'The Player First' Damien Connelly Interview with DRGT CEO Jurgen De Munck

 

Jurgen De Munck, the CEO of DR Gaming Technology™ talks to Damien Connelly

DRGT™ achieves strong staff retention. What have been amongst the most appealing aspects of working for the company?

At the outset, let me state that at DRGT™ we are truly blessed with a team of talented colleagues, not ‘’just’’ employees.

Michiel (van Dam, co-founder and CTO), and I have been fortunate enough to find and secure some of the most committed and genuinely interested staff, who just also ‘happen to be’ really good at their jobs.

As you know, DRGT™ literally started in a garage some 15 years ago, and I am really pleased that we have managed to maintain that ‘backyard/family-type’ sense of ownership across the business as we grew, initially at home in Belgium, then into the rest of Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and most recently, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and Colombia.

I am a firm believer in employing attitude, and whilst not 100% involved anymore in all recruitment, I personally ensure that all key positions are filled by people who strongly uphold two of the key values upon which the business was established:

• passion (for what we do), and

• reliability; and what I mean by reliability is obviously not just the robustness of our product, and the fact that operators can rely on us to be available when they need us, but in this context I guess it’s accountability, that as a team we can rely on one another to do what we’re supposed to do, when we’re supposed to do it.

So, to ultimately answer your question; it’s the pride we all have in the business and everyone’s willingness to do whatever is required ‘to make things happen’ that appeals to me most about DRGT™.

How many airmiles do you think you have you flown so far this year, and do you see any signs of it reducing in the years ahead?

Well, we’re only half way through 2018, so I’m loathed to have a guess. That said, I can honestly state that the growth of our business is inversely proportional to the amount of luggage I am now able to travel with, or rather without.

Seriously though, in 2017, I spent just 42 days at home in Belgium and over the last 12 months, I’ve raked up just over half a million air miles. In saying that, I wonder if it’s even correct to refer to Belgium as home anymore? Let’s just call it Head Office, and leave it at that.

In terms of it reducing; I don’t see that happening any time soon. I have a very strong team of executives who ensure that operations run smoothly, and Michiel and his team of developers and product managers ensure that we remain at the forefront of technology, in so doing affording operators the tools required to keep them serving their players to the best of their ability, and with solutions that literally ‘put the player first’.

So, whilst I am a member of our development committee, and the team assigned with the responsibility of deciding what ideas actually make it to market or not, my core responsibility, I believe, is to keep opening up markets and assessing opportunities for us all to grow – and that means, I have to keep travelling.

This year DR Gaming Technology™ celebrates a decade of successfully operating its gaming management and Wide Area Progressive System in Switzerland. You and your team must be very proud of the success?

We are, very proud. Christian Eder, and his team in Austria, as well as Jean-Michel De Busscher and his team in Belgium have done a great job in securing, and then maintaining and growing our presence in Switzerland.

DRGT™ has almost grown up with the Swiss market, and as a result we have a very healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with our customers across Switzerland. Over the decade since installing our first system in Grand Casino Bern in 2008, we have expanded that footprint to over 10 casinos, which is fantastic; as a result, we are now the leading gaming systems supplier in the country, by some margin.

What is even more encouraging is that many of these installations, and others across the globe, follow referrals and endorsements from one operator to the next. You cannot put a price on that sort of marketing, it is invaluable, and we treasure it immensely!

Our challenge remains maintaining those product and service standards at all times as we scale up our business. Luckily, to date, we have managed to do that well – testament to the reliability and passion I referred to earlier.

What is DRGT™s approach to Service and Support?

Our design mantra has, and always will be, ‘The Player First’. To fully execute this, we need to not only provide operators with cutting edge technology that is robust and user-friendly, and player solutions that are reliable, but we also need to ensure that we are available to support those products.

The end-user for us as the system solutions service provider, and for the operator, is always the player. As a result, we need to be there to complete the ‘loop’ and provide operators with any support that they may require in order to provide the best possible player experience. That means, fast, simple and smooth installations and an ‘always available’ team of support staff and product specialists.

DR Gaming Technology™ has also been very successful in Belgium?

Yes, we have. I suppose with our roots in the country it was almost a given that we should do our best to secure as much local support as possible, and we have managed to do that.

In fact since our establishment almost 15 years ago, I can now proudly say that all 9 Belgian casinos: Casino de Namur, Casino Blankenberge, Casino Oostende, Casino de Dinant, Casino Knokke, Casino Middelkerke, Casino de Spa, Casino Brussels and Casino de Chaudfontaine manage their operations using our system.

How was ICE Totally Gaming , and more recently G2E Asia 2018 for DRGT™?

