At the European Casino Association (ECA) meeting in London, Holland Casino CEO Erwin van Lambaart spoke about the operator’s future after state ownership. Gaming in Holland attended the meeting and had an exclusive talk with Van Lambaart.
By Robert Heeg in London
A changing environment
Casinos around the world are trying to find answers to a changing environment, but Holland Casino perhaps even more so. After all, the Dutch gaming industry has been highly regulated, with state-owned Holland Casino appointed as the sole permitted operator of land-based table games.
This year however, the industry is opening up. Last month, the Dutch House of Commons passed a bill that will privatise and split up Holland Casino. Of the current fourteen branches, ten will remain part of Holland Casino. The other four will be sold and the buyer(s) allowed to bid for a fifteenth and sixteenth licence.
The expectation is that the new regulations will take full effect in 2018, but Holland Casino is already preparing for the new situation, Erwin van Lambaart explains. “At this moment there is so much happening that we can’t afford to wait. We have to make this company future proof. What is most important though, is that we don’t sit back and wait to be privatised, but that we start to make changes right now. We should have fourteen healthy, high quality casinos in place for when the moment of privatisation comes.”
The company will be aiming at both a land-based and an online presence. “One guest, one wallet, one integrated company,” says Van Lambaart. “Land-based and online should enhance each other.” He is not afraid to experiment, promising exciting pilots later this year, and he seems very keen to integrate virtual reality experiences into the casinos. VR tools can also help train the staff, he underlines.
Van Lambaart will base his strategy on four pillars: reliability, cordiality, surprise and involvement. He has many years of experience in the entertainment industry, having produced major stage productions, as well as shows by such acts as Liza Minnelli.
While he would seem the perfect CEO to bring a touch of Vegas to the Dutch casino industry, Van Lambaart is cautious. “I don’t really believe in a Vegas copy for the Netherlands, but I do expect us to offer our own twist on that. Such endeavours should always support the core product, rather than distract from it.”
Central to the Holland Casino’s strategy for the next few years is a customer-centric approach that Van Lambaart describes as follows. “For us, the guest isn’t king but emperor. We love to surprise people. We always want to add a few elements that enhance the experience. A night at the casino is entertainment. At the end of the evening, you should feel that you’ve had a great night out. That is something we’ll have to amplify.”
A Dutch experience
Although he expects to see an internationalisation of the casino industry, he insists on keeping a “Dutch image”. “We’ll remain proud to have Holland in our brand name. The “orange” feel of our brand will be further amplified because customers find that important.” There will be a Sushisamba – a Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian fusion restaurant – in the Amsterdam branch, though; and the company is talking to two, three other global food and beverage franchises in order to be “cool, hip and happening”.
Van Lambaart also promises more product innovation, with a quicker turnaround for slot machines as well as restaurant interiors. “The casino products, the games, the excitement, will always be the main attraction. But I do feel we can improve the whole experience of a night out at the casino.”