In this exclusive interview, SiGMA News reached out to Wolfgang Bliem, CEO of Grand Casino Luzern to get to know what the land-based industry entails and his journey so far
Grand Casino Luzern AG is a state-licensed Casino (A-license), hospitality provider and entertainment center, located at the shore of Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland.
- When and where did you start your career in the gaming industry?
I entered the gaming industry in 1985 when I started to work as a croupier at Casinos Austria in order to finance my studies of economics and business administration at the University of Vienna. The gaming industry fascinated me from the very beginning and this feeling was further strengthened, and, at the end of my studies, I decided to stay in the industry – until today my enthusiasm is unbroken.
- What were your biggest challenges when first starting and what has been your biggest nightmare to date?
Working full-time as a croupier and pursuing my studies at the same time kept me very busy and challenged me now and then. Precisely these times had a formative influence on me and have greatly supported my personal growth. The experience enabled me to face diverse challenges in my subsequent career and empowered me to deal with them successfully. With the exception of the current pandemic, I cannot label a single challenge as a nightmare. But for the land-based casino industry – as for many others – COVID-19 can be called a nightmare.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
There will always be knowledge that you acquire over time that you wish you had before. But looking at it the other way around: there are also things I was happy not to know at that time when starting my professional career. More precisely, thinking of how much hard work it takes, how many obstacles need to be overcome and how many years it needs to finally obtain a concession for an online casino. But all the effort was worth it and, since 2019, we proudly provide the largest and most innovative range of online casino games in and for Switzerland with our online casino mycasino.ch.
- What will be the main challenges for the land-based sector in 2021?
The major challenge will be to fully convince guests again with our land-based casino and welcome them back – especially those who have switched to the online segment due to the pandemic. Customer retention will be key, and we will approach this filled with anticipation and a thirst for action.
- How is modern technology changing the gaming industry?
Online gaming in particular has brought about a change in the gaming industry. For a land-based casino, it is increasingly important to provide guests with an omnichannel gaming selection by running an online business in addition to the land-based service. A further challenge is to appeal to a younger generation that frequently spends time on digital platforms and that is into social gaming – the requirement hereby is to present land-based casino visits as social events.
- Has your company considered starting an online casino or do you already have an active site?
From our headquarters in Lucerne, we launched our online casino, mycasino.ch, in 2019 as one of Switzerland’s first licensed online casinos. With a market share of close to 40%, we are the market leader and thus the most successful online casino in Switzerland. We are very proud of our accomplishments so far and continue to strive to expand our success.
- How difficult are the regulations in your country to start an online casino?
In Switzerland it is generally very difficult to start an online casino and be awarded the relevant licence since there are very demanding regulations. Of all the submissions, only four online casinos were launched in Switzerland in 2019. We greatly appreciate this strictness and make the protection of our online gamers the highest priority, and we are delighted to be one of the few official licensed online casinos in Switzerland.
- What are your predictions for the future of the gaming sector?
We are convinced that online gaming will continue to grow strongly. For land-based casinos, we expect sideways growth with limited growth potential. Therefore, we see it as essential to offer both services – online and offline gaming – in order to remain competitive in the long term. This assessment encourages us to further expand the range of games available and continue to offer the biggest online gaming selection in Switzerland. We have even gone one step further and combined our land-based casino with our online casino – a truly unique gaming experience where our online gamers can place bets in real time at our roulette table inside the Grand Casino Luzern via live stream. This way, you can experience the real casino atmosphere online – at any time and anywhere in Switzerland.
- Have you ever been to SiGMA? Do you think it is good that SiGMA now also includes the land-based sector in addition to iGaming companies?
Due to the mentioned effort for the acquisition and implementation of our online concession, the workload has not allowed us to visit SiGMA yet. Now that we have successfully established our online casino, mycasino.ch, on the market, I am looking forward to participating in the near future.
- Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favorite book, favorite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
My passion for the gaming industry – which started with my first job as a croupier – still continues. And I am proud of my excellent team that made our transformation to the digital world so successful and, with our online casino, mycasino.ch, has built a great addition to our beautiful land-based casino in Lucerne. Although I have a passion for our industry, I am not a gambler myself, but rather an economic and strategic risk-taker. In my spare time, I am a snowboarder, and have been since the very first days back in 1985.
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