GGB is committed to providing updated news and analysis on our weekly news site,

Eastern Summit

Eastern European Gaming Summit and Balkan Expo emphasize strengths, challenges

Some 2,000 gaming industry professionals from across Central and Eastern Europe gathered at the Expo Convention Center in Sofia, Bulgaria, last month for the region’s first combined trade show expo and focused educational conference.
The first Eastern European Gaming Summit was sponsored by the Bulgarian Trade Association of the Manufacturers and Operators in the Gaming Industry, Spectrum Gaming Group, Bulgarian slot manufacturer Casino Technology and an extensive lineup of media partners.
The EEGS conference featured more than 60 speakers from all segments of the region’s gaming industry, including major casino operators, regulators and vendors. The conference was combined with the Balkan Entertainment & Gaming Expo, a trade show featuring stands showcasing games and equipment from 72 vendors from 60 countries around the world.
Three days of conference sessions focused on issues ranging from needed changes in the regulation of casinos in Eastern Europe to marketing techniques to new products. Among the highlights of the program:
Michael Beottcher, CEO of Storm International-formerly the most prominent casino operator in Russia-painted a bleak picture of the prospects for operators under the new Russian gaming law instituted by former President Vladimir Putin, which will result in current casinos closing next year.
Beottcher, a casino executive known for his outspoken criticism of the new Russian law, complained that the four casino regions set up by Putin are in remote areas that lack even basic infrastructure and highways. He said there is no hope that Storm or any other major casino operator will be able to set up shop in Russia at any time soon.
Regulation in the region’s gaming industry was the subject of several sessions, including a presentation by Eduardo Antoja, honorary president of the European Gaming and Amusement Federation, or EUROMAT. Antoja commented that “society moves faster than regulations,” and the key challenge for regulators is to keep pace with technological advances in the industry.
Antoja cited the main challenges for operators in current European regulatory and gaming law setups are rigid regulations, excessive taxation and monopolies in certain countries that create an unfair competitive environment.
Separate sessions examined the intricacies of international gaming law and regulation. Fredric Gushin, managing partner of the Spectrum Group, gave an educational presentation on international regulatory trends. Gushin noted that regulation in many nations is less rigid than in the past, mainly due to the general acceptance of gaming as a legitimate business by Wall Street and by society at large. He said the public policy goals of gaming, which include reinvestment, tax revenues and job creation, often are adversely affected by government policy including high taxation and expectations that are unrealistic.
Bob Miller, chairman of the International Association of Gaming Advisers and former Nevada governor, spoke on the evolution of legalized gaming in the world and how various private entities in the gaming industry relate to government in different parts of the world.
Internal compliance issues were covered in a session by gaming attorney Jeffrey A. Silver, chairman of the Gaming and Administrative Law Department at Gordon & Silver Ltd.
A case study on expansion was presented by Anders Galfvensjo, expansion director for Olympic Entertainment Group. Galfvensjo outlined how Olympic’s expansion in the Baltic states has followed the design principles of Las Vegas casinos.
Problem gambling issues were addressed at several sessions, as were issues such as the ins and outs of marketing to players. One session on marketing was conducted by Marlene Reyes, senior associate of the Fine Point Group, who offered a formula for success in player promotions.
Reyes’ marketing formula includes simplicity (programs should be able to be explained to customers in 30 seconds), control, aspiration (give players something to shoot for), transferability (between properties or between a single casino and outside partners), and flexibility.
One session addressed minimizing the negative effects of smoking bans, which have taken hold in Western Europe but are viewed as inevitable in smoker-friendly Eastern Europe as well. Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of New Jersey GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), highlighted successful past efforts in which smoking bans have been turned into a positive through marketing efforts by casinos.
The conference sessions were augmented by round-table discussions covering specific Eastern European markets including Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Greece, Austria, Malta and the British Channel Islands.
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.  

    Recent Feature Articles

  • A Good Bet

    As AGS prepares to return to private ownership, stock analysts and industry experts acknowledge that the company’s future is a good bet, private or public.

  • Taxing Problem

    Wagering tax hikes could shrink markets, have unintended consequences.

  • Cashless Crescendo

    The ongoing migration to a cashless casino experience.

  • Hold for Gold, Spin to Win

    Why hold-and-spin games have come to dominate the slot industry.

  • Ronnie Johns: A Life in the Hot Seat

    Following three years as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and close to 40 years in public service, Ronnie Johns steps down.