“SAGSE, against all odds”

Charles Hiten, CEO of Merkur Gaming Americas and David Orrick, Director of Industry Relations at Merkur Gaming.

(Exclusive interview).- David Orrick, Director of Industry Relations at Merkur Gaming, talked about SAGSE Buenos Aires, which took place this month.

Argentina.- The second week of September welcomed the latest edition of SAGSE, which took place in Buenos Aires. While the event is usually held in November, organisers revealed last year that 2018’s would be moved due to the busy agenda that the Argentinian government will have later this year because of the G20 Summit. David Orrick, Director of Industry Relations at Merkur Gaming, talked with Focus Gaming News about the organisation of the show, as well as future editions of SAGSE.

Thanks David for sharing some time with Focus Gaming News. What do you think about the 26th edition of SAGSE Buenos Aires 2018?

There is something inevitable about attending gaming industries trade shows. It always happens that, on the first morning of the first day of such an event, journalists will come along and the first question that they will ask is: ‘So, how is the show for you so far?’ And the answer has to be: ‘Hey guys, we’ve only been on duty for 2 hours, please come back in two days and we will talk then.’ So now, here in Buenos Aires, at the 26th edition of SAGSE, it’s day three and predictably this third day has started very quietly.

Do you believe that is necessary for future editions of SAGSE to take all three days?

I don’t know what the definitive answer is but the question has certainly become a talking point within the industry at the present. On the other hand, SAGSE this year has been something rather different. 

Why this? 

Because various circumstances have combined to make the running of SAGSE this year difficult for the organisers. First: the enforced change of date thanks to the arrival on SAGSE’s traditional November dates in Buenos Aires of the G20 Summit with all the extra security, with all the demand for hotels and flights. None of this, by the way, it’s the fault of Monografie -the organisers of SAGSE-. They had to adapt to the circumstances that were on the table in front of them. So they’ve looked around and they’ve found these dates in September which was a first strike because three weeks after SAGSE comes G2E in Las Vegas. G2E -together with ICE in London- is one of the two most important shows of the gaming industry. Both of those shows are where major manufacturers, such as Merkur Gaming make their new products announcements, reveal their new games, make a show, make a really big show. So, it naturally follows that none of the manufacturers today here present in Buenos Aires are going to bring anything new and they will not make the kind of huge promotional and organisation efforts that go into G2E or ICE. So that’s the second strike. The third strike is the fact that Argentina at the moment is both politically and most significantly economically in a very difficult situation. When we hear stories of an estimated 100.000 people demonstrating in the street, it makes you understand that this is not the ideal time in which to hold a B2B gaming show. 

The organisers had to adapt to the circumstances that were on the table in front of them

Even though these particular situations for SAGSE organisers that you mention, do you believe that they prepared a worthy show?

In the words of a Phil Collins song, against all odds, the SAGSE organisation managed to do the trick, managed to put on a show. They lost some names from the gaming floor, for sure, all manufacturers take their own decisions on these matters. To speak for Merkur Gaming, we opened a subsidiary company in Argentina at the start of 2017 and SAGSE 2017 was very much a celebration of that. A great opportunity for our executives and our staff to meet a wide variety of top level visitors at the show and to have discussions that propelled the company into 2018 in a very good way. Now, 9 months later, that success has continued for Merkur Gaming Argentina with installations in almost all of the country’s provinces. We have supported our local team to do this exhibition as professionally as we always do and to do business wherever there is business to be done.

What is Merkur Gaming showcasing at SAGSE 2018?

As I’ve said, nothing that we’re reserving for G2E. We’re absolutely sure we hope to see a large number of visitors from Argentina and from other parts of Latin America where we have subsidiaries. At the G2E booth we will have a whole library of new games, we also have the revealing of a brand new cabinet line and some other surprises as well. But those surprises have to wait until the date that G2E opens its doors. 

We have supported our local team to do this exhibition as professionally as we always do and to do business wherever there is business to be done.

So, what did you bring to SAGSE 2018 in Buenos Aires? 

We brought our successful Avantgarde and Evostar cabinets in our black series finish. These have already proved extremely popular with Argentinian operators. On our booth we’re featuring more than 100 individual games that have also been proved on Argentinian casino floors in real time, attracting players and creating profits. Aside from those attractions we once again brought the famous Merkur Beer Garden to be, as it was last year, the central point of the SAGSE show where our legendary hospitality was in full swing, where we have provided space for people to sit and have conversations, to meet with our team; we have food and drinks and we have a vibe that make this the center point of the entire show. As well as Merkur Gaming we’re part of the Gauselmann Group of Companies, we have our fellow Gauselmann Group members, Gwete, and Edict. Edict is our online gaming specialist and that is a loop to the future of the further regulation about sports betting and online gaming across Latin America.

How does Merkur Gaming see the ongoing future of SAGSE?

It’s an interesting question and highlighted by the fact that over the exit door to the hall, a hanging banner that says “See you next year in December 3, 4 and 5,”* it seems that the calendar is again conspiring against Monografie. This year, as we already discussed, the date here was not a catastrophe but far from ideal and looking at the proposed dates for next year, it again creates difficulties for the international community. I still have hopes that in 2019 SAGSE will return to its traditional November date.

(*Editor’s note: the SAGSE organisers have now confirmed that their 2019 event will revert to its traditional dates in the second week of November.)

What would be ideal for SAGSE to return to its traditional November date? 

It would place SAGSE ideally between G2E and ICE. I don’t know if it will happen or not – I don’t have a crystal ball – but it’s an interesting situation to say the least. What is sure, as we close out the 2018 edition of SAGSE is, as I’ve said before, that seemingly against all odds the show organisers managed to put on event that worked. There were good number of visitors overall and there were new international visitors, particularly from Uruguay and Paraguay. Both of those are markets that have already been successfully penetrated by Merkur Gaming Argentina and they will continue to run business in those countries from Buenos Aires. Were there the number of visitors that most exhibitors wanted? Perhaps not. But we can be content with what we actually achieved. So, against all odds, SAGSE 2018 was in its own way and by its own terms of reference a success and the event remains, as it has for 26 editions, been viewed as the premier show for all Latin American markets. What will happen in the future? Who knows, but for right now we have many reasons to travel back home with smiles on our faces.

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