The Name of the Game
Per Jaldung Chairman, European Casino Association and CEO of Casino Cosmopol AB chats to Peter White and Damien Connelly
Thank you for sharing your time with Casino Life, Per. You’ve certainly made an impact since joining our casino industry... when was that now... back in 2002?
Yes, that’s right. After more than 13 years in law enforcement, in 2002 I chose to leave the Swedish National Criminal Police to take up the post of head of security for Casino Cosmopol in Stockholm. I began there before the casino was opened, so I was involved with planning, recruitment, training and everything else that goes into establishing a casino – even the construction. After three years in Stockholm, I was offered the position of casino manager in Gothenburg, where I stayed for three years. In 2008, I was appointed CEO of Casino Cosmopol AB. I enjoy the challenges and opportunities faced by CasinoCosmopol, and both my colleagues and I are highly engaged in continuously developing the business. Since 2015, I have also been the Chairman of the European Casino Association (ECA), which is based in Brussels. The ECA has 28 member-countries in Europe and covers approximately 1,000 casinos employing over 70,000 people.
Image: Per Jaldung Chairman, European Casino Association and CEO of Casino Cosmopol
Attention is on Sweden as it changes its gaming laws to legalise more offerings as of 1 January 2019. What will change in the Swedish market?
Above all, I hope that we will see more order in the market and better control of the gaming companies operating in the Swedish market. There are currently a large number of foreign-registered companies operating illegally in the Swedish market without a license. In the new year, everyone with licenses to operate games of chance in Sweden will have to comply with the same regulations and I believe that the primary effect will be a significant decrease in the extremely aggressive marketing that we see today, especially on the part of online casinos. There will be more legal stakeholders under the supervision of the Swedish Gaming Authority
Casino Cosmopol started its land-based operations in 2001. Is this the biggest change Cosmopol has faced since it started?
Yes, I think you could probably say that. As the number of online casinos has increased over the years, we have seen a negative impact on the number of visitors we receive. Hopefully, reregulation will transform the Swedish gaming market and the unbridled advertising for gaming we see today can be reined in. We have experienced other major changes; including the introduction of the smoking ban in 2005, stricter marketing restrictions in 2013 and increasingly stringent measures against money laundering.
Image: Casino Cosmopol Sundsvall
What will change for Casino Cosmopol?
Casino Cosmopol will remain the only land-based casino operator in Sweden. However, unlike today, it will be completely legal for poker clubs all over the country to offer poker tournaments. We therefore have competition in this area. It has also been decided to maintain the status quo, in that only four land-based casinos will be allowed to operate. Prior to the introduction of the new gaming legislation, there remained scope to open two more but this possibility has now been ruled out. It is also clear that Casino Cosmopol will not be permitted to arrange sports betting or online gaming, which is of course a limitation compared to what foreign casinos are able to offer.
Looking a bit further into the future, will the new laws allow Casino Cosmopol to develop and add other offerings?
No, Casino Cosmopol will only be able to apply for and obtain licenses for classic casino games. In terms of what else we can offer, there may be changes to our restaurant offers and other forms of entertainment. I hope that we will be able to offer some surprises in this area. A casino visit should be exciting and interesting, even for those who aren’t gambling. We want to be able to offer an extraordinary casino experience; Casino Cosmopol should be the leisure venue of choice for all those with an interest in gambling, whether they are hospitality guests, tourists, frequent visitors or experienced casino players.
Image: Per Jaldung with Yared Gabretensaye, GM in Malmö
Sweden has one of the most advanced and highly regarded gaming markets in the world. Are there any changes to the new laws you think could have been included that were not included?
I think Finland has an interesting concept in “Feel Vegas”, i.e. small well regulated “mini casinos” for easy access to legal gaming, operated by the state in a sustainable and responsible manner.
So, from 1 January 2019, you fully expect Cosmopol to compete very effectively in the new Swedish gaming market?
Given that we are only at four locations nationwide and the fact that you can play at an online casino from pretty much anywhere you find yourself, the internet will provide stiff competition. That’s been the case for a long time now. However, I hope and believe that advertising will be considerably curtailed and that we will be able to present our unique sales proposition – namely, the physical meeting with our guests and our work with Creating Memories. Creating Memories is our proprietary service concept, influenced by Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Disney, various hotels and, not least, best practice obtained from our own highly experienced staff. This is something that no internet casino can come close to. This is a field in which we must strive to be even better; to create even more memorable experiences for our guests.
