Modulus Group Casino Management Systems grows from modest beginnings to a global force. By David McKee
It took a lifetime’s work to bring Fivos Polymniou to Modulus Group, the gaming-solutions company he founded in Monaco. His beginnings in casinos can be traced back almost 40 years, to the United Kingdom. Polymniou got his first gaming job with Bass Leisure, working on sports betting and bingo. Following a flyer into an Internet IPO, he landed at Bally Gaming, which was looking to expand substantially in the UK, thanks to revisions of the 1968 Gaming Act. Polymniou rose with Bally, as its business expanded, to become the head of its UK office.
From there, he moved to Atronic as head of international systems. At that time, Atronic was owned by Gauselmann and then after that Lotomatica, which was the GTECH lottery provider. This led, logically, to lottery provider International Game Technology. Polymniou left IGT in 2017. He then set up his own business in the UK. Then, in 2020, he bought a casino-management system back from IGT and created Modulus. Although it’s a new company, it boast a staff that averages 15-20 years in the gaming industry. We caught up with Polymniou last month and started from the beginning. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What compelled you to create Modulus and what are the primary services that it provides to casino operators?
We thought long and hard about how to project a smaller business but with a reliable, experienced-in-its-company feel. The four senior managers, of which I’m one, have all worked for very large companies like IGT, Gauselmann, Bally’s. But we are a much smaller business. So Modulus was potentially about offering a different type of approach to the industry.
Our core business is casino-management systems. These are directly related to casinos on a worldwide level and we have customers in many, many countries. We also offer some slot products on a limited, European scale. But the core business is the management system. Modulus, if you look at the meaning behind the name, it means “absolute value.” When you’re asking how to brand a business, you go through a number of different ways of thinking about “What impression do I want to give?” Modulus is not a usual name but it does mean absolute value and that’s what we aim to offer our customers.
What have been the key milestones achieved so far?
We took over the business on the 18th of December 2020. So obviously, Covid gave us time to invest in a new business. But we were very sure about what we were doing. We were very confident about the reliability and quality of the product. What we focused on in the first 30 months was to make sure that our existing clients were well-serviced and satisfied. Some of them, because of the uncertainty around the product, had started to look at alternative systems. The first thing we had to do was secure that foundation, reassure all those new/old customers that staying with Modulus adds value to the system that you had and adds a future to it, more importantly. That was one of the most important things to do, to secure those customers. Some of those customers we’d known for 15 years. So that was something we put a great big effort on.
The original product, named Galaxis, has been renamed. It’s now called System. But we needed to make sure that Galaxis was being presented on a more up-to-date platform, going toward a cloud-based opportunity as well as an on-premise installation. So we did some work on the product in that time.
How many offices does the organization have around the world and can it coordinate with their counterparts in other regions, when dealing with a casino operator that has casinos in other countries?
Our main office is based in Monaco. That’s its historical location as well. That’s essentially where the offices are, the R&D, some of the sales and admin functions. We have another office in Nice and then we’ve got remote offices in the UK, in Uruguay and Chile, also in South Africa, and then we work very closely with an Asian partner to give us that global reach. The support is 24/7. At this moment, half our business is in Europe and half outside, so it works very well.
What are the key benefits operators gain from Modulus Gaming Systems?
The important thing here is that you’ve got a smaller, more personal approach. We’re not heavily layered, unlike some companies. You’re very quickly talking to senior managers. One is a lawyer and a financial guy, Bruno Ozenda is very much technical. Someone like myself is very commercial and sales oriented, and then Marc Attal is the COO. We work at all levels directly with our customers. In some of the larger entities, you’re not having that close contact with decision makers on a frequent basis. You have to go through layers. The management team has—dare I say it?—90 years-plus experience. Our single shareholder, Willy de Bruyn, is very familiar with the gaming industry, having been been IGT’s exclusive distributor in France for 35 years. So it’s a business that is very much related to the gaming sector.
In terms of our product, it’s very robust. The foundation is very strong. We’re very confident about the reliability of the hardware. Because now we’re a smaller, private company we’re much more agile when it comes to software development, responding to customer’s needs. Because we’ve got a knowledgable, experienced team, with Modulus the support was already very much in place. Some of the other business I’ve worked at in the past, there’s always a need to create everything yourself. We believe in Best of Breed. We have excellent business partners who do things as their core business, rather than pretend to create that ourselves. Those are strengths.
What are some of the biggest challenges casino operators face with their organization’s operating systems?
If I may, the problem with systems and operations is that the system isn’t seen as a financial driver. It’s the slots. They’re the ones that generate the cash on the floor. So a lot of systems are underutilized by the operators. One thing that we’re really conscious of is trying to optimize what the system does. Working on a consulting basis, we’re optimizing revenue because the system will allow you to identify actions that you can take. Or potentially, as well as optimizing revenue, you can actually save costs and run the business more efficiently. Because the day-to-day operation is dealing with the customers, of course, a lot of operators don’t fully utilize the system. So our job is to use our customer-success advantages to help bridge that gap and make sure they get the most out of their system.
