CRISES, RISK AND OPPORTUNITIES MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION- ROMSLOT ASSOCIATION
Permanently threatened with banning the gambling locations and destroying the industry, the Romanian slot machines producers and operators, reunited in ROMSLOT – The Romanian Association of Slot Machines Organizers, decided to initiate an open and transparent dialogue with the authorities and the public. The main risk of legally banning this form of entertainment is the explosion of the black market, as it happened in countries such as Hungary, Ukraine or Russia.
In 2013 and 2014, were initiated several legislative proposals that stated the ban of the entire slot machines industry. The first one was initiated by Mr. Atilla Korodi and it stated the banning of the slot machines in pubs, restaurants, cinemas and Lottery agencies. The second proposal was signed by 105 MPs, most of them being part of the ruling party. The proposal stated the banning of the slot machines in all locations except Lottery agencies and live casinos, which are only 8 left in the whole country. Another initiative, L280, registered now in the Senate and signed by 10 MPs threatens the industry with over taxation.
A nationally representative study shows that Romanians associate slot machines with a form of entertainment and socialization. Less than 3% of the 18 years old+ Romanians participated in the last year at least once in slot games, a statistic lower than in other European countries. According to international statistics, the number of participants in other European countries is over 4 times higher, as in Great Britain 13% of the population is participating in slot games.
The share of voice analysis for the March 2012 – March 2013 period, revealed that the industry suffered from public’s perception that there is a high risk of addiction. The most common term used to define the slot machines was “pacanele”, a slang term that entered the vocabulary after 1989 and has a negative connotation. Top 3 articles in the general press are:
- Gambling – addiction and money
- The economics implications of the game
The share of negative articles in the total number of articles was 64%. An important objective was swinging the negative coverage. The media audit from the beginning of the campaign revealed that the journalists were waiting for an active involvement of the industry representatives in order to create a correct perception.
Also, there was a pressing need to offer journalists an education regarding the industry and its mechanisms. Many of the key elements of the industry were not known by them.
- In the general press, most of the articles are negative and they refer to gambling addiction, thefts and illegal actions.
- In the tabloid press, the articles are negative and focus on the gambling victims.
- In the business press, the articles are mostly neutral and they approach the subject from an economical perspective: the industry taxes and laws
- In the specialized publications, such as Casino Inside and Casino Magazine, the articles are positive.
- In the local press, the articles are either taken from the national press or are negative articles on addiction and frauds that took place in small towns or villages.
The research conclusions indicated the followings:
- The number of articles about or mentioning ROMSLOT were only 9.52% of the total number of articles on slot machines industry.
- Most of the articles were negative, covering 64% of the total number of articles.
- There is a shortage of information on the slot machines industry and a need for educating the press representatives in order for them to better understand the industry mechanisms.
- Positioning the slot machines industry as a form of entertainment and removing the slots from the grey zone of addiction. We set as an objective that one year after starting the campaign the key opinion leaders would know and correctly use the key terms of the industry: addiction, problem gambling, land based locations, location types (dedicated locations, live casinos etc.), jackpot, authorised locations
- Educating the media representatives on the slot machines industry and presenting them the key information on the subject.
- The slot machines game is an enjoyable, social activity, a way of spending your free time and socializing with your friends.
- ROMSLOT promotes a responsible ethical code for its members and a responsible gambling program for the players.
- Authorities (Romanian Government, Romanian Parliament, The Gambling National Office)
- The association members
- Other operators and producers – potential ROMSLOT members
- General, business and specialized press
- The general public
The first tactic in better explaining this industry was opening a dialog with the media representatives through organizing a press conference that communicated the GfK study results, “The profile of the Romanian slot machines player”. It was for the first time in the Romanian slot machines organizers industry when they were subject to a transparent audit conducted by a research institution and the first time when they publically communicated the research results. This approach was sustained by an info graphic presentation of the results.
For a stronger impact when communicating with the authorities, Romslot initiated partnerships with associations from related industries – Romanian Bookmakers (The Romanian Sport Bets Organizers Patronage). They joined us in the effort of educating the market and the players.
