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The Contender

European powerhouse Novomatic enlists a partner to aid in a major move into the Americas

The Contender

Americans might have missed it, but the products produced by the Novomatic Group’s Austrian Gaming Industries (AGI) division are some of the most popular slot products in the world. In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, Novomatic holds a formidable market share, and is clearly established as the “go to” slot company for casinos there.

Jens Halle, the managing director of AGI, says while the European market is lucrative for the company, it is changing.

“Europe is now predominantly a replacement market that actually increases, rather than decreases, the investment requirement for research and development,” he explains. “In the final analysis, what matters is the attractiveness of our games to those who pay to play them.”

And Novomatic has developed many successful games. Just in the past year, the company released a series of slot machines themed after Marilyn Monroe, which feature eye-popping graphics and innovative game play.

“The list of our recent successes is too long to name everything but, particularly, our suite of Marilyn games,” says Halle, “the Novostar slant-top cabinet that has been hugely successful all around the world, the excellent work done by Octavian in respect of system and jackpot technology and, of course, our ‘Reel Tournament’ solution are all obvious highlights. In the end, of course, we don’t decide what is ‘successful’—our customers do that for us.”

American Plan

While Novomatic has made sales in the U.S. markets over the years, there is currently an effort to increase those sales via a partnership with a U.S. company, Reel Games, Inc. Halle believes his games will be just as successful on this side of the Atlantic.

“The main reason for that is the level of demand from customers in the U.S. for Novomatic to come into this market in a meaningful and planned way,” he says. “Part of that planning was finding the right company to work with, and I am certain that our choice of Reel Games will be proved to be correct. We have worked with Reel Games in the cruise ship and Caribbean islands market sectors for some while now, so we know them well and they are already familiar with the way we work. That has already saved us a lot of time in our new venture.”

Halle has relocated to the U.S. for the sales effort in America, and the cooperation with Reel Games CEO Sean Smith will be important.

“We have been receiving sales inquiries for some time,” says Smith, “but, until now, had no way of satisfying the demand. We first sat down with Jens a year ago and discussed a strategy that would allow us to import the necessary equipment and set up manufacturing capability here in the U.S. With our multiple licenses and, I believe, excellent reputation for service, we had a platform on which we could build. Now, with Jens relocating to Florida, we have the vital instant link to Novomatic in Europe, and we can undertake a carefully planned sales and service strategy here in America.

“After all, Novomatic is one of the biggest names in world gaming, and it is only right that their brand is now being seen in American markets. Reel Games in conjunction with Novomatic is rapidly gaining traction and recognition here. There is a genuine excitement from customers about the Novomatic brand coming to town, and that is one major reason why we are looking forward to G2E with such anticipation.”

North America isn’t the only “America” that will be targeted by Novomatic. Halle says a new company, Novomatic Americas Sales, LLC, will target Latin America, with a hub in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“That allows us to be closer and more effectively maintain contact with our group’s subsidiary companies throughout the region,” says Halle. “What I have done personally by moving to Florida is effectively reversed my travel flow. I have been commuting to South America on a regular basis for some time now. That was inefficient from a time management point of view and, as Novomatic’s business throughout the region continues to expand, it was a situation that needed to be addressed.

“I am still managing director of Austrian Gaming Industries GmbH but now I will be going back to Europe when necessary but spearheading things in ‘the Americas,’ north and south, from Florida. That also gives me the benefit of being on hand to support Reel Games as they expand in U.S. markets.”

Smith believes that several Novomatic products will be popular in the American market.

“The Novostar slant-top, the Super V+ Gaminator upright, the Reel Tournament and, last but not least, the Jackpot Range are the products that are attracting the big attention here,” he says. “I firmly believe that, now the word is out, we will be inundated with inquiries at G2E.”

Expansion and Innovation

A longtime Novomatic goal is being fulfilled by the recent expansion to the Americas, says Halle.

“The Novomatic target, and our philosophy, is always to create ‘expansion through innovation,’” he explains. “Clearly, local circumstances create priorities—that is the case with our plans for the U.S. market, obviously—but we will continue our successful formula of giving all the markets where we are in action the products that will be successful, backed up with the commitment to top-class service that our customers have every right to demand.”

The Asian market, where Novomatic is already present, is also an attractive option for the company.

“There are many new and emerging opportunities in Asia,” says Halle. “We have experience, over some years, of business conditions and requirements there, and we will continue to expand by addressing each of those opportunities as they occur. We have very strong relationships in Asia (our representative company for the Philippines and Macau, Jade Gaming, will be with us at G2E), and their local knowledge and on-site capability help our growth in the region enormously.”

Novomatic was one of the first slot manufacturers to realize the potential of online gaming, with the purchase of Greentube in 2009. Halle says that initiative is already paying dividends.

“Greentube Internet Entertainment Solutions GmbH, based in Vienna, Austria, represents the ‘third leg’ of our business portfolio, alongside our operations and our manufacturing/sales divisions,” explains Halle. “The success of Greentube has been meteoric and the company is the gateway for the Novomatic brand into the internet’s game space. Greentube will also be with us in Las Vegas, just days ahead of their participation in the most important internet gaming of all, the 11th European iGaming Congress and Expo in Barcelona.”

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.