With a large experience in gambling and especially slots machines, Dragos Buriu shares his vision on the Romanian gambling, talks about his business and reveals his future plans.
1. Which was your first contact with the gambling industry? what attracted you first?
For a good answer I have to go back in time and talk about my childhood… I had my first contact with a slot machine when I was 10. On my way to school I crossed a room where slots machines were being assembled. I have been witnessing the evolution of the Romanian gambling industry, one way or another, from the first mechanic slot machine to the latest video slots now in casinos. I felt a certain attraction to this area; it was quite new in Romania and gave a young person the possibility to develop a business. It is also a business that gives me the opportunity to travel a lot and to know people belonging to different cultures. The international gambling is continuously developing and this is the way I have always tried to adapt and anticipate what could happen in Romania.
2. Which is the offer of Newton Slots for 2011?
For the last year and a half, there have been a total change on the product portfolio and I can say that we have succeeded developing the suppliers’ database that gives me the possibility to offer 99% of the new products. I am talking about slots like Gaminator, Hotspot Platinum, King Kong Cash , Cash Fever , Apex, but also GPRS control systems and four winning level Jackpot systems.
3. Which are the developing lines the company will follow this year?
Personally, I have 2 important goals for 2011, in different directions, though. One of them is to reassign the production capacity in Bucharest. I have decided to do that in order to have a proper control on the quality of the products but also to have the access towards the labor market of the capital. I hope to be able to solve certain quality deficiencies we had in the past, but also to develop a faster service responce. Under the current taxation system, it is important to understand the that for an operator, a slot machine must work at all times! Another important goal would be the launching of an online casino based on one of the most popular platforms in the world. The experience of the last two years in a new gambling branch helped me choose a direction which I am willing to take. As I said before, the key for success is continuing to adapt to the domain and be open minded to new things. From my point of view, the future is the online.
4. What is the difference between your company and other companies in the domain? Tell us about the main trumps of Newton Slots
Romania represents successfully the gambling industry in the world. There are companies that created their own slots, there are companies that developed jackpot and control systems, there are companies that produce and maintain slots. Let’s say Newton Slots represents successfully the last two categories. We also have a special attention towards our collaborators and I am personally involved in any kind of a problem that could appear along the way.
5. How would you describe the Romanian gambling market?
I can say that cohesion is missing on the Romanian gambling market. Together with AOPJNR, I have actively struggled against the provisions of the Ordinance 77/2009 that were against the small and middle operators. I have sadly learnt how certain operators chose to step aside and watch their business and lives being affected. There are 5 different associations that should find more often common objectives to align to. This ordinance had a positive effect, though. It helped sorting the gambling market. I am in constant contact with the Romanian organizers and I can say that the ones that have remained on the market are the professional and serious ones, that see this business on the long run.
6. Which is the performing level of the equipments on the Romanian gaming market?
We must make a clear distinction between Bucharest and the rest of the country. When we talk about Bucharest, we are dealing with pro operators who hold slots on estimated between 3000 to 15.000 euros. Such equipment allow them having larger incomes. I hope the rest of the country will follow Bucharest as well. I have noticed that some of the operators have raised the investment level, due to the fact that some slots have a higher income potential. Another aspect I want to tackle is the slow but certain disappearence of the pirate software. The operators have learnt that a long term investment requires the elimination of all risks and assuming the responsibility towards the player. I personally support this tendency and I will make sure Newton Slots will always be close to those willing to use original products.
7. Which are the main obstacles you have to face for developing your activity? What was the impact of the economical crisis on the business?
Unfortunately, the economical crisis came along with the decision of the Ministry of Finances to change the legislation in June 2009. Under the framework of diminished incomes and increasing taxing system to 4.7 times, the operators stopped thinking about investments. The second part of 2010 offered a surprise, though. The operators learnt that having performing slots, the incomes increase and they can attract clients. Newton Slots is based exclusively on selling original slots and has products of ATRONIC , IGT, WMS and mostly NOVOMATIC. Since Novomatic is absolute leader on incomes, I can say that things have been working very good for us.
8. Which are your future plans relying on the realities of the Romanian market, including the legislative modifications?
My main objective for this domain has already been achieved. The direction I have taken in 2009 is the correct one and I have probably learnt a lot about respecting the work of the others. I will continue developing in this direction and I believe that things will only get better. Regarding the legislation framework, I had a lot of surprises right at the beginning of this year. Even if the level of the tax was already too high, a ticket has been introduced for the player to have access to use the slots. Unfortunately, our reality is far different from the reality seen by the Ministry of Finances and eventually the operators will have to pay for the player’s ticket . The struggle for getting players is so intense that no one can afford the luxury to tax the player when entering the room, since the operator next door will support the cost only to get that client.
9. Do you think the real problem is the tax level?
I wouldn’t say the tax level is the main issue. My direct relation with my collaborators gives me the possibility to learn about sensitive information, as the one regarding the fact that Romania has a large black operating market, tolerated by the local control authorities. It’s painful for an honest operator to see a part of his income that pays for the tax is lost in favor of those without a license. This affects the operators directly and the producers indirectly, but it attacks mostly the state budget that loses incomes, and will continue risking losing the operators and producers who struggle with the lack of fair play.
10. What’s your advice for the operators on the Romanian market?
Be consequent and act together if possible. We live in a democratic society, or at least that is what we believe… the competition is normal and we should be driven to performance and not hatred! If we had fought together, it would have been so much easier! I don’t mean to be pessimist… I hope things will get better and the operators on the market adapt to the new conditions! I wish them luck!