As discussed, after ICE in February, the ‘show’ has just gotten bigger and bigger year-on-year, as has our involvment in the event, for good reason. It sounds cliche’d, but 2018 was truly our best show ever. I firmly believe that we put forward a product range and image that continues to lead the pack in terms of casino management and jackpot systems. Our flexibility, reliability, and inherent commitment to putting the player first continues to drive our existing product range, and all ongoing developments, and this was extremely evident as we engaged with customers in London.

Our recently released drPlayer Registration, which significantly reduces staffing requirements, and player registration time for draws and raffles, our drScreen Ultra (the widest player tracking interface in gaming today), along with our player friendly drScreen ‘on screen’ interface and our world leading slots and tables jackpot technology drew the most interest from a widely spread global range of operators, from literally all 7 continents.

With the above in mind we headed to Macao in May with these products as our key showing. We were, however, extremely cognisant of the fact that with our limited exposure, to date, to the Asia-Pacific region we were literally going to be ‘testing the waters’.

Notwithstanding our installations in The Phillipines, Laos and Vietnam, the response from visitors to our stand at G2E Asia was quite humbling; most of them knew who we were and what we do, again through word-of-mouth endorsements from other global operators. Our serverless systems solutions, and in particular the marketing information available to operators using these systems was a key interest point.

The major ‘take home’ for us was the re-enforcement of the fact that more and more operators, much like their retail colleagues, are valuing the ability to engage with players armed with invaluable information about these players; and that the technology to reward them in any number of ways, whether that be through additional time on device, free play, loyalty points, bonus games or vouchers is a resource they cannot do without.

Technology and innovation in software and hardware are a major part of DRGT™’s success, how do you ensure the company retains its competitive edge?

I referred to my business partner and co-founder Michiel van Dam earlier; he, along with our four vastly experienced Research and Development Directors and our Global Product team drive our product development and its associated time lines.

Our product and sales team constantly engage with operators proposing and receiving any number of ideas or suggestions. They also spend quite a bit of time researching technology advancements in other sectors too; there is no reason why solutions to gaming problems or advances in gaming technology need only flow directly from the gaming sector.

Customers (and players) are becoming more and more demanding of tailored solutions and ease of use, and less and less tolerant of extended time lines or service intervals. With this in mind, we need to develop quicker, install quicker and be able to provide operators with technology to engage quicker and more directly with their players. It’s the simple law of the Jungle: ‘…..

 

if you are not better than the competition, you will get eaten up’.

I specifically said ‘’better’, and not faster; the reason being that first is good, but if you cannot support your product or service properly and don’t have a significant edge in terms of relevance, experience or positioning, you’re wasting your time. Cases in point;

• Google were not the first search engine service provider, in fact there were probably 10 before them, but they kept to their core offering, and to operating their core business, which lead to cloud computing, and now they undertake almost 2/3 of all global search engine activity. Where are ‘Ask Jeeves’ and ‘Yahoo’ now?; and

• Starbucks, similarly, weren’t the first to sell coffee, but they made the experience fun and accessible, and employed passionate and reliable people that unfailingly deliver their customer promise, and as such have become the only place to stop between home and the office for millions of people across the planet every day.

Is there a common dominating issue with a Casino’s existing operating System or are those that require upgrades simply in need of updating?

I referred earlier to the value, at times, of not being the first to market when referring to the successes of Google particularly, and I think in our case the same rings true.

Advances in technology allowed us to offer a truly serverless offering at the outset, which was a massive plus. It also afforded us the ability to provide more functionality (also at the outset), than the existing legacy systems, and furthermore ensured that once our system had been approved we were able to install our product extremely quickly. A case in point was our installation at Grand Casino Basel, where our installation team completed the entire change over in a single day during normal operating hours.

What advantages are gained by a Casino from employing the DRGT™ Operating System?

I have already mentioned our serverless technology and our ability to operate our system without a central database, as well as how our success has developed off the back of operator endorsements; as such I’d like to quote Casino Locarno’s IT Manager, Davide Bogo as the final part of my answer to your question: ‘….high availability, independent of a central DB, fast modifications and relevant updates, as well as DRGT™s compatibility with many machines, even old ones,…’ have ensured a healthy and respected relationship over the last 7 years. “There was a big vision by developing the system and the SMIB, this small webserver with all its possibilities and features. The vision of this and having the right people makes it strong!’.

Do you think the success of the DR Gaming Technology™ Business System at the Swiss Casino Group contributed to winning what was a hard-fought contest to upgrade the Spielbanken Sachsen casino group’s Operating System?

Yes, without a doubt.

Could you explain more about the deal with Spielbanken Sachsen casino group?

The journey to secure the system business of Spielbanken Sachsen got underway in 2016.

Notwithstanding our efforts dedicated to that tender specifically, I cannot emphasise enough (again) the impact our previous successes, particularly with Swiss Casinos - and their endorsement of our capabilities, had in literally clinching the deal. That day early last year when we were eventually awarded the contract remains one of my fondest memories, and an extremely proud moment for both me and our Operations Director, Christian Eder.

