“My father was a shoemaker,” begins Frank Cecchini, CEO and Managing Director, NOVOMATIC Lottery Solutions (NLS). “He always said, ‘bad shoes, bad feet. Bad feet, bad back and neck.’ My view is you are better off getting the right fit.” In many ways, that is Cecchini’s approach to creating a leading lottery company from whole cloth: start with a solid foundation and look for the perfect fit.
Of course, a little spit and polish never hurt. NLS’ rallying cry is simply “BAMM!” That encapsulates the company’s drive to have an impact on the market.
“BAMM! is about our internal values,” explained Cecchini. “It is a way to keep everybody engaged and motivated. This is where we’re going. This is our objective. We have a very clear vision about honesty, about performance, about keeping your promises. ‘BAMM!’ really relates to the fact that we are disrupting this market.”
Cecchini’s ultimate goal is to assemble the number one organization in any market in which NLS competes. Cecchini uses the analogy of how Apple supplanted Nokia in the mobile phone space to make the point—“Nobody at Nokia thought the consumer would ever spend $1,000 on a mobile phone but people did because it quickly delivered things that nothing else ever had. That was BAMM! We want to be a number one technology provider. We want lotteries to aspire to have a NLS system.”
Honesty, transparency and performance is the philosophy that permeates through the whole company.
“The customer is going to know that these guys aren’t going milk us for every cent,” declared Cecchini. “Yes, NLS is not a charity. They want to make a profit but it has to be a win-win scenario.”
NOVOMATIC Group is an Austrian company developed by Austrian billionaire entrepreneur Professor Johann Graf. He got into the gaming business through refurbishing old pinball machines. He realized the potential for doing the same thing with slot machines and gradually built a gaming empire.
NOVOMATIC has grown dramatically, mostly through acquiring other businesses in its base markets of Central and Eastern Europe, Northern Scandinavia, Southern Europe, Italy, Spain and the U.K. Expansion targets include North and South America.
“We’re starting to make efforts with the opening of an office in Chicago as opposed to where it was in Florida. They’re trying to raise the brand. A lot of people don’t understand who NOVOMATIC is because NOVOMATIC hasn’t been there,” explained Cecchini.
The NOVOMATIC Group is one of the largest gaming technology companies in the world with a turnover that exceeded EUR 4.4 billion in 2016. Founded in 1980, the Group has locations in 50 countries and exports high-tech gaming equipment to 80 countries.NOVOMATIC has more than 40,000 VLT terminals in Europe. The firm boasts 260,000 gaming devices and VLTs in operation worldwide.
One of the key takeaways from any meeting with Cecchini is that NLS is in it for the long run. With low levels of debt and deep pockets, the privately-held company is committed to the North American lottery market.
“We have a lot of experience in the gaming market and we’re here to stay. We’re a safe bet,” promises Cecchini. “But we need more than that. We need content. We need to be a bit more shall we say U.S.-oriented. We’re very European-oriented at the moment and we have to make the effort to get the brand across.”
NLS put its best foot forward in February 2017 winning a large portion of the business for OPAP’s Transformation project. This is a significant win for NLS.
“Winning this business proves our technology is modern and effective,” exclaimed Cecchini.
The process was challenging. “We didn’t have a huge amount of time to respond to the lottery’s Request For Information (RFI) but we put a design together based on our current system. We then took our high-level architectural design and overlaid it on that requested by OPAP; they were an incredibly close fit!,” said Cecchini.
About a month later, NLS was invited to Athens to demonstrate their model to OPAP. “We were able to demonstrate our system for real; in fact, we were the only ones that could,” claimed Cecchini. “ The team at OPAP came to see us in Iceland, Serbia and Barcelona to verify our story —after which we agreed to go forward together”
NLS plans to roll out the system for OPAP in the summer of 2018 as the old contract runs out. “We want to get it right,” commented Cecchini. “We will run the system in parallel for a while to avoid any kind of issues.”
North American Plans
Looking westward, NLS has its forward-leaning focus planted on North America. Noting the old canard that “nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM,” Cecchini recognizes NLS has many challenges ahead.
“We need to be able to get in front of a fairly progressive lottery,” he said. “In the end, we knew it was going to take some time for us to convince people that we’re a safe pair of hands. So winning the first one is probably going to take a very, very aggressive pricing policy.”