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Vision and Innovation all on display at Casinos Tampere and Helsinki

Recently, Casino Life Publisher Peter White discussed Finland’s Casino Tampere on its first anniversary, with General Manager Tiina Siltanen. Here is their conversation about the Finnish casino scene.

Tell us about the city of Tampere and what has been the reaction from visitors since the opening night to this new leisure gaming entertainment venue in their town?

Tampere is a vibrant city that is known in Finland for its big development projects. Nokia Arena is a home base for the two local hockey teams, and it feels like the whole town lives with the events at the arena. Opening Finland’s second casino in Tampere fits the city’s strategy perfectly. The visitors at the casino are most of the time very surprised by the design and size of the casino. Many are in a casino for the first time, so it’s a new experience for them. We have received great reviews on customer surveys and hope to reach more customers in 2023.

Image: Casino Tampere slot machines

Turning up for the first day of work for employees at Casino Tampere must have been quite an experience, given that it located in one of Europe’s most impressive new venues, the Nokia Arena.

Absolutely, many had waited for this for a long time, as the project took several years. Our staff at Casino Tampere is a great mix of Veikkaus employees from other gaming arcades, previous Casino Helsinki employees and people who are new to the gaming business. It’s been great to see the growth in this group during the first year of operation. We are very proud of the personnel and the work Casino Manager Outi Tikkanen, together with the local management team, has done.

Image: Tiina Siltanen, General Manager

2022 was a very busy year as, along with the opening of Casino Tampere, you were also appointed to the role of vice chairman of the European Casino Association.

True, 2022 was a hectic year for us. At the same time, it was an extremely inspiring year as well. A new organization, a new casino and the transition from being a single-casino operator to multiple-venue operator kept us all busy, but in a good way. Personally, it has been a great pleasure to be a member of the ECA board and I’m honored to step in as a vice chair. Our industry is facing many challenges and the need for ECA support and co-operation between member countries is ongoing. I hope to move things forward and add some more limelight on issues like diversity, overregulation, and the reputation of our industry. After all these years it still amazes me how much prejudice there is towards land-based casinos, often by people who have never visited one personally.

Image: Casino Tampere lounge area

You are also a graduate of the Executive Development Program at UNLV in Las Vegas. How was the course for you and what aspects did you enjoy most?

EDP is a brilliant program, and I loved every second of it. I went there to improve my strategic skills and gain more insight but got so much more. To have the opportunity to challenge yourself and learn from best in our industry with 50 other executives for 10 days straight is so rare. To me EDP itself is a great example of how good leadership and cooperation leads to amazing strategies and business plans. I encourage all executives worldwide to send their promising team members to this education. Investing in people is investing in your company’s future. For ECA members there is a great opportunity available to apply for a diversity scholarship. AGEM, ECA, UNLV, and Clarion Gaming have joined forces again and will send two future leaders to the Executive Development Program in November with a scholarship.

Image: Casino Helsinki bar area 

What would you say are some of the key aspects of Casino Tampere that make it one of Europe’s most modern and dynamic gaming venues?

In short: design, location and experience. Just by looking at the Scandinavian-inspired design you see the difference from other casinos. Lots of natural wood, light and green elements with a modern AV solution throughout the entire casino is impressive. We can change the color of the casino based on the local hockey team playing at the arena. On weekends our dealers take the stage at the electronic table games area called Ukonkivi (a name from Finnish mythology), where players can request their favorite songs while playing roulette. We have even made our own casino scent that can be sensed at the casino. It’s all about making the casino visit something special.

Image: Team Casino Tampere

From broader perspective, the whole visit to Nokia Arena is an experience. Imagine first a Robbie Williams concert with 15,000 people, then an evening at the casino and finally spending the night at the Lapland-inspired hotel. It’s all possible under one roof.

Why have the casinos introduced the Casino ID Card, how does it work and what has been the reaction from patrons to this new requirement?

The decision to implement 100 percent identified play with the Casino ID Card at slots and table games was the outcome of a long evaluation. At the end it came down to how can we make the responsible-gaming tools available for all customers and meet the legal requirement such as anti-money laundering. The Know Your Game concept was created to meet those needs and bring our vision as a trailblazer of responsible gaming experience alive.

Image: Casino Tempere roulette tables

One of the cornerstones of our customer experience is caring. Meaning, we want to teach our customers to control their gaming and offer the proper tools for it. I am pleased to say the customers learned to identify with the casino card very quickly. It was a smooth transition and did not harm the customer experience or gross gaming revenue. The personnel on the floor hold a key role in informing the guests how it works. I cannot highlight enough the importance of customer service when introducing new procedures for customers. They have done a brilliant job with it and are to be thanked for the smooth change to identified play.

Image: Casino Tampere entertainment 

How has footfall at Casino Helsinki been post-pandemic? Are the numbers back to pre-Covid levels, and what kind of incentives and privileges have been provided to assist?

Considering that the new Gaming Act came into effect in 2022 and brought significant marketing restrictions, we are pleased with the results in Helsinki. Our numbers are close to pre-Covid levels. However, there was a lot of variation between different quarters, years or even on a monthly basis. 2023 will show where the new level lands.

