Glyn Thomas reports back from yet another very enjoyable evening at the Hippodrome Casino
Despite the fact that the European Dealer Championships was an inaugural event for the Hippodrome Casino it was like an old friend returning home. In between hectic schedules and anxious dealers Glyn Thomas caught up with the three keystones of the event - Per Jaldung, Chairman ECA, Tracy Damestani, ”ECA-host” of the championship and Vice-Chair of the ECA along with Simon Thomas, the Chairman of the Hippodrome.
Per Jaldung, European Casino Association Chairman
For Croupiers who would like to enter the EDC 2018 and their casino operation is a member of the ECA but haven’t yet participated, what advice can you provide them? Is it possible to expand the amount of countries and entrants for 2018?
We very much encourage all our members to join the EDC and each country can send up to two competitors, showing potential to grow. The dealers are our best ambassadors and the competition serves as a great opportunity to promote the casino industry and our members to a wide audience. Hopefully, after such a successful event this year and indeed the last years, more competitors and countries will join in 2018. The competition offers networking experience in a great international atmosphere for the coming stars of the European casino industry. This year we had 20 participants from 26 countries and thereby equalled our record number of participants. So, we are certainly on a good track to beating this next year!
The ECA has nearly every casino operation as a member, what would you like to say to those that have yet to join?
I am proud to say that the ECA has grown to become the voice of the land-based casino industry. We represent the vast majority of casino operations in Europe with 26 members from EU and non- EU countries. Being a part of the ECA carries real standing, putting members at the forefront of developments in our industry such as responsible gaming, tackling illegal gambling and anti-money laundering. As ECA, we are able to demonstrate the positive contribution of our industry at European and at national level in terms of direct and indirect employment, funding for good causes and local economic opportunities. We are, however, always keen to grow our membership further as we can have the biggest possible impact by working together.
Image: Per Jaldung Chairman ECA with Joanna Matusiak from Casinos Poland, who came 4th overall in the competition
A lot of work clearly went into organising the European Dealer Championship tournament which was undeniably a major success. Your compliments to the judges in your speech during the awards were also very well received as they clearly did an outstanding job in what was a very high standard of entrants.
The dedicated work of our organising committee led by Sandra Sturgess Persson (Casino Cosmopol Malmö) and Jaana Ruokoma (Veikkaus Casino Helsinki), Simon Thomas and the entire Hippodrome Casino team, as well as the competition co-organisers, the UK’s National Casino Forum and their CEO Tracy Damestani deserves strong recognition. The same is true for the judges, who helped make it a successful and thrilling couple of days for competitors and spectators with some tense moments.
The standard of entrant increases each year which is impressive so the resulting winners’ achievement is significant. Have you got any tips for entrants in next year’s competition?
The competition is clearly getting tougher each year and the standards we saw this year are certainly the highest we have ever had. In the end, the final was very tight and the finalists hard to separate, underlining the high standard. This year’s winner, Antra Gaike from Olympic Voodoo Casino in Latvia set a high bar for the coming years. For next year’s competitors, this means that practice and preparation are crucial.
This clearly has been a major success, so do you have a message for the 2018 sponsors?
The sponsors, many of whom have supported the EDC for many years, are the cornerstone of the competition that have helped it thrive and grow into one of the premier events for the gaming industry. We are grateful for their long-standing support that we value highly and look forward to building on this in the coming years. This year, we were also very pleased to get the support of our long-term partner Clarion Events as sponsor of the EDC cup.
This is the first time the EDC has been hosted in the UK, which was much appreciated by all those involved, so can we expect a return in the not too distant future?
As we saw with the Hippodrome Casino this year, London and the UK in general has a fantastic landscape of casinos. This year’s venue provided the competition with a stunning backdrop in one of London’s premier entertainment venues. It is no question that we would be very excited to return to the UK with the competition at some point in the next few years. Equally, there are many countries and casinos across the continent that have not yet seen the competition and that will be just as exciting.
Tracy Damestani, “ECA-host” of the championship and Vice-Chair of the ECA Tracy Damestani ”ECA-host” of the 2017 Championship and Vice-Chair of the European Casino Association
These events clearly involve a lot of planning and organisation?
The European Dealer Championships provide a chance for the industry to come together, showcase its most talented croupiers and shine a light on some of the best venues across Europe, such as the Hippodrome Casino. Events such as these involve a great deal of planning and organisation. This year the Championships brought together 33 participants and 31 judges from a record-breaking 20 countries, making it the largest in the competition’s 11 year history.
Image: Tracy Damestani Vice-Chair of the European Casino Association
What were the aims behind this event?
Becoming a top croupier at a leading European casino takes a lot of hard work and training. A successful croupier needs to have strong mathematical skills, a high level of mental agility, an engaging personality and the ability to think clearly under pressure. The European Dealer Championships play an important role in enabling the casino industry to celebrate its most talented croupiers and recognise the best in the business.
How would you describe the current state of the industry?
Casinos are firmly established as a key element of the UK’s hospitality and leisure sector and there is a great deal for the industry to be positive about, particularly in London but also right across the country where casinos are permitted. But of course the industry wants to go further to meet our customers’ expectations in terms of the types of products available and access to them. We’ve long argued for an increase, for example, in the number of gaming machines allowed in our casinos to reflect customer demand, and also to be allowed to develop these machines to reflect advances in technology that are widely available in other jurisdictions and we are hopeful the government will come forward with proposals in this regard soon. But in the meantime we are seeing investment in many of our clubs across the country, offering not just an improved gambling experience but also wider leisure and entertainment opportunities as part of the mix.
Simon Thomas, Chairman Hippodrome Casino
Have you any tips for the host Casino of next year’s Tournament?
I can’t remember when I’ve had such positive feedback from an event at The Hippodrome. And there have been thousands. It meant a great deal that representatives from casinos throughout Europe - our peers - were so wholly positive about their experience. There was an extraordinary turnout and some incredible competing talent while everyone turned up intending both to win and also to have the best time possible. For the lucky casino that will host next year’s event, I’d advise building in the best party and entertainment possible. We did just that at the Hippodrome, and that’s where many of the memories and new friendships were made.
Image: Simon Thomas, Chairman Hippodrome Casino
From a spectator standpoint it was a fun and enjoyable event. Did you manage to find yourself being caught up in the excitement of the occasion?
Of course, I was among those cheering from the sidelines. You can’t help but be impressed by the dedication and talent of those competing. Europe boasts some of the best dealers in the world - camaraderie allied to an impressive determination to win.
Image: 2017 EDC winner Antra Gaike (Olympic Voodoo Casino, Latvia)
As host, what for you were the high points of the three days?
Losers cheering winners. Old acquaintances rekindling friendships. The smiles on the Hippodrome organising team’s faces when they realised they’d done an outstanding job.