Lubov Loginova was appointed CEO of Unicum Gaming in January. She previously served as commercial director, where she led the sales and marketing departments. As leader of the largest supplier of slot machines in Russia, Loginova is charged with directing the company forward, moving from the recent market upheaval to a new day with the establishment of Russian gaming zones. She spoke with Global Gaming Business Publisher Roger Gros and Editor Frank Legato at the ICE trade show in London in January.
GGB: Explain the shape of your company now. What are some of the products and what are some of the services you provide?
Loginova: Unicum is one of the biggest companies in Russia, and I think the only gaming company that has survived after this crisis in the Russian casino industry. Unicum has 15 years experience in the Russian market, so all customers and all operators know the Unicum brand.
What are some of the markets you’re targeting now that the Russian market has virtually closed down?
Although our main market is still Russia, we’re also very successful in Ukraine, Tajikistan and Belarus. Also, other operators are starting to grow in European markets, such as Italy, Germany, Romania and the Baltic states, so we’re beginning to sell in those countries. We have also developed a product for the Mexican market.
We’re also moving into Latin America, Asia and Africa. Recently, we’ve started selling our games and other equipment to CIS countries such as Georgia and Armenia. In Asia, Laos and Vietnam have become new targets of Unicum Gaming marketing activity.
How do you adjust your product mix as you move into new markets?
At Unicum, we have several very big production facilities, in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ukraine and Siberia. We have an R&D team in St. Petersburg, and our sales team tells us what markets are growing and their preferences. After that, R&D decides what products to develop. But it normally takes a lot of time because, for example, the product for the German market differs from Italy. Mexico is very different from Russia.
Are you targeting any of the Indian gaming markets in the United States?
Yes, we already have a product for Indian gaming and we are testing it on the market right now. I think it will be very successful. It is a (Class II) bingo-type machine.
Is that also what you’re developing for the Mexican market?
Not exactly. It’s a different type of game for Mexico. It has the elements of bingo and skill games-something that will fit the law in Mexico.
Is the challenge of being licensed in the U.S. one of the reasons that you won’t be in there in the near term?
We are in some jurisdictions America. Ideally, we’d like to be in all regions but of course, licensing is a big issue and it takes time. Nevertheless, we are doing it, and we have a large team doing the paperwork. We also have distributors who help us.
Is there one product that you consider to be your most important product or the flagship of your product line?
I’m very excited about our latest product. It’s a progressive jackpot game called Crazy Squirrel. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’ll see on similar world-class machines, but it’s less expensive and comes in several versions. The animation is terrific, and we’ve been getting great feedback after exhibiting it at G2E and ICE.
Let’s talk about what happened in Russia. How did Unicum approach that market when you found out what was going to happen with the contraction of the industry there?
Some of the companies that were making the equipment for casinos-for example, tables and chairs-are now producing tables and chairs for cafés, restaurants and other businesses. Companies that were making metal slot cabinets are now producing parking stations or something like that.
For a while, we didn’t think the gaming zones would happen, but recently a bill was signed and we have seen the budget for building the zones. So now, we see the steps. There have been meetings with the big operators and they are beginning to outline how the zones will work.
Are you hoping that at least one of these zones becomes almost a Las Vegas type of operation with a lot of casinos?
I hope so, because it would be great if they would become like Macau or Las Vegas. Then, Russia would become a good market again-a good opportunity for all of us.
It’s quite unusual for a woman to lead a slot company, which makes you kind of a pioneer in this field. Do you feel any pressure, not only in reviving a slot manufacturing company, but also being one of the first women to run a company like this?
When I first started, it was difficult to deal with men, especially in Russia, because if you want to do business in Russia, you have to drink, you have to eat a lot, you have to go out with the men. It was difficult.
When I first started going to meetings, everyone would ask if I was the daughter of the man who was coming; I was very young. But now it’s much better. I understand how to do business, how to deal with men. I take different approaches, because you cannot just come and tell them “do it like this.” You need to have a special approach.