IGT has been the market leader in slot manufacturing for many years. Even though its U.S. market share has diminished in recent years, the purchase of IGT by GTECH has strengthened the company’s international presence. Walter Bugno, a senior executive with GTECH, was made the CEO of the international division of the company. He explains how the merger of corporate cultures has been accomplished and how the two companies have truly become one. He talks about the products being developed by IGT since the merger and explains how the games are introduced and released. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the ICE trade show in London in February.
Walter Bugno: It’s been very positive for us. Twelve months ago, we sat here as two companies. There was a big wall dividing what was legacy GTECH from legacy IGT. Fast-forward to today. It’s seamless, and the customers are feeling it. There’s a lot of excitement about new content, new cabinets, the expansion of our product range from VLTs, all the way to mobile and interactive and everything in between.
We’ve certainly been impressed with the new leadership of the company, with Marco Sala, Renato Ascoli and your new role. You’re building a great team here. Tell us about how the integration is working.
When we announced the merger, Marco Sala was very clear with all of us on what his expectations of the new organization were. And the first point he made to us was design an organization that is based on the principle of customer first, and customer intimacy. His view of how to win the market was you need great product and great content, but to arrive at great product and great content, if you don’t have customer intimacy and really understand what the customer needs, you won’t be able to develop that great product and great content.
So, he’s built an organization that’s focused on being as close to the customer in every part of the world, and putting as many senior executives in this organization as close to the front line as possible. I think that’s been a real positive for us. It allows us to sit around the table and very clearly and openly describe what our priorities need to be, and have us all aligned on it, because we all share the view of the customer.
Let’s talk about your specific responsibility, the international market. According to the Eilers-Fantini Slot Report, IGT has some great market share in the U.S. but not so much in the international market. How are you focusing on that growth?
It’s a world of opportunity.
You’re right. IGT, traditionally, has been very, very strong in, at the time, what was the home market. But now we are not a U.S. company. We are an international company, and hence the onus of responsibility for us is to be a significant player wherever we compete.
We have great market shares in—when you combine the Spielo and GTECH and IGT positions—EMEA and in Latin America, but with still lots of geography for expansion.
We are weaker when it comes to Asia. There’s no doubt that Aristocrat has maybe not a stranglehold, but a very dominant position, in its home market of Australia, and also in the adjoining markets of Asia. As a result, it is not realistic for us to say that we can take them. But to be a strong No. 2 in that marketplace is realistic, and our strategy is very simple: focus on developing locally curated content. It’s as simple as that. If we can change our product from being sourced in one market and just applied to another, to actually develop for that market, then I think we’ll have a chance at succeeding. But a world full of opportunity.
Internationally, are the social casinos as popular in Europe as they are in the U.S. at this point?
Growing. Growing. We’re seeing quite a large number of our land-based casino operators approaching us to discuss the opportunity of some form of a social casino or play-for-fun solution for their brand. So, it’s growing, because it’s seen not necessarily as a stand-alone business, as DoubleDown Casino is, but as a means of building loyalty with their own customer base.
We’re always amazed at the differences between European casinos and U.S. casinos in size and scale. IGT has a lot of systems; are these scalable that they can be placed in the smaller European casinos?
Yes, they are. One of the real complementarities of the GTECH/IGT merger was that GTECH was very good in the smaller scale, and hence had a very good market share in systems in the European market, for example. IGT was very good at the larger casinos.
We’ve actually worked at putting that together into one common offering. We are now able to offer a product, an affordable or economical product, with exactly the same quality of solutions, depending on the scale of the business. For IGT, systems are a hugely important part of our business. It creates an even further level of relationship integration with our customers, because when you’re hooked in at the systems level, you’re with them every day, from the level of support, the upgrades that you’re giving them, and the problem resolutions.