Casinos in some jurisdictions worldwide, including the UK, started to reopen under new restrictions, with closed poker rooms, and gaming profitability boosted by pent-up demand in many cases. What is the current situation today of Abbiati and its partners/customers; and based on feedback from them, in which stage of this reopening process would you say the land-based gaming industry is right now? How do you think this will unfold through the rest of the year in the different jurisdictions?
It would be fair to say that we are still in the early stages of reopening in most jurisdictions. Clients’ expectations for initial trading have not been great but have often been exceeded, with fewer but higher spending players focused on gambling rather than a leisure experience. However, for those clients reliant on international travelers trading has not been so positive. Covid-19 spikes have forced local lockdowns to be reimposed, and this is likely to continue in the short-medium term until more effective testing or a vaccine is made available.
In Italy, where Abbiati is based, the situation in March was critical: the pandemic struck without warning and the Government had to carry out the first lockdown in Europe. Six months later, we can say that life is not the same as before, we still live and work with some severe restrictions, but we returned in full operations, stronger and positive. We work and will work hard to satisfy all the customers’ needs, as we always did: it’s important for us to give the best products and services to our clients even more than before.
In May you launched a new product portfolio for the online sector, Abbiati Online. Could you share further insights into this new offering, feedback and progress seen so far, goals and expectations for this in the coming months?
Although Abbiati have supplied products to the online sector for some time, this was an opportunity to consolidate our portfolio offering in a cohesive communication to both existing and potential clients. Covid-19 has in general provided growth for the online market as land-based premises were closed and people confined to their homes for long periods. We have seen an upswing in sales to this market, and intend to reinforce this through continued marketing communications and consideration of new product additions.
Which other current and short-term projects, plans or strategies addressing this new landscape could you describe? Which specific changes and moves are you working on now, and plan to roll out in order to adapt to this new context and possibly leverage different technologies or other types of resources?
We have introduced our “Rainbow layouts” as a positive message for casino reopening, and also have perspex screens available upon request. We have a number of product developments in process addressing both our core business and changing requirements demanded by the new landscape in which we operate. We hope to provide further details later this year.
In July you announced a partnership with HPS Services for the delivery of anti-microbial services, including the use of Zoono, to the UK gaming, betting, amusement and leisure sectors. What drove this decision? Can we expect similar moves from Abbiati in this area in the coming months? What other kinds of partnerships have you been after, or will you focus on in the short term?
A number of product/service opportunities have arisen in recent months as the impact of Covid-19 has spread across the world. We believe that Zoono is a high quality product with scientific evidence supporting its ability to protect against Covid-19. As HPS Services are the only provider approved and trained directly by Zoono to deliver this service in the UK, we felt happy to enter into a partnership arrangement allowing us to approach businesses in the range of sectors that you mention.
We are always open to new product/services relationships, particularly those that complement our existing knowledge, skills and resources, or open up new market opportunities. In August we announced a collaboration with Digiwheel, working on their behalf to bring their family of products to land-based casinos in UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and also into the online gaming and betting market worldwide.
What are the operators’ new demands amid this context? Have you seen an increased appetite for diversification or any other key actions from them as a response to the crisis? Could you provide examples of this?
Operators are responding in different ways. Most remain flexible, adapting to the new ways of operating that have been imposed. Whilst open to innovation and diversification, they are also conscious of expenditure levels – for a long period land-based venues received no income and now top line revenues are lower will continue to be, at least in the short term.
Do you think the pandemic is bringing about changes on the players’ (existing, new and potential ones) profiles? What are their new demands in term of products, games, features, technologies, and how are Abbiati and its partners moving to meet those new demands, right now and in the coming months? Which kind of products or segments of your portfolio do you think will prove best performing or most successful amid reopenings, and in which ones do you see more growth potential now?
We hear that core gamblers have formed the majority of visitors to land-based premises – fewer but higher spending, and less concerned about the changed atmosphere and playing environment. We have continued to experience demand for our core product range; particularly more “consumable” items – such as layouts and playing cards – which are essential to day-to-day operations.
What about growth potential and performance in the different markets where you have operations, could you make any comparisons in that sense? Where is your focus today and this year in general?
Overall operators remain cautious about future performance in the short/medium-term, and yet open-minded to any new initiatives that may arise. There does not appear to be much difference across the markets in which we operate, apart from perhaps online and land-based with the former little impacted by recent events (apart from sports-related activities). Abbiati will continue to focus on its core business and markets, whilst also looking for new opportunities and/or relationship that can leverage its current position in the market.