A matter raised by Sorin Georgescu, General Manager of Maxbet, in a country with an apparently immovable mentality.
How did the story of Maxbet start in Romania?
The story of Maxbet started somewhere around 2002, with the opening of a first venue in 2003. At the beginning, it represented only a test on a new market, in order to see how things go, having the experience of Ukraine and Russia. The first two years were slow, nothing significant happened concerning the number of rooms or profits; only in the year of 2005, when the things started to justify a dynamic level of the business, I decided to join the team. At that moment, Maxbet had 5 venues, out of which two (Pantelimon Street and I.C.Bratianu Boulevard) had to be closed. Thus, we were left with only three: that from Calea Mosilor, which was the first one, that on Mihalache Boulevard and the last one on Gara de Nord. Starting from this year, the company registered a real momentum under the leadership of Mr. Avi Barel, based on the experience from Ukraine and Russia. The company that holds Maxbet is currently number two on the gambling market in Russia.
It is important to know when to guide yourself following a certain market, to let the market tell you what you need to do; because it is rather superfluous to build a 5 star casino, to invest millions of Euro, if the target market doesn’t need it.
How does the present look like?
We currently have 44 venues all over the country and 470 employees. Just like any other Maxbet, we are crossing a stand-by period because of the changes of owners and of the market, all at a “perfect” time for us. What I mean is that, in 2009 there was a need for a break in which the players of the scene to realize that things were way off reality. That is because between 2007 – 2008, the dynamic registered was the preamble of the disequilibrium we feel today. We currently focus on the rooms with strategic position and good history track results.
What is the effect of the new gaming law for Maxbet?
I don’t believe that a company or a person can put a label on a law that regulates an entire industry and to decide that it is good or bad-this is inappropriate. From my point of view, the law in question is necessary. The previous law did not show the reality of the market, of the business, of the actors on the gaming scene. The new one drastically changed the classification of each business: casinos, slot room, sports bets, which was indeed necessary. Moreover, except for the conditions regarding taxes and the maximum number of machines in a game room, it doesn’t have some major issues that can lead to debates. More likely, we should be aware of the fact that this new law and the crisis, gave us the opportunity to deal with the same phenomenon that Russia and Ukraine faced, meaning a massive explosion of the number of gaming rooms and the radical intervention of the state, by the interdiction of gambling. In this way, the equilibrium was established. If this law had been implemented in 2007 or 2008, I am absolutely convinced that there wouldn’t have been pro or con debates, because the market would have accepted it easier. It is obvious that it came in a moment when the operators were short in profits.
How pervious is the market outside Bucharest for the Maxbet’s offers?
The capital city is the main part of our business, but just as important for the future of our company, are the places outside it. If we were to close them, it would have been a major hit for our company. I don’t want people to believe that we were not affected by the increase of the taxes. Outside Bucharest, the crisis is more severe. The decrease of incomes, the lack of stability of the amount played every day, of the number of clients, is more obvious here, then in Bucharest, which many times leads to a black market. The effects of this black market were obvious even from last year fall. We don’t have tangible evidence, but I believe that the ones in charge should interfere. We don’t expect others to come and do our work. Illegal competition is something which everyone deals with, but not equally, no matter the number of machines.
How is your life outside Maxbet?
Ever since I started to work for Maxbet, I can say that the spare time for hobbies is scarce. When I do have some free time, I try to rest, to spend it with my family, to watch movies and read, precisely in this order. But I am inclined to think that whoever works in this domain cannot talk about his/her free time, al least not during this period. Maybe those who own a gamblling business, but for those involved in middle and upper management there is no way, taking into account the dynamic of the market and the challenges.