstar Slant cabinet and Twinstar J43™ vertical Issue 05

screen cabinets. This hardware houses some of Scientific Games’ leading global content which is already a proven success in European markets. Titles such as the top-performing Asian link themes, Duo Fu Duo Cai™ and Jin Ji Bao Xi™, as well as updated versions of player favourites like Super Colossal Reels™ and Spartacus Gladiator of Rome™ are available within the market leading portfolio. Scientific Games is a leading provider of gaming solutions across the world, releasing games which provide an element of familiarity to players, whilst at the same time delivering innovation and differentiation, to give players something unique in the market. Stelios Tsapatos, sales director for Euope, the Middle East and North Africa, says: “Launching our industry-leading products in some of the largest casinos in Ukraine is an important step on our journey to engage and excite players across the country with a new gaming offer. Our partnerships in Ukraine are 39


Announcement: Scientific Games already starting to grow and casinos are benefiting from Scientific Games’ diverse product mix. We’re here for the long run, expanding our presence, building familiarity with players and always evolving their experience to maximize revenues for our partners.” Dmitry Grechko, slot project manager for Slots City in the Ukraine, widely recognised as the leading land-based slot operator, says: “For Slots City, it’s all about providing a unique gaming and entertainment experience for our patrons. Scientific Games product portfolio was introduced to allow us to extend to a wider player base in the Ukraine through their internationally popular and high-quality product sets. So far, the reception has been positive as the product gains popularity, while driving incremental revenue for us. I look forward to a long term relationship with Scientific Games as we both explore this new market and to benefit from the high-quality product and positive results.”

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Feature: Gaming Industry Expo Review 2021

Gaming Industry Expo Review

Michael Boettcher, Founder & President of Storm International 42

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Feature: Gaming Industry Expo Review 2021

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his was a very busy event and very well conducted by the organisers. Tuesday and Wednesday morning’s were particularly busy, with Casino Life Ukraine Magazines proving very popular with delegates and exhibitors alike! During the show we were greatly honoured by the appearance of Michael Boettcher, founder and president of Storm International, owners of Shangri-La Casino Kyiv, as well as by Anton Kuchukhidze (pictured left) of the Ukrainian Gaming Council and Victoria Zakrevskay (pictured below) from the Ukrainian Gaming Association. I would like to mention that all protocols against COVID-19 were followed during the three-day event and the mood from our fellow exhibitors at the event was very positive. We would like to thank everyone who visited our booth during Gaming Industry Expo and look forward to meeting you all again on our return in November for the second of the two shows this year!

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Feature: Gaming Industry Expo Review 2021

Zitro Booth Gaming Industry Expo

Zitro Arrives In Ukraine

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itro presented its successful Link King and 88 Link progressive multigames at the recent Gaming Industry Exhibition held in Kyiv, celebrating the opening of the Ukrainian market. Nadège Teyssedre, regional manager for EMEA, stated that: “During these days in Kyiv we have been presenting our products to operators in the country, and we have closed our first agreements for the supply of the first Link King banks and 88 Link banks that will soon be operating in Ukrainian casinos. We are very excited and convinced of the success of our products in this promising market”. Sebastián Salat, CEO of Zitro, said that “Ukraine was a very interesting market in the past, but it suffered from the lack of a solid legal framework that guaranteed operators the security of their investment. This time the Ukrainian government has promoted a law that does provide that legal certainty, although 44

there are still fiscal aspects that must be reconsidered so that the gaming industry, and with it, the tourism, can grow and contribute significantly to the economy of the country.” Also, Sebastian Salat, states: “We, from Zitro, will make our excellent products available to Ukrainian operators, and we promise to be a guarantee of profitability for them, as well as a guarantee of fun for their customers.” For more information: Zitro´s Communication Department alicia.santiago@zitrogames.com adelaida.rodriguez@zitrogames.com Tel.: +34 937 456 900/ +34 91 7997366

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