Strong base for a new beginning
I am convinced that only the fastest, the most flexible and at the same time the bravest can survive the rapid changes seen in the global gambling industry during the last two years.
In a time of cutbacks and savings a viable company with a strong vision must have the courage to make the right decisions and also not to make the only apparently right decisions. Actually, in spite of the rapid declining trend, these two years have equipped sustainable organisations with the means to lay the groundwork for a new growth – and not only in the gaming industry.
For Olympic Entertainment Group the year 2009 was in its own way a logical continuation of the previous year. The main keywords were the continuation and completion of the large-scale optimisation and restructuring plan for the group. Although in our review of the last year we cannot state that there will not be any additional reorganisations in the following years, I would like to state here that we have successfully completed the plans we made during these two years. Any further developments – whether the closing of some gaming sites or opening new ones – will be part of positive normal operations, not an extraordinary rapid response to the demands of an abruptly altered environment.
Courage to invest
Although to a large extent the structural changes of OEG were related to closing unprofitable units, we have never all through the declining period ceased to look forward and make the necessary investments to ensure our position. In 2008 we have launched a concept that created spacious lounge areas in Olympic Casinos to provide additional possibilities for our customers to spend their leisure time comfortably.
In 2009 we have also opened a number of new casinos, the most important of which is undoubtedly Olympic Casino Bora Bora – our flagship casino in Romania, opened in Bucharest. In Slovakia we have opened another casino as well in the city of Trnava.
Among the development activities carried out in 2009 I would like to underline the development area that is relatively little used by land-based casinos on the global scale: preparations to enter the online gambling market. I am convinced that it is a wise move for strong land-based trademarks to enter the Internet. The main keywords in casino entertainment are trustworthiness, recognition and excellent service. These are the strengths that any successful land-based operator can utilise on the web-based gaming market as well.
Up to now the lack of a proper legislative regulation has constituted an important obstacle. This is also the reason why OEG as a publicly traded company was unable to take any specific steps until legislators created the properly defined groundwork for it. In Estonia the gambling act section concerning online gambling came into force in the beginning of 2010 and it has created a sufficient regulatory environment for us to make our opening pitch in the new domain.
The new plan to start providing web-based games does not change the prior OEG strategy of expanding to new markets. We are also monitoring the situation on the gambling market in many countries and are ready to make new investments in the case of a suitable opportunity.
Lessons taught by the economic decline
Although there is little cause for rejoicing if you concentrate solely on the figures and OEG has finished the year 2009 with a loss amounting to 32.9 million EUR, we must still notice the positive as well. A large part of the losses constitutes of single occurrences caused by revaluations and deductions. The illusions created by the economic boom years have disappeared and the general picture is clear and bright.
The organisation has been able to behave with sufficient self-criticism and become even more effective. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that we have managed to increase our market share on our operating markets, meaning that we have adapted to changed circumstances more flexibly than our competitors and have been able to offer more to our customers even in difficult times. Our team has also become stronger, because hard times reveal clearly the motivation, capabilities and the faith in the future that people possess.
Olympic Entertainment Group is now essentially much stronger than some years ago and our aim is to convert this strength into shareholder satisfaction in the coming years.
Chairman of the Management Board of OEG