The roll-out was planned over 2 phases, with the casino group initially installing our accounting, ticketing and jackpot solutions across their 300 slots. Phase 2, unfortunately remains pending, as the Group awaits finality on the proposed changes to Germany’s gaming regulations. Once finalised, however, we will then install our drScreenMini player tracking interface and our player tracking and rewards systems product, which will then afford the Group the physical ability to engage directly with their players, and reward them with more time on device via the likes of, free play, bonusses and vouchers, and furthermore also offer live TV streaming to the slot machine itself. The solution will also then allow them as operators to better track their players’ activity, and create their own unique multi-tiered player rewards scheme.

Notwithstanding the delay in our ability to roll-out phase 2 of our installation at Spielbanken Sachsen, I am, however, pleased to share our success in being awarded a further German tender earlier this year in respect of Spielbanken Saarland, an 800 EGM establishment who too have undertaken a 2 phase installation approach; with our full system including accounting, cashless and jackpots being installed in Phase 1 and our Tables Management solution and reception desk products forming part of Phase 2, due in 2019.

Did you ever visit Casinos before you worked in this industry?

Interesting story, albeit short; my first job, as a student, was as a doorman at Casino Knokke.

What aspects of your role give you the most satisfaction?

As the co-founder of the business, and I would assume that this rings true for anybody who has had an idea, developed it, and eventually taken it to market; the most satisfying aspect of my job has been, and continues to be, the steady growth we have enjoyed since inception.

Despite our initial idea and the fact that we were able to establish DRGT™ at a time when technology was at a point that we could leverage it to its full potential, I am also a firm believer in being at the right place at the right time, and then taking action. When an opportunity presents itself, you have to take that leap of faith – not blindly, but you have to take it, believe, and then execute.

Once installations are completed how do you ensure Casinos maximise all the various features of their new Operating System?

This is a good question, and I am sure one of the biggest challenges faced by all systems service providers, not only in our industry, but others too.

The key to our success has been our Product Managers’ ongoing engagement with operators (customers). In doing so we garner invaluable information from them (and their players), and as a result can then direct them to the correct product solution within our system, should we already offer it, propose new products and solutions to our development teams, or drive development ourselves by identifying opportunities and solutions that operators may not even know they need yet.

Does the system provide for cashless gaming as an option on all gaming devices?

Yes it does. We can operate our cashless functionality on any machine that uses a legal protocol, and what I’m referring to here are the likes of SAS, ASP, NSW, GRIPS, and even BACTA.

What elements on the gaming floor, in your opinion, present the biggest challenges and opportunities?

Jackpots seem to be a real part of the industry’s future, for now, with many operators relying on jackpots to not only rejuvenate their gaming floors, but to drive added interest in their entertainment offering too, in fact some operators have as much as 70% of their gaming floors operating with a jackpot in some form or another.

Not withstanding our core casino management system and its associated peripheral products, the extension of our product offering to include jackpots, as you know, has been extremely successful. In fact, at present our biggest single jackpot customer has our product installed on over 5,000 devices across approximately 100 venues. To the above end we believe we are capitalising on this opportunity, as best as possible.

In addition to jackpots, we remain of the view that in time all operations will be cashless; one only has to look at the positive impact on player satisfaction and their overall experience, but also on operational costs and downtime the move to coinless had to see that a progression to cashless is not only inevitable, but logical.

Hard currency is becoming less and less a part of everyday life. Online casinos and sportsbetting operators have had to operate in a cashless environment from ‘day one’, and we see no reason why that migration would not happen at a live table or slot machine too, as long as the service is as secure, as easy to use, and as reliable as that provided by our online colleagues, retailers and/or any other types of entertainment vendors or service providers. That said, note acceptance and payout devices within a casino, however, should remain for some time to come.

Inherently players want to ultimately touch and feel their cash, what they don’t want is to have to carry that cash around with them on a casino floor from EGM to EGM, or from table to table, or both.

Finally, for those Casinos that are contemplating upgrading or outright replacement of their Casino operations operating system could you briefly outline why DRGT™ should be considered as the company to provide it?

I think in any industry, whether it be product or service related, the ‘proof is always in the pudding’.

I can talk about the features of our system, it’s amazing reports, the robustness and reliability of our hardware and software, our limitless range of marketing tools and player tracking functionality, or world-leading 8.8” customer interface, and many other solutions that ‘make us great’, but all that would be words, nothing more.

My suggestion is a simple one, if operators are looking to replace their existing management system, upgrade part of their systems offering, or are in the market for a system for a new casino development, give me a call.

I promise DRGT™s full commitment to the installation of a smart, cost-effective and reliable technology solution that will arm any operator with the required tools to put their player first.