As senior vice president of GTECH Gaming Solutions, Gerhard Burda brings his experience as CEO of the former Atronic Group to the combined slot-manufacturing operations of GTECH under current owner Lottomatica. Burda was with Atronic from the early 1990s, when the Austrian manufacturer was acquired by Germany’s Gauselmann Group and built into one of the premier slot suppliers in the industry. Burda talked with Global Gaming Business Editor Frank Legato about how the merger of Atronic with Canada’s Spielo Group under the GTECH umbrella has resulted in a new technological force in the industry.
GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS: Have the efforts to merge the former software and hardware platforms of Atronic and Spielo been completed?
BURDA: Basically, we have been focusing on integrating the operating systems and other components of the platforms between Atronic and Spielo, and have also focused on having the same part strategy for the different cabinets between Atronic and Spielo for the past 18 months, and I can say this has been completed successfully.
Are you going forward with the e-motion platform for some or most of Atronic slots, at least in some markets? To what extent will this platform survive?
E-motion is a cabinet; obviously we have our own electronic platform in there. We will continue our highly successful linked gaming product on the e-motion cabinet with the heritage platform for the next couple of years. At the same time, we also will roll out our joint platform that has been developed by Spielo and Atronic, and we have a specific market rollout that will become more visible when we go into the upcoming exhibitions, G2E in Las Vegas and London in January.
Will both Spielo and Atronic each survive as brands under the combined company?
We are working on a brand positioning strategy for the gaming solutions group, within the Lottomatica/GTECH environment. For the time being, we have two very strong brands—obviously, Spielo, distributed in the government-sponsored space, and Atronic in the commercial gaming space. And are definitely trying to maintain the strength of both brands, while we are obviously aware that some sort of umbrella brand would definitely support the identity of the division within the North America group of companies. So, again, work in progress. As time comes, we will definitely update you.
How have the strengths of the former Spielo and Atronic companies merged under Lottomatica?
As I’ve said before, what we have done is we’ve created a very strong gaming platform for both companies within the division, called sensys EP, and this platform will span from a VLT application through a North American commercial gaming application, through international markets and Asia, and we will basically have the opportunity to forward our gaming content developed, decentralized, around the world easily onto this new platform. Then, we have the benefit of the strong gaming platform, and where we have made great progress is in game design and development. Both companies obviously benefit from the experience of the other in their respective markets.
There has been a lot of crossover already, has there not?
Exactly. Spielo products have definitely been and will be visible in the North American market, but what will become more evident is that both companies are handing games back and forth between the markets.
Your company has indicated that the Prodigi Vu cabinet and sensys platform will be your primary technology for games going forward.
Prodigi Vu and the sensys EP platform will be the platforms for the North American commercial market for years to come. We have other cabinets for other market segments, like the government-sponsored VLT and the international market, but for the North American markets, this will be the mother of all cabinets used.
What are the strongest features of this technology? How does it improve on former Spielo and Atronic technologies?
It’s basically the 16-to-10 display technology, for sure, but there are lots of innovations coming, like the electronic, programmable button panel, like the remote button, like improved Dolby surround-sound. There is a lot that sensys EP platform can support, and sensys EP is also able to support the G2S protocol, which was first implemented in the VLT space, and where Spielo has also basically developed its own extensions to the G2S protocol to make it applicable to the distributed markets.
What do you feel are your strongest games slated for launch this year??I’m particularly excited about the Deal Or No Deal community game that is going to be launched for the North American commercial markets at G2E. We also have a new slant-top product we will launch this fall, and obviously, all the group games that have been developed worldwide that can now be easily transported onto the new platform will be shown at G2E in the fall.
But outside the North American market, our main focus at the moment is on the Italian VLT project. As you may have heard, legislation is ongoing in Italy to allow a huge number of VLTs into the market, and due to very specific requirements for the VLTs, a lot of our game designers have been focused on this market, which is also the home market of our mother company, Lottomatica. At the moment, we are ready as far as this market is concerned.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing your newly merged company for this year and the next few years?
I think in the United States, you see the market recovery coming; you see a couple of very positive things happening, with the economy, with the labor market, etc. In Europe, it’s a little more difficult, because we have turmoil with the euro and Greece, and nations with deficits. Most important is that the consumer gains confidence into the development of the economy again. And, I think that the U.S. has progressed further there than Europe, so we’re obviously hoping that the commercial segment in the United States will soon start the drive.