In order to maintain a dialogue with mass media and key opinion leaders and also to offer them the opportunity to better understand the industry mechanisms, a press trip to a Romanian slot machines producer was organized. The “How it’s made” event gathered 20 mass media representatives and bloggers. They observed the whole slot machine production flux, from the factory to the gaming location. Moreover, they were presented the math behind the machines, the legal aspects of the industry, the economic indicators and the key term and information on the Romanian slot machines industry. In order for the information to be assimilated as easy and quickly as possible, it was presented in a unique and friendly way: through a video info graphic, whose main character was CIP, a slot machine. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rvt-SDwXWk
Another step in the communication strategy was organizing in Bucharest for the first time in history the 2013 EUROMAT General Meeting (The European Gaming and Amusement Federation), the most important gambling European event of the year. The meeting gathered representatives from 20 European states and also Romanian politicians. MEP Cristian Busoi offered an overview of the European Parliament position on the gambling industry and pointed out the need of a fair competition for all the gambling activities in the European Union. Odeta Nestor, President of the Gambling National Office brought up the subject of the online gambling regulation.
The campaign continued with initiating and communicating the results of the economic impact of the industry study in collaboration with one of the Big 4 audit companies. Following an auction, Price Waterhouse Coopers was chosen to evaluate the Romanian GDP impact of the industry. The audit results showed the importance that the gambling industry has on a national level. The results represented a big interest for the press and also a very good point of discussion in the dialog with the authorities.
In order to raise attention to the legislative problems that the industry has to face, a round table was organized. At the event took part the MPs that initiated the banning legislatives projects, National Gambling Office representatives, gambling associations representatives (slot machines, betting, Lottery, psychologists). Moreover, the round table was a great opportunity to open a direct dialog between the most important stakeholders of the industry, which had positive effects on their relationship.
Moreover, we mediated the participation of Romslot representatives as speakers at all the events and conferenced dedicated to the gambling industry, where politicians also took part, such as The exact hour in Gambling – Earena 2013, The Gambling Experts Reunion, The Romanian Gambling Conference, The exact hour in Gambling – Earena 2014. The events were a very good opportunity to communicate Romslot’s position regarding the legislative projects that threaten the industry and also to prensent the conducted studies results.
Another tactic that we used was organising a round table, that had as a special guest Mister Helmut Kafka, Euromat (The European Gaming and Amusement Federation) vicepresident and president of the Euromat Responsbile Gambling Commitee. He gave a presentation on „The reality of online gambling”, which talked about the online gambling threats and about the urge of a fair and applicable law. At the event took part politicians and members of the The Gambling National Office.
Moreover, we communicated Romslot’s positions regarding each legislative initiative that threatened the industry, when the subjects leaked in the press. The positions explained very clearly, using strong and verifiable arguments the negative effects that the legislative proposals would have if they would be implemented. As a result, Romslot’s positions had media coverage in the most important business and general publications and also on TV.
If the results of the initial media audit, conducted before the communication strategy, showed that most of the journalists didn’t receive information about the gambling industry, 8 months later, 100% of them said that they are constantly receiving information on the industry from ROMSLOT.
The evaluation of the communication campaign conducted after 12 months highlighted the overthrow of the negative coverage versus the positive coverage. 66% of the articles had a positive and neutral tone of voice, as opposed to 64% negative coverage at the beginning of the campaign. Moreover, until now we generated over 430 press materials in the written press, online press, radio & TV. Thus, Romslot’s media coverage increased by 7183% compared to the moment when we started the campaign.
The communication approach brought transparency in the gambling industry and also an understanding of the industry mechanisms, which were misunderstood until now by the political key opinion leaders and by the public in general. If until now confusions were made between the key terms that defined the field, now they are clearer.
If before the communication campaign, unverifiable statistics were speculated, on which the legislative proposals that banned the industry were based, our strategy offered a clear, analytical and nationally representative image of the Romanian slot machines industry, which helped debunk the initiatives’ motivation.
Moreover, the strategy’s tactics that communicated the economic impact of the slot machines industry and the Romanian player’s profile, along with the game incidence among people over 18 years, lead to granting of a negative report from the Budget and Finance Committee on the legislative initiative signed by Mr. Korodi. The Government didn’t sustain the adoption of this project, showing in their point of view sent to the Senate, the fact that adopting this initiative would have a negative impact on the state revenues, through reducing the sums collected from the license fees and also through reducing the number of workplaces that the slot machines authorized gambling operators offer.