Image: Mainfloor Malmö
Do you see changes happening to Cosmopol’s gaming and product mix going forward?
We are constantly looking for fresh, exciting and entertaining games; we have recently introduced Craps and Baccarat Squeeze. We have also developed our casinos by installing the very latest slot machines. It is our hope that, through innovation, game developers and suppliers will be able to help us to renew our gaming floors in future for the benefit of our guests. The mix is unlikely to change, although there are always new and exciting games to trial in our casinos, while others don’t stand the test of time. However, it is important that we have the courage to regularly try new products.
Do you see changes in other markets guiding and inspiring the Swedish market, and the actions of Cosmopol?
Certainly, the casinos of Europe are in a constant state of flux. Just to mention a couple of sources of inspiration: The French casino group JOA has a fresh and modern design that among other things is attractive to new customers. The casino clubs of London have wonderful F&B offers for their valued guests, and Casino Monte Carlo SBM has shown that it is possible to innovate to remain a relevant and exciting casino.
Image: Main Floor Stockholm
Developments in southern Europe, with Las Vegas style Integrated Casino Resorts – a new phenomenon in Europe – will be interesting to follow, including Melco’s City of Dreams Mediterranean on Cyprus and Hard Rock’s project in Tarragona, Spain.
Casino Cosmopol is always open to learning from colleagues and companies around the world. Our trademark will continue to represent sustainability, responsibility and trust and, of course, great fun and excitement even in the new Swedish market.
These are exciting times indeed for Casino Cosmopol, Swedish gaming, and the entire European gaming market. You’re both CEO of Cosmopol and Chairman of the European Casino Association. How does that work?
It works well. Naturally, both roles are time consuming but it’s worth it. Being the chairman of ECA , I make many contacts that are useful both to Casino Cosmopol and me personally. I’ve learnt a great deal and I’m able to have an influence on the industry; for example, I have driven the issue of gender diversity and I’m working to increase the number of women in senior management positions in the casino industry. I am also engaged in issues related to anti-money laundering, safety and security and responsible gambling, as well as various projects through which the ECA works to disseminate a fairer view of the industry than that propagated by the mass media. The ECA is in active dialogue with the EU institutions and is a member of the UN Global Compact initiative.
Image: Casino Cosmopol Stockholm
In a future issue of Casino Life, we will discuss in more detail your role as Chairman of the ECA. One recent event which Casino Life had the privilege to attend was the ECA’s European Dealer Championships. Does that help raise the bar and show the quality of careers available in our casino industry?
I think it’s a great way to shine a light on the incredible professional skills of Europe’s card dealers. It’s not an easy profession! It demands excellent mental arithmetic, split vision, a pleasant personality and an enjoyment of small talk with players, as well as enormous dexterity. And, of course, this is a successful method for the ECA to gain media and public attention for the competition and the profession. It constitutes an important part of the employer branding conducted by most European casinos. After all, in Sweden the casino business is still a relatively new phenomenon and, with the establishment of our company in 2001, an entirely new professional category was born – one of which not everyone in Sweden is yet aware. We are very attractive to foreign dealers. Over 40% of our staff come from an immigrant background.
Are there any other comments you would like to add?
Yes, our casino buildings are each unique in their own way. In each city, we made great efforts to find buildings with a cultural history and we believe that we identified the right ones. Our Sundsvall casino is located in the old railway station – one of the few wooden buildings to survive the great fire of 1888, which destroyed the greater part of the city.
In Malmö, we are situated in a very beautiful building commissioned by King Oscar II and initially the pavilion of a park built so that the people of Malmö would have somewhere to amuse themselves. Over the years, the pavilion has been extended to its current size. The building has always housed a restaurant, for example.
Our Gothenburg building was once a custom’s house and is situated on the waterfront. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this was the very building that countless emigrating Swedes passed through before embarking on the boats that took them first to Hull in England, and then onward to America.
In 1918, Scandinavia’s largest premiere cinema, the Palladium, opened on Kungsgatan Street in Stockholm. It remained a cinema until 1987, when the building was remodelled to become a nightclub and conference centre, before we bought the property and renovated it. The building is celebrating its centenary this year.
One final question: What has kept you in the business for so long, more than 16 years now?
I usually say that there are some who can truly be called casino people, and anyone who has worked in the industry for any length of time will know what I mean.
I thrive in this particular service industry; I enjoy spending time with the guests, I understand them and I also love working with my management team and staff.
Casino life is great!