What is the company’s approach to compliance and ensuring that clients’ systems and operations continue to be fully up to date with the host country’s legislation?
The one thing you can say about the gaming industry worldwide is it is predominantly very well-regulated. We’re very experienced on the compliance side. Each country may have its own regulations, so we’re familiar with all those. Our CFO has a compliance responsibility as well. And we have within our technical team people who work directly with some of the gaming test houses, like GLI and BMM and SIQ. We’re very conscious in our development program that we’ve always got regulations to meet, so we’re constantly assessing development and functionality in the context of the regulations. It’s a very necessary part of the industry.
But we make sure that we maintain a close watch. Many of our systems have to report directly back to each country’s ministry of finance, so it’s important that we keep that link up as well, because that’s an obligation for the operator. It’s a daily thing but it’s something that we very much see as an important part of the business.
Can casinos trial-run the Modulus Gaming System recommendations, so they can judge its performance benefits?
We have done that, yes. We’re very flexible in working with clients to help them in understanding the benefits. We’re also very open for any of our new or existing customers to talk to each other. We hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. We talk to anyone of our customers about how it works. For example, we’re talking to one customer who hasn’t even broken even ground yet and also talking to another customer who needs us to go live in the next six weeks. There’s varying degrees of activity. When you’ve got the number of clients we have, it’s probably quite clear that we have a proven and credible system.
Does the organization provide staff training with new installations and upgrades?
We do. We have quite a comprehensive program of remote and on-site support. Training especially is very important, so we’ll invite people to our place where we might run sort of classroom sessions, with three to five people. We also have a couple of specialists that will go to sites and conduct training, before, during or after the go-live. That’s something we do on a long-term basis.
How was Modulus’ first ICE London 2023, and what was the reaction of visitors to your booth and to this new company?
We’d been there every year before in different guises and different businesses. So ICE 2023 was very interesting and exciting for us because we’d invested heavily in our stand, heavily in the branding, wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come, and relax and talk to us. We were very pleased with the reaction. ICE is too short even at three days and the traditional last day is supposedly quiet. It wasn’t. We were going right up until five past four or whenever the show closed.
People were very happy to see us there because when you invest in a show like ICE, you’re showing your existing customer base that you’re investing in the business. It’s important that they can find a place where they can come and talk to you in a relaxed way. What was also very good was we were able to see so many of our customers in a short period of time and either meet technical people right up to directors of the businesses. They came to see us on the stand. We are going to revamp the stand a little bit for 2024, make it even more inviting. We’re likely to have a couple of events on the stand in 2024, as well.
What will be new for visitors to your booth during ICE London 2024?
Without giving too much away to the competition, we’ve taken the e-wallet mobile phone application to another level. We’ve demonstrated it before at other shows. We’ve significantly improved the user application. We’re very much focusing on bonusing.
We’ll see much more entertaining second-screen and bonus features on our new hardware. One of the things we did in the early part of the business was to completely redo our hardware. We needed to get more industry-standard components. We’ve increased the size of the screen. By increasing the size of the screen we can add increased bonusing levels. We’ll also be showing customers the latest version of our Incredible Technologies Slots. That’s one of the brands that we represent in Europe on behalf of the U.S. manufacturer. There’s a lot of interesting stuff for the customers.
What plans and aspirations do you have for Modulus Group?
We very much want to continue our international expansion outside Europe. Europe is a very well-formed market, mature in many aspects. We’ve got territories in Europe that we’re shortly going to be looking at from a business-development point of view. We’re actually hiring a new sales manager at the moment. We’re focused on building the business in South America, in Asia. We see those two, very different markets as really interesting growth, of a different level than Europe. There are new licenses in some of the South American countries. There are new territories in Asia. A lot of people have talked about the Philippines becoming the new Macao. We’re focused on those two regions. We’ve got a very good partner within Asia and we’re looking for a similar partner within South America. That will really help us to expand on a more local level.
The continued growth of the company in terms of markets is important. So is getting to our Holy Grail of a cloud-based system, which will provide an easier user experience for our existing and new clients. And one of the other aspirations that we have is to make the whole process of upgrading the system absolutely painless. When you talk to a customer about new software and upgrading, you’ll often hear him groan. So the territory, the increasing functionality and the gate to the upgrades are the keys.
Our editorial and design team on Casino Life Magazine would like to extend our thanks to Fivos Polymniou for all his cooperation with this exclusive feature interview.
***This interview was originally published in November 2023 edition Casino Life Magazine Issue 161 ***