With the gambling industry open to adopting the latest advanced technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), both globally and in Romania, it is clear that technology is going to play a crucial role in redefining the gambling experience and client communication in the future.
By Anda Sebesi
The coronavirus pandemic has set back the Romanian gambling industry by five years, according to the most recent available data from the National Institute of Statistics (INS). Gambling operators in Romania experienced one of the most severe declines of the last 30 years between March and May this year. The local gambling and entertainment industry fell by about 24 percent in March 2020 compared to the same period of 2015. The gambling sector’s March turnover was only 57 percent of February’s, which means that the entire sector sank by close to half within a single month. Then, in April and May, gambling businesses reported almost zero revenue.
“Given the situation, we made the necessary business continuity decisions and decided that the safety of our customers and employees was our main priority. We focused on the long-term business principles and we organized our activity so that we would be able to adapt as quickly as possible to the multitude of changes that occurred during this period. For example, over the past three months we went from “closed until further notice” to being open round the clock and then back to limited opening hours (until 11 PM, later extended to midnight), and we hope to be able to return to our non-stop hours as soon as possible. During all this time, we’ve been focusing on communicating with our clients and employees, for whom we’ve taken extra health and safety measures. Maintaining communication with professional associations and the authorities for accurate information on the latest developments concerning gambling halls was equally important,” says Attila “Otto” Török, Game World Romania strategy director.
According to the latest data provided by the National Gambling Office (ONJN), 250 gambling operators are currently active on the Romanian market. They contribute about EUR 600 million to the state budget every year. At the beginning of 2020, there were about 45,000 direct employees of the local gambling industry and a few other thousand worked in related and dependent fields. “According to Romslot data, for each RON the Romanian gambling industry generates, the upstream and downstream industries – HoReCa, IT&C, security – generate another 5 RON,” notes Török. He adds that Game World currently has about 400 employees, while the parent group has a workforce of about 2,000.
When talking about the biggest challenges the gambling industry is now facing, Török says these are related to the coronavirus pandemic and the health crisis, even though all operators have strictly implemented all the measures required by authorities to limit the spread of the virus.
“Still, we are indirectly affected by restrictions imposed in other fields like HoReCa, event planning, sports competitions, and tourism. Along these, client behavior has changed,” Török explains, adding: “Figures show a drop in the time spent gambling as well as in the frequency of visits to gambling halls. In this context, we shall see whether and how gambling operators will adapt and manage to pay their taxes and cover the costs related to wages, rent, and operations over the next few months.”
At the same time, the pandemic has also brought some opportunities to the market, especially for online casinos, which did well both when physical casinos were closed and, after the lockdown was lifted, while the latter were still struggling to overcome difficulties. “For offline operators, the current situation is an exercise to adapt to the most difficult and unpredictable conditions,” argues Török. Given such complex conditions, what will the gambling industry look like ten years from now? A new report from the Statistica website has found that while physical casinos are still growing in popularity, they have been surpassed by technology like bitcoin slots and bitcoin roulette. The report shows that gambling revenue from online and land-based casinos is expected to grow just 2% annually between 2017 and 2023, while revenue for virtual currency based games is estimated to rise at a much faster pace of 13%. This information should be taken as an eye opener for casino operators who may want to change their strategies.
“Technology is one of the engines of this sector and the dynamic of the last few years has proven it. The industry experienced significant growth with each year that passed and the changes we will witness by 2030 will certainly be more impactful than those that have occurred since 2010,” he adds.
The Game World official also points out that the implementation of AI, VR, AR, blockchain or other innovative technologies in all areas of the business, from the gambling experience to client communication and transaction security, are trends that the gambling industry is expected to follow in the future.