Image: Casino Helsinki LED screen 

Creating an enjoyable fun and relaxed environment is an important factor in leisure and entertainment venues. What kind of investment over the years has made into the likes of audio-visual and lighting equipment at Casino Helsinki, and at Tampere?

At Casino Tampere, the AV solution is at the center of the whole concept. Lighting, audio and even scent distribution have been connected and can be adjusted to the feel of the day. The shape of the casino is long and somewhat unusual. The design and AV teams created a ‘stream’ to lead the customer through the casino. In Helsinki we just invested in the renewal of a huge LED screen at the center of the two-story casino. It’s used in multiple ways — to show sports, play touch-bet roulette or for advertisement. A big game on the screen, such as the World Cup final, brings the whole casino alive. It’s fair to say the AV is an essential part of both of our casinos. Designing effective AV in a casino atmosphere can be tricky. The impressive slots are such a visible part of the casino and almost their own AV. It takes careful consideration what aspects of the AV solution really bring added value to the concept.

Image: 1st Anniversary Party Casino Tampere

How successful has Casino Helsinki’s approach at attracting millennials?

We see the change in demographics in both casinos. The average age of customers has decreased in Helsinki during the past 10 years. A casino is no more a place just for the older segment. In Tampere the average age is lower than in Helsinki. We see it as an indication that the younger generation is open to different types of live-entertainment venues. Many of them are also familiar with the gaming products from online play. This creates a demand for operators to look at the concept from a new angle. Offering products and customer service that are attractive for a wide age group is a challenging task.

Image: 1st Anniversary Casino Tampere, Per Jaldung, Tiina Siltanen and Pascal Camia

What are amongst some of the key aspects of Casino Helsinki’s operation that have been drawn upon when developing and designing Casino Tampere?

We wanted to take the high level of customer service, Know Your Game concept and basic parts of the gaming portfolio to Tampere. A regular from Helsinki visiting Tampere should feel at home and recognize the casino, even though the design and interior is completely different. The arena casino concept in Tampere gives our players another option, as the two casinos are only a 1.5-hour train ride away from each other. From the operations side we looked for synergy benefits with a similar operational model and job descriptions. However, it did not mean copying everything from Helsinki. The strategy was to build a model that was flexible enough for a longer term in both casinos.

Image: Casino Tampere entrance 

What are the key factors, in your opinion, that contribute most to the operation’s success in these competitive times?

Two important factors are the ability to create meaning and the courage to experiment. Casinos need to create meaning for customers, a reason to leave home and make the journey to the casino. The games alone are not enough, they are available online as well. It’s the whole experience with F&B, entertainment and social connections that we need to offer. I also believe there is a growing need to create meaning for our employees. The future generation’s expectations for work are different and we need to adapt to these also in land-based casinos. The lack of resources in the hospitality industry is a common issue for many countries, so I believe finding correct operating and personnel strategy is important.

Image: Casino Tampere bar area

With all the changes in customer behavior, the casinos with the ability to adapt and experiment come out on top. The mindset was earlier more along the line of having big development projects and updating the concept every five years. Now it should be testing with products, concepts and operating models as part of day-to-day operations in a smaller scale to see what works. As the last point, I find implementing different legal requirements without harming the customer experience as very important. The regulation framework is changing constantly and that often means new procedures or questionnaires for customers. These issues need to be solved in the way gaming continues to be channelled to licensed operators.

How do you see the prevailing global economic climate for 2023 and potential consequential effects on reductions in disposable income for leisure and entertainment in Finland?

Consumers are more careful and I do think it will affect the revenues in the whole leisure industry. After Covid restrictions, the situation was quite the opposite. Many had waited for a chance to travel and use the services in the entertainment industry. Even the media is following economic trends closely now and this could affect some of the choices consumers make.

Image: Casino Tampere dining area

How popular and important are the bars, restaurants and the entertainment in Casino Helsinki and Tampere for providing patrons with a fun night out?

They are an important part of our casino concept. We see our casinos as much more than just places to gamble. Even though the two casinos have completely different type of premises, they both offer F&B and different entertainment. Helsinki with its historical Fennia salon has events from seminars to gala nights. In Tampere, the whole Arena complex is built around entertainment. Every fifth visitor does not play during their visit to the casino. They come for the atmosphere, to socialize and enjoy other services.

What are amongst the main accomplishments of both Casino Helsinki and recently opened Casino Tampere, and are amongst the principal goals for the casinos in 2023?

Naturally bringing all services back after the Covid restrictions that still affected us in the first quarter of 2022 was an important step for last year. Another successful goal, besides opening a new casino, was to implement the new casino organizational and operating model. I understand this has affected our whole organization, from management to daily customer service. It has been wonderful to see the personnel stepping into new opportunities and embracing them. For 2023 we continue to improve our customer experience. Tampere has many big events, such as the Ice Hockey World Championships, where we want to be at our best. The new casino has still unused potential and it’s important for us to find it.

Casino Life would like to thank Tiina Siltanen and the media team at Veikkaus

*** This interview was originally undertaken in January 2023 and published in the February edition of Casino Life Magazine Issue 156 ****