Good Morning to All.
Thank you, Lina. And thank you Gaming in Holland and Willem van Oort for the invitation. Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning to you. I am honored to be among so many colleagues from the industry this morning. These are exciting times for the Dutch gaming world. Many changes are taking place that will change the market for good. At Holland Casino, we have been setting the bar high for Casino Gaming in the Netherlands for many years. And we plan to continue doing so in the new market. My name is Erwin van Lambaart and, since March this year, I’ve been the CEO of the one and only casino in the Netherlands: Holland Casino. Some of you may already know me, but most of you do not, so I’ll briefly tell you something about my background. I come from the (live) entertainment world, but also have 14 years of experience in the national & international hospitality industry in a variety of management positions.
Hospitality has always been a core value, a common thread in my career. Making sure guests have a special evening, an experience to cherish.
In a nutshell, I love the People Business. People & Business. Over the past few months, I’ve become better acquainted with our company. An organisation that has made an impressive turnaround in recent years.
A turnaround worthy of the envy of many a business. A company active in a sector that is sensitive to the economic climate. A company that has had to operate within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility – and with good reason, in my opinion. But this is also a sector that still tends to think and act traditionally and has difficulty adapting to continuous change – changes in the market, in guests, in players and in the world. Yet I still consider the future of Holland Casino to be a bright one.
This confidence is based on the following:
1. First and foremost, the tremendous commitment and quality of our teams.
Many of our staff members have been working at Holland Casino for many years. They are the company. The DNA of Holland Casino runs through their veins. Everything that takes place in and around the company, both positive and negative, is close to their heart. They are genuinely committed. The passion with which the employees from the very start talk about their profession is heart-warming and generates enthusiasm. New employees of Holland Casino also quickly become part of the ‘heartbeat of Holland Casino’.
Holland Casino is a professional, honest company and simultaneously, an organisation that has proven its ability to weather tough storms.
We have succeeded in gaining the loyalty of a new, younger generation of employees. We are getting better and better at focusing on our guests in a flexible manner.
Our people are international forerunners! You have probably heard, for instance, that the best croupier in Europe is from the Netherlands. Ray de Rosario, who has been working at Holland Casino (Rotterdam) for 23 years now, was proclaimed the winner of the European Dealer Championship in early May. He won gold after competing against dealers from no fewer than 18 different countries.
But a Holland Casino croupier also took home the silver! Ted Bakker came in second for the second year in a row.
2. The second reason why I am so confident about the future is genuine and sincere hospitality.
When you walk around in our casinos, you feel welcome. Our guests receive a very warm welcome and excellent treatment. We also approach our guests with the utmost professionalism when this is necessary for less pleasant but inevitable reasons.
Our guests are the focus of attention for the entire Holland Casino staff, from the casino managers and Food and Beverage staff (which will be fully in-house at all locations starting this autumn) to the dealersand even the central service centre staff.
3. The third reason for my confidence is our product range.
We have the best games both at the tables and our slot machines. And we are fully aware that we need to continue innovating in these areas. We have already come up with highly promising and top-quality concepts to be introduced from the autumn of 2016.
We have also launched a number of pilots, including the 24/7 opening of our casino in Rotterdam. We are upgrading and investing substantial amounts to give all locations a fresh, contemporary and inviting ambiance. This is how we prepare Holland Casino for the future.
At Holland Casino, we feel very strongly about safe and responsible gaming.
We invest not only in training and education, but also in technical resources and in our manpower, to ensure that guests can enjoy a safe gaming environment. And that they can do so anywhere and anytime.
In my opinion, our prevention policy and its implementation is the standard in the industry. It should also be the standard for all those active in the Dutch casino market in the future. After all, we are a commercial company with commercial and business considerations. But at the same time, we have a social responsibility, regardless of whether our shareholder is the government or a different party.
Like I said earlier, these are exciting times. The Dutch government will be considering two legislative proposals in the near future.
I’d like to first discuss the Dutch Remote Gaming Act. Holland Casino is not able to offer online gaming at this time because it is, after all, prohibited. We are a major advocate of market regulation so that we can also offer our product range online. We also want to give our guests that genuine casino experience online, all the while focusing on safe and responsible gaming. Holland Casino can create a unique combination of land-based casinos and online gaming. Hence, we will definitely be applying for an online gaming permit.
I do, however, have a critical concern here when it comes to politics. The discussion of this proposal has been postponed repeatedly in recent months. This enables illegal gaming operators to continue their illegal operations even longer. Dutch consumers and players receive insufficient protection and thus, illegal gaming wins ground.
Secondly, there is the matter of privatisation. The way things look right now, Holland Casino will be privatised in the near future. Last week, State Secretary Wiebes announced the intention to achieve privatisation by the end of 2017. But this is only possible if the Dutch Games of Chance Act is considered in both Houses of Parliament in a timely manner.
This means that our company is facing exciting times. There will be a regional breakdown of five competitive regions. We will have to let go of four casinos and two new permits will be issued. The core business, with ten locations – which will keep the Holland Casino name – will have a new private owner. This will result in competition in the Netherlands for the very first time. On the other hand, with 350 slot machine ARCADES and an illegal online market, there is already much more competition than many people realize at this time.
As the management, our goal is to have all of our fourteen casinos be vital and ready to stand on their own feet, whether they will have a new owner or not. These are casinos that have enough commercial clout in the Netherlands to head for a bright future.
As I mentioned earlier, liberalization of the market was discussed for the first time last week. We’ve followed this discussion with great interest and understand why the politicians are dealing with this topic with considerable caution.
It’s now up to the politicians. Holland Casino is fully aware that the gaming market needs to be modernised and supports the cautious approach the government is taking. After all, it is important for us that the continuity of the Holland Casino venues and the policy with regard to public interest, largely developed by Holland Casino, remain intact.
Our shareholder can boast a fantastic company, a vital and healthy one. After strong results in 2015, our expectations for 2016 are even better. A leading brand with close to 3,000 committed, hospitable and utterly professional employees – cost-conscious, guest-oriented, socially involved, reliable and with strongly updated propositions for our guests and players.
The global casino market is looking for the Casino of Tomorrow. We, too, are doing this with our strategic project HC 2020. What will our land-based casinos look like in 2020? Is the integration of land-based and online offerings at its best? Are we considered both cool and reliable? My dream is that Holland Casino will find the answer to all these questions – based on realism and innovation, entrepreneurship and partnerships, compelling gaming and an exciting future.
We’re looking forward to it! Thank you.
Erwin van Lambaart - CEO at Holland Casino