Coming from the casino vertical, do you intend to stick to your core brand strategy or diversify and grasp the opportunity that other verticals keep in hold?
Our core business is the operation of land-based casinos. At heart, we are a family-owned traditional brick and mortar company with strong values. But like any other company we need to grow in order to continue to remain relevant.
Therefore, we cannot afford to miss any of the opportunities that lie ahead of us, and our focus will be on all verticals within the iGaming industry. Our mid-term strategy is to be online in all the countries where we operate land-based casinos already. With marketing being key to the success of the online business, we believe that we can create a synergy through our already existing physical presence, knowledge of the culture, and manpower on the front.
You have targeted Tanzania for your first expansion to online gambling. Why Tanzania?
Tanzania’s betting industry has more than doubled in the last three years. Moreover, three of the fastest-growing cities in the world are in Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam has a population of 6.7 million people and is projected to grow by 100% to 13.4 million by 2035.
Apart from this, it is important to note that all of the fastest-growing 15 cities in the world are found in Africa. We believe that Africa is a safe bet if you need a good start. And that is exactly what we need if we are to tackle and master diversification within a traditional casino company such as ours.
From a global perspective, land-based casinos have been slow to shift or expand their operations to the digital channels, and thus providing a more complete betting experience where all the channels are interlinked. Why do you think is there such a reluctance from retail casino operators to transform their business strategies?
I think people are reluctant to change in general. We are talking about two totally different cultures as well, with the online branch of the business considered as the disruptor in our traditional casino world, where until recently people always needed to be physically present in a brick and mortar casino in order to place their money on bets. Thus there always needed to be a live interaction and it was more like a personal experience.
That is not required anymore, with online casino bringing about a clash of cultures if you will. Well, it is quite clear that it is us, the land-based casino operators, the ones that need to change and adapt. Diversification can only be made in the direction of progress. Business diversification is definitely something that all land-based operators need to address in the short term. We are up to the challenge, and with the right vision and the right partners such as BtoBet, we will get there.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about never before seen measures requiring social distancing. How has this affected the retail casino business?
All but 12 of our casinos are closed at the moment. So we are talking about 20 closed casinos of which we do not know yet when they will be allowed to reopen. The best business model is a crisis-proof one, and there will be a lot of analysis from all industries on how they can achieve this.
Nonetheless, I dare say that if we could have achieved a diversification to online more early, and by doing so hedged our investments, we probably would have not been hit as hard.
Do you think that the pandemic will eventually change the players’ behavior?
We cannot foresee with certainty what the player behavior will look like after the crisis. People might be more hesitant to go to a casino but on the other hand once normality returns I believe that social interaction will be a key element that will characterize people’s lives.
My guess is that everything will go back to normal once the pandemic is under control. People have a tendency of wanting to forget bad times. After all social interaction is what makes us human, so we will not easily give up on that.
What elements made you choose BtoBet’s Neuron 3 platform as the technological core of your online business?
When I did my own research for iGaming and sports betting platform providers, which are active in Africa it was amazing that under every stone I turned I found BtoBet. When a company of our size wants to go online there is a lot of demand for working with us. And although we had contact with all the main companies in the online gaming business, our decision, in the end, was quite easy. Knowledge, expertise, and trustworthiness are key elements that distinguish BtoBet, and we look forward to working with them on other similar projects.