BR sat down with Dragos Mindreci, Country Manager Betano Romania, and Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu, Marketing Manager – Brand and Communication, to find out more about the industry the company is operating in, how it adapted to the recent changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the differences between the Romanian and the other international markets, investments in online, and more.
By Romanita Oprea
BR: How would you characterize the industry in which you are operating?
Dragos Mindreci: The industry we operate in is characterized by dynamism and change, with entertainment and tech as its main pillars.
BR: What are the main differences, challenges and opportunities, that appeared in the last 2 years?
Dragos Mindreci: Online Gambling is relatively new in Romania and, overall, at an international level, the industry has grown considerably in the last two decades; thus, its dynamism is quite high.
The Romanian market has become more mature in time and the increased competition in the gambling sector helped in creating and developing a better customer experience, through diversified offers and constant innovation.
Online gambling has all the premises to be a sector settled on solid grounds in Romania. The existing legislation represents both a solid structure and an opportunity for the companies that are planning to have a strong, long-term presence on the market. Moreover, having powerful and trustworthy Omni-channel operators who educate the land-based consumers and enable their onboarding in online brings a business opportunity for pure online operators like us, due to the high level of technology and innovation incorporated into our online platforms and products. Betano is a tech and entertainment platform and this positions us as an important player in all the markets where we are present. Innovation and continuous improvement are part of our business strategy and corporate DNA, and we embrace each challenge as a potential opportunity.
BR: What do you wish for the industry – how do you feel it needs to evolve and how is Betano contributing to its evolution?
Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu: Betano is a premium brand and it is associated with an excellent quality standard for the platform, product itself, customer service and communication. We preach constant evolution and improvement and try to implement this business model in all areas of activity. We focus on constant product and communication improvement, adapted to the local market. Our main objective is to create exceptional and localized experiences for our customers, and we believe this sets a high standard regarding user experience, customer experience, as well as high quality in communication among the industry. Besides constantly improving our products and services, we focus on direct involvement in the community and we hope this also sets a standard of commitment in the industry. We were the first company to promote and communicate Responsible Gaming through a national campaign and, ever since, we have focused more and more on this coordinate, and we were glad to see other operators joining the movement.
BR: On how many markets is Betano present and how is Romania different than other countries Betano is operating in?
Dragos Mindreci: We are present in 6 countries – in Greece and Cyprus, where we are market leaders, under Stoiximan brand, and in Romania, Germany, Portugal, and Brazil, we are present with Betano brand.
Romania is a special project, being the first market chosen for expansion outside of Greece, and it represent the first market where the Betano brand appeared, in 2016. We are very proud of the brand’s evolution on the market. We managed to establish strategic partnerships with popular football teams and athletes, we developed and implemented “Table for Two”, the most complex and valuable CSR campaign inside our organization, managing to create a chain of goodness by helping restaurants in helping medical staff in helping patients, and thus the community. As such, Betano Romania continues its commitment to help society in the fight against COVID-19, as part of our mission to act as a responsible and stable brand on the Romanian market. We can openly say that Betano Romania is a premium, well-established brand, supported by a highly professional team and local partners who enable present and future success and growth of Betano on the Romanian market.
BR: How do you differentiate on the betting & gambling market, from a communication point of view?
Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu: In all our local and international marketing and communication activities, we focus on providing our audiences with relevant, high-quality content. Innovation represents one of the company’s core values and this characteristic also reflects in each communication campaign we develop both in online and offline. Furthermore, we want to build on both our brand image and the industry image through all our communication projects.
This year, we succeeded in developing and implementing an online project, with a unique concept in Romania, a project which perfectly highlights the entertainment segment of our products. “VIP Roulette” was a communication campaign based on creating modern pieces of entertainment for our existing and potential users. “VIP Roulette” was a serial project, carried out monthly, in online. Each month, a pair of well-known and loved Romanian celebrities accepted our invitation and joined us for a unique live experience, while playing the Exclusive Live Roulette on Betano. Their experience with the platform and the product was live broadcasted simultaneously on their Facebook and Instagram channels. The communication campaign had a strong component of directly involving communities and offered the celebrities’ fans and Betano users the unique chance to play live, with their favorite VIPs at the live Roulette table. Each month, different pairs of celebrities joined the project, interacted directly with their fans, and received tips & tricks for a better game. Thousands of people watched the live-streams and accessed the Betano platform, and millions of Romanians were reached by the campaign messages. This was a unique communication project in Romania, in the gambling industry, as we managed to create relevant, live pieces of entertainment, in line with our business profile.
BR: How did the covid-19 pandemic impact your operations and how did you adapt to the situation?
Dragos Mindreci: We offer two major products: sports betting and online casino. In the first phase of the pandemic, the number of traditional sports competitions considerably decreased, therefore we adapted in record time and shifted our communication and marketing activities more on our online casino platform and E-sports tournaments. Moreover, we joined FRAS (Romanian Sports Car Federation) and supported their initiative to organize, in premiere in Romania, the first Sim Racing official championship. We identified some powerful values in this project: involvement, social responsibility, and adaptability. We openly and proudly joined the digital project, especially since we are also active on digital platforms, focusing on technology and its power to bring us together regardless of the social context or current situation. Then, we joined the CS:GO E-sports Tournament, as official partner, as concrete expression of our vision to support traditional and electronic sports.
