"We will make three times as much investment in staff, marketing and advertising if the institutional framework is finalized and we get a permanent license," the new CEO of the Austrian betting company Interwetten, Dominik Beier, told mononews.
Ο Mr Beier which stands at the beginning of 2019 in this post, emphasizes that a transparent and stable institutional framework is a prerequisite for Greece to attract investment both in the gambling sector and in any industry. Speaking about the new law on permanent Internet licenses in Greece, which has now been frozen, he says he thinks that when he finally comes to really open the market, setting strict criteria and not a high license fee.
For Interwetten, which has 1,8 million customers from more than 200 countries and a gross profit of 90 million euros per year, the Greek market is particularly important, mainly for its growth rate and prospects. The company was founded in Vienna in 1990 as a sports betting provider and has now successfully completed licensing procedures in Italy, Spain, Schleswig-Holstein (Germany), Ireland and Sweden. In Greece it operates through cooperation with the company RABEL which has a temporary license.
Greece needs investment. But is it an attractive investment destination? What do you think in your opinion to attract foreign investors?
We need transparency and a stable institutional framework to make long-term investments. We need to know what the legal framework will be like not only today but also in the long run. Interwetten invests in the markets it operates in the long run and the most important thing for us but I believe for any company that wants to operate in a country abroad is transparency in the legal framework. In Denmark, Britain, Spain, a very good job has been done in our industry and they have succeeded and we, with the clear and transparent institutional framework, can invest with a horizon of 5-10 years.
In Greece, on the other hand, for now, the institutional framework is complex, we are constantly waiting for the new Permanent Permit Act in recent years, and now it has been frozen again.
How much is your annual investment and how much could you increase if you had a stable institutional framework?
The amount of our investments depends on the growth strategy we have each time. Today we invest 25% of our gross earnings (GGR) a year, but if we had a stable institutional framework we could triple that amount. Our investments are related to our presence in the country and are related to marketing and advertising actions, sponsorships.
In Spain, we can design our long-term growth, we are making all this investment and we could do it in Greece.
What are the characteristics of the Greek gaming market, in relation to the other markets you are active in?
The Greek market is very attractive, has a long history of gambling and is acceptable to society, something that is not the case in all countries. It is a growing market and it is interesting because it has a prospect of growth, and the world is very interested in sports by creating further growth potential. Not like Britain is the "home of betting" but it is an important and attractive market. However, to develop it we need planning and therefore transparency. The market in Greece is dominated by some big players, but that does not mean that there is no room for small companies that have some competitive advantages that do not have big companies. Such conditions are big companies and competition exists in all markets, but there is room for us, we take advantage of our small size, such as the speed of implementation of decisions and flexibility in relation to those who enjoy the advantage of economic of their strength. But the big Organizations can not quickly take and implement new strategies and decisions, unlike us.
When a new Permanent Permission Law is finally put on the Internet, will Inetrwetten be interested in licensing?
Yes sure. We have been a strong presence in Greece for a long time and we are not going to leave the Greek market. Of course, the new law as presented has had some problems that we referred to with our participation in the consultation.
The initial investment in 5 million is a large amount and the fact that the required cost of licenses is so high is not fair for small companies because they will not be able to enter the market. The few very large can pay for it is a challenge but we will do it, but for small companies the amount is prohibitive and they will be out of the market. But healthy for the market and what the European institutional framework seeks is to have a large number of players on the market, the market to be open and to give opportunities. The higher the number of companies active in a market the higher the competition and the market works better than a market created for 5-6 companies.
This is, moreover, the system in many European countries, to set criteria that must be met by those concerned and, if they meet them, to be licensed for a small fee. However, the criteria must be rigorous to ensure responsible gaming, player protection and safety and that the market operates in a sound way.
On the contrary, if the market is limited, competition does not work and creates the margin to offer some competitive returns from the black market. We have seen this happen many times in all markets that are not open and competitive. And, of course, companies operating on the black market do not meet any criteria for the protection of players are totally uncontrollable and dangerous and at the same time the government is losing revenue.
Does Interwetten have plans to expand into new markets?
We have many potential in the 5 countries already in Spain, Greece, Sweden, Germany and Austria, we have our own technology and great market experience in the last 30 years.
With regard to new markets, we are interested in markets that have not yet been developed.
The US market is an interesting market in the long run, and it will be the world's largest market for the next 5-10 years, but that will not happen right away, and if someone goes now they will need to invest with perseverance and patience. We are interested in the markets in Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico that are now regulated and Argentina soon. Asia does not interest us but Africa has very great potential and we have decided to expand there to countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, starting from one of them from autumn to the rest of the next three years.