International edition
September 24, 2020

Jens Halle, Managing Director, AGI and CEO, Novomatic Americas

“We are in the process of getting a license in Puerto Rico in order to sell our machines to casinos”

(Puerto Rico, exclusive Yogonet.com).- Jens Halle, Managing Director, AGI and CEO, Novomatic Americas, talked to Yogonet.com after the recent edition of the Caribbean Gaming Show, where the firm presented its products for the first time. He also commented about the different markets in which the firm is present and about the goals for the current year.

I

t this is your first time in the Caribbean Gaming Show?
Let’s start by talking about Puerto Rico. We are in the process of getting a license here in order to sell our machines to casinos. Hopefully we’ll have a license within the next two months and then we’ll start rolling out our products. 

This is the first time we’re joining the Caribbean Gaming Show. And due to the fact that we are in the licensing process, it makes sense for us to come to show our face, to show our products, and then we’ll take it from there. In the rest of the Caribbean, we are already working on several islands, like Aruba, Curacao, Saint Martin, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, so we will concentrate on these islands and we’ll hopefully distribute our products there also.

And what is the potential of Puerto Rico for you?
Well, there are several casinos in Puerto Rico. So we’ll start by sending our machines and then grow there. The people will get to know our machines; you know, we have to learn a little bit because it is a new market for us. And then hopefully we’ll get a fair market share over the next couple of years here.

Only for machines, or systems too?
In Puerto Rico casinos are all equipped with systems, but on other islands we’ll also promote our Octavian system out of Argentina. There is another market in Puerto Rico that is the street market outside of casinos, and as soon as that becomes 100% legal we’ll be looking into that one too. And then we’ll probably supply our systems. That is definitely interesting.

And what about the other Caribbean markets?
We are entering Jamaica right now. Jamaica is interesting. We have a couple of operators very interested in our systems.

Which games have the best performance?
The fruit games are very popular here, and of course the classical games like Book of Ra and Lady Luck. They are popular and people really like them. 

And what are Novomatic’s plans for the rest of Latin America?
You know that we are already very strong throughout Latin America. We will continue selling machines down there. As an operator, you know we operate in Chile and Peru. We are interested in other jurisdictions like Colombia, and the only problem country we have right now is, like everybody else, the Argentina market. There is a lot of interest in our products, but, you know, the input restrictions hurt us a lot. And hopefully one of these days it will be over. However, right now, it is getting worse. Unfortunately, it is a big problem. 

Chile is about to have two more new casinos.
We are operating together with our partners the Monticello Casino, outside of Santiago. Then, of course, in Chile there is also a grey market and we are closely monitoring the law to see what’s going to happen there.  You know, we are a licensed company and we can only work in totally clean jurisdictions. But, as soon as the authorities put in place a correctly enforced law for the street market we are definitely interested. 

And what is the potential of Colombia?
Well, first of all, Colombia is very interesting due to the fact that it looks set to come up with new legislation. Then all the machines must be connected due to regulation systems, so that means that there’s a need for new products because the machines that have to be connected are all old.  I can compare it with Peru a few years ago - so it is a country with a big potential for the future. With regard to the activity as an operator, you will not open or operate in every city, but we are looking for interesting locations in interesting places and if something comes up, we will consider it and we’ll think about it in order to maybe become an operator over there, too.  

And what about the United States?
In the US we opened our headquarters 18 months ago, we have the infrastructure and a superbly professional team in place and we are now at the stage of getting licenses in various jurisdictions - for example in California we are in the process of filling in all the forms, getting investigated and, hopefully, within the next 2 or 3 months we’ll have a couple of new licenses and then we’ll distribute our products. And, based on our market research, I am confident that our products will work and the casinos will like them so that we’ll build a good market share over there. 

Do you have partners for online gaming in other jurisdictions?
We have our own online gaming division. A couple of years ago we purchased a company called Greentube, which is heavily involved in various jurisdictions with online gaming but again, I must stress, only where online gaming is legal.

What is your opinion about online gaming legislation in the US, state by state?
Well, the United States is very complicated. You probably know that in New Jersey and Delaware the activity is legal. New Jersey was the first state to allow online gaming and we looked into that one and we haven’t made up our minds but there is a chance that we do some b-2-b activity. For the rest, we have to wait and see what happens. You know, there are a lot of talks and a lot of ideas but, again, we have to wait for the final law. That is interesting, but it will probably take a little while for the US to come out with a decent law for the whole country.

And what are Novomatic’s goals in general for the next year?
To improve our operations worldwide. We operate mainly in Europe, Latin America and South America, plus a little in Africa, so we’ll probably look into new operations as long as they make sense, as long as the return on investment is fast. Asia is not on our list right now. We are watching but it’s not like we are jumping in there; you can’t compare us with Wynn or Sheldon Adelson, who are casino operators; we are more focused on electronic casinos. That’s what we have done with a lot of success in Europe and South America, and hopefully we’ll find some other jurisdictions to start operating this kind of business in, these kinds of operations. On the other hand, we want to distribute our products worldwide. We are always coming out with new games, new cabinets and platforms; we brought the Dominator, the NovoLine platform. We are getting a GLI approval now, so our next step will be to distribute these products. In Europe we are still looking at street markets. Europe is well known for street markets, such as in Germany and Italy for example. At the Fer Interazar show in Spain we introduced new products. In November last year we bought a lottery company, Betware, and now we are looking into the lottery business. 

Spain is discussing legalizing online slots; what are your thoughts on this?
We are waiting for that and, of course, if it makes sense and the business is interesting for the group, we will be checking it out. 

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