Park Avenue is renowned for its perfect timing for a summer product push, but this year it has an added dimension – the first real industry gathering to discuss the Gambling Review White Paper. What’s the good and bad in terms of product development and innovation in the government’s proposals?
We have been digesting the contents of the White Paper since its’ publication at the end of April. Whilst the consultation process hasn’t started, we have been discussing various scenarios with the Blueprint team with colleagues across MERKUR UK and with our customers. Having taken soundings from the various trade bodies that we are members of including bacta, the Bingo Association and the Gambling Business Group the consensus is that we can expect any changes arising from the White Paper to become operative around mid 2024 at the earliest. We are scenario planning for a variety of outcomes but clearly the potential replacement of the 80/20 rule with a 50/50 ratio and the introduction of modern payment methods could represent a significant benefit for our customers. Linked progressive jackpots and the subdivision of Category C machines would represent additional opportunities. Overall, there’s nothing in the White Paper which should impact our customers in a negative sense although we do await the detail of the consultation to see exactly how the changes will land. Industry commentators have highlighted the positive language used by the Secretary of State when she introduced the White Paper as well as what appeared to be a deeper understanding of our sector. I hope this shift in emphasis and a recognition of the value that the land-based sector brings to communities throughout the country will be recognised during the consultation process.
It’s been a crazy three years from Covid through to lockdown into supply chain issues to recovery – via raging inflation, interest rates and energy bills. Tell us about your journey through all this and where you are with your business development and growth plans?
Clearly, the pandemic and the government’s response to what was an unprecedented set of challenges, was extremely difficult for all businesses in particular those consumer-facing organisations. After processing the shock of lockdown, we made the decision to make the best possible use of the circumstances that we found ourselves in. Our number one priority was the team and our customers and we spent time ensuring that they were coping as best they could with having businesses shuttered, adapting to a new way of living and the overwhelming sense of insecurity that we all felt. Under the leadership of David Purvis, we were determined to use the time effectively and used the opportunity to explore key aspects of the business identifying those areas that we could deliver more effectively. That philosophy or outlook set the tone and continues to run through the Blueprint business post-Covid. For example, our Buy Direct programme has been a huge success. Far more than simply an organisational change it has ushered in a new relationship between ourselves and our customers. We have expanded the number of touchpoints that we have with what is a growing customer base manyfold. We know so much more about what they want, what their players want and how we can help maximise their ROI. All of the feedback and insight is fed back into the development teams resulting in really targeted player-centric product. Another key development post-Covid has been the launch of the Blueprint Assist App which represents the first port of call for customers requiring technical support. Essentially Assist delivers technical help at the touch of a button and it has been really well received by our customers who appreciate the fact that we are investing in ways to save them time, make their lives easier and of course increase machine revenue by maximising up-time.
What’s on the schedule over the coming 6-9 months?
We are always planning ahead and constantly exploring new initiatives to help our customers grow their income. The White Paper is very much a case of glass half full and our product development programme is set against the backdrop of potential changes in regulations coming into play around the summer of 2024. Whatever the outcomes and we do remain optimistic, the constant is continued investment in hardware and game content. The battle to win leisure spend is intense and we need to provide our customers with the best possible gambling entertainment products in order for the low stake gambling entertainment proposition to remain competitive. We will continue our investment programme in Assist and we are currently developing a new portal which will enable customers to access and customise Blueprint marketing materials promoting new games for use at the point-of-play. The key point is that all of the materials can be customised to include operator and/or venue branding. The portal will also provide information on the product Roadmap and new content launches. Working with our customers we’ve been able to identify what they want and then deliver it in the format that works best for them. Being a customer-first business involves really examining every single opportunity to give operators a competitive edge – which is exactly what we are doing.
Finally, you’re a key participant in this year’s Park Avenue Open Day. What products are you bringing to London and talk us through the key highlights.
We are showing our top two sellers of 2022/23 in the form of the Ultramax Cat C and the Aurora Max B3 – both of which are best in class products from the Blueprint stable featuring the latest content and menus including the Colossus. Product is a really important part of the Park Avenue experience and getting over 30 manufacturers to participate is a huge credit to both Electrocoin and UDC. However, the event goes beyond that. I think it’s a unique and relaxed opportunity to meet with our customers, share time in the company of colleagues, enjoy the hospitality that Park Avenue is famous for at the same time as raising some money for the Bacta Charitable Trust. It’s a really important and enjoyable day on the industry calendar and one we are all really looking forward to.