As most sports competitions were on hold in the first part of the year, when the pandemic started, we thought about ways of keeping our sports fans engaged, while offering them valuable experiences. This is how our weekly “Football Trivia” project was launched. On a weekly basis, we hosted dedicated Trivia nights and challenged Betano users to test their knowledge regarding football. This way, we managed to keep an ongoing communication and offer our users live pieces of sports entertainment, while engaging them in contests meant to reward their activity. As mentioned before, we try to turn each challenge into an opportunity and we strongly believe in constant adaptability to the realities.
BR: How important was in that process your investment in online?
Dragos Mindreci: In this period, even more than before, the competitivity increased in online. More consumers migrated from offline casino to online casino, and this shift in channels enabled us to attract new users. At the same time, this was an opportunity for us to create and develop even more complex communication strategies, innovating in terms of live experience offered to both our existing and potential clients. We focused on promoting our casino and live casino products, but also on supporting important and impactful E-sports competitions throughout the country.
BR: What are your plans and expectations for 2021?
Dragos Mindreci: One of our main objectives is to further develop the Betano brand as we have successfully done so far, starting as main sponsor of Liga 1 Betano for two years in a row and continuing as proud partner of CS U Craiova and FCSB football teams. In 2020, we extended our sponsorship family by becoming the official partner of the Romanian wrestling Olympic, Alina Vuc, and of the National Rally Championship. Since we are a tech company, we are also planning to further develop our platform. We will continue to focus on customer education and Responsible Gaming, as Betano has aimed to be a responsible source of online entertainment. We have products, such as Live Roulette and Blackjack tables, which allow our users to socialize, meet new people and have exceptional and localized customer experiences. Our goal is to build on the brand’s position among its users and to be perceived as any other traditional entertainment option.
BR: What does responsible gaming mean for you and how do you do it at Betano? (give us examples please)
Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu: Betano has an active presence in Responsible Gaming as part of the strategic direction of our organizational culture not only locally, but also at the group level. We strongly believe that the success of our organization is directly linked to the responsible and high-quality experiences of our clients, who trust our products and services.
In order to support Responsible Gaming, we actively promote a wide range of instruments on our platform, meant to ensure our customers a trustful and safe environment. In Romania, Betano was the first operator to have launched a campaign exclusively dedicated to Responsible Gaming, encouraging the users to play responsibly and maintain control.
Moreover, we constantly invest in new features, services and initiatives. We are proud to be the only company on the gambling market which succeeded in developing and implementing a tool based on Artificial Intelligence to analyze the users’ activity on the platform, detecting vulnerable behaviors and enabling us to help gamblers through personalized assistance. By leveraging the speed and accuracy of Artificial Intelligence, the tool can detect specific gaming patterns and follow up through intervention of trained and specialized RG agents, thus demonstrating a great example of how technology and human intelligence may offer an entertaining and safe gaming experience. For us, Betano users’ safety is a priority and we are glad to support them in a responsible gaming activity.
BR: How important is innovation for you and how do you use it in your activity at Betano?
Innovation is one of our core values and, as stated before, we have recently developed inside the organization a system based on Artificial Intelligence, meant to identify in a faster manner specific gaming patterns of those users who might be at risk in developing vulnerable behaviors. In this manner, the dedicated responsible gaming teams can offer them the best support as possible. This innovation has been recently awarded in the EGR Marketing & Innovation Awards 2020 and was considered by the jury one of the best initiatives that combine in the most successful way the technological capabilities and the unique human abilities, thus demonstrating a hybrid approach in the use of technology and human factor.
BR: The company donated this year EUR 100,000 towards Crucea Rosie Romana. How do you choose the causes you are supporting?
Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu: Corporate responsibility has been an integral part of our business model, right from the very beginning. Under this scope, we analyzed our areas of action, to identify those where we can maximize the positive footprint. The donation at the beginning of the year of 100,000 EUR towards Crucea Rosie Romana was a natural response to the major challenges faced at that time by the Romanian society. We are living unique times and only by being altogether as #oneteam we can overcome the difficulties brought by the pandemic.
BR: What are your main CSR activities this year and your plans for the future?
Roxana Ciocanau Dinescu: Solidarity, responsibility, and social involvement are defining elements of Betano in each of its operating markets. These values motivated us to take an active role this year in supporting units and medical staff in overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic.
Furthermore, as part of this approach, on December 17th, Betano Romania officially launched an impactful CSR campaign, under the concept Table for Two. The initiative supported two of the most affected sectors in Romania that directly and immediately felt the effects of the pandemic crisis – health and HoReCa. 100 lunch menus were distributed daily, for 30 days, to the medical staff from COVID-19 support hospitals in 4 main cities across Romania (Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Craiova).
Table for Two is a human-centric CSR campaign meant to show gratitude in front of the efforts the medical staff puts into saving people’s lives, while also supporting small businesses, owned by Romanian entrepreneurs, thus maximizing the positive impact of the initiative. For 30 consecutive days, including during Winter Holidays, Betano Romania supported 15 restaurants from 4 cities to prepare and deliver 15.000 hot meals to the front-line medical staff from 5 hospitals. By working closely with restaurants to provide the medical staff with daily meals, we ensured a solid number of orders that helped in keeping those restaurants running during the hard pandemic times.
Through this campaign, we aimed to generate a chain of goodness: by helping restaurants in helping medical staff in helping patients, and thus the community. As such, we continued our commitment to invest in the community, as part of our mission to act as a responsible and stable brand on the Romanian market.