Zane Mersich, CEO at Novomatic UK, explains how Luxury Leisure Talarius is poised to take full advantage of April’s reduction in the FOBT stake and how a mixture of great product, brilliant customer service and staff with ‘personality’ combine to bring the brand proposition to life.
You recently participated in the Novomatic press briefing at ICE London – what does an operator such as Luxury Leisure Talarius gain from attending the world’s biggest gambling show?
Zane Mersich: Our senior management team visit ICE annually including representatives from Operations, Gaming, Marketing, Technical and IT. The fact that it’s in London is the first big win for a UK operator as it allows global collaboration on our doorstep! Many of our management team work closely with their Novomatic counterparts who are based in Vienna, so this is a great opportunity to meet up face to face. All of the major manufacturers are well represented so it’s excellent to meet everyone that we work with at Luxury Leisure Talarius and keep informed about the developments in our sector of the industry. Beyond machines, ICE is becoming a mecca for all sorts of suppliers who cater to our industry and there are always lots of bright ideas to be picked up on.
What were the highlights of ICE for you personally?
Zane Mersich: ICE is the global gaming show, it has grown in stature and importance with exhibitors from across the globe, it is an ideal platform to meet, exchange ideas, strengthen existing relationships and strike-up new ones. Last and certainly not least, it is a wonderful platform to showcase product. From a product perspective as Novomatic UK we introduced our customers to some incredible innovation this year, from “Big Bonus Wheel” to “Cash- Falls” and, of-course, “Prismatic” – our new “go-to” cabinet for low-stake gaming in the UK and further afield. Whilst these innovations represented great platforms to showcase our games, it is the game content that delights the players and as a result, the operators. This is where we excel and we were delighted to take our customers through the journey and be able to showcase much of what we are all about in one location. These were some of the highlights for me at this year’s ICE show and although there were many more, I shall stop here!
How are you preparing for April’s reduction in FOBT stake to £2 and what impact will that have on high street AGCs – have you undertaken any economic modelling of the likely fall out?
Zane Mersich: We have and we expect the impact to be extremely positive. As covered in the media, we expect a number of bookmaker businesses to shut whether entirely or through consolidation from multiple branches into one. That coupled with slower gameplay that £2 stake roulette or slots creates and we anticipate that there will be a number of players becoming available in the markets which we operate. Key to us is to provide the right machines that are currently available in the bookmakers, with consistent titles, and surpass the bookie experience through customer service, better promotions and availability in the hours that we trade.
Are you/have you changed the machine mix in preparation for April; if so, how?
Zane Mersich: Both Luxury Leisure and Talarius businesses had a strong SG footprint prior to acquisition by Novomatic and in Storm, provided by group company Playnation. We’ve subsequently invested heavily in Novomatic group product, which now accounts for over 50 percent of our revenues at Luxury Leisure Talarius. It’s a major milestone for our collective business and really gives us the best mix of machines on the high street. With some strategic investments in the latest 3rd party technology and our impressive range of group product we feel that we’re very well catered for ahead of April.
Describe the typical Luxury Leisure Talarius customer and how do you cater for him/her?
Zane Mersich: The customer range that we welcome through our doors daily is very broad. We still maintain a strong older clientele who came to the business on the strength of its amusement business and are now extremely loyal customers because we still cater for them well, with product that has stood the test of time. Since the Novomatic acquisition of Luxury Leisure in 2014 and Talarius in 2016, we made several major investments in casino grade machines and through our marketing efforts have grown market share from the slots player in that sector. We also offer a lot of content that’s shared with bingo and LBO sectors, so overall our product mix has brought in a younger, more diverse range of customers which we believe will continue into April and beyond.
How does the business approach the task of hiring the right calibre of customer facing staff and what attributes do you look for?
Zane Mersich: The customer facing staff are the ones that really bring our brand proposition to life, so we look for sparkling personalities that are proud to make their venue their own and treat it like they would their own business where the warmest of welcomes can keep a customer coming back. Our HR and recruitment team do a great job helping us to find these members of staff in the way that we market our positions and then back that up with effective induction and training processes. We’re just about to reveal several significant people investment strategies at our next company conference because after we’ve hired, the key is to retain our best staff and let them build future careers with Admiral.
What proportion of your AGCs have 24hour opening and how do you cater for what must be a different clientele?
Zane Mersich: Around 25 percent or our AGCs operate 24 hours a day, primarily focused on the London area and selected other big cities and towns around the UK. Many more operate late into the night with 4am closures not being uncommon. In many of these locations, especially London, traditional working patterns of 9-5 Monday-Friday are gone, with employers demanding and staff requesting a more flexible approach to work. We have to move with this to offer prospective customers leisure time when they wish to enjoy it in much the same way casinos have been offering for years. For me, these customers are no different to our usual clientele – they demand and deserve brilliant customer service, availability of refreshments and promotions/loyalty rewards in exactly the same way that a daytime customer would.