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DISCOVERING AMERICA: Jens Halle

Managing Director, Austrian Gaming Industries GmbH, Novomatic Group of Companies

DISCOVERING AMERICA: Jens Halle

In the United States, there is a tendency to talk about the “Big Five” slot manufacturers, all U.S.-based companies or U.S.-based subsidiaries of Japanese or Australian companies. Jens Halle marvels that the company he manages is never included in that discussion.

That company is Austrian Gaming Industries, the slot-making arm of Austria’s Novomatic Group of Companies. Novomatic is the largest slot supplier in Europe by far, and by some measures—the company is also an operator—it is the largest gaming company on the planet. “That is just one reason we have this new target to establish a far more realistic position in the U.S.,” says Halle, who is managing director of AGI. “So, the plan for us for the next year is to expose the Novomatic brand to U.S. operators and let the ultimate judge—namely, the success of our games—decide.”

Novomatic has already established itself as a key player in Latin American casinos, as both a supplier and operator—a fact that has led Halle to relocate to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he established the wholly owned subsidiary Novomatic Americas Sales LLC last year to easier service the market. He says he’s commuting just as much between the Americas and Novomatic headquarters in Austria; he’s just reversed the commute so his home base is close to Central and South American customers, and to the market Novomatic has squarely in its crosshairs, the U.S.

“The U.S.A. is an important target for Novomatic,” Halle says. “We by no means underestimate the challenge that faces us—we are relative newcomers to the U.S.—but we are supremely confident that we can and will succeed.”

That success will be shared by Novomatic’s U.S.-based partner, Ft. Lauderdale-based Reel Games, Inc. Reel Games, founded in 2001, is a manufacturer and distributor of slots to cruise lines, Caribbean casinos and casinos in several U.S. states, and holds licenses in more than 60 jurisdictions. It imports Novomatic products and assembles them to U.S. specifications under the banner “Reel Games in Conjunction with Novomatic.”

“Reel Games, headed by Sean Smith, is no newcomer to the Novomatic family,” says Halle. “They have worked in conjunction with us for several years, and we have established a great level of trust, knowledge and experience on which to build. Reel Games and their team are well-respected as dedicated professionals, and they have already demonstrated their ambition and their commitment to the task that lies ahead.”

The “Novomatic family” got another new member last year, with the purchase of the casino product line of Spain’s Cirsa, the Unidesa brand. “Unidesa has a long, proud history, particularly in its home market in Spain, and also in South America,” Halle says. “We thus have an addition to our own product range, and the ‘fresh blood’ of a very well-experienced development team.”

Meanwhile, Halle continues to build on Novomatic’s dominance of its home European markets, its 20,000-square-foot stand at the coming ICE Totally Gaming show in London as large as many of the casinos it serves.

“Make no mistake—2013 will be a pivotal and crucially important year for the entire global gaming industry,” says Halle. “ICE is our most important event of the year, and it is interesting that there are some obvious similarities between that event and its American counterpart, G2E. Both shows have moved their dates, and both shows have changed their venues. In the case of ICE, Novomatic has historically been proud to lead from the front as the largest exhibitor. Our booth expansion for 2013 is a demonstration of our commitment to the show and to the international markets that it supports.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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